Brown School Student Marshals, Class of 2024: Embarking on New Chapters

Policy; Public Health; Social Work; Students

Celebrate the accomplishments of Meena Safi, Daniel Appiah, Yu Xiao, and Brittany Jones, selected as the 2024 Brown School Student Marshals. These remarkable individuals were nominated by both faculty and peers for their dedication to their studies, enthusiasm in their fieldwork, and positive impact on our school community. 

As they approach graduation and embark on the next chapter of their lives, these student marshals are reflecting on their experiences, reminiscing about their favorite moments, and sharing future plans. 

To find more details about this year’s Brown School Ceremony, visit the 2024 Commencement page

Master of Social Work Marshal: Meena Safi 
MSW Concentration: Mental Health | Specialization: Management 

During her time at the Brown School, Meena Safi, a native of Afghanistan, has shown a deep dedication to both research and advocacy. 

Throughout her academic journey, she has been actively involved in numerous impactful projects, including collaborations with three different research labs and contributions to multiple research papers. One notable experience was her participation in the Aging Research on Alzheimer’s Disease (ARCHES) project, conducted in partnership with the WashU School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology.  


“This project, which focused on characterizing health equity through social determinants using a community-based model, not only enhanced my skills in community-based research but also deepened my understanding of aging and mental health issues, particularly how they affect marginalized populations. I hope that my work can inspire others to continue making a difference in these areas.” 

Outside of her studies, Meena says she will miss WashU’s picturesque campus, her supportive classmates, and her favorite professors. Looking forward, she plans to pursue a PhD in social work at the University of Maryland, focusing on mental health. 

“I want to become a professor dedicated to amplifying the voices of vulnerable communities, particularly trauma survivors such as refugees and immigrants from the Middle East. Through rigorous research and advocacy efforts, I aim to investigate the unique needs and challenges faced by these communities, with a special emphasis on mental health.” 

Meena is immensely grateful to the Brown School for the scholarship that enabled her master’s degree. She extends her sincere appreciation to Mary McKay, the former dean of the Brown School, and to Associate Professor Jean-Francois Trani for his exceptional mentorship.  

“His dedication to research and his impactful work have not only inspired me but have also underscored the profound importance of research in enhancing the lives of vulnerable individuals,” she said. “Professor Trani’s mentorship has been pivotal in shaping my academic and professional aspirations.” 

Master of Public Health Marshal: Daniel Appiah 
MPH Concentration: Epidemiology/Biostatistics

Daniel Appiah has been an integral part of the Brown School community throughout his program. Originally from Aburi in Ghana’s Eastern region, he’s engaged in peer mentoring and provided free airport transportation for first-year students from Africa. 


A standout achievement for Daniel was his participation in Research WithOut Walls, where he was part of a group that presented a model to predict glycated hemoglobin levels without the need for testing.  

Daniel is deeply grateful to those who profoundly influenced his academic journey, singling out Sarah Malone, Lecturer Kate Barbier, Bill Effah, and Research Assistant Professor Emmanuel Tetteh for their inspirational work and guidance, with a special mention for Professor of Practice Joe Steensma.  

“I want to express my sincerest gratitude to Joe Steensma for his exceptional dedication as a lecturer, mentor, and personal coach. His mentorship has been invaluable, and he has played a pivotal role in shaping my aspirations, instilling in me a desire to pursue a career in lecturing at a medical school in the future.” 

Reflecting on his time at the Brown School, Daniel says he’ll miss “collaborations with remarkable individuals like Lucy Rodriguez and the stimulating environment, particularly my experiences at the StatLab.” 

After graduation, Daniel has his sights set on a residency program in either internal medicine or radiology. Before that, he will spend the next year as a clinical research coordinator in the cardiology unit at WashU Medical School’s Department of Medicine, focusing on investigator-initiated trials focusing on heart failure, cardio-oncology, and electrophysiology. 

Ultimately, Daniel’s ambition is to teach medical students following the completion of his fellowship program in cardiology.  

“I aspire to inspire individuals, especially those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, to strive for excellence in their pursuits.” 

Master of Social Policy Marshal: Yu Xiao 

Yu Xiao’s time at the Brown School has been truly transformative, shaping her passion for policy and fostering a deep commitment to international collaboration.

“The nurturing learning environment, where every question led to deeper understanding, has been invaluable.”


With an interest in how policies evolve and impact societies worldwide, Yu honed her research skills during her time at the Brown School. Aspiring to pursue a PhD, she focused on strengthening her capabilities in research thinking and design.

Throughout her academic journey, Yu explored various areas, including intergovernmental relations, policy innovation diffusion, and social network research. 

Originally from China, one of her highlights was presenting at the 2023 American Political Science Association APSA Annual Meeting & Exhibition. Additionally, she contributed to the Chinese Public Administration Review with a literature review on social network analysis in public administration, showcasing its significance and application in our field.

Yu is grateful for the profound connections she made, extending special thanks to Associate Professor Derek Brown and Assistant Professor of Practice Dan Ferris, not just for their academic guidance but for their unwavering support during her PhD application phase.

Yu would also like to thank her cohort and fellow graduates: “It’s the MSP people, like Victoria, who shared her passionate explanations of the American government system, and the warmth of singing birthday songs with classmates, that I will miss dearly. Our Chinese student group, akin to a small family, and the supportive international classmates, have created an environment of mutual support and learning.”

Post-graduation, Yu is committed to continuing her academic journey in the United States with a PhD. Currently, she’s navigating through the offer process and the completion of admission procedures.

Master of Social Work/Master of Public Health Dual Degree Marshal: Brittany Jones  
MSW-Social Impact Leadership and MPH-Generalist  

Brittany Jones attributes her evolution into a leader and agent for change, as well as her deep commitment to social and health equity, to the supportive environment cultivated at the Brown School. 

“I’d like to thank my advisor Atia Thurman and instructors Helen Robinson, Barry Rosenberg, Molly Pearson and Clement Bayetti for cultivating an environment that allowed me to be curious, challenge theories, and explore all of my many social and health interests,” she said. She’s also appreciative of the invaluable support from her fellow students.  

“I’d like to thank my peers (turned friends) who have supported me throughout my experience through shared laughs, being thought partners, and reminders of self-care and restoration.”  


Throughout her time at the Brown School, Brittany, a native of Richmond, California, has been involved in various activities that shaped her outlook and career path. As a Kahn Scholar, she formed meaningful connections with peers who shared her aspiration of becoming a public health social worker. Additionally, as a fellow for the Cigna Foundation – Healthier Kids of the Future Initiative, Brittany received training in philanthropic principles, grant-making practices, and evaluation strategies. In her practicum with the St. Louis Integrated Health Network, she co-created racial equity practices, policies, and activities for internal staff and external partners.  

As she moves forward, Brittany says she’ll miss the many opportunities for personal and professional growth offered by the Brown School, including engaging in rich dialogue through the skill labs and the transdisciplinary practice-solving courses. 

Post-graduation, Brittany plans to remain in St. Louis and continue advocating for community-centered approaches to achieve racial and health equity. 

Faculty Marshal: Tonya Edmond, Professor

Tonya Edmond

Professor Tonya Edmond previously served as the interim co-dean of the Brown School. She previously served as the associate dean for social work and social policy, and was a faculty fellow in the Office of the Provost working on women faculty leadership development and other diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Co-director for the Center for Violence and Injury Prevention and a faculty affiliate for the Center for Mental Health Services Research, Edmond focuses her research on testing the effectiveness of interventions for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, sex trafficking and intimate partner violence.