Class of 1972

The National Urban Fellows (NUF) experience was a key turning point in my life. By matching me with Tom Bradley, I was able to hone raw talent into more sophisticated and meaningful mastery and competency. I came to NUF with an adequate education at the baccalaureate level, a sound work ethic developed in the fields of Central California and a sincere desire to serve and be a change agent. The “NUF Bridge,” transported me to an enhanced education, pragmatic and constructive management readiness and expertise, and a superior sense for political and policy issues. The “NUF Bridge,” was the opportunity that transformed my life. I will be forever indebted and grateful.


Class of 1998

National Urban Fellows provides a training ground where participants can really build their skills sets, the confidence, and the networks they need to be able to move policy and drive a goal-setting agenda. Though I went to law school, it was my MPA and my experience at NUF that was the secret sauce to my success.


Class of 1983

My NUF mentorship experience provided me with the unique opportunity to work with NYC policy-makers at a time when they were aggressively pursuing a significant Federal waiver for Medicaid reform and redesigning the public hospital system. The exposure set me up for my 27 years in New York City government where I had the pleasure of working for four Mayors and provided me with the opportunity to create programs that impacted the lives of vulnerable New Yorkers.


Class of 1981

Had it not been for National Urban Fellows, I don’t know where I would be. I may not be at the top of the heap, but I’m pretty high up there. This program changed my life because it allowed me to look at leadership from a different perspective. It helped me to persevere both professionally and personally. I never thought about the NUF experience being difficult because it was fun.


Class of 2005

Ron Kim the first and only Korean American elected to the New York State Assembly is serving his fourth term of office. Ron was a National Urban Fellow in 2004 and upon MPA graduation, he pursued his passion of giving back to community by working at the Federal, State, and local level. He often cites his own experience watching his parents’ challenges as mom-and-pop store owners as inspirations for his career in public service and for his people-focused policy agenda. The National Urban Fellows program has been the stepping stone for Ron’s public advocacy, visibility and return on investment for his neighbors/constituents in Flushing, Queens.


Class of 1990

The National Urban Fellows program introduced me to the importance of understanding institutions, processes, behavior and policy in the field of Public Administration. The academic curriculum was robust, creative and afforded me deep knowledge of theories and case studies in implementation and execution in large organizations. Subsequent to my graduation one of the highlights of my professional career was serving as a Presidential Appointee to the U.S. Department of Commerce as the National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency, Washington, D.C.


Class of 1988

Nina recalls her perspective expanded in 1988 when she left her hometown of 11,000 people to become a National Urban Fellow. She was mentored by Robert Morgenthau – then District Attorney for New York City. I’m in Manhattan, but from New Mexico. I’m a Republican, he’s a Democrat. Suddenly I am immersed in management experience, data analysis, public interest, justice, equity issues and high level policy. It was absolutely fantastic! She kept her public interest focus and has served as a NUF Board Member/Officer for 11 years. She describes National Urban Fellows as the ecosystem of change in America.


Class of 2000

The National Urban Fellows program can be a defining and transformative opportunity — especially for people growing up in working-class and minority communities, as was my experience. A young Latino from Corona, Queens, and eager to serve my community, the National Urban Fellows program at Baruch College allowed me to transform that passion for public service from an avocation into an occupation. I will be forever indebted to those who made this program possible and grateful to all those who continue to do so.


Class of 2011

The National Urban Fellows gave me a life changing opportunity and an invaluable network that I still tap into daily. I was able to meet and gain an incredible mentor through the program, Michelle DePass, who still mentors me and is my sister to this day. I also live life knowing I have my incredibly talented cohort always beside me as my lifeline. When a person is running for office, or leading an organization, or taking on challenges and spaces that are not frequently occupied by people who look like us, a support network is the only way we survive. National Urban Fellows has given me a family and a support network that so many of you are a part of and I have so much that this organization has added to my life.


