2017 Public Policy Summer Fellows


Joanna Abaroa-Ellison
Graduate Degree: Boston College School of Social Work
Undergraduate Degree: University of Pennsylvania
Area of Interest: Criminal Justice Issues
Mentors: Christine Cole, Community Resources for Justice and Alexandra Rabasco, Boston College School of Social Work
Agency: Somerville Police Department
Supervisor: Patty Contente, Director, Community Outreach, Help, and Recovery Office
Project Description: Joanna spent her summer with the Somerville Police Department's Community Outreach, Help, and Recovery division. She researched the continuum of care for narcotics addiction in Somerville and the surrounding region. She was able to present her findings to the Mayor at the end of the summer at a data sharing meeting in City Hall. The research included evaluating accessibility of programs, both financial and travel-wise, services offered, and program capacity for those services. The findings will help the City identify needs for people with substance use problems and allow them to focus their efforts where those needs are. Joanna also attended crisis intervention trainings for police officers as well as recovery coach training for community members. She analyzed local police department policies regarding their crisis intervention teams in order to improve language and departmental practices.

2017_bishop.jpgRachel Bishop
Graduate Degree: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Undergraduate Degree: Brown University
Area of Interest: Public Health Issues
Mentors: Amy Dain, Dain Research and Ali Alhassani, Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center
Agency: Office of Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health Finance
Supervisor: Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and Erin Liang, Committee Counsel
Project Description: Rachel spent her fellowship in the office of State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, who began the summer as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing and ended it as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. At the State House, Rachel worked on a series of issue briefs detailing how pending federal health care reform would impact Massachusetts, focusing on reproductive health and health equity. These briefs answered questions such as “which populations would lose contraceptive coverage?” and “how would the proposed Medicaid cuts exacerbate racial health inequities?” Because the ACA-repeal debate was so dynamic, Rachel updated these briefs throughout the summer to reflect current Congressional proposals. She also worked on a number of smaller projects to help provide the Chairman with the most accurate and up to date health policy information. These included writing summaries of reports from the State Auditor’s Office and the Health Connector and synthesizing testimony from hearings on Governor Bakers’ budget proposals. This work will inform future legislative efforts to improve health care quality and reduce spending growth in the Commonwealth.

2017_collins.jpgAlison Collins
Graduate Degree: Brandeis University
Undergraduate Degree: Dickinson College
Area of Interest: Social Services Issues
Mentors: Stephen Chan, The Boston Foundation
Agency: Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance
Supervisor: Amy Kershaw, Associate Commissioner of Programs
Project Description: During her fellowship at the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), Alison helped the agency assess challenges and opportunities to improve the effectiveness of the delivery of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) services state-wide. Specifically, Alison conducted research and compiled in-depth analyses of other states’ TANF diversion programs and sanction policies to identify best practices for application in Massachusetts. Her research will assist DTA in designing and piloting new workforce development initiatives, providing critical support to DTA’s strategic planning efforts. To further support these efforts, Alison proposed strategies to improve engagement with DTA clients, support DTA staff, and increase DTA’s overall effectiveness at promoting work. Alison presented her findings and recommendations to multiple audiences within the agency, and expects that DTA will be able to take action on many of them in the near future.

2017_dahnke.jpgChristine Dahnke
Graduate Degree: Harvard Graduate School of Education (PhD)
Undergraduate Degree: American University
Area of Interest: Education Issues
Mentors: Stephanie Hirsch, Consultant and Antoniya Owens, The Boston Foundation
Agency: Office of Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health Finance
Supervisor: Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and Erin Liang, Committee Counsel
Project Description:
Christine spent her summer partnering with State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez and his team as they sought passage of the LOOK (Language Opportunity for Our Kids) legislation. This bill, which passed in the House in June and the Senate in late July, will codify important changes for how English Learners (ELs) are served in the schools and districts across the Commonwealth. It proposes to amend Massachusetts’ public school policy by providing additional flexibility for districts to select the most appropriate, high-quality, research-based English Language programs for the students they serve. While on Beacon Hill, Christine provided practitioner insight, researched and reported on impactful qualitative and quantitative data, and interviewed various stakeholders in order to further efforts for collective action and encourage the bill’s passage.

