Mikaylah Heffernan, from Inkster, Michigan, entered the MSU Master of Public Policy program in the fall of 2016 as a linked student and completed her Bachelor’s in Political Science in December 2016. Prior to admission to Michigan State University, she obtained her Associate’s Degree in Biotechnology through Henry Ford College while enrolled in high school.
Mikaylah was placed this summer as a public policy intern with the Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) through the InnovateGov program with Michigan State. CDAD is a catalyst for community development and neighborhood improvement groups, enhancing the capacity and effectiveness of its members and Detroit residents through advocacy, training, technical assistance, information sharing, education, and facilitating common action.
Mikaylah’s main project while working at CDAD revolved around candidate accountability. CDAD recently released a city council candidate survey, in both English and Spanish, that had responses from 85% of candidates running for a city council seat, with responses from all incumbents. Candidates were asked to state their understanding of the role they are running for as well as their perspectives on social and racial equity issues concerning neighborhood residents. This project served as an opportunity to highlight overlooked matters that are significantly impacting Detroiters and to develop momentum for resident action and advocacy. The survey was a tool to inform residents, raise pertinent issues in the city, and to serve as a means to hold elected officials accountable to important issues facing the city and Detroit neighborhoods. Mikaylah helped draft introduction letters and methodology sections under the instruction of CDAD’s public policy manager, Latoya Morgan.
Additionally, Mikaylah worked on several smaller projects centering around affordable housing, equitable development, establishment of a housing trust fund, and other community development work for the city of Detroit.
Mikaylah reported that the time she spent in the city really highlighted the importance of community involvement in equitable development, and the creativity available from all areas of knowledge, including the place that imagery and innovation have in developing goals for a city’s growth and neighborhood health.
After graduating in the spring of 2018, she intends to seek employment with a non-profit organization or within a unit of local government, while preparing to further her education. Ultimately, Mikaylah would like to hold elected public office, in order to give back to the communities that have given back so much to her.