Biographical Profiles of Current MPA Graduate Students

Alejandro Abisambra Castillo
IV - Economics and Public Policy
Universidad de los Andes, 2015
Law/Political Science, LLB/B.A.
Bogotá, Colombia
Alejandro is a young lawyer who has worked in the Colombian government in different capacities. He has worked on pharmaceutical policy issues, including intellectual property, as well as on all of the health-related issues of the recent peace process with the local insurgent groups. In 2015, he received a bachelor’s degree in political science, and a law degree, both from the Universidad de los Andes, in Bogotá. After graduating from the MPA, Alejandro plans to continue to work on public issues that challenge global and national inequalities and contribute to shaping a more inclusive world.
Spogmay Ahmed
II - International Development
George Washington University, 2015
International Affairs, B.A.
Selden, New York
Born and raised in New York, Spogmay studied international affairs and women’s studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Upon graduating in 2015, she joined the International Center for Research on Women, where she specialized in policy analysis and advocacy on women’s rights issues in multilateral forums including the United Nations, G7 and G20. She also coordinated the Feminist U.N. Campaign, bringing together civil society, philanthropy, academia and former U.N. staff around a shared agenda for advancing women’s rights and gender equality at the United Nations. Spogmay, a Pakistani-American, is passionate about global affairs, human rights and advancing gender-transformative policy change worldwide. She enjoys writing, fashion, desserts and engaging in conversation about race and popular culture.
Lindsey Andersen
I - International Relations
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2012
International Studies/Political Science, B.A.
Omaha, Nebraska
Lindsey was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and is a proud Cornhusker (Go Big Red!). She discovered a passion for international human rights while attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and studying and traveling abroad in Latin America. After graduating, she worked at human rights NGO, Freedom House, and then went on to do a Fulbright research fellowship in Brazil focusing on transitional justice. She then fell into the world of internet freedom, exploring the intersection of human rights and technology at the D.C.-based organization Internews. There she led projects focusing on improving digital security and developing internet policy advocacy skills for activists and journalists in Latin America. After graduation, she hopes to move into the internet policy space, working to ensure that the technologies we use and develop respect and protect human rights. In her free time, Lindsey enjoys traveling, being outdoors, hanging with her dog, eating chocolate, reading absurd fantasy novels and seeing live music.
Emily Apple
III - Domestic Policy
Hunter College, 2014
Political Science, B.A.
Brooklyn, New York
A born and bred Brooklynite, Emily is excited to join WWS and learn what it’s like to live outside the five boroughs for the first time – even if that place happens to be just a short drive away. She spent the past four years working in the Mayor’s Office in New York City in the Office for Economic Opportunity and Center for Youth Employment working on policies and programs in the areas of workforce development, education, youth development and mental health. After leaving the Mayor’s Office, she spent the summer backpacking in Vietnam and road tripping through the South and Mid-Atlantic. Emily is a proud graduate of NYC public schools and the CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. She is an alumna of the NYC Urban Fellows program and the Roosevelt Institute Network. After graduating she hopes to return to New York City to continue working to make her hometown a more just and equitable place for all its residents. In her spare time, Emily can usually be found listening to a podcast, sampling new cocktail concoctions, or proclaiming the superiority of New York bagels.
Christopher Austin
IV - Economics and Public Policy
University of Minnesota, 2011
Economics, B.A.
Saint Louis Park, Minnesota
Chris learned the ways of “Minnesota nice” after growing up in Saint Louis Park, Minnesota, before attending the University of Minnesota. After graduating with a degree in economics, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea. There, he worked with small businesses and eventually cofounded Dare to Innovate, an incubator aimed at empowering Guinean youth to address social problems through social entrepreneurship. He most recently resided in Washington, D.C., where he managed grants for Evidence Action, an international nonprofit that scales cost-effective development interventions. He spent the summer before attending WWS visiting family and camping in the San Juan National Forest. After graduating, he hopes to work on policy that addresses criminal justice reform. Chris enjoys photography, running and overly complicated board games.
Somya Bajaj
IV - Economics and Public Policy
Christ University, 2015
Economics, B.A.
