Ford School names 2023 Weill Scholars and Weill Youth Policy Fellow

September 28, 2023

Six outstanding master’s students have been named as the 2023 Weill Scholars and Weill Youth Policy (YPL) Fellows. Weill Youth Policy Fellow Samuel Owusu (MPP ‘25) and Weill Scholars Winnie Chen (MPP ‘25), Naomi Garcia (MPP ‘25), Nia Knox (MPP ‘25), Alexie Milukhin (MPP ‘25), and Farah Pitcher (MPP ‘25) are recipients of the prestigious Ford-Rackham Master’s Award (RMA), one of the Ford School’s and the University of Michigan’s highest honors. They are awarded to graduate students underrepresented in the public policy field and with outstanding qualifications and tremendous promise. With it, students receive full graduate school tuition, a stipend, and health and dental insurance.


Weill Youth Policy Fellow

Samuel Owusu was chosen for his scholarly excellence and strong interest in making an impact on youth or education policy. He will work closely with Professor Brian Jacob and complete an internship with a Youth Policy Lab partner organization.

Owusu originally hails from Chicago, IL, and is a graduate of Davidson College in North Carolina where he majored in international relations and educational studies. While at Davidson, he became engaged with education research during his time as an analyst for the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College (C2i), an organization that tracks how educational institutions are adapting and innovating during COVID-19. Owusu most recently spent the past two years as a research analyst for the Ford School’s Education Policy Initiative (EPI) where supported numerous faculty-led research projects, including Michigan's Young 5s Evaluation and Michigan's Tuition Incentive Program Evaluation. Both projects deepened his interest in studying inequities across the P-20 education system. Owusu is interested in studying how public finance structures shape educational outcomes and in postsecondary access/affordability. He hopes to utilize his training from past work experiences and the Ford School into a career that helps to translate education research into practice through policy work which focuses on reducing barriers to and through education systems. 


Weill Scholars

Winnie Chen is a Master of Public Policy student born in China and raised in California. She is the first in her family to graduate high school and college and hopes to be the first to successfully obtain a master's degree. Prior to joining the Ford School, she worked at different California state agencies as an analyst with a focus on equity and accessibility. She conducted research on policies that aim to uplift Californians in disadvantaged and underserved communities. She is also passionate about enhancing public access and engagement with the state's complex decision-making processes that often leave out marginalized groups. After graduation, Chen hopes to continue her work in public service as a policy analyst at the local level.

Naomi Joy Garcia was born and raised in Riverside, California. She graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in legal studies and sociology, and had the honor of participating in the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute at the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy. As a sophomore, she served as UC Berkeley’s primary student liaison for university affairs related to the 2020 Census; with partnerships with United Way, local government officials, and the UC Office of the President, her team hosted a series of roundtable discussions with community leaders, and strategized on how to best engage the greater Berkeley community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, she served as a student-elected senator within Berkeley’s student government organization, and assisted with research at the Othering & Belonging Institute and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education. Garcia is passionate about campaigns and elections, constitutional law, social policy, and exploring the ways in which we can make higher education more accessible.

Nia Knox is a first-generation student from Broward County, South Florida. Inspired by the support of her community, she seeks to wield policy as a tool to empower marginalized groups with opportunity. She previously interned for the Economic Policy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Continuing to advance the skills gleaned during her undergraduate thesis investigating pandemic-era SNAP benefits, Knox hopes to develop her work in domestic social policy.

Alexie Milukhin is a first-generation college student with a personal and professional interest in poverty alleviation and educational equity. Prior to joining the Ford School, she studied community development and capacity building both domestically and abroad, engaging in empirical research on Hispanic centers in Michigan, and conducting study-abroad projects in Puebla and Oaxaca, Mexico. Milukhin is passionate about social policy and structuring systems to maximize accessibility. This work has taken the form of public service, including legislative work under the Hispanic/Latino Commission of Michigan, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and as a Constituent Services Director within the Michigan House of Representatives. Upon graduation, Milukhin plans to return to public service and further policy initiatives that dismantle barriers to accessing healthcare, welfare, and education. 

Farah Pitcher’s passion for combatting social inequities comes from her own personal experiences as a first-generation college student. Pitcher transferred from Lansing Community College to the University of Michigan, earning her BS with honors in biology, health, and society with a minor in political science in 2022. She is a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship (PPIA) alumna. Pitcher previously worked at Beyond the Diag, helping students navigate off-campus housing, and at Public Citizen, campaigning for increased voting rights. Through these experiences, she developed a clear vision of herself working to serve the public good. She aims to pursue social policy, health policy, and anti-poverty policy with an emphasis on dismantling barriers that she has faced and continues to see loved ones struggle with. Outside of the policy arena, she is an avid foodie who enjoys being active, traveling, and spending time with her pets.