The Ford School has named its inaugural Weill Scholars, Fanta Condé (MPP ‘22) and Max Hill (MPP ‘22), along with its inaugural Weill Youth Policy Fellow, Heather Berg (MPP ‘23). All three students are recipients of prestigious Rackham Master’s Awards and will receive full graduate tuition, a stipend, and health and dental insurance.
The fellowships were made possible by a recent gift from longtime supporters of the Ford School Joan and Sanford Weill.
“Joan and Sandy continue to show their unwavering commitment to expanding opportunities and diversifying the students who study public policy,” said Michael S. Barr, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy. “Their gifts have made a tremendous impact on the Ford School, and they are also expanding education and employment opportunities for Detroit area youth.” Earlier gifts from Joan and Sanford Weill helped to build the Ford School’s home in Weill Hall, and to support the strategic initiatives of the school’s dean.
Condé, Hill, and Berg are exemplary students who joined the Ford School master of public policy program in Fall 2020. They were selected for the Weill recognition on the basis of their outstanding academic qualifications and their promise for future leadership in the field of public policy.
“We want to congratulate the students on being selected and we are very excited to see the positive impact they will have on our world as they launch their careers. We continue to be big believers that education is the key to unlock the door for one’s future success," said Joan and Sandy Weill.
Heather Berg (MPP/MBA ‘23) was chosen as the Weill Youth Policy Fellow because of her outstanding qualifications and her interest in youth and education policy. She is a first-generation college student, who, through the urging and support of her high school English teacher, secured a full scholarship to the University of Virginia. She majored in public policy and thereafter taught low-income 5th and 7th graders through Teach for America. This experience furthered her on a career trajectory that includes understanding and addressing the structural inequalities persistent in education. Heather has also worked in local government and the nonprofit sector, where she has addressed issues such as the school-to-prison pipeline, career and technical education, and early literacy.
Berg said she’s excited to dive into her coursework and engage with the broader Ford School community. “I am honored to be named a Weill Youth Policy Fellow,” she said. “The opportunity will allow me to work closely with the issues I care about and add an extra dimension to the Ford School experience. It will keep me focused.”
As part of her fellowship, Berg will work closely with Professor Brian Jacob and complete a funded internship with a Youth Policy Lab partner organization.
Fanta Condé (MPP ‘22), who participated in the Ford School’s PPIA Junior Summer Institute in 2017, seeks to build on her interests in social policy to develop sustainable policy solutions in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities and communities of color. Growing up in New York City and of West African descent, she was exposed to different prisms and points of view that have driven her to “listen to understand different perspectives and engage more openly.” She looks forward to engaging in problem-solving with her new Ford School colleagues—”to navigate situational nuance where the answers to complex issues are not so obvious,” as Condé put it.
Condé was “shocked” when she received notice of the recognition. “I’m incredibly grateful,” she said. “PPIA empowered us and made us believe that we were not exempt from success—as the world has unfortunately sometimes taught us. At that time, we seemed a lifetime away from this very moment. I am beyond excited to be a part of the Ford School, and to walk those halls as a student—with emotions of excitement, empowerment, and a little bit of fear (the good kind). I look forward to personally thanking the Weills for their generous and intentional gift.”
Max Hill (MPP ‘22) also participated in the Ford School’s PPIA Junior Summer Institute (2019). As a 2020 graduate of Grinnell College and a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, his original post-graduation plans were interrupted; the global pandemic put on hold his Watson Fellowship project to explore the intersection of Black masculinity and martial arts through community engagement in China, Brazil, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. When the Ford School extended the MPP application period in May, he jumped at the opportunity. Hill is originally from California’s San-Fernando Valley, and he says his interests in fiscal policy, workforce development, and affordable housing are driven from empathy and his Christian faith. “I’ve been in situations where I’ve struggled and I want to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Hill says he is thankful to be a Weill Scholar. “I want to earn the designation,” he said. “I have a lot of ideas about what I want to change. I’m looking forward to finding purpose and a focus at the Ford School.”
The Weill Scholars and Weill Youth Policy Fellowship are made possible through a generous gift from Joan and Sandy Weill. The students were chosen from an exceptional group of Rackham Master’s Award (RMA) recipients. The RMA is one of the Ford School and the University’s highest honors for incoming graduate students and is funded collaboratively by the University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School and the Ford School of Public Policy.