Kolkata, India
Somya grew up in Kolkata and pursued her graduation in economics from Christ University, Bangalore. Her passion to serve the society enhanced when she was working with an NGO in India and started a school for kids of construction workers in Bangalore. She quit her job at Goldman Sachs and joined a Delhi-based political consultancy, Samagra Development. One of her most treasured projects includes the Education Transformation Programme to improve the quality of education across 15,000 government schools in Himachal Pradesh. With her love for traveling, she finds her way to the rarest of places ranging from the villages of Bengal to the forests of the Himalayas. Inspired by her interactions with the people in a village of West Bengal, she conducted her first ethnographic study and worked with the people to empower them by setting up self-help groups. Her book, “Their Way, The Highway,” is inspired by the stories of the people on one such encounter. Prior to WWS, Somya worked with Tata Steel on a research project in the tribal area of Kalinganagar, Odisha, to study resettlement and rehabilitation strategies by industries. She aspires to build a model of people’s participation in democracies and join mainstream politics in India.
Toshiro Baum
I - International Relations
Johns Hopkins University, 2011
International Studies, B.A.
Seattle, Washington
A native of Seattle, Toshiro (or Toshi) attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where he studied international relations. After graduation, He moved to Morocco where he lived and studied renewable energy policy for over a year on a Fulbright grant. He returned to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the National Democratic Institute on democracy strengthening programs in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2015, Toshi joined the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as an adviser in USAID’s Asia Bureau. His most recent position was in USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, where he managed stabilization programs in Libya. Toshi enjoys running, cooking, and has a one-year old puppy named Evie.
Paloma Bellatin Nieto
II - International Development
Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2014
Political Science and Government, BSS
Lima, Peru
Paloma was born and raised in Lima, Peru. From a young age, she was interested in development and reducing inequality, which was far too often seen in Lima. She studied political science and graduated top of her class. As a student, she interned in a rural development NGO and led volunteer and research groups in the Peruvian Andes. She earned a scholarship to study a semester in Sciences Po Paris. In 2012, Paloma started working at GRADE, one of the top think tanks in Latin America, on projects related to segregation, gender and violence in rural areas. In 2014, she was hired in the Social Protection Division of the FAO-UN Rome headquarters where she worked for a year and a half on policy support regarding decent rural employment and rural youth. She returned to Lima to work in the World Bank IFC on rural community development in conflict-prone mining areas, which is where she worked until coming to Princeton. Paloma co-founded the Young Professionals in Agricultural Development (YPARD) Peru chapter, and led a team in the inclusion of rural youth policies. She loves traveling, reading, writing, dancing and cooking. In the future, she would like to go back to Peru and hopes to develop innovative agriculture and rural development policies that address poverty, inequality and conflict in the Andes.
Margo Berends
II - International Development
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2014
Economics/Political Science, BSBA/B.A.
Aurora, Colorado
Margo grew up in Aurora, Colorado, where she spent her time swimming and pining for the beach rather than skiing or snowboarding. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with degrees in economics and political science. When she wasn’t cheering on the Huskers, she interned in Washington, D.C., and studied abroad at Oxford University and in Benin, where she developed a passion for evidence-based international development. After graduating in 2014, Margo spent a year teaching English to primary school students in Foix, France. She then moved to Washington, D.C., to intern with the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars before taking a full-time position with Global Communities, where she managed international development programs in the Middle East and Latin America. While in D.C., Margo was also an active member of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP), publishing op-ed articles as a Sustainable Development fellow and serving as the associate director of the YPFP Fellowship Program.
Kishan Bhatt
IV - Economics and Public Policy
Princeton University, 2017
Public and International Affairs, A.B.
Edison, New Jersey
Kishan graduated from Princeton in 2017 where he majored in public affairs and minored in global health and American studies. He is particularly passionate about biomedical research innovations and access to affordable healthcare. Kishan has interned with Remedy Partners (a health technology startup), researched counterbioterrorism strategy at the Federation of American Scientists, and directed the staff of an international scholarship program connecting eighty high school students from Japan and the United States. His prior research involvements examined the relationship between health insurance coverage and medical bankruptcies, the association of polypharmacy with adverse health outcomes, and the supply chain management of emergency medical materials in the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Kishan also sang on three continents as a member of the Nassoons, Princeton’s oldest a cappella group, and represented his peers as a four-year senator on the Undergraduate Student Government.
