The Equity & Inclusion Fellowship program supports the participation of students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds at the Annual Fall Research Conference. The goal of this fellowship program is to introduce recipients to the world of public policy and APPAM and foster a lifelong affiliation and engagement with both. Special thanks to the Equity & Inclusion Fellowship Selection Committee for reviewing applications and selecting the recipients.
Congratulations to the 2022 Equity & Inclusion Fellowship recipients!
Abigail Banan, Purdue University
Ren-Neasha Blake Gilmore, Old Dominion University
Clement Boaheng, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Jessica Boyle Drescher, Stanford University
María Fernanda Cabezas, Brandeis University
Sih-Ting Cai, University of Pittsburgh
Justin Campos, New York University
Monica Cardenas Guzman, University of Maryland, College Park
Samantha Chapa, University of Houston
Cara Clase, University of Delaware
Avni Gupta, New York University
Eric Henderson, University of California, Los Angeles
Kimberly Higuera, Stanford University
Theodore Johnson, University of Nebraska, Omaha
Tasnim Ahmed Mahin, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Hannah Mason, Vanderbilt University
Dillon McGill, Vanderbilt University
Frania Mendoza Lua, University of Chicago
Erica Menjivar, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Hortense Minishi, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Fabiola Mora, Colorado State University
Mingean Park, Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg
Shela Pennington, Portland State University
Vanea Pharr, Old Dominion University
Jasmine Platt, Boise State University
Annie Ponce, Boise State University
Ariel Powell, Florida International University
Tsewang Rigzin, Columbia University
Sarah Riley, Cornell University
David Seaman, Georgetown University
Isaac Sederbaum, University of Washington
Hasan Shahid, Georgia State University
Taylor West, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Tiffany Wu, University of Michigan
Angela Wyse, University of Chicago
Shirley Xu, Vanderbilt University
Meng Ye, Georgia State University
Paula Ximena Zamora Riano, Texas A&M University
Manny Zapata, University of Maryland, College Park
I am an economics PhD candidate in the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. My research is primarily focused on public economics topics that include crime, risky behavior, and early childhood development. In addition to research, I am passionate about teaching. I love being in a classroom. I serve as the Vice President of Teaching for the Krannert Doctoral Student Association.
I am an Indiana native and come from a large family. I graduated from Indiana University in 2014, so I feel like I have had the best of both worlds having attended both I.U. and Purdue. In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends, playing guitar and pianoRe, watching movies, and reading.
Ren-Neasha Blake Gilmore
Ren-Neasha is a Fulbright Foreign Student Scholar from Jamaica. She is a doctoral candidate and graduate researcher at Old Dominion University (ODU), pursuing public administration and urban policy. Her research examines information and communications technology (ICT) within coastal resilience planning. At ODU, Ren-Neasha is the president of the Fulbright Student Organization and co-vice president of the International Student Advisory Board. She was the 2022 recipient of the Mentoring Leader of the Year Award. In 2020, she received Jamaica’s Prime Minister National Youth Awards for Excellence in Academics. She also founded A1 Research Consultancy Agency, a Jamaica-based company that specializes in academic and policy research.
Ren-Neasha completed internships with the Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations in New York, and at the Public Affairs Section, United States Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. More recently, she completed the Don Lavoie Fellowship and pre-degree training as a resiliency specialist, City of Hampton, Virginia. She will spend the next several months working on her dissertation while participating in the Frédéric Bastiat Fellowship through Mercatus Center. She prides herself as a cosmopolitan country girl, from humble beginnings to global opportunities. Ren-Neasha is committed to learning, growing, and evolving in all areas of her life.
Clement Boaheng is a dual master's candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass). His dual master programs are in Public Health (health policy and management concentration) and Public Policy and Administration. Mr. Boaheng is from Worcester, MA and his roots are from the country of Ghana ( West Africa). Mr. Boaheng hopes to work at the intersection of health and policy. He hopes to help advance health equity for historically marginalized and disparaged communities. Mr. Boaheng has always been an advocate for marginalized communities and hopes that his work will create an equitable amount of wellness for all communities in the United States.
Mr. Boaheng supports the Health in All Policy (HiAP) approach, which emphasizes the significance of holistic policy making that takes into account health considerations. Mr. Boaheng hopes that advancing equity will address the structural racism and discrimination that laws and policies in the United States are rooted in. Mr. Boaheng wants to create a society that gives all individuals, no matter their background or walk of life an opportunity at holistic wellness. Wellness comes in many forms, but has a foundation in having needs met, allowing opportunity for growth, and creating legitimate chances of success.
