WMU Thurgood Marshall Fellowship Awarded

by Tyler Lecceadone
July 12, 2017 | Extended University Programs News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Kaila Graham has been named the recipient of a master’s level Thurgood Marshall Fellowship at Western Michigan University. Enrolled in WMU’s Master of Public Health program, Graham will begin her studies in September 2017.

photo of Kalia Graham

Thurgood Marshall Fellowship recipient, Kalia Graham

Thurgood Marshall Fellowships are offered annually to applicants who exemplify the values and accomplishments of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Marshall is known for his success in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), which nullified the legal basis for racial segregation.

“It is such an honor to receive this fellowship. Social justice and change have always been important to me. It was refreshing to see how closely my values aligned with Thurgood Marshall’s,” said Graham.

Graham is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in sociology. Born and raised in Ecorse, Michigan, Graham graduated from Southgate Anderson High School in 2013. Growing up, she recognized a need for improved public health systems in her community, and knew she wanted to pursue a career where she could lead positive change.

During her undergrad studies, Graham became interested in social justice while she served as a resident advisor. In the position, she created programs for students to learn about race, ethnicity and social change. Her undergraduate education also centered on multiculturalism.

“I’m thankful for this fellowship because it enables me to truly focus on my graduate studies,” Graham said. “I’m hoping to gain a more nuanced understanding of public health, the health disparities among different populations, and the structures of inequality that create and support those disparities.”

As part of the fellowship, Graham will work for 10 hours weekly as a graduate assistant and help conduct research. Upon completion of WMU’s MPH program, she plans to begin her career in the local government or non-profit sector of southeast Michigan. Graham’s mission is to design, implement or support public health programs, policies and initiatives in her community.

WMU’s MPH program is designed to develop public health leaders by exposing them to core competencies and complex issues related to the field. The curriculum focuses on the areas of biostatics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health services administration and social behavioral sciences.

The program is offered in a hybrid format, featuring mostly online coursework, with face-to-face meetings limited to two weekends each semester at WMU's downtown Grand Rapids location. The hybrid format allows students to earn their master's degree without interfering with their work and home schedules. Courses are taught by faculty from WMU’s College of Health and Human Services.