SPPD Students Earn Clinton-Orfalea Fellowships
by Cristy Lytal and Gilien Silsby
Four USC students have earned the Clinton-Orfalea Fellowships — Josie Noah, Nina Abiera, Nick Arevalo and Nathaniel Madsen.
Noah, Abiera and Arevalo hail from the master’s programs at the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development (SPPD). Madsen is a USC Gould School of Law student who graduated this month.
The fellows will head to New York in August to lend their talents to the William J. Clinton Foundation, which addresses issues of global climate change, HIV and AIDS in the developing world as well as childhood obesity, and economic opportunity and development.
Since 2007, the one-year postgraduate fellowships have enabled recent graduates from SPPD, the USC Marshall School of Business and the USC Gould School of Law to work for the Clinton Foundation while receiving stipends from the Orfalea Family Foundation, a nonprofit which funds educational and youth-oriented programs.
“It’s a unique opportunity for students to be able to be involved in these well-supported, well-thought-out initiatives,” said SPPD professor Shui Yan Tang. “The personal attention and leadership from Bill Clinton makes a big difference.”
Noah will spearhead the recruitment process for the Clinton Global Initiative, which encourages world leaders, nongovernmental organizations, nonprofits and others to make specific and measurable Commitments to Action. These commitments range from training Pakistani women in honeybee production to creating a 9/11 memorial.
The Clinton Foundation was on Noah’s radar before even enrolling as a graduate student at USC.
“I’ve always had a huge admiration for the Clintons and the work they do,” said Noah, who is finishing a dual master’s degree in public administration and planning. “Working at the Clinton foundation is this unique opportunity to work under the vision of [former] President Clinton. There are very few people who have the political capital that he does. He can really make an impact on the world.”
Abiera, who is pursuing a dual master’s degree in social work and public administration, will be working for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. A partnership between the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, the alliance aims to eliminate childhood obesity and to help young people develop healthy habits.
Through past experiences, Abiera discovered her passion for promoting healthy aging. Even though her work with the alliance will focus on young children, the habits they form have major implications for their health in later life.
“What’s great about the Clinton fellowship is that there are different initiatives, and yet it seems to be under the umbrella of Bill Clinton and the foundation trying to improve the lives of people,” Abiera said. “And similarly with social work, we’re a mission-driven profession.”
Arevalo, who is working toward his master of public administration degree, will spend his fellowship year with the Economic Opportunity Initiative, which includes a financial mainstream program for individuals as well as programs to stimulate businesses in underserved communities.
“Economic opportunity falls in line with my core values of equity and contribution,” said Arevalo, who has worked in economic development in Sonoma County and in banking. “My family, we’re an immigrant family from El Salvador. And during the course of my life, I’ve just had so many wonderful opportunities open up for me, and I’ve been able to take advantage of those. And so I’d like to focus my professional career on trying to create more opportunities for other individuals that may be in similar situations.”
Madsen also will be working for the Clinton Global Initiative. He will help several “social entrepreneurs” find funding for their innovative ideas to address such social issues as poverty, hunger, climate change and health care.
“I came to law school knowing that I wanted to use my degree to work toward positive social change,” Madsen said. “This fellowship with the Clinton Foundation is a perfect way for me to fulfill that goal. The organization has had a truly impressive real-world impact, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their work.”
Josie Noah and Nick Arevalo (at top); Nina Abiera (middle photo); Nathaniel Madsen (at bottom)