PPIA is proud to support a network of nearly 4,000 alumni. Our alumni are working in every sector both at home and abroad.
Alumni, tell us what you’re up to now so we can add your story!
PPIA is proud to support a network of nearly 4,000 alumni. Our alumni are working in every sector both at home and abroad.
Alumni, tell us what you’re up to now so we can add your story!
Field & Advocacy Manager, Florida 501C3 Civic Engagement Table
James Chan currently serves as the Field & Advocacy Manager at the Florida 501C3 Civic Engagement Table, where he works to ensure that the voices of the emerging American majority are heard in the democratic process.
He’s previously served as the Research Director for former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink at the Florida Next Foundation. James has worked on the State and Local Government Affairs team at Target Corporation’s headquarters in Minneapolis.
In 2017, the Tampa Bay Business Journal named James as an Up & Comer Under 30. In 2016, the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies selected him for the National Leadership Academy, a program aimed at training more AAPIs to run for public office. In that same year, he was chosen as 1 of 10 people across the country as a Victory Empowerment Fellow, Victory Institute’s program to train more LGBT people of color to run for public office.
James is an alum of New Leaders Council and is currently the Chapter Co-Director of New Leaders Council Tampa Bay. He’s an alum of College Leadership Florida Class XIII and Connect Florida Class VII, both programs within the Leadership Florida organization. A proud University of Florida alum and UF Hall of Fame inductee, he holds a BA in Political Science and Business Administration. He also holds a Masters in Public Policy from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities.
Senior Communications Specialist, U.S. Department of Energy
“PPIA opened up a lot of opportunities in public service, and put me on a fast track to public service leadership.”
To John Chu, public service means making an impact, big or small, in order to benefit a person or a cause greater than yourself. To him, public service comes in many forms and degrees, and is not necessarily limited to working in government.
John is an alum of the 2005 Junior Summer Institute at UC Berkeley. He attended Cornell University where he got his undergraduate degree in communications in 2006. He then went on to attend the Maxwell School at Syracuse University to get his Master’s of Public Administration in 2008.
Now working as a Branch Chief at the U.S. Mint, John credits his JSI program with helping him learn the many ways to serve the public good. He believes it is important to pursue what makes you happy and is right for your life. In his words, “When you’re happy, you’ll do your best work.”
He says that his experiences helped propel him towards landing and completing the President Management Fellows program and moving to a senior management position in the Federal government at the age of 32.
John says that he enjoys "leading teams and initiatives in public service, running his dance project, Jump In and Dance, and raising his family.”
Senior Vice President for Business and Financial Strategy, The Urban Institute
“The public servants I know are incredibly mission-driven, and work long hours on complicated problems to help our country and our world become a better place.”
For Nani A. Coloretti, public service means applying the best of your skills and capability to improve outcomes for the public, no matter how you choose to serve.
Nani is an alum of the 1989 JSI at UC Berkeley. At the time, students were known as Woodrow Wilson Fellows. Nani received a BA in Economics and Communications in 1991 and credits the program with helping direct her to a graduate degree that combined her skills and interests. She went on to get her Master’s in Public Policy from UC Berkeley. Her experience at the JSI not only helped her select the right graduate program, it also prepared her to successfully manage the intense workload of graduate school.
Nani uses the analytical tools that she gained in graduate school every day. In particular, graduate school helped her hone her ability to solve complex problems using data.
Most recently, Nani was confirmed to serve as deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This appointment made her the highest ranking Filipino-American in the Obama Administration. Prior to that appointment she served as the Assistant Secretary for Management at the U.S. Department of Treasury. Nani has also held a number of other positions in the public sector, including Acting Chief Operating Officer for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and as a policy advisor and budget director in the office of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
In reflecting on what she has learned through her experiences, she realized that she thought she knew how important networking and keeping contacts was in college, but she has since learned over many years that it is critical to helping navigate a career and life in general.
She’s also learned how important it is to develop a leadership mindset in order to excel at work and in your career. “Pay attention to how you operate in the world – your knowledge of yourself becomes much more important the higher up you go in an organization. In particular, seek ways to develop a high level of emotional intelligence.”
Community Leader, Sustainability Expert, Professor, Published Author and Political News Commentator, Entrepreneur
Ana Cubas has worked in the education, non-profit, and State and City government sectors since 1995. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology with highest honors from U.C. Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning from Princeton University. As an immigrant and the first in her family to attend college, Ana knows first-hand the struggles of low-income families.
In March of 2013, Ana ran for Los Angeles City Council District 9. Her “back to basics” grassroots campaign focused on empowering low-income communities and garnered much support. Ana advanced to the runoff election, losing to her opponent, a state senator whose campaign funds exceeded $2 million, by less than 600 votes. Prior to running for office, Ana worked as Chief of Staff to Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar.
Escaping the civil war in El Salvador, Ana was brought to Los Angeles when she was ten years old. She attributes her educational and professional success to her family’s strong work ethic. Her father provided for his family by standing on street corners as a day laborer, and her mother continues to serve as a domestic worker in the Westside.
Ana began her public policy career working for the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. and then for the California Legislative Analyst’s Office in Sacramento. She moved back to Los Angeles to work in Los Angeles City Hall, first for the Chief Legislative Analyst’s Office as a Legislative Analyst and then for Council President Alex Padilla as a Legislative Deputy. From 2005 until 2008, Ana was appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to serve on the Los Angeles City Information Technology Commission and prior to that by Mayor Jim Hahn to serve on the City’s Human Relations Commission.
The interview below was conducted for the Fall 2013 Newsletter
Q: Ana, you have a long history of working in public service. Where did that dedication come from?
A: There are a couple of events I think that shaped that. The first was personal. I grew up in El Salvador and came to this country when I was 10 years old. My family was escaping the war. Before that, I learned a lot about public service from my grandmother. People were always coming to her door asking for help, and she would always give them whatever help she could. She never turned anyone away. When she died, the entire town of 3,000 people came to her funeral. That made a big impression, and I knew that was the type of person I wanted to be.
Second, a more professional event that led me to public service was when I attended the Chicano/Latino Youth Leadership Conference for high school students in California. Students spend a week in Sacramento and learn about how to get to college and the legislative process. You meet with different people and get a sense of what it’s like to work in that environment. It made quite an impression, and I remember as a Junior choosing that life for myself. I told myself that someday I would be back there in that Capitol building.
Q: How has your involvement in PPIA impacted your life?
A: PPIA was instrumental in my career path. I had been involved in student government as an undergrad and knew others who had participated in the Junior Summer Institutes. I attended the CMU program and had a great experience. It helped me get on the right path to do what I’ve done and be where I am. At the time, you were required to go straight to graduate school, no time off for work experience. I was at UC Berkeley as an undergraduate and went to Princeton for graduate school.