Jessica Boyle Drecher
Jessica is a doctoral candidate in education policy at Stanford University and a Health Policy Research Scholar at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She received her M.Ed. in education policy and management at Harvard University and her B.A. in sociology at Colby College. Prior to Stanford, she spent several years working at Harvard’s Education Redesign Lab, where she focused on the role of city government in addressing the iron-law correlation between socioeconomic status and education outcomes. Shaped by her experiences as an unaccompanied homeless youth and first-generation college student, Jessica researches education as a lever of social mobility and explores the potential of big data to inform social policy. Her current projects are focused on examining the relationship between ecological health factors and academic achievement, with a particular focus on the opioid crisis.
María Fernanda Cabezas
María Fernanda Cabezas is an international student at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. She is in her second year pursuing a master's degree program in Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution.
Before studying in the United States, she studied Political Science focused on Public Policy and minored in Economics at the Catholic Univerisity of Chile in her home country. She went to study surveying and process tracing in the Methods School at the Catholic University of Uruguay to strengthen her understanding of research methods. It helped her to develop a mixed methodological thesis on Organized Crime in the city of Santiago. After that, she worked in the Chilean Ministry of Environment evaluating programs focused on environmental sacrifice zones, and at the International Studies Center researching city-port conflicts. Currently, she works for Everyday Peace Indicators, an NGO that conducts participatory research and evaluation in partnership with international organizations and communities affected by conflict. She is interested in public policy that targets conflict, violence, and crime.
Sih-Ting Cai is a doctoral candidate in Health Services Research and Policy with an emphasis on health economics at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research endeavors focus on improving the provision and financing of health care, specializing in policy impacts on dialysis markets and the Health Insurance Marketplaces. She also examines how policies and incentives affect provider behavior and market competition. Sih-Ting is the recipient of Diversity Scholar with the American Society of Health Economists and the Emerging Scholar Award with the North American Taiwanese Professors’ Association in 2022. She is awarded a 2022-2023 Taiwanese Overseas Pioneers Grant from the National Science and Technology Council, Taiwan.
Prior to her doctoral studies, Sih-Ting received her MPA in Health Policy Analysis from New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where she researched the economic burden of ESRD in the US and the effects of gentrification on access to care in New York City. She is also a registered nurse who developed an interest in health care system reform and alternative payment models while practicing in the United States, Australia, and Taiwan.
Justin Campos is at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service working on a Master of Public Administration (MPA) in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy. He also has a Bachelor of Arts with Departmental Honors in the College of Social Studies from Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT). His research interests are within human services programming and poverty alleviation policy. He is particularly interested in the study of short-term, lifecycle, and intergenerational poverty and evaluating interventions designed to address these dynamics of poverty.
He is the editor-in-chief of the NYU Wagner Review, NYU’s public service academic journal. Justin is also currently a philanthropy fellow at the New York Community Trust where he works on grantmaking to projects and programs related to workforce development, education, human justice, human services, and youth development. He was formally at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC working with the Institute’s global economy project that conducted research and analysis on a wide range of economic issues. He is fluent in Spanish.
Monica Cardenas Guzman
My name is Monica Cardenas Guzma, I was born in Mexico and grew up in California. I'm DACAmented, which means I'm also undocumented, I live and work in the US because of a federal executive order policy called Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This was passed by President Obama in June of 2012.
I moved to the east coast to attend the University of Maryland, College Park. I am currently a second-year doc student in the Education Policy program at the College of Education. My research passions include immigrant students and first-generation college students.
Samantha Chapa is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Houston. Her National Science Foundation-funded research focuses on the political rights and representation of migrants and people of color. She has presented work on immigrant inclusion in urban politics, the effects of policy on anti-immigrant sentiment, and the international diffusion of sophisticated migrant tracking methods both domestically and internationally.
Prior to graduate school, Samantha worked as a Department of Justice Accredited Representative with the Immigration and Citizenship program at BakerRipley, a nonprofit in Houston. In this capacity, she provided legal representation to refugees, asylees, immigrant youth, and survivors of abuse. She also worked on the Welcoming Houston initiative, where—along with her team—she proposed inclusive immigrant integration policies to Mayor Sylvester Turner. She completed her Bachelor’s in English and History at Rice University, where she nurtured a love of civic engagement, community development, and local politics.
Cara Clase is an Urban Policy Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Delaware who will soon be making her post-doctoral debut as an energy insecurity researcher. In particular, Cara is interested in the nexus between urban energy insecurity and green housing standards. Cara has a strong background in quantitative research: she received her Bachelor's in Economics and Mathematics from Millersville University and her Master's in Economics at the University of Delaware. Cara is an alumna of the Environmental Fellowship Program at Yale University and a 2021/22 Ford Dissertation Fellowship Alternate. In her spare time, Cara does grant writing for her local animal shelter and participates in musical theatre.
