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TFAS Announces 2018-19 Public Policy Fellows


The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) welcomed the 2018-19 recipients of the Public Policy Fellowship (PPF) during a reception in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12. The gathering connected this year’s class with past fellowship participants and the larger TFAS family, while celebrating the Fellow’s next stage of the TFAS Journey. This year marks the 11th year of the fellowship and the first time the program opened applications to those who had not previously attended a TFAS program.

The 2018-19 cohort is made up of 18 young professionals currently working in the field of public policy. The Fellows come from organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Leadership Institute and the Cato Institute. Others work for U.S. representatives, senators, nonprofits and advocacy groups.

Brenda Hafera, coordinator of alumni programs and continuing education and director of the Fellowship, said the Fellows will not only be learning from guest speakers, academics and journalists, but from each other as well.

“Deliberation and debate are the basis of a free society and the means of educating ourselves. Engaging with others in a generous manner also gives our fellow citizens the opportunity to refine their own views,” Hafera said. “It is my hope that the Public Policy Fellowship will serve to provide such a forum.”

A group of Fellows and a TFAS staff member stand together for a group photo.
Brenda Hafera, PPF director, Sydney Scribner, Alex O’Connor and Alexandra Seymour gather for a photo at the welcome reception.

The fellowship is a year-long networking and education program in Washington, D.C., designed to develop young leaders with a shared commitment to improving public policy. The goal of the program is to provide events that allow young professionals to foster strong connections with peers working in public policy while building an understanding of the principles of government through deliberation and debate.

The Fellows have the opportunity to participate in discussions with public policy experts, academics and political leaders on topics fundamental to understanding the U.S. political system.

This year’s curriculum will focus on “The Experiment in Self-Government,” examining those challenges and questions a free society must address in order to flourish as well as the unique advantages it can enjoy. The program runs from September 2018 to May 2019 and includes monthly evening sessions and two weekend retreats. The fall retreat, scheduled for Oct. 12-14 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, will explore the principles espoused in the Lincoln-Douglas debates and how those ideas are still relevant for modern discourse and policy.

2018-19 TFAS Public Policy Fellows

Headshot of Frederica Bartels, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Frederico Bartels

Education: Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais, George Washington University
Home Country: Brazil

Frederico Bartels is the policy analyst for defense budgeting in the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation. In this position, he conducts research, writes and engages audiences on the adequacy, composition and character of the U.S. defense budget and associated policies and supports the center’s mission to promote a strong U.S national defense.

Before joining Heritage in 2017, Frederico worked as a senior policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity. Previously, he served as a policy analyst at Concerned Veterans for America. In both positions, he was responsible for informing the organization’s leadership on the defense budget and veterans’ affairs. His work has been featured in The Hill, War on the Rocks and RealClearDefense, among others.

Frederico holds a Master of Arts in international affairs with a concentration in U.S. foreign policy from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations from Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais in Brazil.

Frederico was a member of the 2013-14 Marshall Fellows Program, the 2014-15 Foreign Policy Initiative Future Leaders Program, the 2013-14 Koch Associates Program and the spring 2012 Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation.

Frederico was born and raised in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He and his wife Amanda live in Washington, D.C. 

Headshot of Melanie Benit, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Melanie Benit ’14, ’15

Education: University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya

Melanie Benit ’14, ’15  serves as the activism manager at the Institute for Justice (IJ) where she mobilizes grassroots activists around the nation to defeat abuses of government power. A trained campaign manager and parliamentary debater, she previously recruited, trained and engaged college students in free market principles through the promotion of civic service. As a graduate research assistant she studied how poor governance relates to the global struggle against terrorism. This position gave her an understanding of the importance of limited government and economic liberty for maintaining a free society. She uses this knowledge to support IJ in creating relationships with diverse communities throughout the United States.

Melanie holds a Master of Arts in government, counter-terrorism and homeland security from the Lauder School of Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel. She holds a bachelor’s degree with a double major in political science and marketing and concentrations in pre-law and international relations from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. 

Headshot of Marisa Brand.

