People

Current Students

Graduate Student Representatives (GSR)

GSRs facilitate mechanisms and spaces by which students in the program can contribute to discussions about the program and degree.  In this capacity they serve as a resource to other students and the program director.

  • GSR for the 2019-202 cohort is Olivia Handman

Student Ambassadors

Connect with current Policy Studies students, ask questions, arrange a campus tour, and learn about the student experience from our Student Ambassadors.


2019 Cohort

Rowan Al-ghafafiRowan Al-ghfafi

Undergraduate Degree: BA in Health Studies from University of Washington Bothell

Research Interests: Health policy in reducing health care expenditures. The pursuit of healthcare efficiency.

Snapshot: Rowan has lived in the Seattle, Washington area all her life. She is from Libya and was born in Alexandria, Egypt. She loves to go back to her home country to learn and physical be within her culture. She was a running start student during her time in High School, leading her to earn her Bachelors at the age of 19 and starting her Masters at 20. She was interested in many academic fields, but it was during her last year in the running start program where she found her interest in healthcare. During her undergrad, she focused her research on The Effects of Social Class on One’s Physical Health. She would now like to pursue that research in much more depth including healthcare equality and efficiency. Outside of school, Rowan likes to spend time with family and friends. She also loves to learn about history and travel, especially to historical sites. 


Gia AnguianoGia Anguiano

Undergraduate Degree: BA in Political Science, BS in Economics, Certificate in Political Entrepreneurship, Certificate in International Studies, Arizona State University

Research Interests: Public economics and political economy, economic development, international economics, immigration policy

Snapshot: As an Illinois native living in Arizona, Gia is ready to leave her desert home to join the 2019-2020 Policy Studies cohort. She graduated from Arizona State University in May of 2019 with concurrent degrees in Political Science and Economics. Her love for policy and advocacy began in 2014 when she traveled to Mexico to create a short documentary about immigration. She continued to advocate for migrant rights and discovered that the best way to help others was through policy. By studying economics and political science, she has gained the opportunity to understand the motivators behind policy and hopes to strengthen her knowledge through this program. Gia has also expanded her international interests by studying abroad in France and becoming fluent in French. She hopes to work on public policy and economic policy at home and abroad in her future.


David BushnellDavid Bushnell    

Undergraduate Degree: BA in Law, Economics, and Public Policy from the University of Washington Bothell

Research Interests: The Cause and Effects of Mass Incarceration, the War on Drugs, Systems of Power & Control as they Relate to the Internet and Social Media, and Asian American Social Justice    

Snapshot: David is a native born Western Washingtonian raised in the sleepy suburb of Edmonds.  He grew up close to his Taiwanese family and spent many afternoons in his Grandma’s Kitchen.  Through high school and college, David competed in debate which would spark a life-long passion for law and public policy. He hopes to one day be an advocate for the Asian American community he grew up in and is the first in his family to go to graduate school.  During his free time, he enjoys spending uproarious nights out and forging new friendships through shared experiences, as well as spending time reading about and discussing philosophy, religion, and politics.  He also has a secret passion for food and loves cooking or splurging on a fancy dinner at a restaurant.


Jessica CorbmanJessica Corbman    

Undergraduate Degree: BA in Elementary Education with an English Emphasis, Idaho State University

Research Interests: Policy/Politics, especially regarding human rights and environmental rights    

Snapshot: I graduated with an elementary education degree from Idaho State University in 2012. Since then, I have worked as a substitute teacher, tutor, and after school program director. I have a passion for politics and policy, and have volunteered for multiple campaigns. I am on the executive board of the 39th legislative district Democrats and am the current treasurer of the Snohomish County Young Democrats. I am very interested in working to improve our state and federal policies regarding refugee and immigrant rights, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ rights, affordable healthcare and housing, and environmental protections. Most importantly, I have four adorable cats named Theo, Finn, Tonks, and Inara. 


Olivia HandmanOlivia Handman

Undergraduate degree: BA in Policy and Cultural Studies from The Evergreen State College

Research Interests: I am interested in, prison reform policies, students with disabilities educational policy research, and social economic development policies.