Throughout my career I’ve been thankful that because of my involvement with PPIA, I didn’t have any debt. This allowed me to take on the public sector jobs that I have had and not have to worry about paying off loans. Other people I know completed their master’s degree and had to deal with large amounts of debt that impacted their job choices. I could really focus on the things that I wanted to do rather than on the paycheck. To this day, I am thankful for that and that I’m not dealing with debt from that graduate school. It’s a big relief. Without that support, I could still be paying off student loans.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a dual degree in graduate school?
A: I grew up in LA and have always been interested in urban planning, how people are impacted by their environment and how to improve people’s lives through their environment. I had wanted to minor in urban planning in undergrad but wasn’t able to, so when Princeton offered an opportunity to get both a Master’s in Public Administration and a Master’s in Urban Planning I was excited to do that.
Q: You’ve worked at the federal, state, and local levels. What were those experiences like?
A: Working at the Federal level as an Education Program Specialist for the Department of Education in Washington, DC was also an amazing opportunity. I’ve always seen myself in public service, and maybe one day I’ll go back to DC to serve in Congress.
I’ve also worked in Sacramento, the state capital of California. It was amazing to walk the halls and be part of that world. My job was to analyze the state budget and advise on different programs. I remember we were always on call because committees would meet at odd hours, and it was exciting and meaningful work that made an impact on communities across the state.
After a while though, I decided to move back to LA to be closer to my family and get involved in the local community. I really like working at the local level because of my urban planning interest. I ran for office because I feel like that’s where you can make the most significant changes to people’s environments. I want to do things that leave a legacy, something tangible that people will remember. That’s also why I’ve created two charter schools. I can always say I built that school where children are still learning and growing. That’s something that will live on, and for me that’s the best part of serving the public.
Q: Why did you decide to run for office and how did you prepare yourself?
A: Running for office was something I had always wanted to do, but I knew that I had a lot to learn and needed to work my way up. After I moved back to Los Angeles, I worked at City Hall to learn how the local government worked and got a better sense of what it meant to be an elected official there. I also got involved in campaigns to learn about the process and the issues. I built a network that I was later able to tap for support when I decided to run for office myself.
Q: What did you take away from your experience as a candidate?
A: I definitely have a tremendous amount of respect for what elected officials sacrifice. I resigned my job and gave campaigning my all. If you focus on what you really want, it’s completely doable. I had the experience and the contacts and I was able to raise over half a million dollars for my run. Through this process I learned that I was a viable candidate, but also about the role of money in politics. I was in a tough race against a seasoned and well funded opponent. He certainly had more capital than I did, and that can make or break a candidate. However, even though I faced a better funded candidate, we were only 580 votes apart, so I know I ran a good campaign. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. Be prepared for the realities of campaigning and to work very hard and be totally committed to your goals.
Q: What advice would you give to alumni who are thinking about running for office?
A: I definitely encourage others to run, especially women. In the LA City Council there is only one woman. I would have been number two out of fifteen. Half of the population is women, so shouldn’t half of the representation be women? I would strongly encourage PPIA Fellows to take that risk and jump in and run for office.
What I would say is that you have got to work your way up. Get involved in campaigns; work for an elected official. That seems to be the main way that people get into running for office. You have to pay your dues and learn the ropes. Be helpful, be good at what you do, and never burn bridges. That will help you build a good network that will end up supporting you later on.
Q: What is your proudest professional achievement?
A: My proudest professional achievement is actually the work I did in establishing the two charter schools. They are alive and well, and there are children who go and learn and are doing well in school. I was involved in every aspect of getting them up and running, and I’m proud of that because it will live on for generations.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: That’s a good question. I want to stay focused on public service; I will always be a public servant. I’m working on developing a Latina Leadership Academy. The goal would be to convene high school Latina girls and teach them how to run for public office. It would be two, full-day Saturdays dedicated to training with access to different people who work in the campaign world. Then, students would spend one Tuesday on site visits to meet with elected officials and watch them in action. We need to start helping women see running for office as a viable option early on, and that’s what I hope this program will do for Latina girls. Starting this Academy was actually one of the things I pledged to do when running for office, and I am pleased that I can do this even though I wasn’t elected.
Q: Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for students considering public service?
A: Be ambitious and be bold in your goals. Don’t settle for less than what you want. You should also be ready for the ups and downs of life. As a woman, I knew what my goals were and to achieve them I have put off getting married and having children. I don’t regret that at all, but it’s something that you should think about. As a minority, you always have to work harder and have the credentials to stand out. We have to be ready. Sometimes, you’ll be in a job that is less than ideal. Sometimes you’ll be in a great job, and you need to figure out how you will handle both situations.
PPIA 1994 (Princeton University)
Associate Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs, Occidental College
Elected to the Crescenta Valley Town Council in November 2015 to a 3-year term, encompassing more than 22,000 residents in unincorporated Los Angeles County, California, and currently serving as its Corresponding Secretary, Sophal Ear, PhD, is a tenured Associate Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles where he lectures on political economy, security, development, and Asia.
Previously, he taught how to rebuild countries after wars at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and international development at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. He consulted for the World Bank, was Assistant Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme in East Timor, and Advisor to Cambodia's first private equity fund Leopard Capital. A TED Fellow, Fulbright Specialist, alumnus Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, and former Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he sits on the boards of the Nathan Cummings Foundation (New York, NY), Refugees International (Washington, DC), Partners for Development (Silver Spring, MD), International Public Management Network (Washington, DC), the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (Washington, DC), the Southeast Asia Development Program (Phnom Penh, Cambodia), and the Center for Khmer Studies (Siem Reap, Cambodia).
He is the author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy (Columbia University Press) and co-author of The Hungry Dragon: How China’s Resources Quest is Reshaping the World (Routledge). He wrote and narrated the award-winning documentary film "The End/Beginning: Cambodia" based on his 2009 TED Talk and has appeared in four other documentaries. He is the Executive Producer of In the Life of Music and Some of My Best Friends Are Kimchi: A True Documentary.
A graduate of Princeton and Berkeley, he moved to the United States from France as a Cambodian refugee at the age of 10.
Director, Public Policy and Government Relations at Southern California Grantmakers
Seyron Foo develops, organizes, and implements efforts to create a well-connected network of grantmakers and public officials in order to strengthen communities and advance the public policy goals of Southern California Grantmakers' member organizations and Philanthropy California. In this capacity, he provides public policy analysis to issues affecting the sector and key policy areas relevant to grantmakers. Additionally, he is responsible for educating and informing government officials about philanthropic efforts, and identifies opportunities to convene grantmakers and government to tackle the state’s most pressing social issues.
Seyron has experience in various government sectors, beginning his career as a legislative aide to the California State Senate Majority Leader, where he managed a diverse policy portfolio that included civil rights, transportation, and housing. His work led the successful passage of legislation in health, tenants’ rights, and banking reforms. Prior to SCG, he served in the City of Long Beach as the Senior Policy Analyst to the Director of Public Works, where he oversaw and managed citywide projects and led the Department’s press and community relations efforts.
He was recently appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the California Board of Psychology, where he serves as a Board Member. The Board protects the health, safety, and welfare of consumers of psychological services with integrity, honesty, and efficiency; advocates the highest principles of professional psychological practice; and empowers the consumer provides the best available information on current trends in psychological service options.
