Innovator Article

UC Davis MBA Mayoral Fellows Help Propel Sacramento Forward
Making an Impact in Education and Economic Development

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By Alex Russell

First-year MBA student Tiffany Tan loves basketball—and being on a team led by a former NBA all-star with a bold vision for the state capital. When Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s chief of staff visited the Graduate School of Management to present the Mayoral Fellowship program, Tan recognized it was a slam dunk opportunity.

“I knew Mayor Johnson was leading the charge for a new sports and entertainment complex in the downtown railyards,” said Tan, who joined fellow first-year MBA student Trevor Jha as this year’s UC Davis MBA Mayoral Fellows.

Modeled after the White House Fellows Program in Washington, D.C., this special partnership with the city of Sacramento gives the School’s MBA students hands-on experience at the intersection of business and government.

“The Intern and Fellows Program is one of my proudest achievements as mayor,” said Johnson. “UC Davis has been an extraordinary partner in creating the kind of opportunities for MBA students that have a real impact on the residents of Sacramento while providing a unique and meaningful service learning opportunity for talented young leaders.”

“Trevor was a terrific fit for our economic development goals,” said Johnson’s chief of staff, Kunal Merchant, “and we were equally impressed with Tiffany’s passion for education reform and the unique skills and experiences she brings to the table.”

Since the fellowships began in 2009, six UC Davis MBA students have been Mayoral Fellows. Jha and Tan will each earn an $8,000 stipend.

At City Hall, Tan and Jha work in “the bullpen”—an open workspace with team meeting niches for those involved with the mayor’s policy initiatives. “It’s a high-energy environment,” said Jha. “Everyone is trying to get things done in less time than anyone expects.”

As the Economic Development Fellow, Jha is researching other cities to identify a Top 10 list of strategies to attract and retain businesses in Sacramento. The marriage of politics and public policy is plugging Jha into a network of influential business and community leaders who have high stakes in Sacramento’s economy.

Tan, who has a background in banking and finance, has a new-found passion for education working on Sacramento READS! The third-grade literacy program is being piloted in 14 public schools— and was launched last year with the help of UC Davis MBA Mayoral Fellow Tarren Corbett.

Jha has met with Mayor Johnson to talk about interesting projects and to learn more about the mayor’s goals for Sacramento. “The Kevin Johnson philosophy is to bring young people in, and they can gain experience along the way. I’m not just pushing paper.”

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