2017_damrosch.jpgPeter Damrosch
Graduate Degree: MIT
Undergraduate Degree: Yale University
Area of Interest: Transportation Issues
Mentors: Monica Tibbets-Nutt, 128 Business Council and Erick Guerra, University of Pennsylvania
Agency: Massachusetts Department of Transportation
Supervisor: Jules Williams, Manager, Sustainable Transportation
Project Description: Peter spent the summer at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation where he was a member of the Sustainable Transportation team. He worked on two main projects related to vehicle electrification. The first was a plan to expand the state’s network of charging stations for electric vehicles. Peter collected information on the locations of current charging stations to identify underserved areas where the state should install new ones. The second project was a study about the MBTA using electric buses. Peter used GIS to gather information about routes and garages that will be useful in deciding which bus lines are particularly good candidates for piloting electric buses. Both of these vehicle electrification projects aim to reduce the carbon footprint from the transportation sector which accounts for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts.

2017_gibbs.jpgMonique Gibbs
Graduate Degree: Northeastern University
Undergraduate Degree: Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy
Area of Interest: Community Development Issues
Mentors: Jessica Casey, MBTA and Abadur Rahman, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation
Agency: Department of Neighborhood Development, City of Boston
Supervisor: Devin Quirk, Chief of Staff
Project Description: Through the Rappaport Fellowship, Monique had the opportunity to work for the Housing Innovation Lab at the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development. Sheworked on two exciting projects that helped improve constituent access to affordable housing resources. She created an affordable housing guide page for the City of Boston website. The page will help residents understand and find available resources to fit their individual housing needs. Her other project involved developing a framework for a universal affordable housing application portal. With the help of stakeholders in City Government and external partners, she recommended several policy options to improve the affordable housing application process for Boston residents.

2017_igdalsky.jpgLeah Igdalsky
Graduate Degree: Boston College School of Social Work
Undergraduate Degree: Brandeis University
Area of Interest: Social Services Issues
Mentors: Dan Kennedy, Northeastern University and Kaiti Jones, Boston College School of Social Work
Agency: Commission for Persons with Disabilities, City of Boston
Supervisor: Jessica Doonan, Mayor's Commission on Disabilities
Project Description: Leah spent this summer in the Mayor’s Commission on Disabilities, designing and launching a survey on accessibility priorities for city residents with disabilities. Leah worked with the Chief of Staff and Commissioner to design and refine questions and then created an online survey and designed an outreach plan to reach underserved residents with disabilities. Leah launched the survey at the city’s Annual Americans with Disabilities Act Day. Leah also attended Disability Commission Board meetings and interfaced with constituents in need of commission services.

2017_jeffers.jpgMisti Jeffers
Graduate Degree: Brandeis University (PhD)
Undergraduate Degree: East Tennessee State University
Area of Interest: Social Services Issues
Mentors: Tiziana Dearing, Boston College School of Social Work and Justin Pasquariello, East Boston Social Centers
Agency: Massachusetts Department of Youth Services
Supervisor: Lynsey Heffernan, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative
Project Description: Misti’s fellowship was at the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) at the MA Department of Youth Services where she primarily supported efforts to mark the 10-year-anniversary of the JDAI implementation in Massachusetts by exploring the successes and challenges of the initiative and its impact on youth development and public safety. The JDAI is a public safety partnership focusing on reducing the unnecessary and harmful use of secure detention for low-risk juveniles. JDAI ensures that “the right youth, is in the right place, for the right reasons” through strategies that engage public, private, community, and family partners. Using data from DYS, DCF, probation, and the courts, Misti worked to highlight major accomplishments of JDAI as well as areas of disproportionate impact to suggest recommendations for future work. Specifically, this report provides evidence for a continued commitment to innovating collaborative service delivery approaches for special populations of youth across Massachusetts, including youth of color, females, and youth who have concurrent or past histories of contact with child welfare services at the time of their admission to detention. In line with her primary project, Misti compiled a policy and research brief highlighting national best practices for better serving youth dually-involved with child welfare and juvenile justice systems. She also assisted with mapping state practices onto the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s better conditions for confinement guidelines. This mapping project will allow DYS to explore areas in which Massachusetts may focus on with greater intentionality to better serve youth in care.

