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 2019-2020 cohort is Olivia Handman

Current Students by Cohort

Read about some of our dynamic Policy Studies students, their research interests, and their snapshot introduction.

2020 Cohort

John Anthony BassettJohn Anthony Bassett

Degrees

BA in Foreign Languages and Literature, History (University of Southern Mississippi), MA in Teaching (University of Southern Mississippi)

Research Interests

Education, Economic Inequality, Immigration, Human Rights

Snapshot

John Anthony was born and raised in the Deep South, but has lived in the Puget Sound area with his wife and kids for the past 11 years. At a young age, he became keenly aware of systemic inequalities and was filled with a strong desire to support causes of equity and social justice. Starting in his early 20s, John Anthony worked in education. His first teaching opportunities came working with young immigrant and first-generation learners in Southern California. From there, he returned to Mississippi and Alabama to teach the growing community immigrant youth in the region. He particularly loved teaching English, literature, social sciences, political science, and career and college advising classes. For the last decade, John Anthony worked for an education non-profit in the Seattle area as an executive director. At this time, he is striving to become more involved in creating policy and legislation that address issues of inequality in education, poverty, immigration, and human rights.


Mohamed BughraraMohamed Bughrara

Undergraduate Degree

Political Science, Global Studies, and Law, Economics and Policy with a minor in Human Rights

Research Interests

International Relations, Diaspora, Humanitarian Aid in vulnerable locations, Human Rights Practices, Methods of Decolonization in Africa and the Middle East

Snapshot

Black Lives Matter. 

Mohamed Bughrara is from Libya who was born in Alexandria, Egypt; Mohamed and his family migrated to the United States at a young age and settled at the Pacific Northwest. During the 2011 revolution, he was heavily involved in Libya and started multiple social media outlets helping families reconnect and reporting credible information. He was also in Libya where he organized charity events before experiencing the front lines. That experience propelled him to continue aiding the region. He was featured in published stories such as Voice 4 Libya and had local media exposure after the fall of Gaddafi due to his organization’s work and voyage in Libya. He’s participated in multiple international conferences including the World Youth Forum. His recent project was with Global Scholars where he was stationed at Lebanon working at refugee camps with displaced civilians from Syria and Palestine. Locally, Mohamed has worked with the Washington State Legislature and contributed with multiple campaigns. The MAPS program could be a platform to mend international and domestic policies into significant change.


Eric DavisEric Davis

Undergraduate Degree

BA in Community Psychology from University of Washington Bothell, Minor in Policy Studies

Research Interests

Social safety programs, with a focus on universal basic income. Also interested in anti-poverty, anti-corruption, educational, and mental health policy. Polices that can raise the quality of life and allow all people to live with equable opportunities and dignity.

Snapshot

Eric Davis was born and raised in Brooklyn NY. He has also lived in Alaska and has been living Washington for ten years. He started his career change out of the financial sector in 2017 after twelve years. Choosing UWB allowed Eric to discover community psychology which then lead him to policy studies as avenue to participate in effecting impactful changes within both state and federal levels. Eric wants to effect change in many areas of policy, with a passionate focus on social safety programs.


Phoenix Rising HornPhoenix Rising Horn

Undergraduate Degree

BA in Law, Economics, and Public Policy from the University of Washington (Magna cum laude)

Research Interests

Human rights, antiracism, and environmental justice

Snapshot

Phoenix was born in Albany, NY in 1992 before following the Grateful Dead for four years with his parents all over the country. He moved to Seattle, WA when he was five-years-old and is now a lifelong Washingtonian. Human rights, antiracism, and environmental justice are particularly important to him because of the physical and psychological trauma people experience as a result of climate change, systemic racism, mass incarceration, and egregious income inequality; all of which disproportionately harm communities of color. He’s also a U.S. Army veteran, wherein he served as a Civil Affairs Medical Specialist and paramedic. His experience in emergency medicine showed him the importance of increasing access to healthcare for people who need it while simultaneously eliminating systemic barriers to care. He’s passionate about using research, community and civic engagement, and public policy to help people and the environment. He sincerely believes that out of diversity comes equity.


Denise JonesDenise Jones

Undergraduate Degree

BA in Law, Economics, and Public Policy from University of Washington Bothell

Research Interests

Urban ecology, growth management and how people utilize their time

Snapshot

I am a Seattle area native. Spending the majority of my life volunteering with local non-profit organizations, focusing on creating an inclusive community that is inviting and supportive to immigrants, expatriates, and underrepresented members of our community. My education centers on understanding how a complex social issue affects a community and then applying qualitative and quantitative data to find positive solutions.  I believe that my interdisciplinary educational background gives a unique skill set, enabling me to tackle issues from a holistic point of view.


Ava KaramiAva Karami

Undergraduate Degree

BA in Law, Economics, & Public Policy and BA in Global Studies, University of Washington Bothell.

Research Interests

Human rights, Immigration, Foreign Policy, Migration, International Development, International Relations, Wealth Inequity, Environmental Justice, and Community Engagement.

Snapshot

Ava Karami was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, where growing up after the business development boom, she saw great inequalities between people increase tremendously. Combined with her ties to her Iranian culture and heritage, she was inspired to work to improve wealth and racial inequalities as well as foreign relations between her two countries.

