Third annual Ford School pitch competition focuses on financial inclusion and inequity during summer internships

October 27, 2020

Financial inclusion and inequity were focuses of the third annual pitch competition, at which 12 Ford School BA and Masters students presented about their summer internship experiences. Those experiences were online in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as was the pitch competition itself. 

The judges this year were Katie Hall (MPA '13) Founder/CEO, Claira; Brandy Johnson (MPP '09), Policy Advisor, Postsecondary Education & Workforce Development, Executive Office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer; Daniel Rivkin (BA ‘85), Ford School Senior Media & Outreach Strategist; and Alma Wheeler Smith (BA ‘63) who served in the Michigan Legislature for 14 years.

Judging was based not on the achievements of the internship, but on the clarity and delivery of the presentation, including the potential policy impact of their work and their reflection on how it affected the student’s long-term goals.

1st prize: First place went to Karolina Ramos (MPP ‘21), who contributed to The Aspen Institute’s Financial Security Program by looking at how human-centered policies can help recipients of government aid better manage the process. She said she was happy that her social media skills could be policy-relevant. The judges were impressed by her ability to “really explain the deliverables and what she was able to accomplish during the short internship, and tying it to actual case studies that are happening right here in Michigan.”

2nd prize: Kalena Thomhave (MPP ‘21) described how she looked at inequity through the lens of the structures in place for the people at top in her Institute for Policy Studies internship, which gave her a deeper understanding of what needs to change to address economic inequality. “Normally, we look at systems that don't work for the poor and try to figure out how to fix them. This is looking at the systems in a completely different way, and we understood her passion about the issue,” the judges said.

3rd prize: Undergraduate Dylan Horowitz (BA ‘21) said the COVID-19 interruption of his in-person internship at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia turned out for the best. He was assigned to the local crimes division where he saw how lawyers could use their prosecutorial discretion for good. The judges were impressed by Dylan “pointing out the importance of law enforcement as it impacts the opportunities for young people and their futures.”

Audience prize: Mariam Sayeed (MPP ‘21) showed “very tangible impact” at Direct Relief. She learned how international organizations impact communities that are in the most need by sending resources and care to local organizations, especially as COVID-19 affects displaced communities around the world. 

The other 2020 pitches covered a diverse set of policy issues at a variety of internship locations:

Clary Baudraz  (MPP '21) said her time at Save the Children allowed her to promote her concern for women’s and girls’ political participation, to make sure that girls' voices are being heard in the policy debates that affect their lives. 

Emma Kern (MPP, ‘21) worked at the Hawai'i Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice on their poverty report, collecting both data and personal stories on how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought inequity to the forefront.

Mariatu Santiago (MPP ‘21) used her passion for storytelling to help establish a blog series University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park, to highlight to its target community the range of opportunities available to them.

Eli Gold (MPP/MS ‘22) made a difference with Detroit-based Soulidarity, to help the people of Highland Park recover their street lights and have safer neighborhoods (and he made a true pitch for funding!)  

Hannah Rosenfeld (MPP ’21) said her background in science and technology had prepared for her internship at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for years, which allowed her to look at policy in action concerning quality medical devices, and gain an insight into making change in a huge government agency.

J'Taime Lyons (MPP/MBA ‘22) was able to apply the tools she has gained at the Ford School to make an impact in community engagement at the Durham Children's Initiative, which creates a pipeline high quality services from birth through high school graduation for children, leaving her enthused about the power of collective impact in alleviating poverty.

Safiya Merchant (MPP ‘21) examined one issue while at the City of Detroit Housing and Revitalization Department: How to design an inclusive community that preserves affordable housing and improves the quality of life for the most vulnerable even in the face of rising property values and economic development.

Nathaniel Ojo (MPP ‘21) used his research internship at The International Institute for Strategic Studies to help produce a toolkit for engaging with non-state armed groups with regards to environmental issues, as well as a report for use by governments and NGOs.

Videos of the presentations can be seen here.