Class of 2008

So much depends on our networks and as the first generation in my family to go to college, there is so much I just didn’t know. The National Urban Fellows program helped change that for me. It comes with a built-in network of amazing alumni that are there to help, introduce and connect. National Urban Fellows changed the trajectory of my career by expanding my view and understanding of what was possible for me and those like me. And for that I will be forever grateful!.


Class of 1989

The National Urban Fellows is a reflective moment in time for me. It is one of the most positive and major influences in my life that really gave me an opportunity to succeed, both professionally and personally. There were so many “firsts” for me – moving to Cleveland, holding amazing professional positions: working for Cleveland City Council President, completing the Presidential Management Intern Program, working for NASA, and Cleveland State University. Although I valued every professional position, being an Associate Faculty for 15 years for the University of Phoenix is probably one of my most rewarding positions. I am so thankful for my MPA. On a personal note, I am honored that my daughter, Ayris T. Scales ‘03, is a NUF Alumnus. Since 1989, I continue to support the Program and to “pay it forward”. I love NUF!


Class of 1974

Karen I. Duckett, JD, RD (known affectionately as the KID) , has more than 40 years of architecture and planning experience-holding degrees in architecture, urban planning and law. Prior to establishing the firm in 1985. As the Public Projects Director of Atlanta’s Community Development Block Grant Program, she helped to change the landscape of downtown Atlanta. Karen authored and secured funding to implement the Environmental Identification program which gave “ownership” to public housing residents in the definition of exterior space outside their living unit. She was the first woman to head a Planning Department for a city with a population over 350,000. Alongside urbanist Lawrence Halprin, she fostered neighborhood and community self-determination in redevelopment. Through a series of award-winning design projects and buildings, Karen has developed a reputation for designing buildings that are as programmatically and technically innovative as they are cost and resource conscious. An advocate for sustainable design, she began integrating sustainability into every project long before LEED certification became a benchmark. Her most visible achievement is the design of the LEED- Gold Maynard Holbrook Jackson International Terminal in Atlanta, Georgia.


Class of 1976

Harvey Johnson, Jr. received a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Tennessee State University, and a Master of Arts degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati. He was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Tougaloo College. In 1997, Johnson made history by being elected Jackson, Mississippi’s first African-American Mayor. In 2001, Jackson voters again chose Johnson for a second four-year term as Mayor of Mississippi’s Capital City. He was elected to a third term in 2009, making him the longest-serving mayor under the City’s mayor-council form of government, which was instituted in 1985. He left office in June of 2013. Johnson has served on numerous national, regional and local boards and commissions, including serving as President of the National Conference of Black Mayors, a Member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Advisory Council, and a Member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee. He also served on the Board of Directors of National Urban Fellows for 25 years, serving as secretary for 11 years. He is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and a life member of the NAACP. Johnson is also a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. He is a charter member of 100 Black Men of Jackson, Inc. Harvey Johnson, Jr. is married to Kathy Ezell Johnson, and they have two adult children, Harvey, III and Sharla. He is a member of Hope Spring Missionary Baptist Church, where he serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees./span>


Class of 1998

Councilwoman Hattie Portis-Jones, MPA is a second-term council member re-elected November 2017. She served as Mayor Pro Tem (2017) and is a recipient of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development’s Region 3 Economic and Leadership Development Program; Georgia Municipal Association’s (GMA) Certificate of Excellence; and National League of Cities (NLC) University Gold Level Certificate. She is currently an NLC Board of Director serving on its Legislative Action Committee and Chair of NLC’s - Energy Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee; NLC Leadership Fellows; Member, Water Now Alliance; Member, GMA-Federal Policy Advocacy Committee; and Board of Director (Treasurer), Georgia Municipal Black Caucus. As a member of the City’s six-member Legislative Branch, she develops policy, enacts laws for the well being of its 14,000+ citizens and ensures the proper stewardship of its resources. Councilwoman Portis-Jones is a veteran public servant who is semi-retired with extensive municipal government and non-profit experiences in executive positions of administration, finance, public works, and health. She served as a board of director for several non-profit organizations, - locally, nationally and internationally. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including recognition as one of the National Urban Fellows 50 Icons (2019); Woman of Courage in Government (2018); and Who’s Who in Black Atlanta (2017). ./span>

Our History

A look at the evolution of the National Urban Fellows organization

Since 1969, National Urban Fellows has developed programs that give emerging leaders the skills they need to succeed.

