Next Leaders Program

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The Next Leaders Program aims to compel action by sharpening young voices and new ideas through training in public scholarship, a term we define as the connection between policy research and grassroots activism.

The 2016 Summer Next Leaders Program

The Institute for Policy Studies seeks dedicated young folks hungry for systemic transformation to join our Next Leaders Summer Program. The world crisis in governance, economic stability, and ethical guidance demands that we do our best to prepare to secure and sustain a more just, green, and peaceful future starting, well, yesterday.

Meet Our Summer 2016 Next Leaders!

Next Leaders 2016

Back row, left to right: Eli Massey, Brandon Ward, Jaime Miguel McCarthy, Jorge Villarreal, Ebony Slaughter-Johnson, Aya Folk, Janae Bonsu. Front row, left to right: Milen Mehari, On Tim Tang, Hannah Hunter, Luisa Santos.

Aya Laurel Iwai-Folk — Communications

Aya FolkAya is an organizer and restaurant worker from Tokyo, Japan and the Bay Area, California. Aya graduated from American University in Washington, DC, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology. In school, she organized against the student debt crisis and served as an LGBTQ peer educator. In addition to working with the Communications team at IPS and doing restaurant work, Aya currently does community organizing with a DC-based Asian racial justice organization in solidarity with the DC Movement for Black Lives.

Brandon Ward — New Economy Maryland

Brandon WardBrandon hails from Baltimore, Maryland. He recently graduated from Mercyhurst University with a M.S. in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Human Resources. At Mercyhurst, Brandon split his time between serving as the graduate assistant for the recreation and fitness center and for the men’s basketball team while conducting his graduate research study on youth leadership programs mainly focusing in the inner city of Erie, Pennsylvania. Brandon is very enthusiastic about traveling the world and just recently completed a study abroad at Sanda University in Pudong, Shanghai, China where he studied Chinese culture, history, and the Pinyin language. He is very passionate about issues regarding world hunger, social justice, and youth involvement. When his has spare time, Brandon loves to workout, listen to music, and be a part of nature related activities.

Ebony Slaughter-Johnson — Criminalization of Poverty and Race

Ebony Slaughter-JohnsonEbony is from Potomac Falls, Virginia. She is a recent graduate of Princeton University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and a certificate in African American Studies. Ebony’s academic interests include the histories of marginalized groups, particularly in the United States, and the engagement of these marginalized groups with the prevailing political institutions. Her Senior Thesis explored the African American response to their treatment under the New Deal in terms of their political activity and civil rights activism.

As a passionate advocate of equality of opportunity, Ebony was actively involved in civic engagement at Princeton. She led freshman orientation service trips, directed a curriculum-based tutoring program in Trenton, New Jersey, and advised education volunteer organizations as a member of the Student Volunteers Council Executive Board. