Ruba Alafifi | UT Southwestern Medical Center
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Pandemic and Emerging Threats
Ruba Alafifi is a medical student pursuing dual medical and master’s in public health (M.D./M.P.H.) degrees at The University of Texas at Southwestern Medical School. Ruba is passionate about health policy, public health, and global medicine. Prior to beginning medical school, she was an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) coordinating a refugee project in Houston, Texas. Ruba has a bachelor’s degree in human development and family science, with a certificate in Social Inequality, Health, and Policy. In her free time, Ruba is an avid traveler, loves exploring new places, and photography. Ultimately, Ruba aims to practice medicine with a focus on women’s health and improving healthcare access and quality.
Ariel Arguelles | UT Dallas
Sabine Vaccine Institute
Ariel Arguelles is pursuing her doctorate in public and nonprofit management at The University of Texas at Dallas. She holds two bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and biology from Oral Roberts University and a master’s in global health from the University of Notre Dame. Dedicated to health equity and education, Ariel’s professional and academic background illustrates her interdisciplinary approach to learning all she can about her greatest passion: people. Following her passion has led her to service work in Mexico, compassion cultivation research in Haiti, and serving her undergraduate community as a leader in multiple student organizations such as the student ambassador program, the yearbook committee, and co-coordinator for the academic peer advisor program. This summer, Ariel will be interning at the Sabin Vaccine Institute as part of The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Stephen Bok | UT Arlington
Gold Standard Public Relations
Stephen Bok is a doctoral business marketing student at The University of Texas at Arlington. He has a multidisciplinary academic background. At California State University, East Bay, he earned a master's in business administration and a master's in social work. Stephen has volunteered and supported numerous community organizations including public schools, municipals, and health centers. As a Stanford Research Fellow at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, he fostered an interest in positive psychology and its effect on organizational behaviors. The power of compassion and forward thinking has influenced his outlook on life. Drawing on his unique experiences and data analysis skills, he has several peer reviewed publications and conference papers on managerial marketing topics.
Andrene Castro | UT Austin
White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans
Andrene Castro is a doctoral student in the Educational Policy and Planning Program at The University of Texas at Austin. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of South Florida and a master’s in urban education from Florida International University. Andrene served as an English/language arts instructor in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for nine years and as a new teacher mentor. Her research interests explore teacher education/certification and development, school and community partnerships, and the intersection of race/ethnicity within educational policies.
Poonum Desai | UT Dallas
U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
Poonum Desai is pursuing a master’s in public policy from The University of Texas at Dallas. She is from Plano, Texas, and received her bachelor’s degree in economics and finance also from The University of Texas at Dallas. In addition to her education, she is also a personal trainer at UT Dallas and a program assistant at Global North Texas. Her goal is to create public policy regarding education, and make the education system more effective, efficient, and strong. Some of her hobbies include working out, listening to music, hanging out with friends, and going on adventures.
Emily Diaz-Melendez | UT El Paso
NASPA- Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
Emily Diaz-Melendez is pursuing a professional masters of science at The University of Texas at El Paso, concentrating on urban and regional planning and applied statistics. Originally from Pennsylvania, she graduated from Millersville University with her bachelor of arts in government and political affairs and minored in statistics and athletic coaching. During her graduate studies, she works as a research assistant in the Public Administration Department and has aided in faculty research on public-private partnerships and Round 1 Promise Zones. She has also worked on the certification process through the Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating (STAR) Communities for her hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania, which received a three-star rating. Emily has found her passion in K-12 education funding reform as well as urban development policy and hopes to use her skills in data collection and analysis to accurately guide policies to benefit these areas.
Wes Edwards | UT Austin
U.S. Department of Education
Wes Edwards is a doctoral student in the Educational Policy and Planning program at The University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include the analysis of policies related to school choice reform. Before deciding to pursue a doctorate, Wes spent seven years as a classroom teacher and mentor. In New York, he taught math and science at a charter school in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. He also worked within the Austin Independent School District as an Instructional Specialist. Originally from Austin, Wes attended The University of Texas as an undergraduate, receiving a bachelor's degree in the College of Education. While in New York, he earned a master’s in education policy from New York University.
Mary Elbanna | UT Dallas
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Mary Elbanna is pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at The University of Texas at Dallas. She is currently in the fast-track program and will be graduating with her bachelor’s degree in political Science this May. She spent last spring interning for Texas State Representative Eric Johnson for Texas’ 84th Legislative Session as one of UT Dallas’ first Texas Legislative Interns. It was during this experience that she established her true passion for public service and the legislative process. Her specific policy interests include criminal justice reform and education. She currently remains an intern in the district office of Rep. Johnson and enjoys getting involved with local campaigns, as well as volunteering in her free time.
