Home » News » Introducing TFAS Public Policy Fellows: 18 Accomplished Alumni Begin Year-Long Program

Introducing TFAS Public Policy Fellows: 18 Accomplished Alumni Begin Year-Long Program


From October 14-16, a group of outstanding young professionals gathered at the Omni Richmond Hotel in Richmond, Virginia for a weekend of economic and academic discussions, professional development and networking with TFAS alumni, faculty and staff.

“The best part of the weekend was taking the time to learn about the other fellows and get to know everyone – I made some connections that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to make without this program.” – Samantha Summers (CSF 13)

Samantha Summers participated in the TFAS Capital Semester Fall program in 2013. Since completing her TFAS semester, she returned to D.C. to work with the Cato Institute as their external affairs coordinator and has stayed involved with TFAS as a mentor to current students. She says she is thrilled to return to TFAS as a Public Policy Fellow and continue building her professional network through TFAS.

To kick off the academic component of the fellowship, TFAS Professor Christopher Koopman, research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, guided thought-provoking discussions on innovation and disruption in a market economy at the retreat. Prior to the weekend, the fellows took time to refresh their knowledge on the theories of economists like Hayek and Alchian to prepare for his sessions.

“Koopman did a really good job of lecturing while still encouraging a dialogue,” Summers said. “We could add our own arguments, and also ask questions during the discussions. With so many smart individuals in the room, it created a great dialogue for the entire weekend.”

Another highlight of the retreat was when longtime TFAS friend, Molly Whalen of Leadership Outfitters, led a session on communication best practices and behavior styles in the workplace. This workshop, given annually to TFAS Public Policy Fellows, provides a hands-on approach to the tips and tricks young professionals need to become effective communicators and leaders in their professional fields.

The fellows capped off the weekend of intellectual and professional camaraderie by exploring some of Richmond’s best attractions, including a tour of the Virginia State Capitol and dinner at the Sine Irish Pub.

“TFAS does a great job of creating community,” Summers said. “We bonded so much this weekend, so I’m really excited to be a part of the ‘community’ of the fellows program this year.”

In the upcoming the year, Summers and the 2016-2017 TFAS Public Policy Fellows will participate in monthly academic and professional development events to enhance and strengthen their alumni experience. Through the fellowship, these young alumni, committed to improving public policy, will have the opportunity to gain new skills while connecting with key leaders in public policy across Washington, D.C.

Meet The 2016-2017 TFAS Public Policy Fellows:

alili-1Mushfig Alili (IEIA 16) was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and studied in Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia before moving to Kansas to seek a degree at Emporia State University. In May 2016, he graduated with an economics major and business minor. Following graduation, Mushfig interned at Planet4People through the TFAS Institute on Economics and International Affairs (IEIA) program, and he is currently interning with the membership and development team at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) through the Koch Internship Program. He enjoys traveling and attending events where he can meet people from different backgrounds. Mushfig also likes spending his spare time reading, meditating and playing soccer.

baker-1-copyMichael Baker (ILA 10) is a senior consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton working in process reengineering and change management. He is a 2014 graduate of The Thunderbird School of Global Management where he studied international business. Michael holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dallas in politics and he attended the Institute for Leadership in the Americas (ILA) with TFAS in 2010. Michael has studied or worked abroad in eight countries. While in graduate school, he studied in the Czech Republic and South Africa, where he took part in many corporate, nonprofit and cultural excursions. Prior to joining Booz Allen Hamilton, Michael was working international rotations for a global logistics company, supporting company reorganization in Europe and Asia Pacific. Michael also helped open and grow a small business and has taught English in Spain. In his free time, he is active outdoors and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics.

black-1-copyPhillip Black (IBGA 12) grew up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where he lived until he attended the University of Tennessee to pursue a degree in accounting. Upon graduation in 2012, he decided to pursue graduate studies in finance at American University. Phillip enrolled in the TFAS Institute on Business and Government Affairs (IBGA) during his summer between college graduation and graduate school and interned in the congressional affairs office at the American Institute of CPAs. After earning his master’s degree, Phillip pursued further graduate studies at the University of Alabama for one year, then took a job in Nashville with one of the country’s major accounting firms. In January 2016, Phillip returned to his TFAS internship site, the American Institute of CPAs, where he now works full-time as a legislative assistant on the congressional affairs team.

cruz-replacement-copyYanelle Cruz Bonilla (IEIA 16) was born and raised in Tegucigalpa, Honduras where she lived until she was 19 years old. She called Florida home until this summer, when she moved to D.C. to complete the TFAS Institute on Economics and International Affairs (IEIA) and received the institute’s outstanding student award. Paying her way through college, Yanelle earned an Associate of Arts degree from Broward College with a concentration in international relations and sociology this year. After TFAS, she decided to stay in Washington to enhance her professional growth before completing the last half of her studies next year. She currently works as a strategic communications associate at the Urban Institute. She also serves as a millennial advocacy board member at Oregon Climate, an editorial contributor at Spire & Co and an assistant director at the Southern Regional Model United Nations conferences. In her free time, she volunteers at the Newseum and contributes to Ekpapalek, a project that promotes professional development and empowerment of Latin American youth and women. She has received numerous awards, including designation as a Coca Cola Global Leader of Promise—she is one of only seven international students chosen for the title. Yanelle looks forward to a career as a policy analyst at the World Bank or the United Nations.