Avni Gupta is a 4th year PhD Candidate in Public Health Policy and Management at the New York University School of Global Public Health. She holds a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and clinical training in Dental Surgery from India. Her research spans questions related to the design of health benefits in the private health insurance market and their impact on access, disparities and costs; health care spending and quality; and implementation of healthcare programs, with an overarching goal of informing policies that support efficiency and equity in health care. Her dissertation focuses on benefits, access, costs and quality of care in Medicare Advantage. She has published more than thirty papers, eleven as first author. She has written blog pieces for Health Affairs and Medicare Care and has presented in several conferences in the US and internationally. Her work has been covered in media outlets such as Reuters, Healthcare IT News, NBC and Wall Street Journal. She enjoys hiking, running, cooking and board games.
Eric Henderson (he/him) is a master's student in Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. His research interests include crime and drug policy, economic justice policy, and social safety net programs. More specifically, he is interested in programs and policies that prevent people from entering the criminal legal system and identifying ways to increase access to social support programs for the most vulnerable. In addition to his studies, Eric works as a graduate student researcher with the UCLA Bunche Center for African American Studies.
Before graduate school, Eric pursued a career in policy advocacy with experience in local and state policy advocacy, community organizing, and budget advocacy. He has a demonstrated track record of working with diverse groups to advance social justice policy and a strong understanding of data analysis and social science research. Eric is a proud non-traditional college student who attended community college before transferring to UCLA. He graduated Cum Laude with departmental honors with a bachelor's degree in Sociology and a minor in African American Studies. While an undergraduate, he researched the effects of incarceration on employment outcomes in a study modeled on the work of the late Dr. Devah Pager.
Kimberly Higuera is an MPP and doctoral candidate in sociology and current DARE fellow from San Diego, California. Between being the daughter of immigrants and having grown up in a border town, her interest in migration was almost inevitable. Her research focuses on contemporary immigrants in the US and how social contexts and policies bolster or inhibit immigrant mobility and wellbeing. Her dissertation explores remittance patterns and behaviors between the U.S. and Mexico, the social meaning remitters and receivers attach to these remittance transactions, and how these transactions impact relationships across borders.
She got her B.A in sociology with minors in Child Research and Policy and Latinx Studies from Duke University. Before graduate school, she worked in Durham, NC with Duke’s Center for Child and Family Policy conducting maternal health research by day and serving as an ESL teacher for adults by night.
Theodore W. Johnson, MPA, is a third-year doctoral student pursuing his doctorate in public administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and is also an Instructor within their Aviation Institute. He teaches several undergraduate courses such as Introduction to Aviation/Aerospace and Diversity in Aviation. Previously, he served as the Aircraft Dispatch Program Director at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) where he taught two senior-level undergraduate courses and assisted over 10 students in earning their Aircraft Dispatcher certificate. Theodore’s career in higher education began when he was selected to lead the program in January 2018, five months after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management. This position melded his passions for aviation and higher education.
Theodore earned his Master of Public Administration degree from EMU in April 2020, further solidifying his commitment to equity and inclusion. His research interests focalize social, racial, and educational equity, and inclusion with especial emphasis on the recruitment/retention of racial minorities to advance equity and promote opportunities in traditionally underrepresented fields (e.g., aviation/aerospace). Currently, Theodore serves on the Board of Directors for the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals and as the Secretary for the American Society of Public Administration’s Section on Transportation Policy & Administration.
Tasnim Ahmed Mahin
I'm a Bangladeshi economist currently working as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Department of Economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where I'm also pursuing my Ph.D. in economics as an Ogle Fellow. My current research interests are in the areas of environmental policy, resilient market design, poverty alleviation, and experiential economics.
I got my undergrad degree in electrical engineering and decided that I wanted to work with people to solve social and economic problems. Before heading to graduate school, I worked in the International Development Enterprises (IDE), Swisscontact, and BRAC on different USAID, FCDO, SDC, and EU funded projects. I've extensive experience in leading action research projects focusing on market systems development (MSD) and social and behavior change (SBC). I've also worked on the Feed the Future initiative. Apart from these, I've been part of several volunteers and civil society organizations in Bangladesh and served in various capacities.
Hannah Mason is currently an Emergent Bilingual Specialist and Instructional Coach in Nashville, Tennessee. Previously, she worked as an English learners (EL) intern at The Century Foundation, focusing on dual-language immersion programs in public schools and conducting quantitative research. In addition to working at TCF, Hannah has conducted qualitative research at NYU’s Center for Policy, Research, and Evaluation. Hannah is currently pursuing a MPP at Vanderbilt University with a specialized concentration of K–12 education policy. She graduated from The University of Georgia with a BA in religion and a minor in teaching English to speakers of other languages. In the future, Hannah hopes to conduct large-scale research projects across the globe that focus on dual language students and low-income black and brown children’s access to high-quality secondary education.
