2012 First Year M.P.A. Student Bios
Since childhood, Venu was fascinated by the tangibility of mathematics. She saw its application everywhere around her and learned more about it every day; from figuring out how to divide five chocolates between two of her cousins and herself to deciding the area and interiors of her new room. It was an easy pick for her to pursue an undergraduate degree in the subject from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University. During three years of studying mostly pure mathematics, she realized that she wanted to see the real world application of the analytical skills she was learning. After graduating, she spent the next two years at McKinsey & Company, working across sectors, applying and honing her analytic abilities. Her work at McKinsey slowly showed her how she enjoyed working on cases that involved people metrics, and not just dollars. She started choosing projects like global health and urban planning. Finally, after two years, Venu made the switch to the development sector. She joined Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN), an Indian grassroots non-profit that works directly with the poorest rural farmers, to help them improve their livelihood generating options. She helped the 30 year old non-profit define and start the implementation of their first proactive fundraising strategy. She volunteered within the organization to work with rural farmers on marketing and supply chain initiatives. Over the course of her interactions with women farmers, her admiration of their inherent strength to change their lives became Venu’s motivation to work. Through the Development Studies field at the Woo, she hopes to equip herself most effectively to work with them and help them make the most of their intrinsic abilities. She is also looking forward to owning and riding a bike after nine years, learning to cook food from different cuisines, and having ice-creams at Bent Spoon!
Jaime grew up in crowded, vibrant Mexico City. He learned the word ‘crisis’ being thirteen years old, when his parents almost lost their home in an economic downturn. Ever since, he has been intrigued by how public choices have an effect on people’s lives and how governments can improve social welfare. In the Mexican government, where he worked for the last nine years, he embraced equality and justice as his motivations to work for the public sector. He participated in the organization of the 2006 presidential elections at the Federal Elections Institute, where he helped to implement a campaign designed to foster disadvantaged citizens’ participation in the electoral process. More recently, he worked for the President’s Office, at the National Security Council, where he was in charge of assessing state-level implementation of public security strategies. Jaime is deeply concerned with the obstacles that violence and insecurity pose to development in Latin America. So he arrives to the Woodrow Wilson School with the intention to work on policies aimed to provide citizen security, prevent youth enrollment in criminal activities, reduce violence and build stronger law enforcement institutions in the region. He enjoys employing Mexico’s rural corners along with Diana, his girlfriend; and he can lose track of time when playing with his nine-month old adorable niece.
Mauricio was born and raised in San José, Costa Rica. After graduating with a BA in International Relations at Tufts University, he worked for The Project on Justice in Times of Transition on several peacebuilding projects in Central America and Colombia, and also led a successful national tree-planting campaign in Costa Rica. He was then appointed Minister Counsellor for the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations during Costa Rica’s 2008-2009 term as elected member of the UN Security Council, where he worked as a thematic expert on African issues and later as Security Council Political Coordinator. Following his experience at the UN, Mauricio returned to Costa Rica to focus on corporate social responsibility, working with the Asociación Empresarial para el Desarrollo (AED -- “Association of Businesses for Development”), and its more than 90 member companies to strengthen their corporate volunteering programs and develop public-private partnerships with government ministries, local governments and civil society organizations on issues as diverse as youth unemployment, waste management and public security. He recently helped organize the first TEDx youth event in Costa Rica, and co-founded a youth initiative to creatively promote the sustainable urban renewal of the city of San José through cultural activities, nighttime walking tours, and other programs to promote the use of public spaces. Mauricio is looking forward to an exciting educational and growing experience at the Woodrow Wilson School and plans to return to Costa Rica following graduate school to work on creating and strengthening public-private partnerships for development.
Kidus is an American-born, Ethiopian-raised technologist who has had the privilege to work on many exciting web development projects in Silicon Valley and Washington DC. He has a deep-rooted passion to transform Africa into a technologically driven economy through the establishment of effective science & technology policies and programs. During his time at Woody Woo, he plans to expand his knowledge in policy and engage in research/studies revolving around development studies and science & technology policy. Kidus is a graduate of Duke University with a double major in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering. He most recently lived in the Washington DC area with his wife, Adey. He enjoys watching and playing soccer, and looks forward to many games with his classmates.
