White House appoints 2021-2022 class of White House fellows

The President’s Commission on White House Fellows on Monday announced the appointment of the 2021-2022 class of White House Fellows, the most diverse class in the history of the program. The prestigious White House Fellowship program embeds professionals from diverse backgrounds for a year of working as a full-time, paid fellow for White House staff, Cabinet Secretaries, and other senior government officials.

President Lyndon B. Johnson created the White House Fellows Program in 1964 with the purpose of “give[ing] the Fellows first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal Government and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.” The Fellowship functions as a non-partisan program maintained throughout both Republican and Democratic administrations. Throughout the year, Fellows actively participate in an education program that expands their knowledge of leadership, policy-making, and contemporary issues. The mission of the White House Fellows Program is to encourage active citizenship and service to the country.

Selection into the program is based on a record of professional accomplishment, evidence of leadership skills, the potential for further growth, and a commitment to service. This year’s White House Fellows advanced through a highly competitive selection process, and they are a remarkably gifted, passionate, and accomplished group. Over half of the fellows are women and overall reflect the diversity of America.  These fellows bring experience from a broad cross-section of professions, from the private sector, local government, academia, medicine, law, and the military.

Applications for the 2022-2023 Fellowship year will be accepted from November 1, 2021  January 7, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. ET. The application link and additional information is available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/get-involved/fellows/.

2021-2022 Class of White House Fellows:

Etsemaye Agonafer is from San Francisco, California and is placed at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Etsemaye is a physician, educator, and researcher committed to advancing health equity for all. She was a National Clinician Scholar and completed a Masters of Science in Health Policy & Management at UCLA.  She served as Chief Resident of Quality & Patient Safety at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center where she completed her internal medicine residency. She passionately focuses on amplifying the voices of vulnerable communities through multi-sector partnership. Her work spans creating a clothing line inspired by her heritage that raised funds for disparities in Ethiopia and Eritrea, to co-founding a foot-health clinic serving the homeless in Greater Los Angeles, to producing a compilation of videos of veteran narratives, and spearheading an academic-community coalition in South Los Angeles. She conducts stakeholder-engaged investigations of innovative healthcare solutions for health-related social needs that are aimed at improving health outcomes and reducing costs. Throughout her career, Etsemaye participated in numerous quality improvement efforts in diverse healthcare systems, trained and mentored students, developed novel medical education curricula, and disseminated her work in national presentations and peer-reviewed publications. Etsemaye earned a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Southern California, a M.P.H. and M.D. from the UCLA/CDU PRIME-LA dual-degree program.

Tom Barron is from Houston, Texas and is placed at the White House Domestic Policy Council. Tom worked most recently as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. In this role, he advised private and social sector clients across a range of industries on strategy and operations challenges. Prior to his work at McKinsey, he served for over nine years in the U.S. Army as both a Special Forces and infantry officer. He commanded a Special Forces team focused on operations across the African continent, deploying to Niger and the Horn of Africa, and served as the Deputy Director of Operations for Special Operations Command Forward North and West Africa. As an infantry officer, he led an airborne infantry platoon in combat in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Outside of his professional activities, Tom was a 2018 Shawn Brimley Next Generation National Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, is a Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations, and actively volunteers in support of several veteran- and education-focused initiatives. His writing and research have appeared in both academic and policy publications. Tom graduated from Harvard College with an A.B. in Social Studies, and from the University of Cambridge with an M.Phil. in African Studies, where he was a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