Seyron earned his Master in Public Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and his B.A. in Rhetoric and Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Deputy Director for Community Benefits, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
David is the Deputy Director for Community Benefits at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. In this capacity, David is responsible for advancing the equity initiatives tied to the agency's $6.9 billion Sewer System Improvement Project, and directing a team of managers that implement community investments spanning workforce development, education, art, environmental justice/land use, neighborhood partnerships and small business opportunities. Over the years, these programs have supported job and contracting opportunities for local residents and firms; SFPUC apprenticeship and internship programs; environmental literacy learning initiatives for youth; community gardens and many more.
David previously held positions as Equity and Inclusion Manager for the SFPUC; Chief of Staff for Richmond, CA Mayor Tom Butt; Director of Projects and Programs for the Office of Richmond, CA Mayor Tom Butt; and Poverty to Opportunity Project Coordinator for the Louisiana Budget Project. He earned his Master of Public Policy degree from the University of California, Berkeley (recipient of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fellowship Award) and his Bachelor’s degrees in social policy, urban studies, and sociology from Tulane University (graduated Phi Beta Kappa and recipient of the Tulane 34 Award).
Assoc. Executive Director of MN Education Equity Partnership and Race Equity Strategist
Jennifer Godinez PPIA 1996 (Princeton University)
The interview below was conducted for the Spring 2017 Newsletter
We had the opportunity to speak with PPIA Alum Jennifer Godinez, the Associate Director of the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MNEEP). In our interview, we discussed the state of education in Minnesota and how MNEEP is working to ensure that students of color and American Indian students achieve their full academic and leadership success. Ms. Godinez shared her motivations pursuing a career in public service and education, and how PPIA and her graduate school experiences at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs played a role in her professional career. Below is our interview with Ms. Godinez. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Could you talk a little bit about the challenges facing Minnesota’s education system today and MNEEP’s role in transforming education in the state of Minnesota?
A: So the organization is really concerned about a couple things. One is obviously, we’re measuring talent, we’re measuring students by test scores and we see a persistent gap, what we call an achievement gap, but we understand from research and from other best practices that it’s really reflective of an opportunity gap. So where we have growing numbers of students of color and immigrant students in the state, we are obviously not transforming our system to better meet their needs and better meet their families’ needs so that they can be successful in academics. So our mission statement, we changed it a couple of years ago but we’re very focused on using a race equity lens to transform organizations and institutions and leaders to better address the opportunity gaps of students of color in the state. We have 5 major goals, and we’re really looking at systems change and we get community voice to help shape systems change in education.
Q: Why is it important that we use the word equity vs. equality?
A: That’s a great question. Well we know that equality means – everybody gets the same thing in order to produce an outcome of equality. We understand that there are differences, and especially historical differences and how different groups have been treated in this country, so there’s another term that we use which is the education debt which is coined by some critical race theorists, and prominent ones in education saying that there’s been historical disinvestment and holding back of communities of color and immigrant youth. And so with those policies in place, historically and currently too in terms of suspension rate policies right now and over representation of young men of color, then we know that we need to get to equity which is addressing specific needs of certain groups and really including them in systems and policies in a way that they’ve never been included before.
Q: How has your JSI experience and your time at the Humphrey School helped you in your profession today?
A: I think every kind of training I’ve had in public policy has built on top of the other because it’s understanding the fundamentals of making arguments, knowing how to do policy analysis, understanding research, seeing how, historically, research has been used to shape policy and how sometimes that’s good sometimes that bad. So really just a good background on fundamentals of writing, research, and policy analysis […] It engaged me a bit more in the field of public policy in what you could do in the field whether as a non profit manager or an elected official or working at a capital or working at the national level in policy – so really that introduction and overview of all the different roles and the skills that it take to be successful in those roles.
I still think, for students of color, getting to know people on a very personal level, understanding what our Muslim brothers and sisters go through, understanding what men who have been previously incarcerated for very small issues that are now back in our society, understanding what transgender folks are going through to go through school or a family that has a transgender child… that makes a huge practical and relational difference in our society.
About MNEEP: Minnesota Education Equity Partnership uses a race equity lens to transform educational institutions, organizations, and leaders to ensure that students of color and American Indian students achieve full academic and leadership success.
Coordinator, Race to Justice
“Always let people know how they have impacted you and return the favor. If not directly, do it indirectly by mentoring someone else. The cycle of leadership development needs to continue, it is important to build up those around you, and sustain our efforts toward a more just, equitable society.”
For Catherine-Mercedes Judge, public service is “more than simply giving a voice to the voiceless, but authentically engaging people to lead the campaigns that will bring the changes they want to see.” As Associate Director of the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute, a program of Urban Habitat, Catherine works to build power in low-income communities and communities of color by combining education, advocacy, research and coalition building to advance environmental, economic, and social justice in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Catherine’s path to PPIA was not an easy one. A year before she participated in a Junior Summer Institute (JSI), financial constraints compelled her to drop out of a small, private university and enroll at a larger, public institution. Facing criticism from peers who did not understand her decision, Catherine constantly felt as though she had to prove herself to people who only valued elite colleges. As her family was unable to contribute to her college tuition, she took on academic expenses and debt — the thought of attending an internationally prestigious graduate school “felt like an unattainable dream.” Fortunately, PPIA exists to help students just like Catherine.
Catherine attended the 2008 JSI at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. Her time there provided her with the support and resources she needed to work through academic challenges. For example, Catherine had always struggled with math and recalls spending long nights with friends in the program who continued to push her until she understood complex formulas. Before PPIA, she would try to learn on her own and usually gave up when she got frustrated. In addition to confidence, Catherine gained a network of close friends and access to alumni who could help her continue her professional development.
Thanks to PPIA, Catherine looks forward to turning her once-elusive dream of attending a top graduate school into reality. She is passionately committed to public affairs and realizes that her strength is in “managing projects that connect people and resources toward a greater vision for justice in our communities.”
Principal, Atalanta Realty Investments, LLC
JSI Attended: University of California, Berkeley, 1991
Aden W. Kun is a principal with Atalanta Realty Investments, LLC, a minority and women owned real estate investment firm focused on areas with rapidly changing demographics. Active in the real estate industry since 1994, Kun was a partner with Buchanan Street Partners, a real estate investment management firm and CalPERS advisors, where he identified equity investments for CalPERS, the largest pension fund in the United States. He structured real estate transactions and investments in excess of $700 million of value while with Buchanan Street Partners.
Kun is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (1991) and also holds a master’s degree from Harvard University in Public Policy (1994) with an emphasis in Finance and Urban Economic Development, where he was the distinguished recipient of a Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) fellowship. Kun is a licensed real estate broker with the State of California. He served as Vice Chair and Board Member of the Asian Business Association and has participated in national real estate associations including Urban Land Institute (ULI) – Urban Mixed-Use Development Council, National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).
Below follows an interview between PPIA and Aden.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a Fellowship with PPIA? How did it align with your goals at the time?
