The YPL Michigan Data & Policy Fellowship bridges public policy and academic research to help policymakers and program administrators make evidence-based decisions about where to invest scarce resources to improve opportunities for Michigan’s youth. YPL works with partners at the State of Michigan to place early-career policy professionals in state agencies to make specific, measurable improvements in policies & programs that impact Michigan’s youth, their families, and their communities. The Fellowship is an impactful and cost-effective approach to help the state achieve strategic, cross-departmental goals. Fellows gain experience and exposure to real-world policymaking as they assist our public sector partners in strengthening their programs, policies, and processes.

“The Youth Policy Lab Michigan Data & Policy Fellowship program has been incredibly helpful in advancing the Whitmer Administration’s talent initiatives over the past two years.”

- Kim Trent, MDLEO

YPL fellows:

  • are recruited and hired by YPL to serve two-year, fixed-term appointments
  • are placed full-time in a state agency’s office
  • report directly to the state agency project lead
  • have direct access to and support from UM faculty with substantive and methodological expertise
  • receive mentorship and topical expertise from YPL Faculty Director
  • receive additional supervision and professional development from YPL Executive Director, YPL Deputy Director, and other YPL staff

“The Data & Policy Fellowship program assures chosen Fellows have a top-notch skill set coupled with a drive for increasing knowledge and improving their assigned program area.”

- Dawn Shanafelt, MDHHS

Current Partnerships

MDHHS Home Visiting Unit: Strengthening Michigan’s Home Visiting Systems

With generous support from the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, the Youth Policy Lab has partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to host a fellow embedded in the Home Visiting Unit. The focus of this fellowship is to improve systems integration across Michigan’s evidence-based home visiting models for parents, infants, and young children. The fellow conducts research and data analysis to support state-led programs, gaining experience and exposure in the field as they assist our state partners in strengthening their programs, policies, and processes. 

Home Visiting Fellow Sara Elhasan, collaborates with the Home Visiting Unit to implement research and data-informed policies and program improvements, including evaluating Home Visiting programs to analyze gaps in service, and ongoing systems integration projects for MiBridges, 211, and Program Finder. Sara also leads epidemiological and systems-based projects on the social determinants of health across Michigan, as well as needs assessments to inform expansions in home visiting among at-risk communities. This work is synthesized to develop reports, presentations, and policy briefs for the Youth Policy Lab, Home Visiting Unit, and external partners. 

State Court Administrative Office: Improving Data Practices in Michigan’s Juvenile Justice System

In partnership with the Michigan Justice Fund and the Public Welfare Foundation, this fellowship is embedded within the State Court Administrative Office, focusing on improving statewide data collection and risk/needs assessment practices for Michigan’s juvenile justice system. Michigan has a decentralized juvenile court system where individual counties have significant flexibility and control over how data is collected and used within their systems–meaning that there are many, often conflicting, data systems and definitions being used across counties. The goal of this fellowship is to help SCAO and local jurisdictions transition to a more communicative and robust statewide management system for juvenile justice data.

Youth Justice Fellow Kaj Althaus works primarily with the Statistical Research team at SCAO, where he focuses on improving data performance measures and recommending risk/needs assessment tools to be used in juvenile courts statewide. Kaj has provided SCAO with analyses of juvenile financial assessment data (i.e., costs, fines, or refunds assessed to juveniles and their families throughout the court process), in order to provide a greater understanding of whether the use of these assessments are equitable and practical. He is also conducting a landscape analysis of juvenile justice data in Michigan to inform recommendations for improvements in data collection practices and data definitions, and is exploring the various juvenile risk and needs assessments used in counties across the state to make recommendations on a single tool to be used statewide.

DPSCD: Expanding School-Based Mental Health Supports to Detroit Students

With support from a U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Educational Studies grant, this fellowship is embedded within the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) to support a YPL-led evaluation of the TRAILS Tier 2 Early Intervention curriculum as it is implemented across 75+ DPSCD school buildings. The Tier 2 Early Intervention Curriculum trains school mental health professionals on principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, so that school staff can equip students with skills to manage common mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.

DPSCD Fellow Megan Jagolinzer works out of DPSCD Headquarters at the Fisher Building in Detroit, where she helps coordinate research activities between DPSCD, TRAILS, and YPL. When Megan is not busy traveling to DPSCD schools to support Tier 2 implementation and data collection activities for the evaluation project, she works closely with teams at DPSCD, YPL, and TRAILS to support the rollout of a new school-based mental health curriculum across over 70 DPSCD schools. In addition, she helps support an advisory group of DPSCD students, staff, parents, and community members that provides ongoing input for the evaluation.

Interested in learning more about becoming a YPL Fellow, or partnering with YPL to host a fellow at your organization? Contact us at

Team members


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