dasilva-1-copyJessica DaSilva (CS 08) is a reporter for Bloomberg BNA’s The Criminal Law Reporter. Jessie covers public policy and evolving legal trends in the areas of criminal justice reform, law enforcement, prisons, juvenile justice and more. Her main audience consists of lawyers, judges, defendants and anyone working in or affected by the system. Hailing from the Sunshine State, Jessie graduated from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications in Gainesville, Florida before attending Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She attended Capital Semester Fall (CSF) on the journalism track in 2008. Before moving to D.C., she worked as an assistant attorney general in the criminal appeals division in Tallahassee, Florida, handling more than 200 cases and regularly arguing before the First District Court of Appeals. In her spare time, Jessie enjoys rock climbing, hiking, painting, cooking and listening to podcasts.

B Fisher HeadshotBrianne Fisher (AIPES 08) 
attended the TFAS American Institute on Political and Economic Systems (AIPES) in Prague in 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and international business from the University of Iowa and a Juris Doctorate from Vermont Law School. She currently practices international corporate law at the Grameen Foundation, USA, an organization focused on the use of technology and financial inclusion to maximize opportunities for impoverished individuals, to increase their income and stability.

gelat-1-copyAshton Gelat (IEIA 13) is an associate within Booz Allen Hamilton’s Defense and Intelligence Group. She currently serves as a security cooperation analyst, where she develops strategy and policy for the Marine Corps’ international engagements with foreign militaries. Prior to Booz Allen, Ashton worked for Risk Mitigation Consulting and supported mission assurance and critical infrastructure protection for the U.S. Marine Corps. She studied intensive Arabic at the American University in Cairo, Egypt and was the recipient of the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic at the Qasid Institute in Amman, Jordan. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations from Austin College with minors in Arabic and philosophy.

heckman-1Jory Heckman (IPJ 11) is a multimedia journalist with a passion for politics and government. He has been a digital news writer and editor for Federal News Radio since September 2014. Jory got his start at Federal News Radio as an intern in 2011 while completing the TFAS Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ) program. Jory also worked as a desk assistant with CBS News Radio in New York after interning at the CBS News Washington Bureau. Jory was also a reporter for the Citizens’ Voice, a newspaper based in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In 2013, Jory graduated from Hofstra University with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and political science. He covered the 2012 presidential debate at Hofstra and was proud to see his alma mater host its third presidential debate this September. An avid bicyclist and runner, Jory has run in five marathons, mostly recently competing in the Philadelphia Marathon in November.

hutton-1Robert Hutton (IEIA 12) is an analyst at The Asia Group, focusing on political and economic affairs in Southeast Asia and Pan-Asian defense trends. He services clients by drafting stakeholder analyses of national and local government entities, monitoring regional and sectoral trends and providing research and analytical support. Prior to joining The Asia Group, Robert worked at the US-ASEAN Business Council, the principal trade association for promoting business relations between U.S. companies and Southeast Asian markets. Assigned to the Council’s Vietnam, Customs, Financial Services and Defense portfolios, he was responsible for preparing weekly and bi-weekly reports apprising Council members of relevant political and economic developments across the Southeast Asia region, as well as organizing roundtables for senior private sector and government representatives on regional policy issues. Robert grew up in Hong Kong and has traveled extensively in China and Southeast Asia. He attended the TFAS Institute on Economics and International Affairs (IEIA) in 2012 and, after graduating from Middlebury College with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, he took a year off to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain, study Chinese at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai and travel to Myanmar.

jia-1-copyElizabeth Jia (IPJ 05) is a multimedia producer and reporter at WUSA 9, the CBS affiliate in Washington. She edits video, writes news scripts and composes headlines. She received an Emmy nomination for her coverage examining the impact of social services provided by local nonprofit organizations. The weekly broadcast segments featured bold interviews from people explaining how their lives improved after obtaining food assistance, healthcare, child welfare services and employment readiness training. Producing the stories offered Elizabeth a glimpse into the values shaping public policy. She is a 2005 Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ) alumna and participated in the TFAS Journalism Leadership Fellowship in 2013. She has also served as president of the Society of Professional Journalists, D.C.-Pro chapter. Elizabeth earned a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast journalism from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park, and she holds a master’s degree in journalism from Georgetown.

