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Rachel and Trac Pham

Alumni Rachel and Trac Pham, who met at GPS, have established an endowed fellowship fund to support future generations of students

Jade Griffin | GPS News

For class of 1996 alumni Rachel and Trac Pham, the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) is a place close to their hearts. In addition to earning their MPIA degrees at the school, the couple met at GPS and went on to get married.

Rachel and Trac both forged successful careers using their GPS education. Rachel worked in business and technology consulting before taking time to raise the couple’s three boys. Trac serves as CFO of software company Synopsys. Together, the couple recently made a gift of $250,000 to GPS to establish the Rachel and Trac Pham Endowed Fellowship to benefit future students.

“GPS is a very special place for us,” said Trac. “We had a great experience personally and academically. We have a lot of connections there and we wanted to do our part to support it.”

The endowed fellowship, which will remain in perpetuity, will provide $10,000 in annual support for an outstanding GPS student, who might not otherwise be able to cover the cost of graduate school.

“We are so grateful to the Phams for their generosity,” said Dean Peter Cowhey. “These remarkable alumni are playing a key role in providing much-needed fellowship support for many generations of scholars to come.”

Pham family at GPS

For the Phams, who have stayed connected to the school and other alumni through the years, a fellowship gift made the most sense. Trac received a fellowship to attend GPS (then the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies), while Rachel worked her way through graduate school.

“We both understand the importance of student support,” said Trac. “The school’s mission is also very important to us. On a broad scale, it focuses on community, and it brings together people with different backgrounds and ideas.”

Rachel pointed out that given current world affairs, GPS’s efforts to train and prepare future policymakers is more important than ever. “Particularly, where we are in 2020, the timing felt right,” said Rachel of their gift.

This year, the inaugural recipient of the Rachel and Trac Pham Endowed Fellowship is Poonam Narewatt, MIA ’22.

“I wouldn’t be at GPS without this funding,” said Narewatt, whose career track is international politics with a regional specialization on China. “This fellowship allows me to become a stronger candidate for a top Ph.D. program, which is where I hope I will ultimately end up.”

Prior to joining GPS, Narewatt worked as an executive officer in the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. During her time in his office, she traveled to over 10 countries and met with multiple heads of state, which sparked her interest in pursuing a doctorate in political science, with a concentration in international relations. In particular, she is interested in studying the impacts of climate change on migration.

Poonam Narewatt

According to Narewatt, the fires over the last several years in Southern California showed her first-hand the impact a changing climate can have on displacement. A native of India, Narewatt has also witnessed how climate change has influenced the migration of her family. She hopes her research will ultimately help make a difference on migrant lives.

“It is an absolute honor to be named to this fellowship,” said Narewatt. “It speaks to the impact GPS has on its alumni, who even years after leaving, want to give back to the program.”

The Phams hope that their support might inspire others to likewise support GPS – and students like Narewatt.

“GPS had a very positive influence on our lives and we were inspired by other alumni who have chosen to support the school,” said Rachel. “We hope others may see the need and be compelled to support GPS as well. Now is the time we can make a significant impact – and gifts of all sizes can make a difference.”

To learn more about how you can make a difference with a gift to GPS, please visit our Giving webpages or contact Angelica Ocampo at

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About author
An alumna of UC San Diego, Jade Griffin serves as Communications Editor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy. She writes and edits a range of communications on behalf of GPS. Griffin has more than 15 years of experience in strategic communications and public relations. She has worked in both higher education and the private sector. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communication from UC San Diego in 2003.
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