Summer 2017 Graduate Program in Public Policy Fellows
Babatunde Adeleye | UT Arlington
Babatunde Adeleye is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration at The University of Texas at Arlington. He is from Lagos, Nigeria, and received his bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Before moving to the United States, he served in the Lagos Anti-Drug and Violence Campaign as press secretary and program coordinator. After graduating, Adeleye was a drilling fluids engineer for Schlumberger in the oilfields of Oklahoma. He currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, where he is a fellow and the Assistant Field Organizer at MOVE San Antonio, a local civic engagement organization. Adeleye was featured in the October 2016 cover story of The Nation for his work on voting rights and social advocacy. As an Archer Graduate Fellow, he hopes to learn how the federal policy-making process intersects with global policy.
Sanjana Balachandra | UT Southwestern Medical Center
American Cancer Society
Sanjana Balachandra is a first-year medical student at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. She holds a Bachelor of Science and Arts in biology and a Business Foundations Certificate from The University of Texas at Austin. At UT Southwestern, Balachandra is the representative of her class to the Association of American Medical Colleges, where she advocates on behalf of her school on issues such as diversity, mental health and curriculum reform. She is also the co-founder of the Ambassadors Committee, a mentorship program to help new medical students transition into medical school. Prior to graduate school, Balachandra conducted research on high-risk pregnancies. She also volunteered to lead science projects with middle school students. Balachandra is passionate about health policy topics, particularly the Affordable Care Act and the opioid epidemic crisis. She hopes to pursue a career as an academic surgeon and continue her work in health policy. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, exercising and cooking, and she is looking forward to enjoying her hobbies in D.C. with her Graduate Program in Public Policy cohort.
Aabiya Baqai | UT Arlington
Aabiya Baqai is a public policy major at The University of Texas at Arlington. Originally from Saudi Arabia, Baqai is an advocate for community service and development, and strives to find creative ways to tackle welfare issues in her society. In addition to her work developing well-designed spaces for underprivileged communities, she is also the co-founder of Jeddah Youthista, a public speaking platform for young women in her hometown. As a graduate student, Baqai has continued her commitment to community service through volunteering programs at The University of Texas at Arlington. She aims to apply her experience toward finding policy solutions to community deprivation problems such as education, employment, immigration and housing. Baqai hopes to work for the United Nations and also continue supporting efforts to improve the lives of underprivileged communities in her country.
Natasha Bylenok | UT Austin
Office of Management and Budget
Natasha Bylenok is pursuing a master’s degree in public affairs at The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs. She received her Bachelor of Arts with Honors from the University of Auckland in May 2013 and, prior to that, she also attended the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Bylenok is currently a Graduate Fellow with the Center for Politics & Governance at UT Austin and is the president-elect of the Graduate Public Affairs Council. She is passionate about public service and evidence-based policy.
Marlene Campus | UT Dallas
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Marlene Campos is pursuing a master’s degree in international political economy with a concentration in development at The University of Texas at Dallas. She is from Dallas, Texas, and also earned her Bachelor of Science in international political economy with a minor in Spanish/Hispanic area studies from The University of Texas at Dallas. Campos is passionate about serving her local community and organized numerous volunteer events supporting local and international organizations. She worked to encourage at-risk students to achieve higher education goals through the AVID program and AmeriCorps. Campos has also served with the International Rescue Committee in the resettlement of refugee families. She raised awareness about global issues through her internship with the programs department at the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth. Her goal is to develop long-term policies to foster sustainable country development and improve global welfare. In her free time, Campos enjoys studying new languages and cultures, particularly Japanese and South Korean.
Andrea Clark Gomez | UT Austin
Andrea Clark Gomez is pursuing a master’s degree in Latin American studies at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Gomez has conducted ethnographic work in Nicaragua and Venezuela on race and ethnicity and women's rights. During her time at UT Austin, Gomez has also led educational programs for undergraduate students focusing on social justice and community-engagement. Gomez plans to pursue a career in human rights advocacy.
James Coviello | UT El Paso
Committee for Economic Development
James Coviello is a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations at The University of Texas at El Paso. His research focuses on the interaction of leadership, decision-making and policy implementation. Before pursuing his doctorate, Coviello was a classroom teacher for ten years in New York and New Jersey. He moved to El Paso after marrying his wife, an officer in the U.S. Army. He earned his undergraduate degree in music history from Syracuse University and his master’s degree in teaching from St. Peter’s University.