A: I learned about PPIA through a mentor who is now a good friend. He was a person who had gone through the program, back when it was the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and he introduced me to PPIA. Back in those days, I was active in politics and working with the Asian American community on local campaigns. It was that involvement that sparked my interest to look into policy and issues beyond the ballot box.
Q: There are a number of ways that people can make an impact on our society or our world throughout their lives. What does it mean to you to make a difference? How do you feel you make a difference today?
A: To me, being a member of a group is not enough. You need to put in the time and energy to make the organization work without expecting immediate returns. For example, I served for a number of years on the Board of Directors for the Asian Business Association. During that time, I did not expect business from my work there but I got the satisfaction of knowing I was helping the community. That also speaks to leadership. I want to develop the next generation of leaders, not analysts, but people who can lead. That might mean they go on to be elected officials, or it could mean they become nonprofit leaders or community volunteers, etc.
Q: You attended Harvard University where you got your MPP with an emphasis in Finance and Urban Economic Development. What led you to focus on economic development?
A: 22 years ago the City of Los Angeles was on fire. A lot of that unrest was driven by economic circumstances and policy issues and it had a strong effect on me. Afterwards, I interned with an organization called Rebuild LA, which was a public-private partnership in response to the riots. My work there really got me interested in economic development and impacted choices I made later on.
Graduate school was a really interesting experience. Pursuing a graduate degree allowed me to learn how to tackle complex problems. At the same time, I was surprised by how green I was. I was in school with people who had quit jobs I would have killed for to go back to graduate school. One of the things I appreciated about PPIA, and that helped in graduate school, was the being around people who had very different backgrounds and experiences. Meeting people from across the country who had different perspectives helped me grow.
I was fortunate that my roommates during grad school were also PPIA alumni. Once we got our acceptance letters we got in touch – this was pre-Facebook – and managed to get housing together and we’re lifelong friends. It’s easy to take that kind of diversity for granted but it really made a difference. It made the graduate experience less intimidating and richer. There was a built in network that became a built in family. It goes on even after you graduated. You have a network that can help you with life decisions, career decisions, and that’s powerful.
Q: Who or what has influenced your career decisions over the years?
A: I have a very entrepreneurial mindset. I wanted to work for myself but at the same time I wanted to create something new. Recently, I helped found a minority and woman owned business, Atalanta Realty Investments, which is focused on investing in areas with rapidly changing demographics. Part of that experience has come from my studies and understanding how to invest in communities to have the best impact. We are focusing on how to help local communities and do it differently. A core value for all of us at the company is giving back. My partners and I all have a lot of experience that we bring to the table and we wanted to figure out a model to invest in growing communities.
I’ve also served on a number of nonprofit boards, like the Asian Business Association where I served for over 5 years, including as Vice Chair, seeking to promote and drive small businesses and help them thrive. That’s been a big focus for the organization and my involvement with them. It was especially relevant because of the economic downturn. We made great strides and are proud of what the ABA was able to accomplish.
Q: PPIA emphasizes the value of having a network and connecting. How do you stay connected with people that you’ve known over the years? What advice do you have for students about to enter the workforce on starting to build relationships with peers and mentors?
A: Networking and connecting is something that is near to my heart. I enjoy helping folks spread knowledge, connecting people, being a sounding board. I have had a particular focus on helping our veterans – getting them internships, getting them in front of opportunities. I think it’s the least we can do. Someone took me under their wing 25 years ago and being able to do that for someone else is really gratifying.
The big thing is where you’re networking. My brand is to be someone who is willing to open my network to make things happen for the issues and people I believe in. For example, I invest in classmates who run for public office. Networking is also about being willing to give and not receive. I still remember the people who did informational interviews with me 20+ years ago and were willing to give me advice and buy me lunch even though I couldn’t do anything for them. I try to be mindful of that and do the same for others.
Q: What is your proudest achievement?
A: I think I am most proud of the work I have done to help other people over the years. Recently, I helped someone get through the PPIA program. He was a veteran and I coached him on being a junior college transfer into UC Berkeley, helped with the PPIA application process and continue to mentor him. He went to the UC Berkeley JSI and is looking to apply to grad school now. I’m proud that I was able to pay it forward.
Sr Manager, Partnership Marketing & Business Development, American Express
Nina Maturu was graduate student at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy where she pursued a joint MPP/MBA degree. She is also the creator of Maturu, a socially conscious fashion line, which uses vintage and sustainably sourced materials. Nina attended the University of Michigan’s JSI program in 2005. She graduated from New York University (NYU) with a BA in History and a minor in Asian American Studies. She has lived and worked in Japan, India, and Tanzania and is the recipient of the Clinton Fellowship for Service. In this interview, Nina shares experiences that have helped her shape a career path that fits her passions.
The following interview was conducted by PPIA for the Winter 2013 newsletter.
Q: You recently launched Maturu, a socially conscious fashion line. What influenced you to do that and what has that experience been like?
A: In college, I started making my own clothes. I remember wearing my creations during my PPIA program at Michigan and all the women would say: ‘I love your clothes, how do you get clothes that fit you so well?!’ One of them said that I should create my own clothes line. I was a junior in college but it was always in the back of my mind. After I got into policy school, I said let me just try to start it, I already have a backup plan by being in grad school so if it fails, it fails. I ended up doing really well. As I sold my stuff I realized that I couldn’t produce everything, especially going to school. I wanted to produce my clothes in a different way. Something I learned about in India was the idea of a “collective”, where they would work with women currently unemployed or unemployable and they would teach them how to sew.
Many of the same issues that are happening in developing countries are happening in the US. In so many degrees and in a different context but they’re the same basic issues. They don’t have reliable housing or access to basic goods and services. I thought, I’m living in Michigan now, what if I tried to form a sewing cooperative or collective to have women produce my line. That’s what I’ve been working with. I want to provide my workers with living wage but is it possible to do that in a developed country in order to cover my costs and so my workers can make a living? This winter break I went back to India to do fieldwork and basically understand how do you do distribution, marketing, product development and what the government’s role in facilitating it is.
I feel like India’s nonprofits are pretty robust and I want to see how that can be applied to the US. I love working on my business and I want to continue doing it, but I want to have at least two years of funding before I go into it full time. I have some job offers for after I graduate and was going to work on those and get some critical skills. And work on this on the side until I have sufficient funding.
Q: You have a very strong background in social justice, what first inspired you to get involved in those issues?
A: I remember the classes that changed it for me; it was a class on the Constitution of Communities of Color and also a class on the Asian Diaspora. The first one talked about how inequality has been written into our legal system and how it has been institutionalized. And on the Asian Diaspora class, we talked about how a person’s identity can shift depending on how other people view them and the different historical contexts they are a part of. This was the first time I had learned about systematic inequality in a classroom setting. So they made me really want to work on social issues. At NYU, I took a part-time staff position at the New York Civil Liberties Union, organizing their student chapters of the ACLU across the state of New York.