Galen grew up on a small lake in Northern Minnesota, swimming with the panfish. Before enrolling at Pomona College, he spent a year as an exchange student in Southern Chile’s Los Lagos region (again with the lakes). While at sunny Pomona, he was active in student government, studied International Relations, and had the opportunity to travel to Cuba for a semester where he made friends with other baseball fanatics. After graduation he opted to remain on the West Coast, diving head-first into politics as a grassroots organizer in Portland, and more recently in Seattle working for labor union-affiliated health care training organizations, helping low-wage workers climb out of poverty. After WWS, Galen hopes to do meaningful work in health care or economic policy.
Mica was born and raised in Oklahoma and studied Public Health and Asian Studies at Texas A&M University with an emphasis on minority and women’s health issues. While a student, she managed programs for disadvantaged individuals, further fostering her passion to serve her community by advocating changes in education and health policy. While working and studying in China, Mica was exposed to extreme economic and health disparities, which prompted her to research gender equality and economic development within the country. Upon graduating with honors, she joined Teach For America and taught high school Biology and Biotechnology in Oakland, California. While teaching, she facilitated a case study for high-school juniors in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, focusing on international business, economics, poverty, and leadership. Most recently, Mica completed the Coro Fellowship, an intensive graduate-level leadership training in Public Affairs. Throughout the fellowship, she performed significant work on collateral and fundraising strategy, civic engagement, consensus building, and negotiation.
Born and raised here in New Jersey, Tommy graduated from Boston College in 2004 with a BA in Political Science and was commissioned as an Armor Officer in the United States Army. Since then he has been stationed around the world in such places as Kentucky, Washington, Germany, and Hawaii with three overseas deployments to Iraq. He is also a General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award winner. After graduating he will head to West Point, NY to teach in the Social Science Department at United States Military Academy. Tommy is married with two children and enjoys spending time with his family and traveling.
In November 2007, despite majoring in Communication and Political Science, Mike found a job. He joined the Social Services Task Force of the New York City Office of Management and Budget. At NYC OMB SSTF, Mike was given progressively more challenging assignments, most of which involved deciphering increasingly complex acronyms. But as the analyst responsible for the finances of the Departments for the Aging, Youth and Community Development, and Social Services, he was in a position to give back. Though, in this case, “giving back” mostly meant “taking away.” Mike’s analysis was used to justify millions in reductions to senior centers, afterschool programs, and welfare benefits - cuts which were about as palatable as the freeze-dried home delivered meals the city provides to poor seniors (which he also cut). After four years in social services, he became a Unit Head in OMB’s Administration of Justice Task Force. His work shifted to the Department of Correction. It became clear to Mike that crime doesn’t pay. Unless you’re a unionized correction officer, in which case it pays $143,000 annually. Mike’s time at OMB has afforded him valuable insight into policymaking, and, in particular, the opportunities for economic analysis. Outside of the office, Mike is a semi-professional distance runner, which means he was too short for the basketball team. Having participated in the 2012 US Marathon Olympic Trials, Mike knows what it takes to drop out at 14 miles with a foot injury. But, hey, it’s only four short years until the next one. Mike also enjoys pizza, Paul Krugman’s beard, and talking about himself in the third person. Oh, and he almost forgot, he’s a native of Staten Is--ah, never mind.
Michelle hails from Severna Park, Maryland, a small town north of Annapolis where she gained a love of social psychology from a decade working with teams and competing with twin sister Emily on the field hockey field. She also enjoys studying the cognitive dynamics of leadership decision-making and pursued a degree from the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond in 2006. After Richmond, she began her career in foreign policy analysis with the federal government and completed a certificate program in political psychology from Stanford University in 2009. Michelle comes to the Woo newly married to Mike Castiglione (MPA ‘07) and plans to use her degree to assume management roles in the federal government.
Samuel is a Coloradoan with a passion for philanthropy’s role in improving his home state. His work on rural development projects at Colorado’s El Pomar Foundation built this interest into a career; he hopes to continue in this work after completing a degree at the Woodrow Wilson School. In concert with his experience at a domestic foundation, he has a keen interest in immigrant and refugee issues, which he has supported as a 100 Projects for Peace grantee in Mexico, a Catholic Charities volunteer, and as a volunteer with NetWork, an organization that supports refugees in Cape Town, South Africa, where he spent a year as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. Samuel is also an avid runner and cyclist, and most recently worked as a cycling guide in Europe before coming to Princeton.