Sussana Elkassih | UT Southwestern Medical Center
National Institutes of Health
Sussana Elkassih is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow pursuing a doctorate in chemistry at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) in Dallas. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and biochemistry from The University of Texas at Dallas. Her current research at UTSW focuses on using a materials chemistry approach to design and synthesize delivery systems for cancer therapeutics. Passionate about the intersection of research, science policy, and patent law, Elkassih wants to help scientists protect their work and make scientific developments more accessible to the public. After completing her Ph.D. in chemistry, she aims to attend law school to study intellectual property law and specialize in patent law. Her long-term career goals are to work in a life sciences and health care regulatory practice group and provide comprehensive policy solutions for a broad range of leaders in both the academic and health care sector. Elkassih participated in the UTSW Office for Technology Development Internship Program and is a part of the UTSW Postdoctoral and Graduate Student Committee for the Cancer Center Translational and Nanomedicine Seminar Series. She also participates in several outreach activities with the Science Teacher Access to Resources at Southwestern Program. In her free time, Elkassih loves to run, travel, hike and spend time with family and friends.
Eliza Epstein | UT Austin
Council of Chief State School Officers
Eliza Epstein is a doctoral student studying educational policy and planning at The University of Texas at Austin. She holds bachelor's degrees in Spanish and history from Rutgers University and a master’s degree in social science and comparative education from UCLA. Before her graduate work, she left a decade-long career as a film editor to teach high school English and coach track in Los Angeles. Her predominant research interest is educational equity through mechanisms such as choice, teacher development, school/community partnerships, and innovative, student-centered curriculum. After graduation, she will continue her research and work to advance policies that support educational equity.
Priyanka Gaur | UT Southwestern Medical Center
National Partnership for Women and Families
Priyanka Gaur is an M.D./M.P.H. student at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. She enjoys studying the policymaking institutions that shape health care programs. Guar believes that progress in our current political and health environment will be achieved through ethical leadership and comprehensive policy research, particularly in the pursuit of economically responsible reform that addresses existing deficiencies in our legal and economic institutions. Upon graduating in May 2020, she hopes to begin a residency program in internal medicine. She imagines a medical career in academia with hopes to practice, educate and continue research in public health.
Meghan Haffey | UT Health Science Center at Houston - School of Public Health
National Association of County and City Health Officials
Meghan Haffey is an M.P.H. graduate student in epidemiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health. Haffey has chosen to pursue a career in public health because of her passion for health and wellness, disease prevention and control, and her love of people of all cultures and strong desire to serve them. Her experience includes research in asthma and cancer prevention, the effects of nutrition on disease and health education service to the Hispanic community. She is fluent in Spanish, proficient in Chinese, and she plans to advocate for promotion of healthy behaviors, communities and environments in various settings.
Christie Holland | UT Arlington
Nspire Green, LLC
Christie Holland, a first-generation college student from St. Louis, decided to use her passion for studying people and cultures as the driving force behind obtaining a master’s degree in city and regional planning and a master’s degree in public policy at The University of Texas at Arlington. Holland is passionate about equipping individuals with the necessary tools to drive and improve their quality of life. When she is not studying or working, Holland can be found working out, watching movies while enjoying a large veggie pizza and building her company that promotes finding inner peace.
UT Southwestern Medical Center
National Institutes of Health
Amita Kulshreshtha is an M.D./M.P.H. student at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW). She received her bachelor's degree in biochemistry from UT Austin. Her public health interests include mental health, hematology/oncology, pediatrics and women's health. At UTSW she is a manager of the Union Gospel Mission clinics, which serve the Dallas-area homeless population. She wants to work in health policy to increase accessibility to health care. Kulshreshtha has conducted research at the Dallas VA Medical Center and at the Baylor University Medical Center.
Bernadette Labrado | UT Austin
White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
Bernadette Labrado is a master’s student studying education policy in the Education Administration program at the School of Education at The University of Texas at Austin. As a former fourth-grade teacher, she is committed to quality education for all students regardless of socio-economic status, race or gender. Her dedication to her students and community earned her the Teacher of the Month award in December 2015. She recently contributed to education, health, and veteran’s affairs legislation as an intern in the office of Texas House Representative Diana Arévalo. After obtaining her master’s degree, Labrado plans to continue her work in education policy as an advocate.