Snapshot:  I grew up in Seattle Washington. I am the first in my family to graduate from an undergraduate degree program, and the first in my family to attend graduate school. I didn't know that policy studies was something I was passionate about until I took a study abroad trip to New Zealand where I worked with the Maori people. While in New Zealand I worked with and organize called Te Roopu Taurima, while interning there I worked on a document that has now been sent into the government that has the potential to gain more rights for Maori people with disabilities. I am very proud and honored to be a part of this experience. I am looking forward to learning more about policy and find out where my skills work best when it comes to making the world a better place! 


Alyanna MattsonAlyanna Mattson

Undergraduate Degree: Political Science, with Minors in Human Rights and Law, Societies, and Justice from the University of Washington Seattle 

Research Interests: Law, Human Rights, Politics, Social Justice

Snapshot: Alyanna Mattson graduated from the University of Washington Seattle in 2018. Her time as an undergraduate student led to her interests in law, policy, institutions, and society and how change in one realm can be a catalyst for change in the others. She intends for these interests to lead her to work in government, law, or policy as an effective advocate for justice.


Joshua MurphyJoshua Murphy

Undergraduate Degree: BS in Secondary Education, Social Science Comprehensive from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Research Interests: Education policy, behavioral economics, environmental economics, urban planning.

Snapshot: Joshua was born in Long Beach, CA, moved to Las Vegas, NV, and finally settled in the Pacific Northwest. Prior to graduating from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he has worked in the food & beverage and home construction industries. He spent a decade working in politics and non-profits before becoming a teacher. For the past decade he has been teaching social sciences in public schools in Nevada and Washington, from Title I schools to CTE and academy programs. He is also a regional coordinator for National History Day and is a district curriculum leader.


Elijah NicholsonElijah Caleb Nicholson

Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Law, Economics & Public Policy and Global Studies, Minor in Human Rights from University of Washington Bothell

Research Interests: Game Theory, Political Science, Geopolitics, Data & Intelligence Policy, African Development Policy, International Relations

Snapshot: Having previous experience working and interning in both State and Federal Legislatures, I seek to redefine how policy, legislation and constituent relations develop. The methods and procedures of the past may not always be best for the future. Contemplating how domestic and international policy influence policymakers worldwide, I entered the MAPS program to effectively learn how to analyze and even synthesize substantial data sets and advance my research pertaining to international investments in Africa, Artificial Intelligence & Jobs as well as Human Trafficking.


Mike PalazzoMike Palazzo

Undergraduate Degree: BA in Law, Economics & Public Policy with a minor in Human Rights from University of Washington, Bothell; Associate of Arts and Sciences DTA and Associate in General Studies AGS from Everett Community College 

Research Interests: Military, Veteran, UCMJ

Snapshot: It is an honor to have such a chance and continue to be a successful student at UWB. I am a veteran who has honorably served in our nation's military and the first member of my family to obtain a college degree. Since I was a small child, I have been fascinated with the legal system, and it's internal workings, especially having a police officer as a father. There is something that has called me to pursue an education in public policy, in hopes to one day implement positive changes in the way our nations soldiers and respective families are adversely managed under the current Uniform Code of Military Justice at the hands of toxic "leadership" and power-hungry commanders. 

I wish to also continue to support our military veteran community, especially in this time of need where over twenty-two veterans a day commit suicide because they either do not receive the care they need or are lost in their battle to continue to live amongst us. I want to be involved in enhancing the quality of lives of those I have the opportunity to assist.

In the words of my late best friend and fellow veteran Tech. Sgt. Jarrett Parker, I strive to do nothing more but "To protect and give hope to others." As an older student in my thirties, I can say that the quality of one's education significantly impacts one's quality of life.


Kate PitellKate Pitell

Undergraduate Degree: BA in Society, Ethics & Human Behavior, Minor in Labor Studies from University of Washington Bothell

Research Interests: Labor Policy and Law, Labor History, Human Rights Law, Workplace Standards, Workforce Development, Tax Reform, Campaign Finance Law, Healthcare Policy

Snapshot: Seattle native, lover of puzzles, football (Go DAWGS!), gardening and floral design, dog rescue volunteer, road trip enthusiast, proud Auntie, and mom to my beloved French Bulldog Winnie.