Nicolas has been motivated by the discovering of new cultures and challenges around the world. He grew up in France where he graduated in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Technology of Compiègne (UTC) and worked as a junior consultant in health management at General Electric Healthcare, Paris. A sojourn in Chile gave him a taste of Latin-American culture and a touch of idealism that led him to pursue a career in international affairs and development, beginning with an MA in International Studies at ITESM, Mexico City. Nicolas then collaborated with the Center for Dialogue and Analysis on North America on labor markets issues before joining the human development sphere with Fondo para la Paz (Fund for Peace), an NGO dedicated to poverty alleviation in Mexico. As a regional project manager for the State of Oaxaca, he fostered cooperation schemes through alliances between federal, state, and local governments, international organizations, research institutes, and local NGOs in order to strengthen sustainable development projects in education, food security, health, environment, and social capital. This direct experience with extreme poor indigenous communities reset his assumptions on the roles of civil society and the public and private sectors in poverty alleviation and human development in today’s world. At WWS, Nicolas plans to make the most of all the professors and tools available to him in order to be capable of generating structural changes in development policies and strategies. Without any doubt, eating a good Mexican or Italian dish in a friendly multicultural atmosphere is the best way to provide him with inspiration and energy.
Lindsey grew up in the small town of Port Orchard, Washington, and studied philosophy and history at the University of Washington. As an undergraduate, she spent a summer teaching English in China and studied abroad in Berlin and Ghana, which sparked her interest in international development. Following her graduation, she moved to Washington, DC to work on Capitol Hill for US Senator Patty Murray as a legislative aide for banking and finance regulation, a position she served in from 2007-2009. Having gained an interest in post-Soviet development while studying in Berlin, Lindsey then decided to leave DC for the beautiful country of Ukraine to learn more about Eastern European political and economic development. As a Peace Corps volunteer, she spent two years working with a small town council in southwestern Ukraine, helping council members improve relationships with local NGOs and businesses. Following her Peace Corps service, she received a grant from the German government to conduct research on Ukraine’s economic integration into the European Union, and she spent the 2011-2012 academic year working at a university in Munich, Germany. Lindsey is excited to join the Woo and looking forward to finding a good Thai restaurant in Princeton.
Conor was ensnared by West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea, and continues to seek out Afro-optimists interested in the ongoing African success story. Over the past several years he has assisted US companies investing on the continent at the Corporate Council on Africa, and has solo or co-written a number of successful grants focused on getting the private sector more involved in delivering public goods. In general, Conor looks at development assistance with a skeptical eye (but loves being proved wrong!), and believes that profitability and creative destruction are key to sustainable development. This past summer Conor worked at a web design startup in Washington DC.
Becca is originally from lovely Seattle, WA and went to high school in Beijing, PRC. She graduated from Harvard College in 2008 as a Social Studies concentrator and Russian Studies minor. After working for one year at a law and policy NGO in DC and volunteering for the Election Protection coalition during the 2008 presidential election, she returned to her international roots and joined the US Peace Corps. Becca served as a NGO development volunteer in southern Kazakhstan, working with a women’s rights organization and helping found a new youth NGO promoting human rights, volunteerism and reproductive health. After the Peace Corps, she moved to Osh, Kyrgyzstan with the Aga Khan Development Network, managing a wide portfolio of development projects on health, education, infrastructure, post-conflict rehabilitation, local governance, and climate change adaptation. Becca is pursuing a joint MPA/MBA degree with the Woodrow Wilson School and the Yale School of Management. She is excited to return state-side at long last, and plans to continue her passions of pick-up basketball, karaoke, and mango-eating while at Princeton. After graduate school, she wishes to return to civil society building in post-Communist states.
Muhsin lives in St. Paul, MN. He is a native speaker of Arabic and Kiswahili and has lived in Africa and the Middle East. A Wilson School major with a certificate in Near Eastern studies, he hopes to apply his experience to issues of international development, politics, and law. He studied in Egypt for two summers as an undergraduate and interned at USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) in Nairobi, Kenya during the summer of 2011 as a SINSI scholar.
While earning a BS in Psychology and BA in Sociology at the University of Utah, Jonathan served as Student Body Vice President. After graduating in 2009, he moved to New York City to join Teach For America. While teaching high school global history in Canarsie, Brooklyn, he earned a Master’s of Science in Teaching from Fordham University. When the school year ended, Jonathan spent the summer being a tourist in his own city, doing all the things he had been too busy to do. At Princeton he intends to integrate his experience in education with his interest in urban policy. Jonathan’s career goal is to work in metropolitan city government, advocating for equality in education, resources, and infrastructure.