2017_jordan.jpgReed Jordan
Graduate Degree: MIT
Undergraduate Degree: Carleton College
Area of Interest: Housing Issues
Mentors: Brian Doherty, Building and Construction Trades Council of the Metropolitan District and Zoe Weinrobe, Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly
Agency: Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development
Supervisor: Cate Mingoya, Director of Policy and Program Development
Project Description: Reed's fellowship was with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) where he worked on three projects for the agency. In the first project, Reed assessed how DHCD can monitor and support the operations and management of the state funded affordable housing program.Through site visits to local public housing agencies, analysis of administrative data covering 250 agencies, and interviews with public housing staff, Reed developed a set of recommendations on how DHCD can prioritize and direct its resources to support the preservation and long-term sustainability of public housing through the Commonwealth. For the second project, Reed helped design a new DHCD program that uses a lease-purchase contract ("lease-to-own") to support homeownership for households with low income. He interviewed local and national lease-purchase providers to learn best practices for a tenant friendly program model that would support households who wish to transition into homeownership. For the third project, Reed researched mechanisms and opportunities for DHCD to support communities in the Commonwealth that have identified high rates of vacant and abandoned properties as a major housing issue.

2017_kim.jpgAndrew Kim
Graduate Degree: Harvard Medical School
Undergraduate Degree: Brown University
Area of Interest: Public Health Issues
Mentors: Renee Landers, Suffolk University Law School and Jessica Hohman, Harvard Medical School
Agency: Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs
Supervisor: Jill Morrow-Gorton, Director of Clinical Services, OLTSS
Project Description: Andrew’s first major project aims to understand the advanced care planning process specifically in vulnerable populations that lack decision making capacity, including those with disabilities, mental health disorders, and/or vulnerable legal status. This will likely involve a multi-institutional study, which he hopes to publish as an academic paper and/or a white paper to guide future policy around this issue.

2017_mcclurkin.jpgMichael McClurkin
Graduate Degree: Harvard Medical School
Undergraduate Degree: University of Buffalo, The State University of New York
Area of Interest: Public Health Issues
Mentors: Travis McCready, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and Danny Vazquez, Harvard Medical School
Agency: Office of Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health Finance
Supervisor: Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and Erin Liang, Committee Counsel
Project Description: Michael spent his summer with the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing working on two projects of critical importance. In his first project, he compiled official statements from over 100 stakeholders on the American Health Care Act of 2017 and Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. For his second project, Michael drafted a memo for the Co-Chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing which assessed how plans to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would impact healthcare in the Commonwealth.

2017_miller_0.jpgJulie Miller
Graduate Degree: Boston College School of Social Work (PhD)
Undergraduate Degree: Northeastern University
Area of Interest: Social Services Issues
Mentors: Ben Forman, MassINC and Colleen Dawicki, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Agency: Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs
Supervisor: Robin Lipson, Chief of Staff
Project Description:
Julie completed her fellowship with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs. In this role, Julie helped to curate findings from a statewide stakeholder input process about challenges and opportunities afforded by an aging state. She contributed to qualitative analysis of listening sessions involving older adults, caregivers, and representatives of public, private, and not-for-profit organizations, all of whom have a stake in the state’s age-friendliness. Expanding on feedback, Julie contributed to research about local, national, and international trends and programs of promise related to housing, transportation, economic security, caregiving, work and civic engagement. This work will be utilized by the Governor’s Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts, ultimately to make recommendations to the Governor to refine aging policies and programs. Also related to this work, Julie facilitated a working group of statewide executive directors of Aging Service Access Points in order to understand and help articulate their most complex business challenges. She “pitched” these findings at a PULSE @ MassChallenge event to draw entrepreneurial interest in technological innovations that keep older adults safe, happy, and healthy in their homes for as long as possible.