Marisa Brand

Education: Johns Hopkins University
Home State: California

Marisa Brand currently serves as deputy press secretary for Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University in December 2017 with a degree in political science and a minor in marketing and communications. Prior to her current position, she held communications and political fellowships with the Monument Policy Group, the NRSC and No Labels in Washington, D.C.


Headshot of Dylan Brandt.

Dylan Brandt

Education: University of Colorado Colorado Springs
Home State: Colorado

Dylan Brandt works in the Center for Principles and Politics at the Heritage Foundation, where she helps to cultivate the civic virtues and defend the institutions that sustain American republicanism. Dylan is a Colorado native and a recent graduate from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. Prior to joining Heritage, she was a student working as a research assistant and as a barista at a local coffee shop. She interned for Heritage in the summer of 2017 and was hired thereafter, moving to D.C. permanently and starting work while finishing her undergraduate degree online.

Dylan is passionate about community and wants to find creative ways to serve others joyfully to harness their potential and enrich their day-to-day lives. She believes that fostering gratitude for the ordinary is the necessary starting point for a fulfilling life, both personally and politically. 

Headshot of Erin Cinney, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Erin Cinney ’16

Education: University of Florida
Home State: Florida

Erin Cinney ’16 is a May 2017 graduate of the University of Florida where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She currently works as a program coordinator for the State Government Affairs Council in Alexandria, Virginia. Her projects mainly consist of database maintenance, registration for events and conferences, as well as event coordination and planning.

Erin also has a passion for writing which has led her to write on a weekly basis for the digital youth culture magazine Thought Catalog. Her pieces include lifestyle, advice, reflections, listicles and various astrology pieces. She first discovered her interest in writing for a national audience in 2016 while interning at The Daily Caller as a TFAS Capital Semester student.

Headshot of Benjamin Dierker, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Benjamin Dierker

Education: Texas A&M University, George Mason University
Home State: Texas

Benjamin Dierker is a Texan living in Washington, D.C. He is a law student at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University and holds a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in economics, both from Texas A&M University. Benjamin contributes to The Federalist and is a Constitutional law and legal affairs associate with the Texas-based think tank Lone Star Policy Institute. His interests include Christian theology, American history, economics, law and public policy.

Headshot of David Finch, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Michael Finch

Education: Hillsdale College, Regent University Law School

Home State: California

Michael Finch was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He has a Bachelor of Arts in political economy from Hillsdale College and a Juris Doctor degree from Regent University Law School. He practiced family law for a year in Virginia Beach, overseeing divorces and child custody cases. He then changed practice areas to focus on wills and trusts, traffic law and criminal defense at a small local firm. He currently holds an associate position at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies.

Michael considers himself a classical liberal in the vein of James Madison, Abraham Lincoln and Calvin Coolidge, viewing government as a reflection of human nature, requiring checks and balances and virtue. Outside of political and legal work he enjoys martial arts, dance, track and field and reading history and literature.

Headshot of Josh Holdenried, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Josh Holdenried

Education: University of Mississippi, Pepperdine University

Josh Holdenried serves as executive director of Napa Legal Institute (NLI). Before joining NLI, he was associate director of coalition relations at The Heritage Foundation, where he focused on strategic partnerships and policy promotion. Prior to his role with The Heritage Foundation, he was an inaugural member of the Public Interest Fellowship—a two-year program designed to equip and train young professionals for leadership in the political and cultural life of the United States. Before the Public Interest Fellowship, he was a congressional staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in public policy leadership from the University of Mississippi and a certificate in applied religion in public policy from Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.

Headshot of Meghan Holland, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Meghan Holland

Education: Wofford College, Wake Forest School of Law
Home State: South Carolina

Meghan Holland is currently serving as legislative counsel for Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, handling a portfolio of issues including agriculture, energy, healthcare, intellectual property and the judiciary. Born and raised in South Carolina as a Clemson fan, Meghan graduated from Wofford College in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology. She then went on to law school, graduating from Wake Forest School of Law in May 2017 and is a member of the South Carolina Bar.

