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Student Research

The Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement Fellowship provides financial and programmatic support for student projects advancing the Center’s mission. Each fellow is invited to submit a policy brief summarizing their research for the Center’s library. 

Kimberly Rubens, MPP ‘18

Kimberly Rubens HeadshotOriginally from the Bay Area, Kimberly began her career in public service as an educator of children with Autism in the Washington, D.C. Public Schools. This work prompted her desire to work on systems-level change, to ensure that students have access to comprehensive community-based resources that they need to thrive outside the classroom. While pursuing her MPP, Kimberly took a special interest in quantitative methods and history-informed analyses to address systemic issues related to racial and economic inequality. Since graduation, Kimberly has served as the fiscal legislative analyst for the Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young. As a CCDE fellow, she conducted an analysis of open data systems for the Mayor’s Data Team of Los Angeles, entitled “Open Data and Civic Engagement: Empowering Data Novices Through Civic Partnerships.” Her research examined civic engagement policies and developed a set of recommendations toward implementing new, department-wide strategies. In this report, Kimberly provided a robust planning framework for partnership opportunities, to bring community voices into the design and execution of open-data-related programming.


Juan Manuel Ramírez Roldan, MPP ‘17

Juan Manuel Ramirez Roldan headshot

Born in Colombia, Juan brought varied work experience to his policy education at Berkeley, having worked extended stints in government, the private sector, and consulting. His experience ranged from the Agriculture sector to social responsibility and sustainability work in corporate settings. Since graduating from the Goldman School, Juan has served as advisor to the presidential campaign of Sergio Fajardo (in Colombia) and as lecturer at the School of Government of Los Andes, in Bogotá. Juan’s fellowship project was entitled “From Ideas to Power: Guidelines for the Design of a Policy Platform for Compromiso Ciudadano, an Independent Political Movement in Colombia.” Among numerous features, Juan’s analysis addressed theoretical aspects of political-movement formation and the rhetorical foundation of effective party platforms. He also analyzed participatory policymaking processes to be utilized in maximizing campaigns’ democratic engagement before and after winning popular elections.


Alison Silveira, MPP ‘17

Alison Silveira headshot

Alison is a Los Angeles native and an alumna of Barnard College, Columbia University, currently based in Oakland, CA. Prior to her graduate studies, she served as editor-in-chief of an English-language news outlet in Chile, and later as a paralegal with the ACLU National Office’s Racial Justice Program. Since completing her degree, Alison joined the Crime and Justice Institute (“CJI”) as a Data and Policy Specialist, where she leads the data analysis phase of CJI’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative, analyzing trends in corrections to develop data-driven, evidence-based strategies that inform state criminal justice policy. Alison’s fellowship project for the Office of Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney (Oakland CA) was entitled “Leveling the Playing Field: Exploring Equity through Oakland’s Parks and Recreation Infrastructure.” Alison’s report explored how equity-driven frameworks inform the allocation of voter-approved bond proceeds for the city’s parks, recreation and senior-center facilities. Systematically applying methodologies drawn from her case-study comparison-cities (San Francisco CA & Minneapolis MN), Alison explored how equitable processes can improve funding decisions through increased community engagement, participatory budgeting, and empowering of a citizen-oversight commission.


Jason Siu, JD MPP ‘17

Jason Siu headshot

A native San Franciscan, Jason studied government and Chinese at Georgetown University, prior to completing a Fulbright Fellowship in Macau. There he taught English to elementary school children and coached a debate team. Since completing his joint law and policy degrees at Berkeley, Jason served as judicial law clerk at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Jason’s fellowship project for Office of the Oakland (CA) City Auditor was entitled “Improving the Work of Boards & Commissions.” For his report Jason completed a thorough taxonomy of these non-elected local bodies, categorizing their histories, enabling legislation, authority, and accountability systems. He also conducted cases studies of comparison cities (Berkeley, Sacramento, and San Jose) to help Oakland explore its options for improving the effectiveness and responsiveness of its boards and commissions.


Youjin Choe MPP ’16

Youjin Choe headshot

Youjin is a native of South Korea and pursued her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington, majoring in geographic information systems and international studies. Prior to her graduate work at Berkeley, she served as project officer for the Vietnam Country Program at the Global Green Growth Institute in Seoul. After completing her MPP at the Goldman School, Youjin has served as consultant to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), in particular its Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division in Bangkok. Youjin’s fellowship project, “Community Food Access: Small Grocery Stores in Underserved Areas in Oakland,” analyzed elements of the local “food desert” problem for the Berkeley Food Institute. Observing that current arrangements resulted in part from the fragmentation of support for healthy-good small grocery stores among government, community and civil society interests, Youjin’s report recommended establishing a multi-stakeholder network for data-sharing and coalition-building.


Alexander Kaplan, JD/MPP ‘16

Alexander Kaplan Headshot

Prior to pursuing his joint law-policy studies at Berkeley, Alex completed his undergraduate work at Haverford College and also served as programs coordinator with Common Cause Pennsylvania. Since graduation from Berkeley he has assumed the role of Policy Director with his fellowship-project client, represent.us. Alex’s fellowship project, entitled “Drafting Statutory Language for a State ‘Contribution Voucher’ Campaign Public Financing Program – Model Text & Decision Drafting Points,” analyzed ways to facilitate the implementation of state and local campaign-finance programs. His report provided guidance for effectuating “clean elections” programs and elevating the role of small-contribution donors in election systems.