Through my time at the NYCLU, I learned the power of the legal system in creating social change. However, I wanted to work closer with the communities I wanted to impact. My senior year, I became a Community Organizer in Brooklyn, NY, working with public housing residents and immigrant retail workers on Fulton Mall. This experience took my understanding of inequality from a conceptual framework to the everyday obstacles.
Q: You attended your JSI at the Ford School, in 2005. What made you apply and pursue the PPIA Fellowship?
A: I had already been working at the ACLU, so I knew that social justice was a strong interest. I remember getting an email through the NYU listserv and thinking: “What’s policy school?” I saw the program and thought PPIA’s mission to help underrepresented minorities and close the inequality gap really resonated with me. I remember telling my brother I was going to apply, and at the time only one in ten people were accepted. And he said ‘you’re probably not going to get in.’ I was deciding between a few summer options and the amount of support they were giving their fellows made it a very intriguing program to me. I feel it was one of the best choices I made. PPIA has affected so many of my career choices.
Q: What was the most significant take-away from your JSI experience?
A: I would say it was meeting such amazing people. When I think about my PPIA cohort, every single one of them is doing amazing things today. They’re the most impressive group of people. There are two things I’ve done in my life that I felt everyone involved in was amazing, one was the Clinton fellowship and the other was PPIA. It was just a group of high-achieving individuals that are all interested in making a social impact. There’s something really amazing about that group of people. They could do anything, they were so smart and such hard workers and just charismatic as people in general, but they chose to make social justice a large part of their life. I kept in touch with a lot of them. It’s amazing to know that there’s a community of people like this who exist and who will continue to support one another no matter what they go on to do.
Q: You’re currently getting a joint MPP/MBA from the Ford School. Why did you choose to pursue a dual degree?
A: For most of my professional career, I was working on the community level, which was incredibly rewarding. But I wanted to explore methods for affecting change on a larger scale and I felt policy was one way to do that. Having worked for the ACLU, I always thought I would go to law school. After spending three years abroad I was not sure if I wanted to work domestically or internationally. I saw an MPP as a degree that was much more versatile in this regard, where a law degree was more domestically focused.
I lived in Japan, in India, later I lived in Tanzania and I realized more than language or culture, economic markets were the international language. If you look at immigration problems, they exist really for an economic reason. If you look at why other cultures started communicating with one another, it was for economic reasons. I think it’s only one part of development, but definitely a large part. So I decided to get a business degree as well.
Q: Why did you choose to attend the Ford School for a graduate degree?
A: I think having gone to PPIA at Michigan I had a really good idea on what I was getting into. Having a very positive experience at PPIA definitely stacked the cards in Ford’s favor. I knew most of the people at Career Services already because I did PPIA at Michigan. Three people from my cohort were at Michigan at the time. So I had three people from PPIA who I love also at Michigan and after not having a community for three years it was really nice to come somewhere where I already knew people and I really liked the school too. So I was coming into a community with friends and even having staff that I knew. Funding was a huge issue too. I was able to get the Rackham Merit Fellowship, which is an amazing scholarship, through the University of Michigan. I knew about it from PPIA.
I was also looking at graduate schools that had strong graduate programs campus wide because I really wanted to take classes in the different schools. Michigan was one of the few schools that had really strong programs in all of its graduate schools. Some of the other schools their policy program was really good, but their business school wasn’t that good or they had great programs but it was impossible to take classes in other programs.
Q: What advice would you give to alumni who are planning on pursuing graduate school and careers in public service?
A: My advice in retrospect is I wish I hadn’t second-guessed myself so much. I grew up in a family where modesty was important. Business school taught me that you need to be your biggest advocate. If you don’t think you are freaking amazing nobody else is going to think so. They don’t know you so you have to convey all that you’ve done in this way that makes you sound great.
I wish someone had told me that especially when you’re applying to policy programs you can talk about your personal experiences and how they’ve informed your view of the world. I was always told you should keep it very professional but I think that so much of my interest in social equality had to do with being a person of color and then taking a class like the Constitution of the Communities of Color I realized I was not alone in feeling that way. In fact, our institutions were designed to make people of color feel unequal/inadequate. So much of your view of inequality is shaped by the way people speak to you and how people perceive you. And it’s a very difficult thing to articulate but very important also. And policy schools are very attuned to it. Being a big advocate for yourself and being honest on why you are interested in graduate school is important. What was very helpful was visiting the school and just seeing, can I imagine myself coming to class here? And talking to a lot of people was incredibly helpful.
Senior Policy Analyst, Program Director for State Policy Fellowship Program
Center of Budget and Policy Priorities
Michael Mitchell (PPIA 2009, Carnegie Mellon University) is the Senior Policy Analyst and Program Director of the State Policy Fellowship Program at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Mr. Mitchell focuses on criminal and juvenile justice reform and reinvestment as well as state higher education funding and affordability, and the fellowship program is for recently graduated Masters students interested in conducting research and analysis on critical state budget and tax policy issues.
Below is our interview with Mr. Mitchell where he discusses how PPIA has impacted his graduate studies and his professional career, the significance of his work today, and some of his proudest accomplishments.
Q: How did PPIA impact your career?
A: The Public Policy and International Affairs Program has played a huge role in shaping the early years of my career. It gave me confidence that I could not only get into a top-tier public policy school, but that I could thrive at one. Working with graduate level instructors, taking graduate level classes and learning aside other talented and passionate young people – many of them also students of color – gave me the shot of confidence I’d need to excel in graduate school.
PPIA has also been an entry-point into an invaluable network of dedicated public policy advocates. Almost without exception at any conference I attend or networking event I find myself at, I run into other PPIA alum. Having that built-in network that I can tap into is great and helps facilitate the connections I need to do my day-to-day work well. On a more personal level, some of my closest friends are people that I met during my summer as a PPIA Fellow – it’s been amazing to grow and advance in our careers together and support each other throughout all of it. Lastly, my summer with PPIA gave me a glimpse into all the different types of careers and roles that could be available to me if I pursued a career in shaping public policy. Having an idea of what I could do with a master’s degree in public policy helped me go into graduate school and the job market with my eyes open and ready for a range of opportunities.
Q: You mention that you are focusing on criminal and juvenile justice reform. Could you talk a little more about what you are working on and why your work is significant today?
A: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a Washington, D.C.-based policy institute that conducts research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic policy, policies related to poverty, and several social programs at both the federal and state levels. In my role as a Senior Policy Analyst, I focus on fiscal policy – that is, what we choose to spend public tax dollars on and how we choose to raise those tax dollars. This, of course, intersects with almost every other area of policy you can imagine including criminal and juvenile justice.
For criminal and juvenile justice advocates, this is an especially important moment in time as a narrow window of opportunity has emerged where folks along the ideological spectrum are realizing that the tremendous human and fiscal costs of our current criminal justice policies are unsustainable. It is possible that for the first time in decades, states may choose to enact reforms that would markedly slow, and perhaps even reverse, the growth of their prison populations. In a country where more than 2.2 million people sit locked up in prison and jail cells on any given day and states spend more than $50 billion on prisons and parole, there’s no overstating how tremendous a policy shift this would be.
