Public policy senior forges multicultural communities

April 30, 2024

During his freshman year at UM-Dearborn, Neil Nakkash (BA '24) decided to take a gamble and join a policy research team working on issues impacting his ethnic group. Growing up in nearby Oakland County, he had always found politics interesting, so he decided to give policy a try.

“I ended up really liking it because I felt challenged by the different policies that we had to draft and I felt stimulated by the research and how in depth we went to really understand the issues that we were addressing,” Nakkash said.

“I was always passionate about politics, especially the politics of inequality, and this really prompted me to think, ‘Oh, I could really make a career out of this.’”

After transferring to U-M’s Ann Arbor campus to join the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy before his sophomore year, Nakkash joined The Michigan Daily where he wrote articles for the Michigan in Color section related to issues in the Middle East affecting minorities.

Throughout his years on campus, he has also been involved with Students of Color for Public Policy and Arabesque, a group that performs Middle Eastern and North African folk dances.

Earlier this year, Nakkash received U-M’s MLK Spirit Award for his work with the Iraqi American Union student organization. The award celebrates ways students have worked to exemplify the Rev. Martin Luther King’s leadership and vision.

“Sometimes we see divisions in our community based on people of different religions or ethnic backgrounds, and through this organization, we’ve worked to bridge these gaps by hosting collaborative events in which we showcase the diverse cultures within Iraq and the Iraqi diaspora,” Nakkash said.

Another highlight of Nakkash’s undergraduate years has been his work with the Trotter Multicultural Center. Nakkash started working at the center his junior year as a team lead. His work has examined the importance of building empathy and understanding when helping resolve issues of racial and other inequities in different cultural communities.

“Trotter was probably one of my favorite and most meaningful experiences I had at the University of Michigan, just because I saw myself in a space that I hadn’t seen myself in before,” Nakkash said. “Part of working at Trotter really gave me a more nuanced view of the world … and it made me more conscious of the nuances that I need to be aware of when I’m interacting with people of other communities.”

Following graduation, Nakkash plans to apply to medical school while continuing his work as a research assistant with the Institute for Social Research. He hopes to call upon his background with policy while working as a physician to provide more equitable care.


Written by Katie Kelton for The University Record.