Dillon McGill is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Leadership, Policy, & Organizations at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. His research focuses on the effects of school choice policies and school finance reforms on school and student outcomes. Prior to starting the Ph.D. program, Dillon managed the educator leadership pipeline at Teach For America Phoenix, where he also designed and led the region's diversity, equity, and inclusion professional development sequence for all first- and second-year teachers. He also trained, coached, and consulted with hundreds of teachers and school leaders as the Lead Trainer for the Arizona Charter Schools Association, but his passion for education began in the classroom, where he taught high school English to students in the west valley of Phoenix. He holds a B.A. in sociology from Pepperdine University and an M.A. in education policy from Arizona State University.
Frania Mendoza Lua
Frania Mendoza Lua, MSW is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Her research considers disjointed yet overlapping lines of inquiry– the health of children and youth in immigrant families, immigration policies and enforcement, and social policy. She is interested in examining how these areas intersect, and how this intersection may provide a deeper understanding of Latine individual health, and health disparities in the United States affecting Latine communities. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, Mendoza-Lua’s research underscores the importance of examining policy, social, and cultural factors concurrently to understand health behaviors and health outcomes of Latine communities in the United States.
Prior to pursuing doctoral studies, Mendoza-Lua was a social worker and youth organizer in Washtenaw County, Michigan and managed multiple university and community youth participatory action research projects at the University of Michigan. Mendoza-Lua received a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Michigan, School of Social Work, and Bachelors’ degrees in Political Science and Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles where she was also a Ronald E. McNair Research Scholar.
Erica Menjivar is student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Policy where she is pursuing a Master in Public Policy and Administration. She has devoted a great deal of her research to the intersectionality between race, gender and the social determinants of health in addition to immigration policy and the refugee resettlement experience in the United States. She has contributed to a cross national examination of health equity in relation to obesity, and the gaps within the current welfare systems impeding successful refugee resettlement integration. Her passion for helping others goes beyond the classroom setting, and she started a small philanthropic project geared at aiding impoverished families in Honduras on her own. The project yielded items for more than 100 families in various regions of the country, and school supplies and textbooks for one of the local elementary schools.
Prior to pursuing a masters degree, Erica earned a Bachelors degree in Global Studies from the University of California Riverside with a concentration in Latin American countries.
Hortense is a Fulbright Scholar pursuing her Master of Human Rights at the University of Minnesota-USA with a concentration in International law, International Relations, and International Security. Originally from Kenya, Hortense is a Human Rights Lawyer and holds a Post-graduate Diploma in Law and a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB). Hortense has a deep penchant for human rights and public policy and has worked as a Human Rights Lawyer for over 7 years with varied organizations throughout Sub-Saharan Africa promoting and advocating rights of children, youth and women in the fields of armed conflict, peace, and security, forced displacement, migration, and refugee resettlement. As a Black African woman, she is passionate about advancing equality, diversity, and social justice as well as promoting, protecting, and safeguarding the rights of vulnerable/marginalized groups and under-represented communities. She is currently an intern at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch (DESIB). Her mantra has always been to leave a little sparkle wherever she goes and through the APPAM Fellowship, aspires to inspire others to believe that we can all make a difference in building up stronger, equitable, inclusive communities and the world!
Fabiola Mora (she/her pronouns) is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Higher Education Leadership program at Colorado State University. She has worked in higher education for over ten years addressing access, equity, and justice issues to transform educational environments. Her research interests include examining and challenging systems of power, privilege, and oppression that perpetuate violence on historically minoritized populations in higher education. Specifically, Fabiola is interested in exploring how institutional researchers and data users infuse critical approaches into their work. Because research and data are used to inform institutional and public policy decisions, Fabiola is excited to understand better how equity and justice are embedded in these processes to facilitate organizational and systemic change. Lastly, in her work and research, Fabiola hopes to remain grounded in honoring the lives, the voices, and the humanity of the communities she comes from and serves.
Mingean Park is a third-year Ph.D. student in public administration and policy at the School of Public Affairs at Penn State University Harrisburg. He is trained in public administration and policy and holds an M.P.A. from Rutgers University at Newark and Seoul National University. He was a researcher and a research assistant at research institutes in Korea (National Assembly Budget Office, Gyeonggi Research Institute, Population Association of Korea, Korea Development Institute). He also completed his military service as a sergeant in the Korean army. His research interests include governance, public finance, public health, population, and well-being. He is working on research that studies pro-natalist policies for alleviating low fertility, the effects of the special supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children on maternal and infant health, the association between governance and happiness, trends of the motherhood penalty, and the impact of public service motivation on turnover intention. Most of his work employs quantitative methods and tries to find a unifying theme in social science. He believes that research initiatives can make a better world.