Addison Larson | UT Dallas
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities
Addison Larson is pursuing a master’s degree in geospatial information sciences at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD). She previously graduated with honors from UTD with an undergraduate degree in international political economy. As an undergraduate, Larson gained extensive experience in data science and worked as a statistics tutor for two years. She intends to pursue a career in urban planning and policy. Larson is proficient in French and Arabic, and studied in Oman through the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship Program. Her other interests include pottery, landscape photography, golf and skiing.
Claire Miller | UT Austin
U.S. Congressman Will Hurd
Claire Miller is a graduate student in the Engineering Management program at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Initially, Miller aimed to use her graduate education to improve business processes in her workplace. During the course of her studies, she developed a desire to apply her engineering skills to cyber security policy issues. Her academic and policy interests center on emerging gaps in communication interfaces and outlining cyber security policy responsibilities. When she is not studying or working, Miller enjoys listening to podcasts, reading and board games with her friends.
Rachel Neely | UT Austin
Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy/Office of Senator Mark Warner
Rachel Neely is pursuing a master’s degree in social work at The University of Texas at Austin, with a concentration in administration and policy practice. She currently works with older adults through her social work internship with Family Eldercare, a nonprofit in Austin. Neely is from Richlands, Virginia, and holds a bachelor’s degree in English from The College of William and Mary. Before beginning her graduate studies, she was a Fellow in the Office of Community Engagement at William & Mary. Neely’s policy interests include housing policy, specifically housing insecurity experienced by older adults.
Elizabeth Petruy | UT Austin
National Children's Alliance
Elizabeth Petruy is pursuing her master’s degree in public affairs with a concentration in nonprofit studies at The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in criminology from The University of Texas at Dallas. Dedicated to public service and civic engagement at a local level, Petruy served as a Community Coordinator for the Dallas arts nonprofit Art Conspiracy and as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in Collin County, Texas. Her policy interests include education, criminal justice reform and the efficacy of public-private partnerships. She hopes to pursue a career in public sector consulting or government affairs within the nonprofit sector.
Jack Porter Jr. | UT Arlington
Institute for Higher Education Policy
Jack Porter Jr. is pursuing his master's degree in education policy with an emphasis in higher education policy, at The University of Texas at Arlington. As the Graduate Assistant to the Director of Student Planning, Assessment, and Success, Porter primarily worked on the University's new first year experience program. He was also founder and President of Malala's Mavericks, a student-led local chapter of the Malala Fund. He is most passionate about providing access and promoting success for traditionally under-served students in higher education. As a former college pitcher, he enjoys exercising and watching sports in his spare time.
Jeremiah Rivera | UT San Antonio
Excelencia in Education
Jeremiah Rivera is a Master of Public Administration candidate at The University of Texas at San Antonio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in political science at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Rivera worked for the State of Michigan, served as an AmeriCorps VISTA and recently got involved with the My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio initiative. His research interests involve issues that disproportionately affect people of color, such as the school-to-prison pipeline and voters’ rights restrictions. Rivera’s career goals include advocating for organizations that empower the people of San Antonio.
Yesenia Roman | UT Austin
UT System Office of Federal Relations
Yesenia Roman is pursuing a master’s degree in higher education leadership at The University of Texas at Austin. Her professional interests include student success initiatives and issues of social justice, equity, and diversity in higher education. Roman holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During her time at UIUC, she was a Ronald E. McNair Research Scholar and studied bilingualism and language acquisition in Latino children. After graduating, she joined Teach for America and taught middle school and high school Spanish. Roman is currently a Graduate Assistant for the Office of Student Success and Recruitment in the College of Education. She also works with Student Programs and the Events CoSponsorship Board at University Unions.
Disha Sahu| UT Austin
D.C. Office of Planning
Disha Sahu is an Urbanist-in-the-making, an architect and a keen city traveler with a sketchpad. Currently, she is pursuing her graduate studies in community and regional planning at The University of Texas at Austin with a focus on integration of transportation and land use. She is interested in making cities vibrant places to produce, consume and nurture life. As an architect, she is also interested in issues of historic conservation, identities of places, learning from vernacular practices and third world Urbanism. In her free time, she likes to travel to cities with her little sketch pad and draw a string of memories with her ink pen. Her travelogue is called inking nostalgia and can be accessed on www.dishasahu.com.
