A decade-long partnership between the Ford School of Public Policy and the David Bohnett Foundation has provided 33 master’s students with opportunities for public service learning in Detroit. In October, 20 current and past fellows gathered at a reception in Ann Arbor to celebrate this milestone, and the accomplishments of the David Bohnett Foundation Leadership & Public Service Fellows.
Ford School Dean Michael Barr acknowledged the amazing opportunities the fellowship provides to students. “I am deeply grateful for David Bohnett, who brought his vision for the fellowship to the Ford School. This is an extraordinary gift.”
Speaking directly to the fellows, he added, “You all are an exemplary part of our Ford School community. Even in this challenging year, our community has thrived because of our focus on making people’s lives better.“
“As a funder, I can just look at the names of our alumni and where they are now to know how successful this program is,” said Michael Fleming, executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation.
Julie Schneider(MPP/MUP ’12), who serves as the director of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department and recently named to Crain’s Detroit Business 40 under 40 list, received her first taste of working in government through the Bohnett Fellowship. She and Elizabeth Palazzola (MPP/STPP ’12), the resilient public infrastructure manager for the same department, were the inaugural Bohnett Fellows. From the start, they knew the fellowship program was important. They supported each other along the way, and continue to help guide the fellows that followed in their footsteps.
Since 2011, the numbers of fellows still living and working in Detroit have grown. In addition to leading efforts in city government, alumni of the program include a state senator who appreciates working beside the activists in her Detroit district, an associate program officer at the Skillman Foundation, and the director of strategic planning at Washtenaw County.
Luz Viviana Meza (MA/MPP ‘18), the deputy director of Economic Development with Wayne County said, “my time as a fellow with the Detroit Mayor’s Office gave me the skills and connections to advance in my career and make a difference in my community.”
The Bohnett Fellows share a powerful bond through shared experiences working in Detroit, and a commitment to public service. In addition to building a strong professional community locally, fellows get to know their counterparts in Los Angeles and New York City through attending events and conferences.
“If you are in LA, NYC, or Detroit, the Bohnett fellowship carries with it prestige,” said Paul Moore, senior director of programs at the David Bohnett Foundation. “You can find a network of professionals leading efforts to create positive change in those communities.”
“The professional and personal relationships I formed through my internship continue: I still keep in touch with other fellows, and I work with people now who I was introduced to through the fellowship,” said Andrew DeLeeuw (MPP ‘14).
Ten years after her summer internship that launched the Bohnett Fellowship program in Detroit, Schneider says the inspired people she met across the country remain part of her professional network.
The David Bohnett Foundation Leadership and Public Service Fellowship, funded by University of Michigan alumnus David Bohnett (MBA ’80), is competitively awarded to three incoming master’s students each year. The fellowship includes two years of in-state tuition support and a funded internship with the city of Detroit. Through the fellowship, the Bohnett Foundation seeks to improve society through social activism and advance a spirit of community and justice.