By Carol Kerbaugh

Across sectors and industries, Equity Fellows are addressing injustices in the Black and African American communities

The Equity Fellowship Program at the Center for Public Leadership supports students devoted to understanding and breaking down societal barriers to equity for the Black, African American, Latino, and other marginalized communities in the United States. 

In addition to providing financial support toward a master’s degree, the program provides co-curricular programming and a network of peers and mentors to support students to make a real impact on the communities they serve. Programming includes dinner seminars, an annual retreat, and experiential learning opportunities.   

In celebration of Black History Month, several Equity Fellows reflected on their work to address inequities in the Black and African American communities, their HKS experience, and their involvement in CPL.

Here’s what they shared. 

Faith Ambrose MPP 2024Faith Ambrose headshot

Faith Ambrose came to HKS to understand how to translate her classroom experience as a second-grade teacher into a career in education policy. Over the past two years at HKS, she’s gained many of the skills she was looking for—and discovered some new passions along the way.  

“I’ve discovered a love for budget and financial management, which I knew nothing about before coming to HKS,” Ambrose says. “I’ve done a couple of school finance projects, and I’ve taken practically every budgeting class that there is at HKS, HBS, and the law school.”

She adds that she’s learned valuable lessons about working across differences.

“A lot of our spaces are becoming polarized, and that can lead you to believe you have to work with one side alone,” she explains. “Through negotiations and adaptive leadership classes, I’ve learned the art of really listening to people to understand what they value and how to find solutions that honor shared values rather than focusing on all the things we don’t have in common.” 

In addition to expanding her skills and knowledge inside the classroom, Ambrose also had hands-on experience as a Michael S. Dukakis Governors’ Summer Fellow, supporting newly elected Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs. 

“I worked on issues related to access to early childhood education,” Ambrose says. “My Policy Analysis Exercise this year is a continuation of the work I did, looking at how public-private partnerships address issues of access to early childhood education in Arizona.”  

In addition to being an Equity Fellow, Ambrose is also president of the Black Student Union and co-chair of the Black Policy Conference. Her active involvement in the HKS student community makes her particularly thankful to have her CPL community, too, to help ground her experience. 

“CPL has been a space for me to reflect on what I want to do professionally and with my time at HKS,” she says. “Coming to grad school can be overwhelming, so having that dedicated time and space has helped me to stay focused.” 

“I’ve learned the art of really listening to people to understand what they value and how to find solutions that honor shared values rather than focusing on all the things we don’t have in common.”

Faith Ambrose MPP 2024

Olamide Osundolu (Dolu) Atanda MC/MPA 2024Dolu Atanda headshot

As a board-certified pediatric dentist and former National Health Service Corps Scholar, Dr. Dolu Atanda has worked to address health inequities for some of the country’s most marginalized and underserved communities.

“I am passionate about equity for marginalized communities,” explains Atanda, who is a single parent and first-generation college student from a low socio-economic background. “I am committed to exploring and advocating for policies that enhance mental health access and health equity, with a focus on actively contributing to the wellbeing of the Black community.”

At HKS, she is focused on developing her leadership skills even further.

“I am particularly passionate about adaptive leadership. Each course I undertook during the fall semester was meticulously curated to focus on leadership development, equipping me with a robust understanding of effective leadership dynamics,” says Atanda. This January Term, she enrolled in MLD-202, “Leadership from the Inside Out” with Professor Ronald Heifetz, who is also her advisor.

“I learned a lot about myself in relationship to the identities I hold and the waters that I carry and how to allow them to be more fluid,” she says, reflecting on the course. “I learned when to use certain aspects of my identity—being Black, female, a doctor—and when to soften them. I learned I have agency over how I choose to show up in the world and how to build the internal capacity to lead, even amidst the most challenging or adversarial conditions.”

Atanda is focused on more than leadership inside the classroom. Among other positions, she serves as the Kennedy School Student Government Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Anti-Racism, an HKS Diversity Committee Student Representative, a Black Student Union Alumni Liaison, and Black Policy Conference Chief Culture Officer.

“One year in the mid-career program is not enough,” she explains. “The wealth of resources and opportunities at Harvard are so vast that a single lifetime hardly seems adequate to embrace them fully. I am diligently harnessing every tool, training, and leadership experience available to shape a future dedicated to public service.”

 

Emmanuel Sagoe MC/MPA 2024 Emmanuel Sagoe

Emmanuel Sagoe is passionate about fighting for equity in the technology sector.   

Born and raised in Ghana, he has spent his career working in information technology and business intelligence. Initially, he found it hard to find a tech job in the United States—he had the required education but lacked hands-on experience. Once he landed a tech position, he saw an opportunity to use his experience to train a new generation of software developers and technology entrepreneurs and address gender and racial equity gaps in the field.  