Aditi Bhowmick
IV - Economics and Public Policy
Cornell University, 2016
Economics/Government, B.A.
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Aditi has worked as a research associate at J-PAL South Asia for two years. She has worked on a randomized evaluation of several nutrition and education interventions to improve child development in Tamil Nadu (southern India) and a randomized evaluation of a government-run school quality assurance system in Madhya Pradesh (central India). Aditi has an undergraduate degree in economics and government from Cornell University. She has authored newspaper editorial columns in collaboration with the J-PAL South Asia media team and used to write as an opinion columnist for the Cornell Daily Sun. After completing her MPA, she hopes to return to India to work in the gender education policy space with government and continue working on her writing.
Ana Billingsley
III - Domestic Policy
Hunter College, 2013
Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, B.A.
San Francisco, California
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ana moved to New York to attend the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College where she majored in Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino studies with a minor in public policy. After graduating from Hunter, she worked as a research assistant at the Center for Court Innovation conducting assessments with justice-involved men in East Harlem and Newark, New Jersey. Ana went on to become a New York City Urban Fellow at the NYC Department of Correction (DOC) where she facilitated job-readiness workshops for incarcerated women. She most recently served as the director of Workforce Development at the DOC, overseeing employment and reentry programming for young adults on Rikers Island. Upon completing her graduate degree, she plans to work on local criminal justice policy reform, with an emphasis on diverting women out of the criminal justice system. Ana is an alumnus of the PPIA Junior Summer Institute at University of California-Berkeley, and the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service at NYU Wagner.
Peter Birke
III - Domestic Policy
Washington University-St Louis, 2013
Economics, B.A.
Madison, Wisconsin
Peter attended Washington University in St. Louis, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics. Upon graduation, he interned at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, where he assisted research on the changing geography of poverty in U.S. metropolitan regions. He went on to work for New York City government for nearly three years, first as a New York City Urban Fellow and then at the Department of Small Business Services, where he was part of a strategic planning team advising City Hall on emerging economic development issues. For the past two years, Peter worked at the Markle Foundation leading projects for their Skillful initiative and Rework America Task Force. Upon graduation, Peter hopes to develop policy solutions that build prosperous and equitable regional economies in the United States. Peter enjoys lap swimming, cycling, reading and baseball. He hails from Madison, Wisconsin, but family ties and the vast reach of WGN bred him to become a die-hard Cubs fan.
Samantha BonenClark
I - International Relations
University of Florida, 2014
Spanish, B.A.
Ocala, Florida
Samantha was born in Virginia, but grew up in Ocala, Florida, a town known for being the racehorse capital of the world. She swam middle distance freestyle for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for two years before transferring to the University of Florida (UF). At UF, Sam studied abroad in Nicaragua, spent a summer in Mexico City with the Department of State’s Economic Section, and graduated with a major in Spanish and a minor in Latin American studies. Since graduating, she has served with the AmeriCorps program, City Year, in Miami, Florida, worked in program management with the University of Miami’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement and completed a Fulbright English teaching assistantship in Campinas, Brazil.
Benjamin Brenner
I - International Relations
McGill University, 2011
History, B.A.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ben’s career started in a dingy room underneath the U.S. Capitol building, where he spent untold hours copying news clips for now-retired Senator Carl Levin of Michigan. Somehow, this (and other things) fed his fascination with government, and he spent the subsequent eight years working in Congress and the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE). In the Senate, Ben worked his way up from the copy room to become a legislative adviser to Senator Levin, and over those years he focused (unsuccessfully) on crafting policies to reduce U.S. gun violence and (successfully) on supporting public-private research and development partnerships. At DoE, he served as an appropriations adviser to their renewable energy and nuclear security programs, and helped secure billions of dollars in appropriations to maintain astoundingly powerful weapons that he wishes were not necessary. At Princeton, Ben hopes to think through big questions: whether convoluted bureaucratic models can be updated for modern challenges; how to address evolving nuclear threats; whether IT platforms and policies can or should be managed in the public interest; and if he is actually, finally ready to get a dog.