Headshot of Connor Kurtz, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Connor Kurtz

Education: The Catholic University of America
Home State: Pennsylvania

Connor Kurtz is currently a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Before joining AEI, he founded and managed a small Pennsylvania strategic communications business and worked as a government relations specialist at San Diego International Airport.

Connor graduated from The Catholic University of America in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in politics, where he was student body president and a member of various university committees, including the Academic Senate. In summer 2014, he completed a research internship in the British Parliament. He was also a Hertog Fellow in summer 2017.

A lifelong Pennsylvanian, Connor is a former member of the Daniel Boone Area Board of School Directors, which he was elected to at 18. While on the school board, he chaired the district’s policy, curriculum and instruction and personnel committees. Over the course of his two terms, he served as the school district’s treasurer, vice president and board secretary. He also served on the boards of directors of the Berks County Intermediate Unit and the Berks Earned Income Tax Bureau. He was a Republican county committeeman until 2016. Connor plans to start law school in 2019.

Headshot of Samuel Mariscal, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Samuel Mariscal

Education: Ashland University
Home State: California

Samuel Mariscal is the Leadership Institute‘s regional field coordinator for New England and New York. Originally from California, Samuel attended Ashland University’s Ashbrook Center in Ashland, Ohio, where he double majored in political philosophy and history.

During college, Samuel met Peter Schramm, who at the time was the executive director of the Ashbrook Center in Ashland, Ohio. Schramm’s profound wisdom inspired Samuel to join the Ashbrook Scholar Program at Ashland University. He graduated from Ashland University in May of 2015, having been awarded the Ashbrook Center’s Statesmanship Thesis Award. He worked at Americarb, a graphite manufacturing company, until August 2016, when he was hired by the Leadership Institute.

Headshot of Alex O’Connor, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Alex O’Connor

Education: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Alex O’Connor is special assistant to the chief of staff for Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, where he conducts research on family policy and the future of the conservative movement. Prior to working in the Senate, Alex interned with the Leadership Institute and the Heritage Foundation. He was a fellow in the 2017 class of the Philos Leadership Institute during which he traveled to Israel, Jordan and Poland for a comprehensive look at foreign policy and religious liberty in the Middle East. In 2016, he was a member of the first class of Christians United for Israel’s Bonhoeffer Fellowship, during which he traveled to Israel to discuss Jewish-Christian relations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and history from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Headshot of Cheyenne Plott, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Cheyenne Plott

Education: Middle Tennessee State University, Hebrew University
Home State: Tennessee

Cheyenne Plott developed her love of country and family growing up in the small town of Lewisburg, Tennessee. Although she was raised with conservative principles in a Christian household, she took ownership of her faith and principles when she had to fight for them in public high school and college.

She studied at Middle Tennessee State University, where she first became involved with campus activism by founding a Christians United for Israel (CUFI) chapter. She then spent one year in Jerusalem, receiving her master’s degree in nonprofit management from the Hebrew University.

When she returned to the United States the 2016 presidential election was in full force. Cheyenne sensed this would be a historic opportunity, so she moved to D.C. for an internship at the Heritage Foundation. Afterward she was hired as a donor relations officer at the Leadership Institute (LI) where she helped cultivate relationships with LI’s donors on the west coast. She was recently promoted to regional development officer at LI. Her responsibilities include traveling to the West Coast to visit with donors and share LI’s many successes. She loves getting to know people of all ages who are passionate about equipping conservatives to fill vital roles in the public policy realm.

Headshot of Kaytln Roholt.

Kaytlin Roholt

Education: University of Scranton, University of Pennsylvania
Home State: Pennsylvania

Kaytlin Roholt graduated summa sum laude from the University of Scranton in 2011 with her Bachelor of Arts in English literature and theology and religious studies. Kaytlin then simultaneously earned her Juris Doctor and her masters of bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014. While in law school, she served as an executive editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and she was awarded the Lipman Redman Prize for the best appellate brief in her class. She also served as a board member of the Federalist Society, president of the Penn Law Catholic Students Association and founder and president of Penn Law Students for Life.

