Rhea's Portfolio Ginsberg Center Community Engagement Fellowship

About Me

Name: Rhea Ninan

Year: Rising Senior!

Major: Public Policy, with a focus area in race and ethnicity policy & a minor in Spanish

Fellowship Placement: The Washtenaw Housing Alliance

My Prior Leadership Experience
Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Beta Chapter - Chapter President, 2016
Ginsberg Center Literacy Initiatives Site Leader, Logan Elementary School - 2015-2016

My Leadership Philosophy:

There isn't a specific mold you have to fit in order to be a leader. Leaders can come from any age, gender, background, etc. The only requirement is the ability to connect with others.

I applied to the Fellows program in hopes of continuing my work with the Ginsberg Center, while also finding a meaningful way to contribute to less-privileged communities.
The mission of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance is to end homelessness in our community.

The WHA's commitment to helping some of the most at-risk residents of the larger Washtenaw County community aligned perfectly with my hopes to engage in meaningful work this semester, while also allowing me to develop personally.

My Semester with the WHA:

My first major task for the WHA (aside from learning about homelessness and housing policy) was to compile and organize data about those who used the services of the WHA/its subsidiary organizations in the years 2014 and 2015.

Two major proposals were discussed by the Ann Arbor City Council/the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners during my time there - the Library Lot/Core Spaces Proposal (pictured here) and the Platt Road development. I was able to learn about these issues as well as be a part of the advocacy work that the WHA did in relation to these proposals.

I was able to use creative license in tasks like creating stickers for the April City Council meeting (pictured here), at which the fate of the Library Lot/Core Spaces proposal was to be decided (the proposal passed meaning roughly $5 million should be put in the Housing Trust Fund in Ann Arbor!). I also was exposed to and able to send out an advocacy alert using MailChimp.

I often drafted short memos and other writings on these proposals, as well as other relevant topics, to be used by the WHA and its board, or to be distributed to the public.

I am so grateful to have had this experience - not only was I exposed to so many different facets of advocacy work but I was able to learn so much about the complexities of providing affordable housing and ending homelessness as well. The small size of the WHA meant that the interns were given a great deal of freedom, trust, and responsibility, which gave me a renewed sense of self-confidence and inspired me to keep finding opportunities to be challenged.

I've already found myself using learnings from this experience in new ways! I wrote about the Platt Road proposals in my final paper for my Policy Writing class and would often apply our discussion topics from the bi-weekly fellows meetings to class discussions in my Social Justice Leadership class.

Reflecting on my Fellowship Experience:

What have I learned about myself? What have I learned about working with others?

I've learned that this kind of work takes a great deal of passion, effort, and dedication, but rather than draining me, it makes me feel accomplished and truly happy. I have adored being surrounded by people who share the same goal - to better the world around us, and, I think, the people are part of the reason I have enjoyed this fellowship and this work experience so much.

How did this experience challenge or reinforce my conceptualization of service and community engagement?

To slightly echo what I stated above, I've learned this semester that true, meaningful community engagement and service requires a great deal of effort and dedication. Positive results may be difficult to see in the short-term, but the long-term results are what makes this type of work so worth it.

How did this experience challenge or reinforce my conceptualization of leadership?

My belief that anyone has the capacity to be a leader was reinforced. I was able to see how 3 people, with varying experiences and characteristics, were able to thrive in community engagement leadership roles - because we all had a shared dedication to our communities.

How did this experience challenge or reinforce knowledge or skills I had gained in other spaces of campus?

I was actually able to draw from many skills I had gained during my time at U-M. From memo writing that I had practiced in my Public Policy classes, to communication skills I had worked on as a sorority president, to the importance of self-reflection that has helped me to personally grow throughout college, this experience required me to apply many of my past learnings from campus (and helped me to further develop them).

What's Next?
I don't have any definitive answers, but I do know a few things...
I am confident that I want to improve the lives of others, particularly the under-privileged, in my future career.
I know that I work best around people who are compassionate in general and passionate about what they do.
I know that I will use the "hater bell" technique whenever I need to let go of something that's been bothering me :)

I'd like to thank...

  • The Ginsberg Center for providing me with this opportunity
  • The Washtenaw Housing Alliance for welcoming me into your space
  • Kina & Katie for being fantastic friends and fellow fellows this semester
  • Amanda Carlisle and Heather Nash for being phenomenal mentors and bosses
  • Danyelle Reynolds for organizing and managing this program & being a compassionate and amazing human being
Created By
Rhea Ninan


Created with images by TeroVesalainen - "question mark why problem" • maxlkt - "begging hands poor" • HeyDanielle - "Heart" • Happy Krissy - "Bell"

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