Joy Basu is from San Francisco, California and is placed at the White House Gender Policy Council. Joy has served as a senior advisor to innovative businesses seeking authentic, impact-integrated growth. She was the first Chief of Staff at TPG Growth, where she worked as a key architect and builder of The Rise Fund, a groundbreaking impact investment platform. She also served as The Rise Fund’s global Sector Lead for Food and Agriculture. Prior to joining TPG, Joy was a consultant at McKinsey & Company, where she focused on agricultural development, working with businesses, governments, and donors to improve food systems in emerging markets. Joy also served as project manager to the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture, and has supported strategic projects for the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency and Starbucks Coffee Company. Joy earned her J.D. and M.B.A. from Stanford University with a certificate in public management and social innovation. While at Stanford, she served as Co-President of the Women of Stanford Law, as an Arbuckle Fellow and as a leader of the Afghanistan Legal Education Project. Joy holds a B.A.  in Public Policy and Economics from Duke University. She currently serves as a Trustee for the Heifer International Foundation and a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Arlene Crews is from Alameda, California and is placed at the Office of the Second Gentleman. Arlene is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy and a command-screened Surface Warfare Officer. She has served aboard USS MONTEREY (CG 61), USS GONZALEZ (DDG 102), and USS SAMPSON (DDG 102) conducting missions in Operation Enduring Freedom, Oceania Maritime Security Initiative, and Operation Inherent Resolve. Her last operational tour was as the Staff Director of Destroyer Squadron NINE. She has previously served as a Resource and Requirements Officer in the Surface Warfare Division on the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations staff at the Pentagon.  She is a certified yoga instructor with advanced certification in mental health and wellness. Her passion is making yoga more accessible to diverse communities. Arlene earned her commission through the Naval Reserve Officer’s Training Corps at the University of Southern California where she earned her BA in International Relations and Italian. She is an Olmsted Scholar and earned her M.A. in National Security from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.

Zachary Griffiths is from Lexington, Massachusetts and is placed at the National Security Council. Zach is a Major in the United States Army Special Forces with three combat deployments. For outstanding performance as a Special Forces Detachment Commander in combat, Zach’s detachment was recognized with the Larry Thorne Award; and, the Hungarian Minister of Defense awarded Zach the Service Medal for Merit in Bronze Grade decorated with Swords. Zach most recently returned from Iraq, where he served as the Special Assistant for the Special Operations Joint Task Force Commander. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Zach assisted his local hospital with crisis planning. Between operational tours, Zach taught American Politics in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point and mentored cadets to pass the rigorous combat diver qualification course. Additionally, Zach has published more than 25 articles, edits for Military Review and the Irregular Warfare Initiative, and is a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations. Zach also volunteers as a Cub Scout leader and with the Army Rowing Association. Zach earned a B.S. in Operations Research from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a M.P.P. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

SaMee Harden is from Paducah, Kentucky and is placed at the Office of Personnel Management. SaMee previously served as an attorney working as a Privacy and Data Policy Manager at Facebook. She led a team that coordinates legal, policy, and technological responses to protect Facebook user data from bad actors and collaborates with cross-functional partners to investigate data policy violations. Prior to Facebook, SaMee was a federal criminal prosecutor, managing a robust docket, which included narcotics, public corruption, white-collar, and firearms offenses. She specialized in prosecuting child exploitation crimes. SaMee received several SPOT Awards for “making a significant contribution” during her work as a federal prosecutor. Previously, SaMee was a Senior Associate focusing on white collar investigations at the law firm of WilmerHale. She also served as a judicial law clerk on both the federal trial and appellate courts. SaMee is a founding member of the James M. Nabrit Clerkship Scholarship, which encourages diverse law school students to apply to clerkships, and the Northwestern Law Social Justice Impact Alumni Award. She is a Fulbright and Boren Scholar and Department of Justice Honors Selectee. SaMee received a J.D. from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, an M.A. from American University, and a B.A. from the University of Louisville; she is currently pursuing an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan.

Claire Henly is from Somerville, Massachusetts and is placed at the Special Presidential Envoy on Climate. Claire is an energy technology and policy expert with a decade of experience advancing solutions to climate change. Claire recently served on the executive team of the Energy Web Foundation where she helped build a consortium of over 30 of the world’s largest energy companies to accelerate renewable energy adoption with blockchain technology. Prior to that, Claire advised international governments on climate policy at the Rocky Mountain Institute. In this role, she led a project with Rwanda’s Ministry of Infrastructure that identified over $30 million in utility savings while improving energy access and partnered with the China’s Energy Research Institute on a multi-year carbon reduction study that informed the 13th Five Year Plan. In 2018, Claire provided expert testimony before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on blockchain in the energy sector. She has authored papers on subjects ranging from solar geoengineering to energy access in emerging economies and has spoken at over 20 climate-related forums worldwide. Claire recently graduated with a M.A. from Harvard’s Kennedy School where she was awarded two prestigious environmental fellowships and co-led a successful effort to de-bias faculty hiring. Claire holds a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Yale University.