2017_runsten.jpgKara Runsten
Graduate Degree: MIT
Undergraduate Degree: Stanford University
Area of Interest: Environmental Issues
Mentors: Vivien Li, RiverLife and Holly Elwell, Trust for Public Land
Agency: Department of Environment, Energy, and Open Space, City of Boston
Supervisor: Mia Mansfield, Climate Preparedness Program Manager
Project Description: Kara spent her summer as a fellow at the City of Boston Environment Department working on projects related to Climate Ready Boston. She managed the day-to-day operations and developed recommendations for the future of the Climate Ready Boston Leaders program, an outreach program designed to increase awareness and understanding of the climate impacts Boston faces by training community leaders to give presentations to their constituents. She also created and published a public-facing, web-based tool to track the progress toward implementation of the recommendations outlined in the Climate Ready Boston report. This is the first such tool for the City's climate resiliency efforts and one of the first progress tracking tools City-wide.

2017_shields.jpgMorgan Shields
Graduate Degree: Brandeis University (PhD)
Undergraduate Degree: Kent State University
Area of Interest: Social Services Issues
Mentors: Tom Keane, Consultant and Andreas Mitchell, Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Medical School
Agency: Office of Rep. Kay Khan
Supervisor: Rep. Kay Khan and Caroline Medina, Legislative Director
Project Description: Morgan is conducting research and advising on legislation related to mental healthcare.

2017_singh.jpgKanika Singh
Graduate Degree: Harvard Kennedy School
Undergraduate Degree: Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas
Area of Interest: Government Innovation
Mentors: Phil Puccia, Consultant and Anna Isaacson, Boston University
Agency: Department of Innovation and Technology, City of Boston
Supervisor: Anna Schweiger, Broadband and Digital Equity Advocate
Project Description:
Kanika’s fellowship was at the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology, within the broadband and digital equity team. She worked on determining how to best use digital tools to address newly arrived refugees’ needs. This project involved interviewing diverse stakeholders and understanding the refugee services ecosystem in the city, researching best practices elsewhere, and proposing targeted interventions. She worked with direct service providers to ensure that any information tackled user needs. For her final deliverables, Kanika created an online repository of information and services for boston.gov, proposed short-term tactical interventions, and suggested long-term policy recommendations.

2017_tisel.jpgDavid Tisel
Graduate Degree: MIT
Undergraduate Degree: Oberlin College
Area of Interest: Housing Issues
Mentors: Jim Segel, Jim Segel LLC and Margaret Keaveny, Cambridge Housing Authority
Agency: Rep. Denise Provost
Supervisor: Rep. Denise Provost and Jordan Neerhof, Legislative Aide
Project Description:This summer, David worked with State Representative Denise Provost on her bill for a Local Option for Tenant Right of First Refusal. This bill would allow Massachusetts cities and towns to opt into a program granting tenants a window of time where they have a first right to purchase their homes when they are on the market, modeled on the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) in the District of Columbia. Since 1980, TOPA has preserved thousands of units of affordable housing and helped to prevent tenant displacement in D.C. Having worked in this program prior to graduate school, he suggested amendments to the bill based on my experience with TOPA. He also organized a legislative briefing within the Statehouse and met with dozens of advocates in Greater Boston to build momentum for the bill’s passage.