As a Senior Policy Analyst, my work in this environment has focused on highlighting how costly our criminal justice is – for families, for whole communities, and for state budgets. I argue that states can and should shrink their prison populations, spend less money on locking people up and instead put those resources into other more socially productive areas of spending, like better schools, child-care for families and mental or physical health care. It has been exciting to work and partner with other social justice organizations, author reports, and participate in panel discussions to accomplish these goals.
In addition to making the case for shrinking our reliance on prisons, I’ve also engaged in research on the intersection of criminal fees and fines and state fiscal policy. This is an issue which has gained significant and growing attention in recent years especially after the tragic shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri. As the resulting Department of Justice’s report of the Ferguson police department uncovered, local policymakers had become dangerously reliant on revenues generated from court fees and criminal fines to fund day-to-day government operations. This is not only an issue in Ferguson, and my research has focused on detailing this trend and what fiscal policy solutions exist to reverse it.
Q: Throughout your professional experiences, what achievement are you most proud of?
A: Along with being a Senior Policy Analyst here at the Center, I’m also the Director of the State Policy Fellowship Program – a two-year policy fellowship opportunity for recently graduated master’s students. The program identifies highly motivated candidates – paying particular attention to candidates having experience with communities that are underrepresented in state policy debates – with a demonstrated interest in working on public policies that affect low-income and diverse communities and have implications for racial equity.
As the Program Director, I oversee almost every aspect of the program, from day-to-day interactions with the fellows, to alumni engagement, to the recruitment and application review process. It is so remarkably rewarding to engage with such talented and passionate individuals and to see them grow and thrive in research placements across the country. As someone who has benefited deeply from fellowship experiences in my own career I feel extremely honored to have the chance to pay that opportunity forward.
CBPP’s Mission Statement: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonpartisan research and policy institute. We pursue federal and state policies designed both to reduce poverty and inequality and to restore fiscal responsibility in equitable and effective ways. We apply our deep expertise in budget and tax issues and in programs and policies that help low-income people, in order to help inform debates and achieve better policy outcomes.
Minority Staff (John Yarmuth, D-KY), U.S. House Committee on the Budget
Farouk Ophaso is currently a Budget Review Professional for the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget. After attending the Junior Summer Institute at the University of Michigan in 2002, he went on to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in History.
Before being selected as a PPIA Fellow, Farouk had an interest in public service but he wasn’t sure how to get there. No one in his family had ever worked in public service and he didn’t think he had the right resources to pursue this option as a career. He also wasn’t quantitatively oriented and was intimidated by courses like economics and statistics.
Farouk credits PPIA with giving him an introduction to public policy and the confidence to tackle the quantitative classes he needed to attend graduate school. “Without PPIA, I am almost certain that graduate school in public policy would have been out of reach.” After PPIA, Farouk translated his degree in History into a career in public service by attending the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. He graduated in 2006 with a Master’s in Public Policy. His graduate degree gave him access to incredible job opportunities. He has worked for the Department of Defense, the White House, and now in the U.S. Senate.
For Farouk, public service means having a dedication to issues that will never produce profits or headline news but will always have a direct impact on the citizens of our country. “I view public servants as those who work everyday to protect our country from foreign threats, make sure our roads, railways, and airways are maintained and safe, ensure we have clean air and water, provide aid to foreign countries who need it, deliver services to the poor and elderly, and a whole number of other things that keep our country competitive, prosperous, and free.”
Foreign Service Officer
Jean Pierre-Louis began his tenure as Deputy Political Chief at U.S. Embassy in Ottawa in June 2017 after serving as Senior Advisor in the Office of the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources. Before that, Jean served at Embassy Bangui as Deputy Chief of Mission. From 2012 to 2015, he served as Special Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to France. From 2010 to 2012, on secondment to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Jean managed $50 million in grants, loans, and investments. Other previous tours include Washington, Taiwan, and Shanghai.
Jean holds a masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and his undergraduate studies at the University of Florida included two yearlong excursions to learn Mandarin Chinese – a first at Shaanxi Normal University in Xi’An, China, followed by a year at National Taiwan University in Taipei. Jean is also fluent in French and Haitian Creole. Jean is married to Janée Pierre-Louis, a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of Commerce who hails from Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the proud parents of three dynamic children – Julien, Sarah, and Joelle.
The following interview was conducted by PPIA for the Spring 2013 Newsletter.
Q: You attended the University of Washington’s JSI program in 1997. How did that experience shape your future educational and professional path?
A: PPIA was one of the key moments in life for me. I had not thought about graduate school before really and I didn’t know whether or not I had the aptitude to do it. It was not one of my goals. I went to the University of Washington to see what would happen, in a sense. I met a cohort of people who were enthusiastic, many of them had clear goals to go to graduate school and do other things and those goals became part of my own reality. That probably was, for me, pivotal. In addition to giving me at least the belief that graduate school was a necessity and something that I could tackle, the program also came with a financial incentive to continue. That combination really set me off sailing in a direction that I otherwise would not have gone.
Q: You attended the Master of Science in Foreign Service program at Georgetown University. How did you end up choosing that program?
A: I think in part because I had met the Director of Admissions and the Dean at my PPIA summer institute. They had traveled to meet with us. With those two having come to the institute, it put Georgetown on my radar. After the summer institute I went to Taiwan to do my senior year abroad and the administrators of the PPIA program at the time kept in touch. In Taiwan I met a lot of people who were in graduate school already and they had a clear path to go on to do a PhD or something. I was one of a handful of undergrads and when I talked to them about the places they had looked at for getting an advanced degree, Georgetown kept coming up as one of the APSIA schools that was an option for PPIA alumni. After, when I was exploring my options, I really focused on schools in Washington, DC. Georgetown was a good fit because I had become interested in the Foreign Service. Initially, I was waitlisted. I did not want to remain waitlisted so I wrote a note to the two women I’d met at the PPIA summer institute and I think that, in part, that helped get me off the waitlist. So a number of factors kicked in to get me to attend Georgetown. It was definitely the best fit for me.
Q: What were the top 3 most valuable takeaways from your graduate school experience?
A: The top take-away was the network. When you go to Georgetown you join a network of people who are like-minded, successful, and feel that they owe other alums an ear if not taking action directly on their behalf. That was key. While I was there I had access to the World Bank, the Pentagon, etc. I wanted to focus on North Korea and I met with some of the top people working on North Korea. There was no institution that I wanted to reach out to and connect with that they could not get to through a professor or alum. That’s the number one thing that you get out of it.
Second, I learned how to write for leaders, busy people who are not going to read 15 pages routinely. I learned to put the meat of your argument up front and summarize what they really need to know. In a sense, keeping it short, sweet, and powerful. I think this applied not only to my writing but also in oral presentation. I learned how to give people information in way they will remember.
