The Gatton College of Business and Economics has an elite opportunity, made possible by the generous contributions of the Morris Foundation and Nate Morris, CEO of Rubicon, to select a student for the Presidential Fellows Program at The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC). This gift established CSPC’s Nate Morris Fellowship at the University of Kentucky. Morris, a Lexington native and a product of Kentucky public schools, is the first entrepreneur in residence at the Gatton College and is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council.

"We're delighted our inaugural Gatton student, Mikayla Mitchell, is experiencing this enriching opportunity, says Simon Sheather, dean. "The Nathaniel R. Morris Fellowship will continue to benefit future Gatton recipients."

Morris participated in the Presidential Fellows Program while attending graduate school at Princeton University. He considers it to be one of the highlights of his academic career, and an experience that continues to bring value to him as a professional. When he learned that the fellowship hadn’t ever been available to a UK student, he reached out to the CSPC to establish it. “I believe that students with business backgrounds have the power to solve the world’s biggest challenges,” Morris noted. “I’m proud to offer this opportunity to Ms. Mitchell, and to begin this fellowship at the University of Kentucky after all this time.” 

According to Gatton’s Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, Jennifer Siebenthaler, Mikayla Mitchell was an ideal candidate for the fellowship because of her extensive research experience and work in public policy. Mitchell, a Lexington native, is an economics major, an international business minor, and a Global Scholars Honors Pathway student. 

At UK, she participates in the Chellgren Enrichment Group Program and the College Summit on Kentucky Pensions. She currently works for the Kentucky state government, and prior to that she worked for a public policy research institution. 

“When I came across this opportunity, I knew it fit perfectly with my personal and career goals,” Mitchell said. I’ve always been interested in a career in public service. It was instilled in me at a young age through my mom, a Navy veteran. Serving your country is one of the most meaningful things you can do with your life.”

The Fellows, who come from schools including Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Yale among others, participate in three-day leadership conferences in Washington, D.C. during the Fall and Spring semesters. They also complete a research paper that is eligible for publication and awards. Mitchell’s research is focused on the effect of welfare reform on economic mobility. For her, one of the most valuable aspects of the fellowship is working with her mentor, Gatton College researcher and professor James Ziliak, a well-respected expert on poverty, food insecurity, and inequality. 

In addition to research, while attending the conferences the Fellows also have the opportunity to engage with policy experts, government officials, and leaders in the legislative process. 

While in Washington, Mitchell had the opportunity to meet Chris Lu, former Deputy Secretary of Labor for the Obama administration, and Joshua Bolten, former Chief of Staff for the George W. Bush administration, as well as former and current senators, congresspeople, and top policy experts in a variety of fields. 

She also appreciated interacting with the other Fellows, which include future military men and women and students from all over the world. “I enjoyed being around like-minded people, who, at the same time, had such diverse experiences,” she said. 

Mitchell is honored to have been the only UK student chosen for the fellowship, but in the same breath, gives credit to those who helped her along the way. “Jennifer Siebenthaler was amazing in helping me prepare for the logistics of the conference and giving me the confidence that I had what it took to be successful.” She added that James Ziliak provided a great deal of support in strengthening her policy research skills. “He helped me prepare my research and showed me new ways to go about it, such as putting in data requests and other methods for compiling data, which is something I would have had a harder time doing on my own.” 

Like Morris, Mitchell believes that this experience will be life-changing. “Since the program is widely respected on a national level, it will undoubtedly open doors for me in the future.”

Visit the Nate Morris Fellowship page for more information, or to apply for next year.