CC grew up in Iowa City, IA, a tornado and corn-rich area with absolutely delicious pie shakes. During her undergraduate years at George Washington University, she developed a strong interest in philosophy, anthropology, and international affairs. In Washington DC, she took on a variety of jobs, including coaching policy debate, serving at a vegan restaurant, canvassing for Obama, working at the Saudi Arabian Embassy, teaching Chinese, and conducting anthropological research on the politicization of science. After dabbling in environmental ethics and complexity science at Peking University in Beijing, CC decided to pursue a career finding optimal methods to integrate social systems and environmental systems. After graduation, she translated comparative philosophy before working on climate change and soil remediation projects for an environmental consulting firm. For the past year, she worked at the Natural Resources Defense Council on a project aimed at improving industrial energy efficiency and supply chain policies for the textile sector. In her free time, CC loves watching documentaries and movies, reading fiction, playing with her dog, and listening to music. She is also a loyal admirer of Marvin Gaye, Lao-Tzu, Haruki Murakami, and Rumi.
Kennji was a culture and politics major in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown and completed a certificate in African Studies. After graduating, he worked with the Treatment Action Campaign in Cape Town, Human Rights Watch in New York City, and the International Labour Organization in Lusaka. In 2009, he was a Rotary Scholar in the Development Studies Department at the University of Zambia. Currently a joint JD candidate at UC Berkeley School of Law, Kennji is a member of the California Law Review, and has devoted much of his time to refugee and children’s rights issues. He spent the past two summers at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Geneva working on a project related to displaced children’s access to education in the Republic of Georgia, and with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kuala Lumpur.
Hailing from the Bronx, New York, Chris is a joint degree student at Berkeley Law. After a middling (at best) collegiate track career, he realized he could better serve the world by pursuing a career in social justice. After college, he worked on environmental organizing and greenbuilding efforts in Atlanta before landing at the Innocence Project in New York. At the Innocence Project, he was humbled to work for incarcerated clients who had been convicted of crimes that they did not commit. Realizing just how fundamentally broken the criminal justice system is, he went to law school to defend people accused of crimes. In law school, he had the opportunity to work for clients at the Texas Defender Service, the Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic, and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. After graduation, Chris hopes to become a public defender, before turning to wider criminal justice reform.
Kathleen moved often while growing up in a military family, but considers Fairfax, Virginia home. After graduating from Georgetown University, she served in the Army as an officer and deployed during the Surge to Baghdad, Iraq. The past several years she has worked as a government consultant and currently serves in the Army Reserves. Kathleen serves on the board of directors for Thomas Jerome House, a non-profit organization that seeks to provide long-term housing options for veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. She was awarded a scholarship by the Pat Tillman Foundation and is serving as a Tillman Military Scholar while at the Woodrow Wilson School. In addition to her interest in international relations, which she will be studying at the Woodrow Wilson School, Kathleen enjoys traveling, reading, and running.
Steve’s affinity for President Obama began back in 2004, when the then-Senator pronounced, in his speech to the Democratic National Convention, that America has a place for skinny kids with funny names. After graduating from Brown University in 2008, Steve joined Obama for America as an advance staffer, traveling to battleground states to stage campaign events. During this time, he developed a sophisticated palette for the free continental breakfasts offered by budget hotels across the country. For most of the past three and half years, he lived in Washington DC and worked at the White House. Steve’s interest in studying energy and climate change policy at WWS originated in his work for the White House’s Office of Energy and Climate Change, which sought to shepherd cap-and-trade legislation through Congress and manage the federal response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. More recently, he has worked to support the domestic manufacturing sector for the National Economic Council, the main economic policymaking body within the executive branch. Although he has taken up semi-permanent residence on the East Coast, Steve will hold forth endlessly about how his home state of Minnesota is not simply flyover country, and regards the vestiges of his Midwestern accent as a point of pride. When he’s not trying to explain what -- and how delicious -- cheese curds are, Steve can be found trying to teach himself to cook, play guitar, and enjoy international soccer, exercising in the form of running, biking, or pick-up basketball, and noodling over the New York Times crossword puzzle or his fantasy football roster.
