MPA Students Receive Rumsfeld Foundation Grant

PROVO, Utah – Dec 07, 2019 – Two BYU Marriott MPA graduates became recipients of the Rumsfeld Foundation Fellowship and received $10,000 along with priceless networking opportunities. Kathleen Nugent from New Paltz, New York, and Megdalynn Fisher from Spanish Fork, Utah, were nominated for the fellowship by their professor, Rob Christensen, and become two of twenty recipients in 2019.

The Rumsfeld Foundation Fellowship has helped these two BYU Marriott students move toward their PhD degrees. Nugent is attending the University of Georgia studying public administration and policy with a focus in organizational theory. Fisher is at Indiana University studying public affairs with an emphasis in health policy.

Before attending BYU Marriott, Nugent taught high school chemistry. After teaching for twelve years, she decided to get an MPA. Though leaving the classroom was a sacrifice, Nugent saw it as an opportunity to help even more students through policy change. “I loved working with my students. It was in the classroom I realized there are so many influences in a person’s life outside the educational arena,” says Nugent. “Once I decided to make the sacrifice to leave the classroom for a greater cause, my view on what I could accomplish got bigger and bigger.”

Fisher’s motivation to reform the healthcare system began when her husband couldn’t find residency after medical school. Her interest became more deeply rooted after she was diagnosed and battled breast cancer. These combined experiences opened her eyes to the strengths and weaknesses of the healthcare system and ultimately guided her decision to study it. “I would love to help change health policy in the United States,” says Fisher. “I want to be a part of the solution to health disparities among nationalities, races, and genders.”

As one of twenty-four advisors for the Rumsfeld Foundation, Christensen was able to recommend Nugent and Fisher after getting to know them personally. “I chose these two because they are exceptional students working in interesting areas,” he says. Advisors help the foundation identify candidates of outstanding intellectual ability, integrity, moral character and leadership potential. “In both cases, the members of the foundation said they absolutely agreed that these two were deserving scholars with compelling stories and passions,” says Christensen.

The fellowship provides $10,000 in financial support to students pursing doctorate degrees, as well as organizes opportunities for recipients to build a professional network. Twice a year, the fellows gather in Washington, DC, to meet with influential policy makers. “These trips help the fellows see how their work in a particular area might fit into the bigger public policy and public management picture,” says Christensen.

The Rumsfeld Foundation Fellowship has made the transition from graduate student to PhD student easier for Nugent and Fisher. Both women expressed gratitude for the foundation and how it has helped ease the financial burden of pursuing a doctorate degree.

“The Rumsfeld Foundation grant allows me to focus on my studies and absorb everything I can from my professors instead of worrying about finances,” says Nugent.

“The Rumsfeld Foundation grant is an answer to my prayers,” says Fisher. “I was trying to see if I could pick up a side job while getting my PhD because financially it was going to be tight. The grant makes getting my PhD possible.”

The future is bright for Nugent and Fisher. After receiving their doctorate degrees, Nugent and Fisher hope to become professors at top research universities.  “I’m grateful to the Rumsfeld Foundation for the grant and the opportunity to network with influential people in policy,” says Nugent.

Megdalynn Fisher
BYU Marriott MPA alum Megdalynn Fisher, second from left, at graduation. Photo courtesy of Megdalynn Fisher.
Kathleen Nugent
BYU Marriott MPA alum Kathleen Nugent at graduation. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Nugent.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Nikaela Smith