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Michigan Ross OMBA Student Has Been Selected into the 2021-2022 Class of White House Fellows


SaMee Harden, MBA ’22, a student in the Online MBA Program at the Ross School of Business, has been selected into the White House Fellows Class of 2021-2022.

This prestigious fellowship gives highly accomplished professionals from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to work full time at the highest levels of government, engaging with senior White House staff, cabinet secretaries, and other top-ranking officials. 

Through an incredibly competitive selection process, Harden was chosen as a fellow based on her professional accomplishments, evidence of leadership skills, and her commitment to service. Hailing from Paducah, Kentucky, she is a seasoned attorney, with experience in both litigation and policy work. 

She previously served as an attorney, working as a privacy and data policy manager at Facebook. Prior to Facebook, Harden was an assistant United States attorney, where she managed a robust docket; she prosecuted cases including narcotics, public corruption, white-collar, and firearms offenses, as well as other federal crimes. However, she specialized in prosecuting child exploitation crimes. She was also a judicial law clerk on both the federal trial and appellate courts. 

What this OMBA student will be doing as a White House Fellow

For the 2021-2022 White House Fellowship term, Harden was placed at the Office of Personnel Management — the chief human resources agency and personnel policy manager of the federal government — and she will be working in the Office of the Director. Her work as a fellow will focus on gender policy matters, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility initiatives for the federal workforce.

Harden said that her class of diverse fellows was chosen, in large part, because of their desire to give back. 

“Everyone who applies and advances during the arduous White House Fellowship application process is distinctly talented and smart. Our class has been noted as the most diverse class in the White House Fellowship program’s history, but arguably what set us apart as candidates was our heart and passion for public service, “ explained Harden. “We all come from a myriad of backgrounds: medicine, the law, military, climate change, education, psychiatry, and business, but what all connects us is our desire to improve the public good using our various skills, talents, and interests.”

Why this accomplished lawyer is pursuing her MBA at Ross

Harden chose to pursue her MBA at Michigan Ross because she believed that it would set her apart from other lawyers in her career path. When Harden was a federal prosecutor, she was a “line attorney,” and as such, she wanted to ascend into middle and upper-level management within her district. 

“I knew that lawyers were generally good at ‘lawyering,’ but law schools rarely teach students about business acumen or how to effectively lead,” she said. “I wanted a business school that focused on executive leadership, in addition to the regular MBA curriculum.” 

Harden also said the prestige of the University of Michigan brand also attracted her to Michigan Ross. “I knew that the Michigan Ross alumni network would be robust and expansive in breadth and depth,” she said. 

Using Michigan Ross lessons as a White House Fellow

From her time in the Michigan Ross Online MBA Program, Harden said that she believes the courses and programming will help her succeed as a White House Fellow and beyond.

She identified three specific experiences: 

“First, Professor Mike Barger’s class, High Stakes Leadership: Building Resilience through Relationships, taught me the value of stakeholders and how to effectively address their differing concerns. During my year as a fellow, I can imagine that we will encounter a variety of stakeholders from our: 1. placements; 2.  esteemed speakers who visit us twice a week; 3. the White House Fellows Foundation members; and 4. even each other as fellows. And, this class gave me the tools to successfully maintain these relationships and adequately respond to these various groups.

“Second, the Business Leadership Residency at Michigan Ross reminded me to keep an attitude of gratitude and to find ways to flourish in my personal and professional life. Particularly this year, I want to maximize everything that the fellowship has to offer, and be appreciative of the journey that led me here.

“Third, in our current world, where we are still Zooming in on many meetings, Communicating in a Virtual World reminded me of the basics of digital communication and how to decrease the virtual divide even when communicating through our various electronic devices.” 

Support from the Michigan Ross community

From starting at Michigan Ross as a federal prosecutor, then transitioning to Facebook, and now as a White House Fellow, Harden discussed the immeasurable support she received from Ross through her several career changes. 

“At each turn, the professors and staff, people like former Associate Dean Wally Hopp and Part-Time MBA Programs Managing Director Patti Russo, as well as my fellow OMBAs have been incredibly supportive,” said Harden. 

Harden has also received overwhelming support from the faculty overall. “Notably, Barger wrote one of my letters of recommendation for the White House Fellowship, which I think really enhanced my candidacy to give the committee a more fulsome look at my life both professionally and personally,” she said. 

Beyond the support she continues to receive from the Michigan Ross community, Harden said she uses the mantra of “schedules, support, and grace” as she chases after the harmony of a work, life, and school balance. 

“I have created a schedule that works for me based on my family, work, and school obligations. I had to get comfortable knowing that my schedule or availability may not look like anyone else’s calendar,” she explained. “I have continued to lean into the love of family and friends and partner together to create a deeply woven support system. I usually advise my Ross professors up front of my personal and professional circumstances, and most professors have been markedly supportive.” 

Learn more about the Michigan Ross Online MBA Program

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