Victoria Herrmann is from Paramus, New Jersey and is placed at the United States Coast Guard. Victoria is on sabbatical from her positions as an Assistant Research Professor at Georgetown University and the Managing Director of The Arctic Institute, a nonprofit with a mission to inform policy for a just, sustainable, and secure Arctic. Victoria directs strategic planning and oversees the implementation of global research partnerships by a 45-person team. Her research focuses on Arctic climate change and resilience. As a recognized expert in the field, Victoria has testified before the House and Senate, served as the Alaska Review Editor for the National Climate Assessment, and contributed to national and international media. At Georgetown, she serves as the Principal Investigator of a National Science Foundation-funded Research Coordination Network on Arctic migrations. The three-year initiative aims to build a lasting, policy-oriented network of Arctic scientists to strengthen communication between nations and scientific disciplines. Victoria was a Junior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Fulbright Awardee to Canada, and a Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow at the National Academies of Sciences. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge as a Gates Scholar, a M.A. in International Affairs from Carleton University, and a B.A. from Lehigh University.

Margaret Jackson is from Washington, D.C. and is placed at the United States Department of Commerce. Margaret previously served as the Deputy Director for Climate and Advanced Energy at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center. She led engagement with stakeholders across government, industry, and civil society to develop policy solutions that advance a clean and just energy transition. She also champions diversity in the energy field through her leadership of the Veterans Advanced Energy Project. From 2019 to 2020, she was a Council on Foreign Relations-Hitachi International Affairs Fellow at the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, researching how the U.S. and Japan can expand cooperation on clean energy technologies to achieve domestic and foreign policy objectives. Prior to working in Tokyo, she was a Fulbright scholar at the Institute of Energy, Environment, and Economy at Tsinghua University in Beijing, studying China’s path to become a leading manufacturer and investor in renewable energy. She is a former U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer and served in Japan and on multiple deployments to the Western Pacific, including Operation Tomodachi—the disaster relief effort following the Great East Japan Earthquake. Margaret received a M.A. in Culture, Communication, and Technology from Georgetown University and a B.S. in Political Science with  a Minor in Mandarin Chinese from the U.S. Naval Academy.

Andrew Kim is from San Francisco, California and is placed at the Office of Management and Budget. Andrew is a physician passionate about health diplomacy and peacebuilding. His current research explores vaccine diplomacy and humanitarian aid to North Korea. During his health equity residency program at the University of California, San Francisco, he worked with the Institute for Global Health Sciences on a report for the WHO on the U.S. COVID response, and with the Center for Health Diplomacy on reports informing the COVID Transition Taskforce. As a Rappaport Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, Andrew led a national landscape assessment of advanced directive digitalization efforts. His prior work on the nexus between peace and health spans projects in Liberia during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, eastern Uganda, and South Sudan. Andrew has studied social justice at the Center for Action and Contemplation, co-founded an interfaith youth service program, and devoted time to clinical care in Guatemala, Brazil, Tanzania, Uganda, and Taiwan. His writing has been awarded with the Henry Knowles Beecher Prize and SF Medical Society writing contest. He earned his M.D.  from Harvard Medical School through the Presidential Public Service Scholarship, his M.Phil. in International Development at the University of Cambridge as a Baker Fellow, and B.A. from Brown University.

Hila Levy is from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico and is placed at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Hila is a Major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, serving as a Senior Intelligence Officer and Foreign Area Officer in Air Force Special Operations Command, supporting combat operations, contingencies, and partnership-building exercises in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. She has led teams at tactical, operational, and joint headquarters-level assignments in South Korea, Japan, and the United Kingdom, earning Air Force-level awards for leadership and performance. In parallel military and civilian careers, Hila has worked in national security, international relations, science, and environmental management on every continent. She is a published scientific researcher, undergraduate educator, translator in six languages, and fellow at New America. She is active in Arctic and Antarctic affairs, climate change advocacy, infectious disease, and STEM education for underrepresented youth. In 2020, she advised the federal COVID-19 Joint Acquisition Task Force on viral diagnostics procurement to safeguard public health. She received a B.S. as the top graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds a M.Phil. from the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, M.S. from Johns Hopkins University, and M.St., M.Sc. with Distinction, and D.Phil. from the University of Oxford, where she was the first Rhodes Scholar from Puerto Rico.

