Five LSU Ogden Honors College students selected as 2024 Public Policy & International Affairs Program (PPIA) Fellows

March 28, 2024

Page GrayPage Gray Layla HarmonLayla Harmon John Michael SweatJohn Michael Sweat Sydney WhitfieldSydney Whitfield Lailah WilliamsLailah Williams

Five LSU Ogden Honors College students have been selected for the 2024 Public Policy & International Affairs Program (PPIA) Fellowship. This summer, 149 exceptional fellows have been chosen to participate in the PPIA Junior Summer Institute—a rigorous six-week program offered at one of their six esteemed campus partners. This intensive program is designed to equip participants with the essential skills and knowledge required for advanced schooling and careers in public service and leadership, both domestically and globally. 

PPIA Fellows will receive a stipend to assist with summer travel, meals, and other expenses to facilitate their engagement in the Junior Summer Institute. 

Established as a nonprofit organization 43 years ago, PPIA has remained steadfast in its mission to foster diversity in public leadership. Our vision is to cultivate a thriving and equitable world uplifted by visionary, inclusive, and compassionate leaders. 

Page Gray, a junior majoring in Political Science and Economics (dual degree), will attend the PPIA Junior Summer Institute at the University of Michigan, immersing himself in a program focused on statistics, microeconomics, and various public policy issues. Additionally, he anticipates engaging with government officials, community organizers, and policymakers during field trips to Chicago, Detroit, Flint, and Lansing. Currently, Gray is interning with the Center for Planning Excellence in downtown Baton Rouge, researching community land banks and trusts under the guidance of Kim Marousek, the Director of Planning. Reflecting on the impact of the Honors College, he acknowledges its role in shaping his educational trajectory, particularly through involvement in the Louisiana Service and Leadership (LASAL) program led by Dr. Babcock and Mrs. Seghers, which has inspired his pursuit of a career in urban planning and affordable housing initiatives. 

Layla Harmon, a junior majoring in Political Communication with a minor in History, shares her excitement about participating in the University of Michigan's Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute where she will be engaging in courses covering statistics, microeconomics, and writing, which will complement her studies at the Manship School of Mass Communication. She looks forward to connecting with peers who share her passion for public service. Harmon’s motivation to apply for the program stems from her desire to understand and construct informed and inclusive policies across different levels of government as an aspiring political communications professional. Her experiences as Vice President for Feminists in Action and as a press assistant for former Governor John Bel Edwards have equipped her with advocacy skills and a passion for political communications. Currently, Harmon is actively involved in undergraduate research, collaborating with Alyson Neel on a survey project regarding emergency contraception access and participating in an oral history project at the Hill Memorial Library. Reflecting on the impact of the Honors College, Harmon acknowledges the invaluable opportunities it has provided, including participation in the Louisiana Service and Leadership (LASAL) program, which has exposed her to diverse perspectives and inspired her commitment to addressing critical issues facing Louisiana. 

John Michael Sweat, a junior pursuing triple degrees in Political Science, Sociology, and Psychology, shares his plans to attend UC Berkeley to explore graduate school options for public policy and law. He has been accepted into a program with a specialized law-focused track, emphasizing the interaction between public policy and the legal system. Sweat's decision to apply for the program was influenced by his attendance at the Public Policy Leadership Conference at Harvard, where he gained valuable insights and enhanced his competitiveness through his research experience, academic performance, and involvement in Louisiana. He has previously conducted research on women entering the legal field with Dr. Elizabeth Lane and is currently preparing to research the public policy impacts of nuclear energy on public health and environmentalism under the guidance of Dr. Holly Peterson. Reflecting on the significance of the Honors College, Sweat acknowledges its pivotal role in his educational and personal growth at LSU. He credits the honors college for providing invaluable networking opportunities and career-building experiences, without which he believes he would not have had as many opportunities to develop his personal and professional portfolio. 

Sydney Whitfield, a senior graduating in December 2024 with a major in International Studies and Global Diplomacy and a minor in Spanish, is thrilled to attend the Princeton Junior Summer Institute in New Jersey. During the program, Whitfield will immerse herself in policy writing and analysis classes, supplemented by statistics and economics courses, aimed at addressing national and international policy issues close to her heart. Whitfield’s passion for advocating for international policy issues, particularly access to education in Latin America and the Caribbean, drove her to apply for the PPIA Junior Summer Institute at Princeton. She felt a strong alignment with Princeton’s Public and International Policy Program, as several of their initiatives serve underrepresented communities. Her dedication to community service and advocacy, fueled by her background as the daughter of a migrant, made her a competitive candidate for the program. Currently, she serves as a research assistant to Dr. Rafael Orozco in the Office of World Languages and Culture, focusing on analyzing patterns of speech among Spanish speakers in Medellin, Colombia. Reflecting on her academic journey, she attributes much of her growth and success to the transformative experiences provided by the Honors College at LSU. The unwavering support and guidance from counselors, deans, and faculty have been instrumental in helping her achieve her goals and secure opportunities to contribute to the Baton Rouge community. The Honors College's commitment to nurturing students' academic and personal development has been invaluable.

Lailah Williams, a junior pursuing dual degrees in Political Science and International Studies with a minor in Political Communication, is pleased about participating in the Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute Program, where she will be enrolled in courses covering social policy, applied statistics, and microeconomics. These courses will prepare Lailah for a career in public policy and data analysis. Williams looks forward to engaging with other bright students who are dedicated to careers in public service. As a Truman Finalist, she knows the importance of pursuing a future committed to the betterment of society. She decided to apply after attending the PPIA Service Expo where she met with representatives from prestigious partner graduate programs. Williams has extensive experience in advocacy work, including working for multiple civic engagement nonprofits and organizations, interning for Grassroots Analytics, and working with community partners to uplift essential causes. Williams currently works in the Gender & Politics Lab with Dr. Nichole Bauer, researching the connections between gender and democratic processes. Reflecting on her college experience, Williams is exceptionally grateful for her mentors and support systems, who have always encouraged her to apply herself. The Ogden Honors College has played an integral role in Williams’ confidence as a scholar and has exposed her to numerous perspectives essential to being a well-rounded student.