Gephardt News

Public Service Fellows Building Awareness of Regional Issues

From left to right: Abbie Teurbe-Tolon, Madisen Janssen, Kyah Bridges, Zach Kassman

The Gephardt Institute’s Public Service Fellows program, a partnership with the Brown School, prepares social work and public health graduate students with a commitment to deepening their knowledge and skills for public service in local government. The program includes leadership training, mentorship, experiential learning opportunities, and field work. Fellows learn in a supportive cohort structure and receive professional development opportunities related to advocacy, organizing, coalition building, citizen participation, and policy analysis.

We are pleased to introduce the 2019-2020 cohort. Each student has begun a 10-month position with the Office of the Mayor of St. Louis and will complete 1,200 hours over the course of the appointment, working in City Hall or a city department.

Kyah Bridges is a second year Master of Social Work student with a concentration in domestic social and economic development. She aims to build capacity and human capital in low-income communities. She is also passionate about macro-level violence prevention and rebuilding disinvested Black neighborhoods.

Kyah looks forward to spending time with the Resilience St. Louis and Equity Indicators reports developed in the Mayor’s Office, and working on creating research-informed strategies and policies.

Madisen Janssen is a second year Master of Social Work student with a concentration in domestic social and economic development and a policy specialization. She is interested in how constituents engage with local government bodies and how local legislation impacts city residents.

Madisen is currently working with the communications team in the Mayor’s office and is eager to learn more about promoting city services through social media. She noted, “I view media as an outlet to involve residents in city government.”

Zach Kassman is a second year Master of Social Work student with a concentration in social economic development. He is excited to see how city government functions on a daily basis and how it affects the lives of residents across the City of St. Louis, especially those in marginalized communities. He is also interested in learning about efforts to bridge and close the disparity gap between North and South City.

During his fellowship, Zach hopes to work at the intersection of the Vacancy Collaborative, Building Division, and St. Louis Development Corporation. Knowing that the City is increasing its focus on the development of vacant land, he seeks to “identify local aspiring entrepreneurs and develop opportunities for community-based small businesses to be created and begin to lay down an economic foundation in areas that have been neglected for decades.”

Abbie Teurbe-Tolon is a second year Master of Public Health student with a specialization in epidemiology and biostatistics. She is interested in addressing social determinants of health using an epidemiological approach. “The intersection between criminal justice and public health is of particular interest,” she shared.

As a fellow, Abbie hopes to spend time with the City Health Department and support projects related to STIs, vector borne illnesses, and maternal mental health, among other topics.

In addition to working on self-directed projects informed by the needs of the city, the cohort will meet regularly to discuss local issues and opportunities for collaboration. As Zach sums, “We are able to use our varying perspectives and create products that speak with a unified voice, which delivers a more powerful impact and message.”

The Public Service Fellows program is generously funded by Karen and Bruce Levenson, AB ’71. It is part of the Gephardt Institute’s Engage Democracy Initiative. Learn more here.