He began counseling others on the importance of gaining practical experience and coding skills. What started as informal counseling evolved into training workshops, building up the skills individuals needed to secure job opportunities in tech.   

“There are very few Black and very few women technology entrepreneurs,” he says. “Giving people this kind of software programming training is key to seeing more diversity in tech. Importantly, it will also help close the salary gap; tech jobs are typically well-paying roles.”   

Sagoe is focused on taking his workshops to the next level while at HKS, transforming them into an incubation program. He has worked with a mentor through Harvard Innovation Labs to build an online presence for the incubator program. And he’s also taken courses on leadership, negotiations, and entrepreneurship.   

“HKS is a place that builds you to lead,” Sagoe reflects. “It’s a place where you are surrounded by people from around the world and different professional backgrounds—it gives you different perspectives and exposure to differing opinions.” 

“The people you are in class with, they are people just like you and me. They come from places all around the world. And that’s the beautiful thing about Harvard—it brings together people from all corners of the earth to exchange ideas.”

SaMee Harden MC/MPA 2024

SaMee Harden MC/MPA 2024SaMee Harden

As a White House Fellow placed at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, SaMee Harden fought to ensure that the federal workforce continued to represent the communities it serves.  

“About eighty percent of the federal workforce is actually located outside of the Beltway,” she says, referring to the 64-mile Interstate Highway loop around Washington, D.C. “Federal employment is good, compelling, and mission-driven work, and has traditionally served as an attractive vehicle for minority communities to enter the middle class.”

She worked with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities to amplify efforts to attract diverse early-career talent to the federal government.  

A lawyer by trade, Harden has worn many hats throughout her career—judicial law clerk, Big Law attorney, Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting child exploitation cases, Data Privacy and Public Policy Manager at Facebook/Meta, and now an HKS student. It was her White House Fellowship colleagues, some of whom are HKS graduates, who convinced her to apply.   

“Coming from a small, but loving place like Paducah, Kentucky and being a first-generation lawyer and really the first to leave home, Harvard was something that seemed so pie in the sky. Harvard seemed unfathomable,” Harden explains.   

Her experience at HKS, however, gave her a new perspective.   

“The people you are in class with, they are people just like you and me,” she says. “They come from places all around the world. And that’s the beautiful thing about Harvard—it brings together people from all corners of the earth to exchange ideas.”  

She’s been taken by the support and compassion among the HKS and Center for Public Leadership communities, particularly following her mother’s passing early in the fall semester. Looking forward, Harden hopes to give that level of support back to the HKS community.    

“I think the biggest gift I can give to really pay it forward is to provide mentorship, connection, and advice to other students and applicants.” 

 

Anja Young MPA/MBA (Wharton) 2025Anja Young photo 

Before coming to HKS, Anja Young worked in commercial real estate lending and later for New Profit, a venture philanthropy firm that supports social entrepreneurs, particularly for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous leaders. 

Her experience in finance opened her eyes to the lack of diversity and representation in capital distribution—an issue she wants to address as a concurrent MPA/MBA student. 

“I have broad experiences in finance and a deep appreciation for the tools available, but I’ve also seen limitations of not serving all communities equally,” she says. “Addressing questions of equity in finance is what brought me to HKS.” 

She has focused her HKS coursework on exploring topics at the intersection of leadership, impact investing, and racial equity. 

“The way my HKS classes frame leadership and look at how you move other people to action is very different than what you’d get in a traditional finance or MBA course, which can sometimes assume the world is static and people always operate as cohesive group,” she says. “I’ve been surprised by the extent to which my HKS courses have pushed me to ask better questions. I’ve found that sometimes finding the right question is more important than the answer itself.” 

The Equity Fellow experience, Young says, has been a valuable opportunity for her to reflect and connect intentionally with her classmates who are also devoted to racial equity. 

“It’s been great having a group of people who are explicitly focused on similar questions around race and how it impacts social structures,” she reflects.  

Young also cites opportunities to hear directly from top leaders as a significant part of her HKS experience—from classroom conversations with Former Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Arden, to Forum events with speakers like former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and interactions with peers who have held top government positions. 

Her coursework and fellowship experience paired with her extracurricular involvement and exposure to local, national, and world leaders have amounted to a rich experience that challenges her to widen her perspective. 

“When you’re trying to change the world, you have to start with evolving yourself,” she says. “For me, the decision to attend HKS was a decision to invest in myself. It’s about growing my capacity to see myself as a leader and to change spaces.”

“I’ve been surprised by the extent to which my HKS courses have pushed me to ask better questions. I’ve found that sometimes finding the right question is more important than the answer itself.”

Anja Young MPA/MBA 2025
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