Helke Enkerlin Madero, MPP ‘16

Helke Enkerlin Madero headshot

A native of Mexico, Helke majored in international relations and affairs at the Tecnológico de Monterrey and also attained an advanced diploma in nonprofit management and leadership there. Prior to her policy studies at Berkeley, Helke served as NGO outreach coordinator at the Civic Council of Institutions for the State of Nuevo León. Since completing her MPP Helke has served as data scientist on public-policy consulting projects with The Ergo Group in Mexico City. Helke’s fellowship project, “Alternatives for Governance and Finance in Monterrey’s Metropolitan Area,” analyzed urban sprawl in one region’s growth patterns. Conducted for the Ministry of Sustainable Development (State of Nuevo León), Helke’s study identified structural breakdowns in planning and development decision-making. Among her recommendations was a proposal to establish autonomous, inter-municipal institutes to promote cooperation in the interest of boosting quality-of-life improvements for residents.


Jonathan Yantzi, MPP ‘15

Jonathan Yantzi headshot

Prior to his studies at the Goldman School, Jonathan served as speechwriter and policy analyst at the Senate of Canada. His research experience includes topics ranging from public budgeting processes to international climate change architectures to women in politics. At Berkeley, Jonathan held a Fulbright scholarship and founded the Conflict and Security Policy Group. Since graduation, he has gone on to study law at the University of Toronto and has worked as summer student at the firm of Aird & Berlis LLP. Jonathan’s fellowship project, entitled “Accountability: Westminster Meets Digital,” was a study conducted for the Institute on Governance in Ottawa. His analysis identified opportunities for adapting traditional systems of parliamentary responsiveness and legitimacy to the new era of information technology in governance and democracy.

Emily Vaughan (MPP '14)

Emily Vaughan is a Washington D.C.-based policy analyst and communications professional. Currently, she serves as Manager, District/National Councils at the UrbanLand Institute where she supports a network of more than 70 local chapters through facilitating information sharing, building peer-to-peer networks, and developing communication programs to share best practices. Prior to joining ULI, Emily was a researcher with Smart Growth America where she focused on state transportation and land use policy and well as downtown economic development trends. She began her career in nonprofit services and has worked with more than 100 nonprofits on online advocacy and fundraising campaigns.

Read Emily Vaughan's Policy Brief “Technology and Public Engagement” here.


Orville Thomas (MPP '13)

Orville Thomas was recently awarded the title Master of Public Policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy. Interested in how political issues can be better explained to the public, Orville is researching how the City of Vallejo is attempting to increase interaction between its residents and government with “PB Vallejo”, the nation’s first city-wide participatory budging project.  His research focuses on increasing civic and political engagement among Vallejo residents while also focusing on how the city attempts to inform residents about government decisions. The ultimate goal of his research is to help create a communications and civic engagement strategy to help the City of Vallejo avoid legislation and policies which would lead them back into bankruptcy.


[Editor's Note: you can read more about the Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement's involvement with PB Vallejo in our news center]


Jessie Oettinger (MPP '11) 

Jesse Oettinger is a Master of Public Policy Candidate at the Goldman School of Public Policy. Jessie's research is on priority-driven budgeting, a process that solicits citizen feedback on public spending priorities to empower decision-makers to build more strategic budgets. Working for the Center for Priority Based Budgeting, Jessie's project focuses on the motivating factors and early outcomes of communities which have engaged in priority-driven budgeting.

[Editor's Note: Jessie Oettinger recently updated CCDE volunteers on the impact of working with the Center: “This summer I worked at Standard & Poor's with their local government group. I am now working for another Goldman School alum at an organization called Collaborative Economics. I’m a project manager working with a team of people across the country monitoring the grantee sites that received stimulus money from the Dept. of Labor. Both my summer internship and my APA experience on projects for the Center were directly relevant to getting me where I am, and I am so grateful. When I applied for my position at Collaborative Economics, all the partners actually read my APA Project paper and wanted to talk about it.”]


Sarah Swanbeck (MPP '11)

Sarah Swanbeck is a Master of Public Policy Candidate at the Goldman School of Public Policy. She is interested in government reform, particularly methods for improving the long-term stability of state and local government finance. Her research with the Center for Civility and Democratic Engagement focuses on participatory budgeting in California and how involving citizens in the process of prioritizing public spending may result in more efficient, equitable outcomes. Prior to coming to Berkeley, Sarah spent two years as a Research Associate for the Public Policy Institute of California, where she focused on California environmental policy issues. She has a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Italian from Wellesley College.

Doug Spencer (MPP ’07)

Doug Spencer (MPP ’07) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy program at UC Berkeley. Doug's primary research applies economic models to public law and to questions of constitutional design with a focus on election law. Doug is also interested in the management and administration of  higher education and has conducted research for the Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement on the history and state of Town-Gown relations in America.