Third, Georgetown gave me an opportunity to learn about leadership. Georgetown had a weekend seminar that looked at leadership. This remains one of the other key moments in my life besides PPIA. It was a one-day seminar where we had a presenter who talked about leadership. Why be a leader? What does it mean to be a leader? What are the realities? In other words, do you know that leaders work long hours, sometimes it means giving other people credit or taking blame when there is blame to take. He asked very pointed questions and gave us really powerful nuggets. I have never forgotten those lessons. In my career I still frequently ask myself why am I here? What am I supposed to learn? I also learned that you lead at every level and lead differently in different settings. We talked about different type of leaders and I remember that I preferred the helicopter model. Over ten years later, I still remember my preference.
Q: What advice would you give to alumni who are thinking about graduate school?
A: Be sure that graduate school is what you need. Don’t hurry into it. Don’t go just because you think you need to punch that ticket. There are so many options that can help prepare you for the three or four careers you are about to experience. The days are gone when you are going to stick with one company for 30 years. Even if you are in the same organization, you don’t necessarily have the same responsibilities. In the Foreign Service, my work changes every couple of years. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into being an expert before you have a chance to understand what the needs are in the fields you are looking at long-term. I think it’s important to ask yourself – Will the skills you plan to acquire in grad school allow you to pivot so people will believe that your degree is an asset? Also, you don’t need to go to a brand name school necessarily; you can pick up the same book knowledge from any campus. You should focus on finding a school that prepares you for what you hope to do in the next 5, 10, 15 years and will help you pivot through your next couple of jobs.
Q: You are currently based in Paris, France as the Special Assistant to the US Ambassador. For those of our alumni who are considering a path in the State Department, how would you describe your work?
A: The first thing I’d say is don’t let the hype fool you. This is a job. It’s glamorous sure, it’s exciting yes, but you do have a desk and a computer and you are expected to work. The work that you are expected to do most of the time looks like any of the work that anyone else with a desk and a computer is doing. You’re feeding information to Washington, to your colleagues, and to others. The work isn’t anything you can’t do if you have the aptitude. The job itself calls for someone with the skill set we’ve described before. Being willing to be a leader at any level regardless of what your job calls for. Being willing to take a leadership role when called for and take a back seat when needed.
If working in an embassy is something you think you are interested in, work on your writing skills. 40% of your time is spent pushing information to others over email. The goal of what you write is to quickly present the ideas that you need to get across in order to have them get acted on quickly. It’s also important to be analytical. I’m a political officer by cone and part of our job is to see that things are going in a particular direction and why. In those cases, you can’t let yourself get lost in the details and miss the big picture.
As a Foreign Service Officer in this job you have to learn how to quickly make friends and get people to believe that you have something valuable to share and that you are a person of integrity. Share the credit. I tell people that I don’t have a meaty portfolio, my job is to empower the Ambassador to do his job well. He needs to be able to show up and be prepared. In the past, I’ve been the one that had to show up and be prepared. Be flexible. Show people that you care about their well-being and communicate clearly and succinctly.
Q: Before joining the Foreign Service you held a number of very different positions. How did you navigate your career path?
A: It was mostly about opportunities presenting themselves but it wasn’t haphazard. You can prepare yourself to take advantage of opportunities. PPIA was one of those steps. I didn’t know it at the time but I was preparing myself for what was ahead. I studied abroad, I had summer jobs, and all of that helped prepare me. For example, I went on vacation to Haiti and while I was there, found an opportunity to be a translator for a U.S. Special Forces in Haiti. I was a flight attendant when I got out of college because I wanted to travel. In that job I learned about service and dealing with difficult people with a smile. It has been extremely useful throughout my career. I started a small business and closed a small business and that failure helped me focus on what else I wanted to do in life. It actually reminded me that I had the opportunity through PPIA to go to graduate school. Without that failure I might not have gone on to get an advanced degree. I haven’t had a bad job. Every job was a learning opportunity that taught me something I was able to use later.
Q: Why did you choose to enter the Foreign Service?
A: I first learned about the Foreign Service when I was in China as a sophomore in college. While I was there, a gentleman in the program mentioned that his Chinese girlfriend was going back to the US with him that summer. People told him that it was very hard to get a VISA and he said his dad was an Foreign Service Officer and would help her. That was the first time I heard about it. Later, when I went to Taiwan in my senior year, I started visiting a bunch of diplomats who had really nice homes. They had homes with pools and I was sharing a two-bedroom place with three other people. I wanted to know what they did and I decided that it was a career I’d like to try at some point. I knew that I had what it took to live abroad and could deal with the daily impact of living far away from family. I also liked language. I didn’t want to take the Foreign Service exam right away though. I went on to do other things first. Once I went to Georgetown, the Foreign Service was in my face all the time. In my second year there I took and passed the exam. It was always in the back of my mind and I kept moving towards it slowly. The opportunities were there and I jumped on them but there were steps that prepared me to show up and succeed in getting in.
Q: To date, what professional achievement are you most proud of?
A: I’m quite proud of the fact that all of the places I’ve worked I can pick up the phone, call those colleagues, and have them take that call. I think that’s important. I’m quite proud of the professional relationships I’ve built. I make an intentional effort to do that. There is not one staffer in an office who deserves all the credit. It takes hard work on the part of every person who works in an office, from the people who empty the trash up to the top person, to achieve success. I respect what my colleagues do and have accomplished.
The other thing I’m proud of doing is encouraging people to leave a position when they are more skilled than the job they are doing calls for. Even people on my own team who I benefit from working with, I encourage them to move on and up and take on bigger challenges that fit their skill sets.
In terms of a legacy, I spent two years after the earthquake in Haiti working for the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. That was some difficult work. The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund had about $50 million in funds and we did some things in Haiti that were good and different than what other organizations were doing. We empowered small business in the local communities and when we worked with NGOs, we tried to ensure that their goal was to transfer knowledge to local Haitians and empower the community. Ultimately, this created sustainable jobs.
Q: What other advice would you like to share?
A: I’d like to share that it’s important to ask for help. Do it in a way that makes sense, be respectful and reasonable when talking to busy people, but ask for help. It’s also really important to follow up to say thank you. In all the years that I have been making myself available to help people interested in getting involved in the Foreign Service, only 1 or 2 have followed up.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: When I went to China, I started reading the Economist. The back of the Economist had all kinds of job advertisements for things that sounded so interesting. My goal is to one day find a job in the ads in the Economist that interests me, apply, and get it. I’m not preparing in any special way for this, I don’t have a specific job in mind, but I know that it’s an achievable goal for me. I’d hope that’s the way life would work for all of us. That we have a goal and work towards it, however slowly, and eventually, achieve it.
Founder & CEO, Citizen’s Mark
“Making a lifelong commitment to public service is about being an advocate for the public good no matter where you happen to work, be it in the public, social or private sector.”
Cynthia Salim, a PPIA alum who attended the 2008 JSI at Carnegie Mellon University, is a Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur and founder of Citizen's Mark, a socially responsible brand of women's professional wear. She has been honored by the World Policy Institute for her work in developing a socially responsible supply chain for Citizen's Mark and her thought leadership in the global garment industry. She notes, “PPIA helped me solidify my commitment to public service and integrate it into everything I do.”
