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Coverdell Fellows Students

Admitted 2020

  1. Alejandra Alvarez Alejandra Alvarez

    Coverdell Fellow Student Admitted 2020

    Alejandra was born and raised in Chicago and graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and studied abroad in Argentina, Chile and Peru respectively. After graduation she worked as an ESL instructor for an archaeological field in the Peruvian Andes and also spent time living in Valparaiso, Chile learning about street art activism and collective memory post dictatorship. Alejandra then served in the Peace Corps in Morocco as youth development volunteer working in community centers that provided curriculum and activities to Moroccan youth. Alejandra was able to connect with young women and girls through female empowerment trainings and learn about the indigenous Amazigh communities of Morocco by living alongside them in rural Morocco. As a Coverdell fellow and Community Based Initiative Scholar in Detroit Alejandra is committed to uplifting the voices of the communities in transformation and shine a light on their collective healing practices. Alejandra is excited to gain skills in macro social work and expand her talents so that she can strategize and develop futures that center justice for BIPOC and immigrants.

Admitted 2019

  1. Alyssa Rietveld Alyssa Rietveld

    Coverdell Fellow Student Admitted 2019

    Alyssa grew up in Hudsonville, Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in International Studies and Afroamerican & African Studies. During undergrad she studied in Ghana and Senegal, as well as researched the economic and cultural contribution west African immigrants make in Detroit. Alyssa then served in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso as a community health educator. In Burkina Faso she co-founded a health club for teenage girls where they gained knowledge in pertinent health issues and leadership skills to become peer educators. She also gained fluency in French and Moore. After Peace Corps, Alyssa worked at a refugee resettlement agency in Grand Rapids, Michigan where her interest in refugee services and policy grew. As a Coverdell Fellow in the School of Social Work’s Community Based Initiative, she hopes to learn about inequity and economic rebound through policy and program evaluation. She is also interested in refugee resettlement and child welfare programs in an international context.

  2. Mary Heinemann Mary Heinemann

    Coverdell Fellow Student Admitted 2019

    Mary is a fierce, passionate, wandering soul who is always learning how to be a more inclusive, anti-oppressive social worker after living abroad for most of the last 7 years in Tanzania where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer. As a Coverdell Fellow & Community- Based Initiative Scholar, Mary is committed to examining her own privilege, social identity, and abilities to empower those who are marginalized through social work and social justice. 

    Mary grew up mostly in Colorado where she studied Communications and Women’s Studies before moving to Seattle, Denver, and finally Tanzania. Working alongside the strong, warm, welcoming women of Tanzania she realized a dream of starting a social enterprise with women’s cooperatives focused on buying and selling crafts from female artisans in an effort to improve income generation, access to education, and healthcare. She has also worked as an experiential educator all over East Africa and Nepal, as well as with the Denver Boys & Girls Club. 

    During her time at the U-M School of Social Work, Mary is hoping to find ways to connect local systems and communities that face oppression to the international communities facing similar challenges. She believes that by uniting, learning from each other, and sharing space we can attempt to heal and dismantle the systems that oppress. She also loves coffee, yoga, and fans, a little too much some might say.

Admitted 2018

  1. Zahra Chevannes Zahra Chevannes

    Coverdell Fellow Student Admitted 2018

    Zahra is a queer Black Caribbean social worker in training from Brooklyn, NY. As a Coverdell Fellow & Community-Based Initiative Scholar, Zahra is committed to serving Black, Brown, immigrant, refugee and queer communities both at the grassroots, community-based and macro policy levels. Specifically, Zahra's interests are centered around community wealth building, collective economics, community resilience and well-being, restorative practices and reparative justice.

    Before moving to Detroit, Zahra was working in fundraising and capacity-building at Green Worker Cooperatives, a South Bronx-based worker co-op incubator engaging communities of color throughout NYC. From 2014-2016, Zahra served as a Peace Corps Education Volunteer in Northwestern China where she taught English and developed community programming at a teacher training college.

    At U-M School of Social Work, Zahra is exploring the power of community and collectivity, taking a holistic and intersectional approach that integrates all aspects of community well-being while also addressing and working to dismantle systems of oppression. Zahra is also working towards becoming a certified Reiki practitioner, and developing modes of practice around providing trauma-informed services.


