2022 Equity & Inclusion Fellowship Young Professional Recipients

The APPAM Equity & Inclusion Young Professional Fellowship will support young professionals from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds at the APPAM Fall Research Conference. Applicants must be within 5 years of receiving their Masters or PhD Degrees. The recipients will be recognized for their accomplishments and will also have opportunities to formally network with each other, Student Equity and Inclusion Fellowship Recipients and with members of the Policy Council and Diversity Committee. They will also have many opportunities to informally network with other students and professionals during the conference.

Congratulations to the 2022 Equity & Inclusion Fellowship recipients!

Siu Mee Cheng, Toronto Metropolitan University

Lauren Forbes, University of Cincinnati

Sydney Hicks, Rice University

Maria Jimenez-Zepeda, King County Metro Transit

Sarah Lieff, Mathematica

Fay Walker, Urban Institute

James Wright II, Florida State University

Mingli Zhong, Urban Institute


Siu Mee Cheng

Siu_Mee_ChengSiu Mee successfully defended her SSHRC funded doctoral dissertation on integrated health and social care for older adults at the Toronto Metropolitan University in 2022 and has a BASc in public health and a MHSc in community health. Siu Mee possesses leadership experience in the health and social services sectors and governments at the local, provincial and national levels in Canada.  She is the executive director for Street Haven, a multi-service feminist women’s agency that established Canada’s first women’s shelter. She has worked on critical health and social policy and care issues including food insecurity, housing, public health and poverty reduction to help advance diversity, equity and inclusion for vulnerable and marginalized population groups.

She provides leadership for organizations that operate at the point of intersection of key health and social care issues that have impacted vulnerable populations including women, newcomers, older adults, low-income individuals, individuals with mental health and addictions and the homeless, to name a few.  With knowledge and expertise gained from her work experience and her research, Siu Mee is dedicated to improving conditions for society’s most vulnerable through leadership, advocacy, teaching, research and volunteerism. She is committed to supporting mentorship and greater representation for under-represented groups.


Lauren Forbes

Lauren_ForbesLauren Forbes is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the University of Cincinnati School of Public and International Affairs.  She earned a PhD in public policy from Georgia State University in 2022 and an MPH from Drexel University in 2013.  She studies community resilience against ongoing anti-Black structural violence and racial capitalism.   Her research centers the ways that land-based urban agriculture and local food systems can be a site, source, and mechanism of Black cultural reclamation and community healing.  She uses qualitative methods to explore how community institutions drive these local food based economies and other community health and wealth building initiatives. Her scholarship is situated at the intersection of urban political economy, community health, and Black foodways.


Sydney Hicks

Sydney_HicksSydney Hicks (she/her) is originally from Monroeville, Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor’s from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Sociology and minored in LGBTQIA+ Studies. Directly after, Sydney attended an accelerated Master’s program at Rice University in Social Policy Evaluation.

She works to reconstruct organizational frameworks in order to foster a safe and productive environment for all. She is often described as one who runs towards the fire to challenge the status quo and advocate for silenced voices. Her research consists of understanding diversity and inclusion trends in public and private institutions and analyzing data to distinguish issues in the criminal justice sector regarding reentry programs. Sydney is passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion and finds that beauty is created in our differences.


Maria Jimenez-Zepeda

Maria_Jimenez-ZepedaMaria is a program manager at King County Metro with the Reduced Fares team. In this role, she brings her policy, project management, and direct service experiences to develop, implement, and evaluate pilots and projects that aim to make Metro more affordable and accessible for all riders. In her work leading evaluation and data analysis efforts, Maria works with partners to incorporate an equity lens so that learnings are implementable and grounded in the context of the lived experiences of the individuals that Metro aims to serve. She holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Washington, is a board member for Kandelia, and serves on the Seattle Immigrant & Refugee Commission. Originally from Bakersfield, CA, Maria now calls the Seattle area home where she can be found reading, gardening, and exploring the beauty of the PNW.


Fay Walker

Fay_WalkerFay Walker is a research associate in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Her work focuses on affordable housing and community development.

Before working at Urban, Walker’s work centered on civic engagement, affordable housing, and community outreach, with a particular focus on mapping substandard housing and evictions. Walker holds a BA in diplomacy and world affairs from Occidental College and two MAs in urban spatial analytics and city and regional planning, both from the University of Pennsylvania.


James Wright II

James_WrightJames E. Wright II is an Assistant Professor in the Askew School of Public Administration and Public Policy at Florida State University. His research specializes in race, policing, and public policy. His work has examined body-worn cameras, community protests including Black Lives Matter, police misconduct allegations, and police officer decision-making. Additionally, he is the Co-Director/Co-Founder of the Social Justice and Innovation Lab at Florida State which focuses on increasing equity in the delivery of public services.



Mingli Zhong

Mingli-ZhongMingli Zhong is a research associate in the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute. She is also a visiting scholar at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining Urban, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her doctoral dissertation received the Social Security Administration Dissertation Fellowship Program in Retirement and Disability Research and Robert R. Nathan Fellowship. She received a PhD in applied economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020.

Zhong’s research focuses on household finance, behavioral economics, and labor economics. She studies wealth disparities, retirement savings, and asset building. She also studies the interaction between private savings and the social safety net. Her recent projects address racial wealth gaps, the impact of COVID-era economic policies on households with low incomes in the US and UK, and the optimal design of retirement plans for workers with low incomes.

Zhong’s research has been funded by AARP, the Boettner Center/Pension Research Council at Wharton, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Pew Charitable Trusts, the TIAA Institute, and the Social Security Administration. Her research has been cited by national and local media outlets including American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries, Brookings, Governing, MarketWatch, Marketplace, NBER, NPR’s Chicago local station WBEZ, PlanSponsor, ThinkAdvisor, and 401kspecialist.