Lucia Elizondo | UT Tyler
The Brookings Institution
Lucia Elizondo is an international student from Mexico pursuing her master in business administration at The University of Texas at Tyler. She graduated with honors from the Tecnologico de Monterrey in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, with a degree in marketing. Her professional experience includes working in marketing for a transnational corporation, developing strategies for new product launches and building a social media program for the company. However, she considers her most relevant professional experience when she worked for three years for the state government of San Luis Potosi, as the administrative director of the Institute of Human and Social Development of Indigenous Communities. Working in this setting developed her skills in public administration and expanded new possibilities and interests for her professional future. Lucia is interested in public policy and learning more about public administration in the United States.
Sarah Elkin | UT Southwestern Medical Center
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)
Sarah Elkin is pursuing a doctorate in cell and molecular biology at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) in Dallas. She is a graduate of The University of Virginia with a bachelor of science in Chemistry with a focus in biochemistry. Her current research at UTSW focuses on better understanding lung cancer tumorigenesis. Outside of the lab, Sarah is very passionate about public policy. She is currently the professional liaison Coordinator for the Science Policy, Education, and Communication (SPEaC) club at UTSW, where her responsibilities include educating the UTSW community about science policy through the organization of science policy talks and meetings with legislators. Sarah is looking forward to her time this summer as an Archer Center Public Policy Fellow, where she hopes to combine her passions for science and public policy by working to improve science appreciation, funding, and education.
Andres Gallardo | UT San Antonio
The Population Institute
Andrés Gallardo is working on his doctorate degree in applied demography at The University of Texas at San Antonio. His research interests focus on understanding the relationship between population dynamics and energy consumption, and the application of said relationship in the areas of public policy. Originally from San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Andrés has been living in Texas for the past eight years. He came to the United States to study his master’s degree in energy and earth resources from The University of Texas at Austin after graduating from ITAM in Mexico City. After graduation, Andrés would like to work in the economic development field.
Kathryn Gallardo | UT Health Sciences Center at Houston
National Alliance to End Homelessness
Kathryn Gallardo is pursuing a doctorate in behavioral sciences from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health. She is currently a pre-doctoral fellow at the Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research and her research interests center on issues associated with youth homelessness, particularly HIV and substance use prevention. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of St. Thomas and her master’s degree in social work from The University of Texas at Austin. As a licensed social worker in Texas, she gained direct practice and management experience in housing and homelessness services and worked closely with key community stakeholders in the city of Houston’s effort to implement a coordinated access system and reduce veteran homelessness. In addition to her work with individuals and families experiencing homelessness, she has also worked with veterans, victims fleeing domestic violence, and pregnant and parenting teens. Her experience as a social worker inspires her to work on a macro level to develop and inform policy that improves the health and well-being of vulnerable populations, especially populations experiencing poverty and other social and economic injustices
Gustavo Alonso Garza III
UT Rio Grande Valley
U.S. Congressman Filemon Vela
Gustavo Alonso Garza III is pursuing a master's degree in public affairs from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin within two and a half years with a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Health with a minor in Spanish. His professional experience includes working as an 8th grade math teacher in Valley View Early College Campus while being a 7th grade football coach and the freshmen soccer coach. Currently, he works as a graduate assistant for the Public Affairs Department at UTRGV. Gustavo plans to apply his professional and educational experiences after he receives his master's degree to work in local government and prioritize issues he believes should be addressed such as climate change and human trafficking. In his free time, Gustavo enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends, and playing outdoor sports
Bryn Herrera | UT San Antonio
Center for International Policy
Bryn Herrera is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in political science at The University of Texas at San Antonio where his academic focus has been on international relations and global affairs. Through opportunities provided by The Archer Center, Bryn hopes to forge a career in policy research, analysis, or advocacy. At UTSA, Bryn is a teaching assistant for the Department of Political Science and Geography, where he offers administrative and academic support to professors in several large courses in which several hundred students are enrolled. He is also the co-president of the Graduate Political Science Association and a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha honor society.
Callie Jones | UT Austin
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
Callie Jones is pursuing a master’s in social work at The University of Texas at Austin. Callie was selected to be in The Gerontology Resources and the Aging Community in Education (GRACE) program at UT, specializing in the older adult population. Callie is currently interning at a non-profit in Austin working with older adults and adults with disabilities. She is from Shreveport, Louisiana, and received her bachelor’s of arts in psychology from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. In addition to receiving her degree, Callie worked as a resident assistant for three years with freshman and sophomore students. Callie has participated in internships serving veterans, adults with mental illness and Alzheimer’s Disease, juveniles in the juvenile justice system, and persons experiencing homelessness. Callie is pursuing a career in public policy, focusing on ways to improve the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid.