After law school, Kaytlin served as a law clerk for Judge Steven Colloton, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and Judge Richard Leon, United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Last year, she served as special counsel to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee for the nomination of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court.

Kaytlin currently works as a litigation and government regulation associate at Jones Day, where her practice consists of developing case strategy at the trial and appellate levels, researching and briefing legal issues and conducting motions practice. She is a board member of both the Federalist Society’s Young Lawyers Chapter and the Thomas More Society of America. She is also a Leonine Fellow, a James Wilson Fellow, a John Marshall Fellow, and a Blackstone Legal Fellow.

Headshot of Sydney Scribner.

Sydney Scribner

Education: Miami University of Ohio
Home State: Ohio

Sydney Scribner is currently the program development assistant of the Alexander Hamilton Society (AHS). Previously, she interned at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and served as a virtual intern for the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh through the Virtual Student Foreign Service. Originally from Toledo, Ohio, she moved to D.C. two weeks after graduating from Miami University in May 2017. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in diplomacy and global politics with a triple minor in Middle East and Islamic studies, European area studies and French.

Sydney values life-long learning and has engaged in a variety of academic programs to supplement her professional experience. She studied abroad at the University of Haifa in Haifa, Israel, solidifying her interest in the region. She plans to travel back to Israel, Palestine and Jordan in August 2018 through the Philos Project’s Philos Leadership Institute, which promotes positive Christian engagement in the Middle East. She has also participated in seminars such as “Understanding Populism” and “Thucydides & the Peloponnesian War” through the Hertog Foundation.

Headshot of Rebecca Sears, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Rebecca Sears

Education: The King’s College
Home State: Arizona

Rebecca Sears currently serves as director of external relations for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), where her key roles are developing relationships and strategies, overseeing the Supreme Court event series and assisting the Center for Academic Freedom in Washington, D.C. Before ADF, she worked as an assistant for the 4% Growth Project at the George W. Bush Institute, where she also assisted the economic director, Amity Shlaes, for the economic history department at New York University and The King’s College. A native of Arizona, Rebecca received her Bachelor of Arts in politics, philosophy and economics from The King’s College in New York City. Before graduating, she served as a marketing intern at The Wall Street Journal.

Headshot of Alexandra Seymour, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Alexandra Seymour

Education: Washington and Lee University
Home State: New Jersey

Alexandra Seymour is a special assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Policy). She graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2017, with a Bachelors of Arts in politics and minor in mass communications. Her combination of study has afforded her a variety of opportunities to pursue her passions of writing and policy.

Previously, she interned at the Heritage Foundation in national security law, The Weekly Standard, the New Jersey Republican State Committee, Media DC for marketing, a winning New Jersey congressional campaign, and on Capitol Hill in the House of Representatives. She was also a Political Studies Program Fellow with the Hertog Foundation.

Alexandra was very active on her college campus as well. Over her four years, she founded a chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society, served as her class representative on the Student Judicial Council, edited for the student newspaper, was the Maryland state chair for Mock Convention 2016, hosted a radio show and was a member of a hip-hop dance group and an a cappella group.

She has been published in The Daily Signal, The Weekly Standard Online, The College Fix, Red Alert Politics and The Roanoke Times, and her pieces have been picked up by outlets such as The Drudge Report, Newsweek and Fox News.

Headshot of Christopher White, Public Policy Fellowship 2018-2019.

Christopher White ’16

Education: Claremont McKenna College
Home State: California

Christopher White ’16 is a management consulting analyst with Accenture Federal Services (AFS), helping government agencies achieve their missions by designing, implementing, managing and improving agency services and operations. His work currently revolves around research, business process re-engineering and digital solutions. Christopher is originally from Los Angeles, California, and graduated from Claremont McKenna College in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and international relations. He focused much of his undergraduate studies around international politics, U.S. foreign policy and national security issues.

During his time as an IEIA student during 2016, Christopher worked as an intern at an open intelligence firm in Georgetown and conclusively decided to move to D.C. after graduation. In his free time, Chris enjoys attending think tank events, podcasts, playing tennis, volunteering and getting outside to exploring the city.


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