After her summer with PPIA, she graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Ethics. Cynthia then went on to earn an MA in Human Values and Contemporary Global Ethics at King’s College in London as a Rotary scholar in 2011. Since then, she has worked as a Policy Associate at the International Catholic Migration in Geneva, Switzerland and later as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, also in Geneva.
Cynthia credits her experience at the Junior Summer Institute with making a lasting impact on her career path. “PPIA helped me launch a career in international affairs in Geneva, Switzerland where I worked in human rights advocacy at the UN on behalf of a non-governmental organization.” she says.
With regards to her professional experiences post-college, Cynthia believes that “sometimes you have to pave your own road” particularly with breaking into a field that you are passionate about. “There is almost always a community waiting to help you thrive in a field you’re interested in.” she states.
Director of Operations at MHR Management, Inc.
Tiana Thomas values public service as a way to make a productive contribution to society to help dismantle structures that perpetuate systematic inequalities between groups. She is interested in work that helps shift social, cultural, and/or political attitudes and institutions towards a more inclusive future.
As an alumna of the 2007 Junior Summer Institute at UC Berkeley, Tiana gained insight into public service opportunities and a network to help her succeed once she started her career. She went on to pursue her Master’s of Public Affairs from Princeton University, graduating in 2014. Her graduate experience equipped her with the tools she needed to understand the language of policy analysis and policy making.
Today, she is putting her learning to good use as a Resident and Community Services Manager for Workforce Housing Group. She has built partnerships and won grants that have enabled the organization to empower tenant groups and create change in their communities.
Senior Assistant Dean for Academic Programs and Dean of Students, UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy
Martha Chavez is the Senior Assistant Dean for Academic Programs and Dean of Students at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. She leads 10 academic programs, including the #1 ranked public policy analysis master’s program, as well as undergraduate, concurrent master’s, and doctoral degree programs. Dean Chavez has designed new academic programs and directs all aspects of student services, including academic planning, advising, financial aid, student leadership, career services, alumni services, student conduct, and financial and strategic management of all degree program budgets.
In addition to working with PPIA on national diversity initiatives, she leads school-wide diversity programs and has served on diversity and academic panels at APPAM and NASPAA national conferences. Prior to her career in higher education, she served as the Senior Director of Programs at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and as a Program Analyst (Presidential Management Intern Program) at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Planning and Evaluation Service and Migrant Education Office.
Dean Chavez also serves as a member of PPIA’s Board of Advisors. She has a B.A in Economics from UC Berkeley and M.S. in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, where she was a Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) fellowship recipient. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Education at UC Berkeley and is a fervent champion in supporting the next generation of diverse leaders and mentors students nationwide.
Director of Global Health Programs, Princeton University Center for Health and Wellbeing
Gilbert Collins has served as the Director of Global Health Programs at the Princeton University Center for Health and Wellbeing since 2016. Before that, he was Director of Graduate Student Life at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School (WWS) for three years. As an alumnus of both the WWS MPA program (1999) and of the Princeton Junior Summer Institute (1995), he returns to the institution that provided the academic foundation for his public service career.
Prior to coming to Princeton, Gilbert served for several years with the U.S. Peace Corps in southern Africa, including four years as Country Director in Namibia and four years as Associate Director in Botswana. Prior to that, he was the Evaluation and Planning Team Leader for the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development, providing strategic and programmatic guidance for relief and development activities around the world.
He has completed internships at the United Nations, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the State Department. He also taught business development and computer literacy for seven months at a community-based NGO in Bangalore, India. Gilbert was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow in 1999.
Before completing his MPA concentrating in Development Studies at the Woodrow Wilson School, Gilbert earned a bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard University. He has also studied in Berlin and Beijing. Conversant in French, German, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese, Gilbert was born in Germany and was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His hobbies include photography, frisbee, travel, and board games. He is joined by his wife Sara and sons Timothy and Nicholas.
CEO and Principal Consultant, Corral Consulting
As CEO and Principal Consultant of Corral Consulting, Richard Xavier Corral, MPP brings over twelve years of professional experience along with a lifelong commitment to advancing social change to the nonprofit, for profit, corporate, community-based, government and philanthropic organizations with whom he consults.
Mr. Corral seamlessly integrates his extensive formal studies, passion for building business know-how and big picture problem solving to craft win-win solutions around education, health and wellness, green economies, LGBTQ equality, place-based initiatives and supplier diversity. Corral Consulting’s diverse clientele benefit from a comprehensive set of skills, strategies, content expertise and networks rarely assembled in one firm that are essential to effecting change in today’s fast changing world. Corral Consulting distinguishes itself by crafting workable solutions that cut across business, community, and policy.
To complement his consulting work, Mr. Corral volunteers his time, talents and energy throughout Los Angeles. Thoroughly attuned to both the challenges and opportunities facing under-resourced communities, Mr. Corral served as an elected representative on the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council from 2005 to 2008, provides pro bono consulting to several local startup ventures and serves as the current board president of the San Gabriel Valley Consortium for Homelessness.
Mr. Corral received a bachelor of arts in political science from the University of California at Berkeley, a master’s degree in public policy from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and is a Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellow.
Managing Director, J.P. Morgan
Sekou Kaalund is a Managing Director at J.P. Morgan and Head of Pension Fund Coverage for the Public Sector Group in the Corporate Investment Bank. Previously, he was responsible for the firm-wide senior relationship coverage for some of the largest investment bank clients, including Asset Managers and Hedge Funds. Kaalund was also Americas Head of Sales for Corporate and Public Pensions and Endowments and foundations. He joined J.P. Morgan as a Managing Director and Global Head of Sales for Private Equity and Real Estate Fund Services.
Kaalund also held leadership roles at Citi, including Head of Strategy for the Securities and Funds Services Group and Head of Strategic Initiatives for the Consumer Lending Group. Kaalund began his career at Federal Reserve Bank of New York and was a Commissioned Bank Examiner.
Kaalund earned a Master’s of Public Policy from Duke University and a Bachelor’s from Hampden-Sydney College. He is active on several boards including New York City Parks Foundation, Duke University School of Public Policy, the Public Policy and International Affairs Program, and the Council of Urban Professionals. He is also a member of the Executive Leadership Council, Milken Young Leader’s Circle, Truman National Security Program, and the Aspen Institute Vanguard Society.
Director, BNP Paribas
Dorene J. Martinez joined the BNP Paribas Cash Management Sales team in 2014. Based in the New York office, she currently serves as a director covering a portfolio of General Industrials, Chemicals and East Coast tech clients. Prior to BNPP, Dorene spent nearly a decade working with Deutsche Bank and HSBC in trade finance and cash management sales, focusing on large cap companies in the area of energy and natural resources. Before her career in banking, she was an Investment Officer for the New York City’s comptroller’s Office in the bureau of Asset Management and worked for a variety of international development organizations. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a Master in Public Policy from Harvard University.