Nicholas Jones | UT Dallas
Government Accounting Office (GAO)
Nicholas Jones is pursuing a master’s degree in international political economy with a concentration in international business and public policy at The University of Texas at Dallas. He has a strong interest in understanding the impact of federal policies. Originally from Muldrow, Oklahoma, Nicholas received his bachelor’s in political science from the University of Oklahoma. Recently, Nicholas was an intern with the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service. Nicholas hopes to pursue a career in policy evaluation and a doctorate in Economics.
Austin Kingsolver | UT Dallas
D.C. Public Schools, Office of the Chiefs of Schools
Austin Kingsolver is a graduate student pursuing a doctorate in political science at The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas). He also has a bachelor's degree in political science from UT Dallas. He is currently a teaching assistant in the school of economic, political and policy sciences, with previous assignments in constitutional law, civil rights and liberties and international law. He is currently researching in the field of judicial behavior, focusing on measurement methods of judicial polarization in American politics, as well as human rights judicial support in the international context. Austin is also a long time golfer and enjoys cooking, writing and is an avid English football enthusiast.
Sylvia Loh | UT Arlington
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Sylvia Loh is pursuing a five year, fast track program to obtain her master’s degree in biomedical engineering and bachelor’s degree in biology at The University of Texas at Arlington. She is passionate about emerging biotechnology and new medical devices. Sylvia has conducted cancer cell migration research at UT Arlington for two years. Through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), she traveled to Taiwan in 2015 to conduct stem cell research. She is interested in working with medical devices and health policy issues and hopes to pursue a career in medical technology, investigating new biomedical research.
Alonzo Mendoza | UT Austin
American Federation of Teachers
Alonzo Mendoza is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in educational policy and planning from The University of Texas at Austin. He also has another master’s degree in autism and developmental disabilities from The University of Texas at Austin as well as a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. Alonzo is an El Paso native and his research interests are multicultural studies, particularly Mexican American and indigenous studies. He is a strong advocate for immigrant rights and is passionate about social justice in public K-12 education and looks forward to returning to his hometown after graduation.
Ashlee Pena | UT Austin
White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
Ashlee Peña is pursuing a master’s degree in education policy and planning at The University of Texas at Austin. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Trinity University in San Antonio and a doctor of jurisprudence from St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio. Since law school, Ashlee has worked as a legislative aide on public education in the Texas Senate, advocated on behalf of Social Security Disability Insurance recipients, and started a private law firm. Ashlee enjoys mentoring and volunteering within the community and is passionate about improving access to equal and adequate educational opportunities for all.
Bernadette Perez | UT Rio Grande Valley
Council on Competitiveness
Bernadette Perez holds a bachelor of arts in communications in Communication with a minor in women’s and gender studies from Texas A&M University in College Station. During her time at Texas A&M, Bernadette interned with the Surrogate Program for the Bill White for Texas Campaign in Houston. She is currently the assistant executive director for the Hidalgo County Bar Association (HCBA) and the Hidalgo County Bar Foundation (HCBF). These organizations are a branch of the State Bar of Texas. Bernadette organizes continuing legal education seminars that provide the hours that are needed to stay licensed in the State of Texas. The HCBF also provides public service programs that Bernadette assists with such as Wills for Veterans and the Law Day Contest Scholarships. Her current position has triggered her interest in legal and immigration policy. Bernadette is currently a graduate student at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley pursuing a public affairs degree.
Pedro Antonio Rangel | UT Rio Grande Valley
U.S. Congressman Marc Veasey
Pedro Antonio Rangel is a graduate student at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley pursuing a master's of science in social work with a concentration in community practice and administration. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. As part of his social work internship, Pedro has interned at Doctor's Hospital at Renaissance - Family Medicine Center (in partnership with the UTRGV School of Medicine) where he works with professional staff assisting patience in need of social services such as health insurance, social welfare programs, and providing clinical assessments/intakes. He has extensive experience delivering community service and civic engagement through summer mentoring programs, leadership development, and local health awareness events. Pedro has been a recipient of the Who's Who Award in American Universities and Colleges for three consecutive years throughout his undergraduate studies. He hopes to one day utilize public policy to better advocate and promote social justice for the Rio Grande Valley population by improving the social services that are provided within the areas of mental health, adult/child care, domestic violence, and housing/transportation.
Jordan Riddell | UT Dallas
U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions
Jordan Riddell is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in criminology from The University of Texas at Dallas. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor of arts in criminology from The University of Texas at Dallas. Jordan has worked with a research team at UT Dallas that focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of a program designed to increase the academic achievement of middle school and high school students. His interests include traveling, hiking, and researching the relationship between video games and juvenile delinquency.