Tania SantiagoTania Santiago

Undergraduate Degree: BA in Sociology and Minor in Education from the University of Washington

Research Interests: Immigration, domestic violence, access to higher education, community engagement and labor policy

Snapshot: Tania Santiago is an immigrant from Mexico and was raised in Redmond, WA. In 2014, she graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in sociology and minor in education. After graduation, Tania worked as a legal advocate at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. She is currently the Executive Legislative Aide for King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. Tania has advocated for policies that protect and support immigrants including the failed 2010 Federal DREAM Act, the passage of the 2014 Washington State Dream Act, and the passage of the 2018 U/T visa certification budget proposal for King County Sheriff's Office. 
In her free time, Tania enjoys helping youth apply for college/scholarships, volunteering, spending time with her loved ones, and playing with her adorable cats.


Lauren VlasLauren Vlas

Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Cultural Anthropology with a Minor in Public Affairs and Specialization in Global Awareness from Seattle University

Research Interests: My research interests include state and local government policy related to public health, affordable housing, homelessness services, behavioral health, gender equity and more. I am especially interested in how public policy can address historical inequities and close education and opportunity gaps to address disparities.

Snapshot: Lauren was born and raised on a dairy farm in Lynden, WA and has lived and worked in the Seattle area since 2008. For the past five years, she’s worked in local politics at the King County Council. In her role as a policy advisor to one of the Council’s nine members, Lauren has worked on issues ranging from sexual assault, domestic violence prevention and human trafficking to gun safety, heroin and opiate epidemic response and criminal justice reform. In addition, Lauren serves on the Board of Directors of Solid Ground, a multi-service nonprofit agency that works to end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty. She also serves as the co-chair of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington’s Political Action Committee.


Miriam VonAschen-CookMiriam VonAschen-Cook

Undergraduate Degree: BS in Political Science, minor in American Studies from Oklahoma State University 

Research Interests: Public safety policy, municipal policy, local government. The intersection of technology and public policy and how the use of data and technology affects the lives of community members.

Snapshot: Miriam, her wife, two children, and menagerie of animals moved from Oklahoma to Washington in 2017. After a long career as an IT professional she went back to school to complete her undergraduate degree as a non-traditional student. Miriam is currently a policy analyst for the Seattle Police Department, focusing on the department’s compliance with the City’s Surveillance Technology Ordinance. She excited to focus on and work in the intersection of policy, data analysis, and technology. Though a newcomer to the region, Miriam is passionate about civic engagement, contributing to the community, and putting down roots in Western Washington.


Leighla WebbLeighla Webb

Undergraduate Degree: BA in Community Psychology from University of Washington Bothell

Research Interests: Juvenile justice reform; trauma-informed pedagogy; education reform

Snapshot: As a Washingtonian, Leighla studied Community Psychology at UW Bothell where she was a research assistant examining identity formation of anti-racism activist. Leighla has spent most of her career working with underserved youth and has witnessed the inequity in current policy. Her current work in the non-profit sector has provided her with direct service where she has experienced the side effects of well-intentioned policy. Leighla hopes MAPS will enable her work towards the collective wellness in her community. 


Emma WhitehallEmma Whitehall

Undergraduate Degree: BA in Human Services, Western Washington University

Research Interests: Educational policy

Snapshot: I seek to find a profession in the school system to help eradicate policies that hinder equity and equality for marginalized and vulnerable populations.


2018 Cohort


Rechilda AllanRechilda M. Allan

Graduate Institution: Graduate School of Business, Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines)
Graduate Degree: MBA

Research Interests: Microfinance, economic development at the bottom of the pyramid, inclusive business development, coastal resource and MPA management, local governance issues, public-private sector partnership.

Snapshot: Richie is adept at wearing multiple hats, and so looks forward to overcoming the challenges of parenting a precocious toddler while working on her MAPS degree. She hopes to continue to the PhD program of Evans, bring everything she learned back to the Philippines and make a difference.