  1. A'lice Frazier A'lice Frazier

    Coverdell Fellow Student Admitted 2016

    A’lice Frazier is a graduate student studying Community Organizing and Community and Social Systems at the School of Social Work. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and completed her Bachelors of Arts in English Literary Studies and Psychology: Child Maltreatment and Family Practices at Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina. A’lice served in Zambia as a Youth and Community Education volunteer from 2014 – 2016. Along with her primary role as an English teacher, A’lice worked with her community to implement community-wide health projects including HIV Awareness and Prevention Initiatives and a Water and Sanitation Project. A’lice is excited to join as a Coverdell Fellow in the Community Based Initiative, where she plans to continue her work of educating youth in communities on HIV and sexual reproductive health. A’lice’s hobbies include reading, binge watching Netflix, and having a great talent for choosing and consuming delicious Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

  2. Biannca Fisher Biannca Fisher

    Coverdell Fellow Student Admitted 2017

    Biannca is a proud native of Detroit. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Bennett College with a BA in Special Education. After graduation, she completed a term of service in the Peace Corps as a Special Education and Youth Literacy Advisor in Jamaica. After Peace Corps, she served in AmeriCorps for a year in Philadelphia at College Possible as a High School Coach helping low-income scholars navigate the college admissions process and SAT prep. She has worked extensively with academically gifted and academically challenged scholars and is proud of the significant achievements of her scholars. Biannca's desire for sustainable, results-oriented community building led her to the field of Social Work. As a Coverdell Fellow in the School of Social Work's Community-Based Initiative program, she hopes to gain more practical skills to become an effective community organizer. Knowing that there is no comparison to the transformative power of a superior education, she is currently working on forming an educational non-profit. After earning her MSW, this 21st century global-minded champion will leverage her knowledge and resources via technology to provide 24/7 access to exceptional educational opportunities to underrepresented students in underserved communities.

  3. Mikayla Bowen Mikayla Bowen

    Coverdell Fellow Student Admitted 2016

    Mikayla Bowen spent most of her life in Michigan, which is perhaps the very reason she desired to see more of the world. Mikayla attended Michigan State University for her undergraduate studies, specializing in Social Sciences and Secondary Education. Education is what drew her to social justice issues, as she saw how schools perpetuate systems of oppression. After two years of teaching in the United States, she knew it was time for a change and joined the Peace Corps. She served as an education volunteer in South Africa. While her primary focus was teaching English to grade 6 and 7 learners, her favorite moments occurred outside the classroom. Her proudest accomplishment was applying for a Let Girls Learn grant, through which she was able to host a workshop on challenging gender norms. The workshop brought together stakeholders from diverse organizations, including the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Department of Basic Education, and rural schools, clinics, and non-profit organizations. She also cherished the time she spent teaching literacy to grade 1 students and simply enjoying being welcomed as a true member of her host family and community. Mikayla's experiences in South Africa have taught her cultural humility and have inspired her to pursue community organizing in her career as a social worker.

  4. Sarah Cullen Sarah Cullen

    Coverdell Fellow Student Admitted 2017

    Sarah grew up in Seattle, Washington and graduated from Western Washington University in 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy and French. She served in the Peace Corps in Benin,West Africa from 2013-2015 as a rural community health volunteer. There she focused on maternal and child health as well as education advancement at the local middle school. One of her biggest projects was fundraising to expand the school and add four more classrooms. She most recently worked for Seattle Public Health, meeting with families who participated in a food assistance program. She worked with them on nutrition education, child development and access to resources. As a Coverdell Fellow in the Community Based Initiative she wants to work with the people of Detroit in pursuing social change and economic sustainability. She has a passion for working with children, youth and families as well as immigrant and refugee populations. She also hopes to work internationally again to gain further knowledge into how social workers in America can be more effective in the fight for social justice.

  5. Tahrima Khanom Tahrima Khanom

    Coverdell Fellow Student Admitted 2017

    Tahrima is a first-generation American who immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh at the age of 5. She grew up in the vibrant city of Hamtramck, MI and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Wayne State University in Detroit. After college, she joined the Peace Corps and served in Uganda for 2 years as a Literacy Specialist. Her proudest achievements in the Peace Corps include co-directing a national conference on corporal punishment and gender-based violence; serving as a facilitator and a lead curriculum development team member at the annual Youth Technical Training Camp; and developing a series of sexual/reproductive health and reusable menstrual pad workshops for teenage girls. Tahrima continued her efforts against gender-based violence domestically and currently works with teenage girls in the foster care system who have suffered severe physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. As a Coverdell Fellow in the Community-Based Initiative Program with a concentration in Management of Human Services, Tahrima hopes to hone her leadership and community organization skills.

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