UT School of Public Health
National Association of County and City Health Officials
Debra Rios is a doctoral candidate in health promotion and behavioral sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center - School of Public Health. She received her bachelor’s degree in health from Texas A&M University and her master’s in health promotion from Indiana University. Debra is also a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). Her current interests are in health disparities, specifically, how psychosocial factors affect health behaviors in racial/ethnic minorities and low socioeconomic status populations. Debra has experience working in a variety of public health settings and focus areas including worksite wellness, teenage pregnancy prevention, tobacco research/prevention, and obesity prevention. Her career goal is to utilize her public health expertise to develop significant health policies that will create health equality for disadvantaged populations.
UT School of Public Health
Excelencia in Education
Shangir Siddique is a graduate student at The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, School of Public Health, where he is pursuing an master's of public health in Epidemiology. His research interests focus on specific disease prevalence in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the most severely underserved areas in the United States. He is also interested in global public health relating to the effects of poverty on healthcare. Shangir has maintained a 4.0 during his graduate studies, as well as during his undergraduate years at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. While an undergraduate biology honors student, he served on the Student Government Association as the vice president and held various on-campus jobs including academic tutor, research assistant, and laboratory assistant. He has also volunteered at Valley Regional Medical Center for four years and established a library in the pediatric department during his time as president of the Junior Auxiliary Volunteer Program. As part of the Early Medical School Acceptance Program, Shangir will attend medical school and eventually become a public health advocate for underserved communities. His hobbies include reading late into the night and engaging in various discussions with his peers regarding current affairs.
Wei-Ling Sun | UT Austin
Wei-Ling Sun is a doctoral student in the Educational Policy and Planning Program at The University of Texas at Austin. She holds dual master’s degrees in Curriculum Studies and Cooperative Superintendency Program from UT Austin. Her research interests include the influence of K-12 social justice education leadership in the neighborhood of vulnerable population, school discipline policy reforms, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders identity politics in public schools. After nine years of teaching and leadership experience in different school districts, Wei-Ling decided to focus her passion in education to analyze and evaluate education policies and to contribute her civic service for more positive social impact in historically marginalized populations.
Ashley Thibodeau | UT Austin
The University of Texas System - Office of Federal Relations
Ashley Thibodeau is a master’s student in the College and University Student Personnel Administration program at The University of Texas at Austin. Her interests are centered on equity and access in higher education, specifically within curricular policy. Ashley holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Louisiana State University (LSU). Ashley began working in education in high school and incorporated it into her studies of cultural analysis and composition at LSU. Since graduating in 2014, she has worked in community outreach at The University of Nebraska, Omaha, and athletics at The University of California, Los Angeles. Currently, she acts as a graduate assistant in the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence where she coordinates the writing center and is a teaching assistant for Dr. Leonard Moore. Ashley is also an Enrollment Support Specialist in admissions, where she works with the Vice Provost of Enrollment Management.
Nikki Thrikutam | UT Southwestern
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Pandemic and Emerging Threats
Nikki Thrikutam is currently pursuing dual medical and master’s in public health (M.D./M.P.H.) degrees at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW). She graduated with highest honors from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry as well as a certificate in business foundations. Her interests include the care (and improving access to care) of vulnerable populations (HIV/AIDS, LGBT, victims of abuse, etc.). Nikki is currently a member of the student government at UTSW. In addition, she is the clinic expansion manager at a student-run free clinic in north Dallas, (The Monday Clinic). She is also actively interested in clinical research and is currently working on a neuroradiology project focusing on the applications of fMRI in neurosurgery. In the future, she hopes to be a practicing surgeon but also work for an organization focused on public health delivery, like the World Health Organization.
Jorge Villarreal | UT San Antonio
Institute for Policy Studies
Jorge Villarreal is a Public Administration graduate student at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). A Harlingen native, he received his B.A. in Political Science from UTSA in 2012. During his time in the Alamo City, he has amassed a bevy of political experience on board successful local, state, and federal political campaigns, as well as organizing alongside Public Citizen to pass a campus-wide environmental surcharge that has since raised nearly $400,000 annually for student-centered sustainability initiatives. Currently, he serves as a Business Research Analyst with SBDCNet, a partnership between UTSA and the Small Business Administration. Additionally, he serves on the board of local civic engagement nonprofit, MOVE San Antonio.
Scott Vitter | UT Austin
U.S. Department of Energy, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)
Scott Vitter is a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to arriving in Austin, Scott spent more than four years as an Engineer Officer in the U.S. Army. During a deployment to Afghanistan, Scott developed an interest in integrated energy and water systems and tradeoffs at the municipal and residential scale. Scott is currently working with Pecan Street Inc. and the University Municipal Water Consortium on a project that is using advanced metering technologies to better understand patterns of water use within the home. Scott graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame. On campus, Scott is active member of the Longhorn Energy Club and the Graduate Engineering Council.