She loves to connect and listen to people, and is amazed at the friendliness of everyone she’s met since moving to Washington and settling in the Lake Forest Park neighborhood. She likes to explore the urban outdoors and with her child and a UPass, she has been exploring parks and playgrounds in cities on both sides of Lake Washington.

image of Saiwa S. Conejo-MoralesSaiwa S. Conejo-Morales

Undergraduate Institution: University of Washington Bothell
Undergraduate Degree: Environmental Studies; Minor in Policy Studies

Research Interests: Law, environmental policy, international relationships, climate refugees, human rights

Snapshot: Saiwa grew up in Seattle and has developed a passion for environmental justice. Part of the inspiration for environmental justice comes from learning about the Cochabamba Water War. As a first generation student navigating college was a challenge. However, she was able to learn and persevere. Through Saiwa's undergraduate independent research on mycoremediation, the Debate Society of UWB and currently as Chair of Campus Events Board at the University of Washington Bothell for the second year, she has been able to find her voice and truth. She looks forward to learning more about politics and gain the skills so that one day she can work for the people in regards to environmental justice and equity. When Saiwa is not in school she likes hanging out with family, friends, staying active, eating food and meeting new people.

image of Kyra LaughlinKyra Laughlin

Undergraduate Institution: University of Washington Bothell
Undergraduate Degree: Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies and Society, Ethics & Human Behavior

Research Interests: Prevention, support and response efforts/policies pertaining to sexual assault and relationship violence within higher education; trauma-informed pedagogy; institutional betrayal as it relates to survivors of sexual and relationship violence; (dis)ability and accessibility; and developing policy through a “healing-centered engagement” approach

Snapshot: Since November 2016, Kyra has organized around sexual and relationship violence (SRV). In her role as a vocal advocate and activist, she has worked with 100+ survivors on campus and also identifies as a SRV victim-survivor herself. Her work has included developing a comprehensive resource guide for SRV survivors at UWB,  founding the university’s first student club centered around SRV, facilitating trainings on campus, designing an SRV resources Canvas page which some faculty have added to their course pages and serving as a Communications Intern for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, among other projects. Understanding SRV is inextricably linked to other systems of oppression (e.g racism, ableism, colonialism, cisgenderism, heterosexism, etc.), it’s critical we center the needs of marginalized communities so that all survivors are able to heal and to pursue justice (or not) in the ways that are meaningful and safest to them.

image of Elaine MontesElaine Montes

Undergraduate Institution: University of Washington Bothell
Undergraduate Degree: Law, Economics, and Public Policy; Community Psychology; and Global Studies.
Minor: Business Administration, Human Rights

Research Interests: Homeland security policy focusing on cyber-security, and human-trafficking. Locally interested in developing current research with the Department of Traffic that handles tolls and urban design of highways.

Snapshot: Washington raised, first-generation student. Currently studying Japanese, however can execute a fun conversation in, Spanish, French, and Korean. Animal caretaker of four, also loves to play the violin and improve her piano skills to pass the time by. If you’re open to have a conversation about human rights, she is delighted to share her previous research project regarding North Korean defectors and the Chinese Repatriation during her time in Washington, D.C. and Seoul, South Korea. Elaine is always open to have a conversation about social inequity over a serious competitive match of Overwatch. If you’re on campus come and swing by the Student Success Center where she can help you find an internship abroad that suits your academic interests.

image of Olivia WrightOlivia Wright

Undergraduate Institution: University of Washington Bothell
Undergraduate Degree: Society, Ethics & Human Behavior; Minor in Human Rights; Associate in Arts & Sciences Degree from Bellevue College

Research Interests: Issues of access and opportunity; specifically, the inequitable allocation of state and federal resources to our marginalized communities

Snapshot: Olivia is a 19-year-old northwest native. Her love for policy was born at age 15, when given the opportunity to canvass for a bipartisan campaign running in the 31st district, here in Washington State. She then spent two years attending Bellevue College, as well as competing in Financial Statement Analysis on their collegiate DECA team, where she placed as an international finalist both years. Through her undergraduate studies, Olivia has cultivated a passion for advocacy. She is currently the public policy assistant at the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State and Northern Idaho Chapter. Olivia also volunteers her time to early intervention for children on the autism spectrum. In her down time, you’re most likely to find her taking photographs, with cameras old and new!