Frank Sarno |UT Austin
Office of Management and Budget
Frank Sarno is a first year Master of Public Affairs student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to attending LBJ, Sarno served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. He previously worked in the Georgia Legislature, on several political campaigns and is currently working on the child welfare team on the Child and Family Research Partnership at UT Austin. Sarno is pursuing a career in Washington D.C. where he plans to work on economic welfare policy.
Jolie Schafer |
UT MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Health and Human Services
Jolie Schafer is a graduate student pursuing her Ph.D. in immunology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her research focuses on using immune cells called “natural killer” cells to develop possible treatments for leukemia. Schafer holds a Bachelor of Science degree in both biology and biochemistry molecular biology from Houston Baptist University, where she was a captain for the division-1 volleyball team. She serves as president of the First Generation Student Association at her graduate school, as well as the president of the Immunology Graduate Student Program. She is passionate about serving others and is excited to learn how scientists can influence policy and government decision-making.
Michael Scott | UT Austin
National Center for Education Research
Michael Scott is a Ph.D. student in the Educational Policy and Planning program in the Department of Educational Administration and a graduate research trainee at the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin. He graduated from The University of Virginia with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and history and a master's degree in teaching. He also holds a master's degree in Spanish linguistics from Middlebury College. His research on equal educational opportunity utilizes ethnographic and quantitative methods to examine the intersection of schools and communities, particularly immigrant students in urban neighborhoods.
Jessica Serna | UT Tyler
America's Essential Hospitals/Office of Congressman Kevin Brady
Jessica Serna is a pursuing dual masters’ degrees in nursing administration and business administration from The University of Texas at Tyler. She earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing from The University of Texas at Arlington. Serna has been a registered nurse since 2009, and most recently served as a Clinical Value Analysis Coordinator. She is inspired to learn more about health care policy; specifically value based purchasing and improving access to care. Serna’s policy interests include type 1 diabetes advocacy and community health and wellness promotion.
Allie Swatek | UT Austin
National Defense University
Allie Swatek is pursuing her Master of Public Affairs at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. Her specific policy interests include transitional economies and the impact of political and economic changes on national security. Previously, she worked at JPMorgan Chase in the Corporate Responsibility department, supporting the government relations team and managing interactions with lobbying, campaign finance and ethics agencies on a local, state, federal and international level. She also spent two years helping citywide candidates run for public office at the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Swatek graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Arts in political history.
Deidra Tafolla | UT Rio Grande Valley
League of United Latin American Citizens
Deidra Tafolla holds a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders from The University of Texas at Austin. She is pursuing a master’s degree in bilingual education with a specialization in English as a second language at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. As a graduate assistant in the Center for Bilingual Studies Office, she examines critical issues of bilingualism and biliteracy and the impact on children, schools, families and communities. After graduation, Tafolla hopes to pursue her doctorate degree in bilingual education and become a bilingual teacher in the Rio Grande Valley.
Emmanuel Torres | UT Rio Grande Valley
U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Emmanuel Torres is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy with a business administration minor from Texas A&M University in College Station. As a graduate assistant in the college of business, Torres has been instrumental in conducting research, teaching, and helping local entrepreneurs create solvent companies. Emmanuel hopes to apply leading market research and start-up business methodologies to help Hispanic entrepreneurs thrive in the business world.
Carolina Vela | UT Health Science Center at Houston - School of Public Health
League of United Latin American Citizens
Carolina Vela is pursuing a Master of Public Health with an interest in policy at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health in Brownsville, Texas. She also holds a Bachelor of Science from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley where she majored in biology. She was the recipient of the Alliance Merck Ciencia Scholarship and studied abroad in Australia. Vela recently interned at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, where she gained valuable laboratory experience. She plans to return to the NIH after completing her graduate studies. In the future, she hopes to attend dental school and then serve her community by incorporating her knowledge of dentistry and public health policy.
Joaquin Villegas | UT Health Science Center at Houston - School of Public Health
New America Foundation, International Security Program
Joaquin Villegas was born in Mexico and began his education at the South Texas High School for Health Professions in Mercedes, Texas. After graduating from Texas A&M University in College Station, Villegas attended and graduated from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School. During his time in medical school, Villegas developed an interest in international medicine through his participation in the Max Kade Clinical Clerkship program in Vienna, Austria. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health and focuses primarily on management, policy and community health with a concentration in maternal and child health.