Alister Martin is from Neptune, New Jersey and is placed at the Office of the Vice President and the White House Office of Public Engagement. Alister is a practicing emergency physician and former Chief Resident at Massachusetts General Hospital. He served as a former Health Policy Aide to Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont and Congressman Raul Ruiz of California. He works at the intersection of public policy and medicine as research faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School Behavioral Insights Group and as clinical faculty at Harvard Medical School in the Center for Social Justice and Health Equity. He leverages his background in politics, policy, and the field of behavioral economics to use the ER as a place to build programs that serve the needs of vulnerable patients. He is the founder of Vot-ER, a nonpartisan voter registration organization that has organized over 26,000 healthcare providers and 300 hospitals to help non-urgent patients register to vote. He is the founder of Get Waivered, a program that is converting our nation’s ERs into the front door for opioid addiction treatment. He also co-founded GOTVax, an initiative aimed at leveraging a get out the vote framework to deliver vaccines directly to vulnerable communities throughout Boston via hyper-targeted vaccine pop up clinics. He graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers where he was a Division 1 tennis player.

Tara Murray is from Stafford, Virginia and is placed at the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs. Tara is a civil and human rights lawyer with her own practice in Washington, D.C. She is committed to bringing accountability and transparency in the justice system through advocacy and litigation on behalf of persons most vulnerable to unfair treatment. Previously, Tara served as Deputy Director of London-based human rights NGO Reprieve. There, she represented 30 men imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay in federal court proceedings and spearheaded the first investigations into the community impact of drone strikes in Pakistan, which expanded to include Yemen and the horn of Africa. Tara has spent her career developing and maintaining strategic partnerships in the public, nonprofit, and government sectors to champion the rights of inequitably treated people and has mobilized diverse teams around the world towards common goals. Her work has been profiled by new and media outlets worldwide. Tara received an LL.M. in Advocacy from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was an E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow and taught law students in the Criminal Justice Clinic while representing indigent clients; a J.D. from Harvard Law School;  and a B.A. summa cum laude from Howard University. Tara enjoys a rich home life with her husband and their three young children.

Jennifer Onofrio is from Jersey City, New Jersey and is placed at the United States Navy. Jenn was the Director of Resource Management & Planning for security and policing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where she was responsible for providing financial, analytical, and logistical support to almost 2,400 employees (including over 2,000 police officers) protecting critical transportation assets in the New York City area. She led a team of 75 employees and controlled an annual budget of more than $700 million. She joined the Port Authority in 2011as a Leadership Fellow and rose through the ranks in positions of increasing responsibility within the Office of the Chief Security Officer, transforming the department into aa data-driven operation. Prior to her career at the Port Authority, Jenn worked in criminal justice reform on improving reentry outcomes for incarcerated men and women, evaluating policies and practices in dozens of states across the country. She also taught job readiness and life skills to inmates at Rikers Island. She is a member of the Port Authority’s Ethics Board, their Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee, and the PAPD Civilian Complaint Review Board. Jenn is a Truman Scholar who received a B.S. in Liberal Arts from The New School and an M.P.A. from Princeton University.

Sunny Patel is from Burbank, California and is placed at the United States Department of Homeland Security. Sunny is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and public health physician with interests in building equitable health systems that serve children and families. He recently completed his fellowship at NYU, where he created a model embedding mental health services in the pediatric oncology clinic. He also launched a comprehensive mental health response for thousands of frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and volunteered as a palliative care physician at Bellevue Hospital. Sunny has spearheaded health interventions for vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad, including in India, Thailand, and Dominican Republic. He has spent the past decade working with refugee populations and has conducted forensic psychological examinations for asylum seekers with NYU and Physicians for Human Rights. Sunny’s research has been published in numerous journals and informed policy initiatives, including work presented at the United Nations General Assembly. He has also served as a resident tutor in medicine at Adams House of Harvard College. Sunny completed his adult psychiatry residency at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School. He has an M.D. from the Mayo Clinic, an M.P.H. from Harvard, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology and physiology, respectively, from UCLA with college and departmental honors.