From the age of 16, she began working with various organizations around Seattle including Charity Circle and Purrfect Pals, and local governments such as the City of Sammamish. Throughout her time as an undergraduate, she worked on various political campaigns to restore equity to the world around her. Following the completion of her graduate degree, she hopes to obtain her PhD and work for the United Nations as a policy analyst.

In her free time, she enjoys travelling, cooking, listening to music, and camping.


Vanessa J. MerakiVanessa J. Meraki

Former Degrees

Education Specialist Certificate, California University Stanislaus and M.Ed. Literacy & Special Needs, Seattle University

Research Interests

Land use, reparations, regenerative agriculture, food justice, bioremediation, universal basic income, social/economic value of rest

Snapshot

Vanessa taught public school for 16 years, working with students from preschool through high school with disabilities and/or at risk of academic failure. She became a teacher because she believed in the liberatory potential of education, and because the job was practical for her as a single parent. Now that both of her sons are grown, Vanessa is eager to bring her dedicated service and critical perspective to the policy world, in order to midwife systems that give rise to Decolonizing Everything, Black liberation, Indigenous sovereignty, atmospheric carbon drawdown, and the full spectrum of human rights for all. Vanessa also practices drawing, creative writing, and dance; provides administrative, marketing, and grant-writing support to cultural arts organizations; and beats her feet to the streets -- no justice, no peace.


Alexander MontelloAlexander Montello

Undergraduate Degree

BA in Global Studies (minor in human rights) from University of Washington Bothell

Research Interests

Community improvement, socialism, protest movements, human rights

Snapshot

Five years ago I moved to Washington in what I believed was just another stop along my journey. However, the city of Seattle had different plans for me, I changed my life in many ways in a short amount of time, including getting back into outdoor activities and fitness, becoming a vegan, and enrolling in my first classes since high school.

Through my undergraduate experience I started to open my eyes to the forces at work within our communities and society. A yearning to make a difference and contribute to a better world are what drives me, but I realize pitfalls often ensnare those with good intentions. My goal with the MAPS program is to learn to use and hone the skills necessary to identify issues and discern the best course of action.


Ana PalmerAna Palma

Undergraduate Degree

BA in Political Science from Western Washington University and an Associates Degree from Bellevue College

Research Interests

Disability law and immigration rights

Snapshot

Ana has lived in the Seattle, Washington area for over half of her life. She was born in Mexico City and is the first person in her family to obtain a university degree in the United States. Since a young age, Ana has had a strong interest in learning about the world and different cultures, as a result, Ana has sought out every opportunity possible to travel and to study abroad.

Since 2012, Ana has been selected to participate and work at worldwide recognized affiliations including National Model United Nations (NMUN.)  During her time working for NMUN, Ana researched many topics around human rights and the rights of underrepresented populations which allowed her to travel to different countries for conferences and research.  In 2019, Ana was selected to study abroad in Bundoran Ireland, making it the eighth country she visited for academic purposes.

After graduating with her Bachelor’s degree in 2016, Ana wanted to continue focusing on laws and policies for better representation of underrepresented populations. This led Ana to her current job in the Disability field, which inspired her to seek a Masters in Policy Studies. Ana seeks to increase accessibility in education and improve the process for obtaining accommodations in the K-12 and college systems. In the future, Ana plans to pursue a PhD career that will allow her to bring her collective education to the world agenda by bringing more representation of underrepresented people in world politics.


Allison PfuellerAllison Pfueller

Undergraduate Degree

BA with double major in Political Science and Fairhaven College Interdisciplinary Concentration in Education Policy from Western Washington University

Research Interests

Labor, Education Policy, Social Welfare, Policy Process, Politics, Human Rights, Equity, and Social Justice

Snapshot

Allison’s experiences as a mentor to youth in foster care and as a volunteer for programs which provide services to people who are unsheltered, low-income, and food insecure acted as a catalyst for her motivation to study policy. She saw the need for policy change which promotes equity and works towards dismantling systems of oppression for people who have been historically underserved and disadvantaged. Allison worked as a Political Science Research Assistant and program support for the Disability Access Center. She is passionate about advancing access, equity, and social justice in education. Allison enjoys volunteering, spending time with her family, and hiking with her dogs. 


Megan SantosMegan Santos

Undergraduate Degree

BA in Community Psychology from the University of Washington Bothell

Research Interests

Human rights, immigration, and structural racism to name a few. I'm specifically interested in researching how aspects of particularities in policies harm different populations. My general goal in researching in this arena is to target unethical policies and propose policy reform to bring social justice.

Snapshot

Born in Denver, Colorado 1991. Moved to Redmond, Washington at 4 years old and I've been in Washington ever since. It took me quite a while to really buckle down and get serious about school, but I finally got the hang of it and have been pretty enthralled with it ever since. I feel very fortunate to be able to obtain a higher education and truly feel that it changed (and continues to change) my life in profound ways. I recently graduated with the class of 2020. I'm a Grants Systems & Data Reporting Manager at a local foundation working with non-profit organizations. I love any time with family, kayaking with my husband, and playing with my 3 little nephews when we can be in the same social distance bubble. I also love historical dramas and fantasy films, RPG video games, swimming, our cats, and am fascinated with biodiversity.


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.