leddy-1-copyKaitlin Leddy (CSS 15) recently graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in English. Participating in the TFAS Capital Semester Spring (CSS) program in 2015 led her to fall in love with both D.C. and public policy. Kaitlin has now returned to the District as the government relations specialist with The American Society for Radiation Oncology. In her spare time, Kaitlin is a member of a D.C. kickball social team and is training to run a half-marathon. She is excited to begin the fellowship program and reconnect with the TFAS community.

melling-1Micah Melling (IBGA 12, ILA 14) 
is currently a digital marketing analyst for Edelman, where he writes R and Python programs to optimize marketing and communications campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. Micah completed Georgetown’s data science certificate program where he developed a simulation model of D.C.’s Metrorail system. Additionally, Micah launched and maintains baseballdatascience.com, a data science blog that analyzes Major League Baseball games. A native Missourian, Micah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Missouri, where he double-majored in economics and business management. He is a two-time TFAS alumnus, attending the Institute on Business and Government Affairs (IBGA) in 2012 and the Institute on Leadership in the Americas (ILA) in Santiago, Chile in 2014. Micah has also co-authored a paper on monetary policy with another ILA alumnus, which was published by The Austrian Center, a free-market think tank in Vienna. In his spare time, Micah enjoys watching the Kansas City Royals, experiencing the performing arts and reading suspense thrillers.

jermaine-ogaja-replacement-copyJermaine Ogaja (ICPES 06) is currently a research assistant at the International Monetary Fund, where he supports economists with research and analysis on fiscal and monetary policy issues and preparation of program and surveillance reports. He also handles logistics for technical assistance missions and training operations. Jermaine is an Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems (ICPES) 2006 alumnus. He graduated with a Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) degree from Georgetown University and has worked with several international organizations, including the United Nations and the German Marshall Fund of the United States. His policy interests include fiscal and monetary policy, international security, public diplomacy and social entrepreneurship. Jermaine looks forward to learning from his peers in the TFAS Public Policy Fellows program and the TFAS network.

setterlund-1-copyJames Setterlund (ILA 14) is a federal affairs coordinator at Americans for Prosperity, where he focuses on financial regulations, budget, spending and labor reform. He also engages with congressional offices in meetings, education and outreach on Capitol Hill. James’ work has been published in The Hill, TheBlaze and Townhall. He is a California native and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology from the University of Arizona and a paralegal certificate from the University of San Diego.

stoffey-1-copyDavid Stoffey (AIPE 15) participated in the TFAS Asia Institute for Political Economy (AIPE) program in Hong Kong in 2015. As a native Californian who moved to Colorado as a teenager, he developed an affinity for the outdoors, especially mountain biking and rock climbing. David earned his bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. His professional experience is rooted in political campaign management and legislative work in Colorado. In early 2016, David and his wife Kadi moved from Colorado to the D.C. Metro area so he could pursue a master’s degree in statecraft and international affairs from the Institute of World Politics. He currently works at the Charles Koch Foundation as a researcher focusing on foreign policy issues. When David isn’t at work or school, he can be found engrossed in a book, board game or the many trails around Arlington and Northern Virginia.

summers-1-copySamantha Summers (CSF 13) is the external affairs coordinator at The Cato Institute, where she assists in congressional and policy group outreach. She is originally from southern California, where she attended Chapman University and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in political science. During her junior year of undergrad in 2013, she participated in the TFAS Capital Semester Fall (CSF) program and interned with The Heritage Foundation. She fell in love with Washington during the program and returned after graduation to work at The Cato Institute. Samantha is currently participating in the Koch Associate Program through the Charles Koch Institute, where she is learning the fundamentals of Market Based Management and developing her professional skills.

weaver-replacement-copyAubree Eliza Weaver (IPJ 11) is currently a senior web producer with POLITICO Pro and a frequent contributor to Pro’s various policy sections. She is working toward her master’s degree in public administration and policy at American University — something she hopes will complement the degree in communications and print journalism she received from Le Moyne College in 2013. Since moving from Syracuse, New York to D.C. more than three years ago, Aubree has remained involved in TFAS both as the program adviser for the Institute on Political Journalism and a mentor to summer program students. When she isn’t waking up before dawn for work or catching up on readings for class, Aubree enjoys trying new local coffee joints, playing guitar, doing yoga and spending quiet evenings at home in the company of her cat and a good book.

xiao-1-copyAnnie Xiao (IEIA 14) is originally from ZhongShan in Southern China and immigrated to San Francisco with her family in 2005. She attended the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in global economics. She also earned a political studies certificate from the Lyon Institute of Political Studies in France. In 2014, Annie served as the community outreach intern at the D.C. Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (MOAPIA) through the TFAS Institute on Economics and International Affairs (IEIA) summer program. She returned to D.C. the following summer and interned at the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL). Annie currently works as the Policy and Civic Engagement program assistant at the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD). She is also a board member of the 1882 Foundation and a volunteer coordinator at the D.C. Chinese Film Festival. Outside of work, Annie enjoys volunteering at local community events and aspires to become a professional wedding planner one day.

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