Bohnett fellow’s ultimate immersive learning experience: Working at the L.A. Board of Supervisors

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A real problem solver

Bohnett fellow Katrina Manrique (MPP candidate 2023) says working at L.A. Board of Supervisors has been invaluable

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While a sophomore history and English major at UC Davis, Katrina Manrique sought out counseling but was sorely disappointed in the lack of available mental health resources.

So, she decided to do something about it.

Manrique helped launch a student-led mental health initiative. She also was instrumental in starting a Student Health Advisory Board, and she served on the Chancellor’s Mental Health Care Task Force. What’s more, she developed a protocol for campus response to unexpected student deaths.

Manrique’s interest in mental health, as well as working to establish or improve policies to better serve people in need of counseling and mental health resources, was one of the reasons she applied for the 2022 David C. Bohnett Leadership Fellowship, established by the David Bohnett Foundation at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy in 2016.

As the sixth David C. Bohnett Fellow, Manrique has worked, since early 2022, for the office of the current chairperson of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Holly J. Mitchell. Two million people live in Mitchell’s district, which comprises 12 cities and 19 unincorporated communities.

As a fellow, Price student authored two motions

Manrique says the paid fellowship, which ends in early December, has been invaluable.

“It’s something different from the work I’ve done before,” says Manrique, who, prior to the fellowship, was an intern in the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. “I really desired an opportunity where I could be more localized and actually understand a very specific community.”

Working on both the health and environmental justice teams in Mitchell’s office, Manrique has authored two motions that subsequently were passed by the board. One addressed a shortage of healthcare workers in L.A. County’s public health system; the other addressed sexually transmitted diseases.

“These motions were a little outside of my interest,” Katrina says, “but that’s the benefit of being a fellow – you get exposed to things you otherwise would not have known about.”

David Bohnett Foundation emphasizes immersive learning

The grant-making David Bohnett Foundation, based in Beverly Hills, was established by the tech entrepreneur and USC trustee. The foundation is committed to improving society through social activism, and pursues that mission by providing funding, state-of-the-art technology and technical support to innovative organizations and institutions.

David C. Bohnett Fellows work directly for the office of the current chairperson of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on major policy issues with direct impact and effect on the lives of county residents. Their work often changes from year to year depending on the style of the chairperson’s team and priorities at the time; one fellow might focus on housing and another, on transportation policy.

The fellowship has been a game-changer for recipients and is a good example of immersive experiential learning. Three of the fellows have been converted to full-time or project-focused staff.

Kya Coates, the 2020 Bohnett Fellow who earned a master’s in public policy from USC Price, was hired as an associate deputy focusing on justice and mental health after working with Supervisor Janice Hahn’s office.

“I learned so much and am honored that Supervisor Hahn and her office have seen potential in me and have decided to hire me,” Coates says.

Dominic Alletto, deputy director for career services at USC Price, manages the Bohnett Fellow recruitment process and serves as the liaison between the university and the county.

“This endowed gift has built a bridge between the Price School and the county supervisors’ office,” Alletto says. “It’s about giving a fellow a great opportunity to learn by doing and by working with the chairperson of the Board of the Supervisors. There’s no other opportunity like this, to be sitting in meetings and watching decisions being made and helping with policy on the back end.”

Michael Fleming, executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation, says: “Katrina Manrique is just the latest example of the next generation of public service leaders flowing from USC and the Price School. They have a multitude of career choices after USC, of course, but the fact that so many choose to remain in powerful leadership posts within the county is just another sign of how valuable this fellowship is – not just for the fellow, but for the community at large.”

Highly competitive process

The Bohnett fellowship process is highly competitive, Alletto says.

“Applicants need to be extremely professional off the bat,” he says. “We’re looking for students that can be plugged in immediately and generate value for the supervisor and the entire staff.”

Manrique was an excellent student leader coming out of UC Davis, Alletto notes.

“It was clear when I was reading through her application materials and letters of recommendation that she was very impressive,” he says.

Manrique, who’s set to graduate with a master’s degree in public policy in 2023, says her experience as a fellow and her time at USC Price has equipped her well in her planned career as a public policy consultant.

“I love to solve problems,” she says. “And I love Price. There’s a lot of emphasis on building your social network and being able to learn from other people, whether they are alumni or through networking events or through the Price mentorship program.

“I also love the emphasis on experiential learning, and the fact that students have the chance to work with clients in the real world,” she continues. “Public policy isn’t just something you learn in the classroom. I value the fact that Price understands this on a very fundamental level.”

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