Clinton Orfalea Fellowship
SPPD Students Awarded Clinton-Orfalea Fellowships
By Cristy Lytal
Helping Americans lead healthier and wealthier lives — that’s how USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development (SPPD) graduates Brooke Lykins and Mary Kuhn plan to spend their upcoming year courtesy of the Clinton-Orfalea Fellowships.
The fellows will head to New York in August to work at the William J. Clinton Foundation, which addresses issues of global climate change, HIV and AIDS in the developing world, childhood obesity, and economic opportunity and development.
Since 2007, recent graduates from SPPD, the USC Marshall School of Business and the USC Gould School of Law have earned their place in the fellowship, providing opportunities to work for the Clinton Foundation while receiving stipends from the Orfalea Family Foundation, a philanthropy that funds educational and youth-oriented programs.
Kuhn, who received a Master of Planning degree, will be working for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. A partnership between the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, the organization aims to eliminate childhood obesity and to help young people develop healthy habits.
Before arriving at SPPD, Kuhn volunteered in Chicago with Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project encouraging food vendors in low-income neighborhoods to offer healthier items. She also has experience studying children’s health as research assistant to SPPD associate professor Lisa Schweitzer, who has a National Institutes of Health grant to explore the relationship between autism and urban environments.
However, Kuhn’s interest in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation has deeper roots.
“I grew up on a farm in Kansas,” she said. “So actually food is the thing that really draws me to this because it’s the intersection of my background as a farm girl and my interest in cities. This gives me a chance to dive into food policy.”
Lykins, who earned a Master of Public Administration degree, will spend her 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.
Through six years spent working for the Downtown Women’s Center, an organization serving homeless women on Skid Row, Lykins discovered her passion for promoting economic justice.
At the Clinton Foundation, she will tackle the same issue using a different approach, the Entrepreneur Mentoring Program, which enables accomplished business leaders to mentor entrepreneurs in underserved neighborhoods.
“Economic justice will be a theme throughout my career,” Lykins said. “For too many families in our country, the American Dream – being able to harness hard work and creativity to make a healthy, sustainable life for one’s self and one’s family – is really just that, a dream, and not an achievable reality. I see the type of community building that the Clinton Economic Opportunity Initiative undertakes as essential to removing the institutionalized barriers that make this the case.”
Lykins believes that the Clinton Foundation is the perfect setting for doing this work.
“Foundations facilitate the sort of cooperation between government, nonprofits and the private sector that we all dream about but is so difficult to achieve,” she explained. “Organizations like the Clinton Foundation are the ideal leaders of such collaboration, and the organization seizes this chance and leverages that position in a very powerful and strategic way.”