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Vonzelle Johnson and Dykisha Potter

Congratulations to the 2021 Master in Public Policy Minority Fellowship Recipients

Building upon a fellowship program designed to educate, train and prepare future black leadership for north Florida, the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute announced that Vonzelle Johnson and Dykisha Potter are the 2021 recipients of the Master in Public Policy Minority Fellowship.

“The MPP Minority Fellowship Program at Jacksonville University has exceeded all expectations,” said Chuck Wodehouse, whose vision and generosity helped establish the fellowship program in 2018 and who serves as a member of the MPP Minority Fellowship Board of Advisors. “We are confident that Vonzelle and Dykisha, and past fellowship award winners, are going to play an important role in the future of north Florida.”

Recipients of the MPP Minority Fellowship receive a full-tuition scholarship to earn their Master in Public Policy degree at Jacksonville University, a books and materials stipend, internship opportunities provided by the city of Jacksonville, and mentorship by community leaders associated with the program. In return, fellowship award winners agree to spend at least three years after graduation in northeast Florida. The fellowship program was created in collaboration with the mayor’s office and other community leaders.

“Now in its fourth year, the Jacksonville University Master in Public Policy Minority Fellowship has helped numerous students achieve their higher education goals and prepare for careers in public service,” said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. “My team and I remain committed to this program and its goal to expand access and opportunities for promising young leaders looking to contribute to our region’s success. I am grateful to Jacksonville University and Charles Wodehouse for their continued investment in this exemplary fellowship.”

This year’s Fellowship recipients are:
Vonzelle Johnson is the director of external affairs for Teach for America and is a former city commissioner for DeLand, Fla. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in sociology and anthropology from Colgate University and a master’s in social work from Valdosta State University. As part of his MPP degree program, Johnson plans to complete a capstone project about economic development and policy as it pertains to revitalizing underdeveloped areas of Jacksonville.

Dykisha Potter is a graduation coach and achievement advocate for the Communities in Schools of Jacksonville organization and serves the community in the ampED National Fellowship, the Junior League of Jacksonville and Jacksonville’s City Year Alumni Board. She holds a bachelor of science in business administration degree in economics with minors in accounting and english from the University of Miami and a master of arts in teaching degree in secondary education from the University of North Florida. As she begins her MPP degree, she looks forward to seeing every way that public policy can meet and support education.

Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO and MPP Minority Fellowship Board Member Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. stated that “Dykisha and Von are exceptional individuals who will exceed all expectations through this program and will one day make their own contributions to our growing community.”

Matt Kane, a member of the MPP Minority Fellowship Board and the Jacksonville University Board of Trustees, stated that the MPP Minority Fellowship Program is “a national model, has dramatically added to the diversity of the MPP Program and provided a pathway for future black leadership in north Florida.”

The fellowship program was established through the collaboration of community leaders, the mayor’s office and Jacksonville University. According to Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney, the program “has already diversified and enriched enrollment in the MPP Program, provided a unique opportunity for graduate study in public policy, and will help ensure more diversity among community leaders and policy makers in the future.”

A nine-member board of advisors selected the finalists from among this year’s applicants, interviewed the finalists and selected the fellowship award winners. The MPP Minority Fellowship Board of Advisors includes:

  •          Cynthia B. Chomiak, ’83 – Founder and Chief Executive, Educated Decisions LLC; Vice Chairman, Jacksonville University Board of Trustees
  •          Dr. Barbara Darby – President, Florida State College of Jacksonville North Campus (Retired)
  •          Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., ’17 – Chief Executive Officer, Jacksonville Transportation Authority
  •          The Honorable Nathaniel Glover Jr. – President, Edward Waters College (Retired), former Jacksonville Sheriff
  •          Mark L. Griffin – Pastor and Chief Executive Officer, Wayman Ministries
  •          Matthew Kane, ’01 – Former Owner, Greenshades Software, Inc.; Jacksonville University Board of Trustees
  •          Dawn Lockhart – Director of Strategic Partnerships, City of Jacksonville
  •          Dr. Charles E. Moreland – Director of Community Affairs, City of Jacksonville
  •          Charles Wodehouse – President, CSX Technology, Inc. (Retired); Senior Vice President, CSX Transportation (Retired); Member of the Public Policy Institute Board of Advisors; Former Jacksonville University Board of Trustees (18 years)

Applications for the 2022 MPP Minority Fellowships will open in August. Those interested are encouraged to visit www.ju.edu/publicpolicy to learn more and apply.