Through the years, National Urban Fellows has developed programs that give emerging leaders the skills they need to succeed: 

  • The National Urban Fellows’ signature MPA program has graduated 45 classes since its inception with various academic institutions including Yale University, Occidental College, Bucknell University, and over the last 32 years with the CUNY Bernard M. Baruch Austin Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. 

  • The establishment of the National Rural Fellows program from 1979-1989 with support from the U. S. Department of Agriculture and a graduate degree by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 

  • The Corporate Executive Fellows program developed in partnership with the Graduate Schools of Business at Columbia University and Stanford University offered a 2-year Master’s degree from 1983-1996.

  • The Environmental Science & Management Fellows program was founded with a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 1990-2000 and offered a 2-year Master’s degree from Tufts University and Duke University’s Nicolas School of the Environment. 

We are now witnessing the fruit of our investment in the next generation of leaders. These include Denise Pease (’83) appointed by President Obama to serve as regional administrator for the US General Services  Administration’s Northeast and Caribbean Region, Dr. Debra Joy-Perez (’97) Vice President Research, Evaluation and Learning at The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Michelle J. DePass (’98), Dean of the Milano Graduate School at The New School, Ron Kim (’05) 40th District State Assemblyman and the first Korean-American ever elected to the New York State Assembly, Trey Martinez-Fischer (’95) Texas State Representative House District 116, Duncan Harrison (’09) the youngest elected City Council Member of Trenton, NJ, and Melissa Mark-Viverito (’95) who made history as NYC’s first Latina City Council Speaker.





By 1979, the Vietnam War had ended and the era of social revolution took hold.  For people of color, the goals of equality and justice were always in sight.

During this period, Philadelphia native Ron Walker joined NUF.  While in pursuit of his second Masters degree, NUF placed Walker in Boston, Massachusetts.  At his placement site, Walker worked on social impact projects designed to desegregate all black and all white schools.  It was through his NUF experience that Walker realized the impact of critical issues surrounding education.  Following his fellowship, he became a principal and later, the leader of a school improvement organization. 

Currently, Walker serves as the Executive Director and founding member of the Coalition of Schools  Educating Boys of Color.  In the past, he was invited to President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Forum.  In addition to an array of community groups, Walker has gained recognition for his service in education by Boston Public Schools, Boston College School of Education. and Temple University – School of Education.  The foundation of his first book, Solomon’s Plan: The Gift of Education from a Father to His Son, draws upon his NUF Capstone experience.  Throughout Walker’s journey as an educator, principal, author, and Executive Director, his mission remains: provide high quality education to underserved populations and children, particularly boys and young men of color. 


At the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1968, the country’s urban centers were in crisis. Cities across America struggled to cope with pervasive violence and social unrest, the outcome of years of social injustice. Communities were  challenged by the results of discrimination, segregation, poverty, unemployment,  as well as poor housing and education. Mayors, confronted with the escalating civil disorder, began a collaborative process to determine possible solutions.  It was in this context that the National Urban Fellows (NUF)  program was founded, laying the groundwork for what would become a 50 year success story.

NUF’s first class was comprised of 26 professionals, two of which were women.  Yale University was their academic home, made possible through funding from the Ford Foundation and the National League of Cities.  On June 30, 1970, the National Urban Fellows graduated the first class in the organization’s history. 



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Georgetown University, McCourt School of Public Policy become our new academic partner.