Born and raised in Pakistan as the daughter of a civil servant, Zara is no stranger to the likes of public policy and the impact it can have on people’s lives when implemented correctly. Her childhood experiences stirred her interest in the study of development economics, which is what she majored in during her undergraduate as well. However, it was not until she was introduced to the field of Microfinance that Zara found a specialization within development economics that encouraged her optimism as an economics major, while simultaneously keeping her abreast of the complexities of development that exist outside text books. For the past two years, she worked at a microfinance and SME finance consultancy firm known as ShoreBank International, with its head offices in Washington DC. Her main interests lie in the field of financial inclusion and the enhancement of financial services in low income individuals, something she is deeply passionate about. More recently, Zara has also been involved with institutional assessments of microfinance institutions in Iraq and Lebanon.
Nathan graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Anthropology, a minor in English, and a certification in Environmental Ethics. At Georgia he also played club lacrosse, and was very fortunate to be part of the Foundation Fellows program. For the first couple of years following graduation, he vacillated between environmental organizations and also did his best impression of being a truly dirty bum - climbing, skiing, and generally scrounging around in a variety of tents, hostels, and employee housing rooms. He ultimately ended up with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency in Aspen, CO, where he was most recently the Executive Director. Nathan got married on Memorial Day weekend 2012 and spent the summer traveling in Indonesia! At the WWS, he will be broadly studying energy, environmental, and climate related issues. After graduation, Nathan hopes to win the lottery, but he will most likely continue working in the energy and environmental sector.
Pierina was born and raised in New York City and the Bronx, and after graduating Harvard University with a BA in psychology, returned home to serve her local community through the New York City Council. While there, she held several positions at her local Councilmember’s office including Director of Constituent Services, Budget, and Press & Legislation. While in New York, Pierina spent much of her free time volunteering. She served on the Governing Board of Union Community Health Center, a federally qualified health center look-alike in the Bronx serving 25,000 patients each year; on the planning committee for the Dominican American National Roundtable Youth Fellowship Program, an organization dedicated to advancing the status of Dominican and Dominican-Americans in the US; on the Young Leadership Board of New York Needs You, an organization dedicated to helping first-generation college students realize their career potential; and on the New York Area Committee of the Harvard Center for Public Interest Careers, an organization that engages Harvard undergraduates and recent graduates in expanding awareness and exploration of careers in public service. Pierina was also a proud member of the Bronx Young Democrats, an organization dedicated to developing young leaders in the Bronx. Before beginning at WWS at Princeton, Pierina interned in the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence. At WWS, Pierina will concentrate in the domestic policy field with a certificate in urban policy and planning. She is particularly interested in the economic, political and social dimensions of achievement inequality in the U.S. along racial, gender and socio-economic lines. Pierina enjoys salsa dancing, martial arts, camping and hiking.
Matthew grew up outside Boston and attended Brown University, where he majored in Urban Studies, sang in an a cappella group, and rode his bicycle across the country as part of a fundraiser for affordable housing organizations. In his junior year, he started interning and then working part-time for the city of Providence, where he focused on poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. After graduation, he took a full-time position in the mayor’s office as policy associate. Two years later, he moved to California and started working as a researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in the community development department. At the Fed, he produced reports and papers on a range of topics related to low-income communities, including the changing geography of poverty. This past summer, Matthew traveled to Germany, Croatia, Spain, and the Netherlands.
Joyce is a Chinese-Mongolian American, who was born in Maryland but has lived all over the USA and spent the last year in Asia. Growing up close to DC and within an immigrant household, she developed an early interest in government as an engine for positive change. After receiving her International Baccalaureate diploma, Joyce attended Harvard University. During college, she interned for the Department of Labor in the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, for the Foreign Service and US-AID in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Chief of Staff’s Office in the summer of 2008. After graduation, she worked for the FRBNY in the Financial Institution Supervision Group for two years on projects related to financial regulatory reform. Hoping to widen her global as well as industry perspectives, she then worked for Groupon China and later Microsoft’s Asia Pacific Regional Headquarters in Singapore. She will also be pursuing a joint degree with the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She is interested in aligning the incentives of the public and private sectors in order to meet the objectives of improving quality of life and international relations, mainly through economic development and education. Joyce likes shoestring travel, superheroes, singing karaoke (poorly), swimming and scuba diving, and alliteration.