Kenyatta Ruffin is from Maxwood, Illinois and is placed at the Office of the National Cyber Director. Kenyatta is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force and a career fighter pilot. He has 155 combat missions in the F-16 and MC-12 during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, including his appointment as the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission commander for the largest special operations raid in Operation Enduring Freedom’s history. He began his flying career at 13 years old and became one of the nation’s youngest FAA-certified flight instructors at age 18. He founded the Legacy Flight Academy, an award-winning non-profit organization that honors the heroic Tuskegee Airmen and serves minority youth with character-building, STEM enrichment programs. He was selected by the Air Force Chief of Staff to lead the Service’s efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in flying careers, including selection to establish and command a unique, flight-focused recruiting organization. Most recently, he was the operations support squadron commander at the Air Force’s second busiest airfield, responsible for the safety and effectiveness of flight operations valued at over 1.25 billion dollars. He is a graduate of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and earned Master’s Degrees from Air University and the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies.

Aakash Shah is from Cliffside Park, New Jersey and is placed at the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Aakash is a practicing emergency room doctor at Hackensack Meridian Health. He helped treat some of the earliest confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic. Aakash also serves as the Director of Addiction Medicine and the Medical Director of Project HEAL (a hospital-based violence intervention program) at Jersey Shore University Medical Center as well as the Medical Director of New Jersey Reentry Corp. His work in those roles has resulted in several reforms, including the elimination of prior authorization requirements for medications for opioid use disorder, and he received the bipartisan endorsement of five former New Jersey governors. He previously served as the Founder and Executive Director of Be Jersey Strong, which represented one of the largest and most diverse efforts to connect the uninsured to coverage in the nation, and was honored by President Barack Obama at the White House for its impact. He has also served as an advisor to several local, state, and federal campaigns and policymakers. He obtained his M.D. from Harvard Medical School, M.B.A. and M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and B.A. and B.S. from Ursinus College. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Centenary University.

Brittany Stich is from Denver, Colorado and is placed at the White House Domestic Policy Council. Brittany is Co-Founder of Guild Education, a company whose mission is to unlock opportunity for America’s workforce through education and upskilling. Guild partners with Fortune 1000 companies, including the Walt Disney Company, Walmart, and Chipotle, to provide education benefits to their frontline workforce. Through these partnerships, more than 3 million working Americans have gained access to employer-funded education. Prior to Guild, Brittany built honors programs in community colleges across the country. She began her career as a teacher in East Palo Alto through Teach for America. She has received numerous accolades, including Forbes 30 under 30, Stanford’s Arjay Miller Social Change award, Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas award, and recognition on CNBC’s Disruptor 50, Forbes’ Cloud 100 list, and B Lab’s Best for World list. She is a board member of the GALS schools of Denver and a speaker on higher education, the future of work, entrepreneurship and women in leadership. Appointed by Governor Polis, she is a Commissioner for the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. A first-generation college student, Brittany holds an M.B.A., M.A. in Education, and B.A. from Stanford University, as well as an Ed.D. in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania.

Garth Walker is from Chicago, Illinois and is placed at the Office of the Surgeon General. Garth is an academic public health expert and physician leader working to eliminate structural barriers which limit marginalized communities’ access to quality healthcare. He is Deputy Director at the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Assistant Professor in Emergency Medicine at Northwestern University, and an Emergency Physician at Jesse Brown Veteran Affairs Hospital. At IDPH, Garth leads on key statewide health issues. He drives strategy on men’s health and co-leads the state’s response to the opioid crisis. During COVID-19, he developed messaging to address vaccine hesitancy and established a statewide town hall program, targeting marginalized communities. To provide public health information about COVID-19, he has been featured on news networks, including MSNBC, ABC, and Yahoo. Garth has published for scientific journals addressing gun violence and opioids. He has also written various op-eds for The Chicago Sun-TimesForbes, and other publications, with a focus on social determinants of health. Garth is a mayoral appointment for Chicago’s equity advisory board, an Economic Club of Chicago member, a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, and Urban League IMPACT Fellow. He earned his B.A. in Economics and M.D. from University of Illinois, his M.P.H. from Northwestern, and clinical training from University of Chicago.

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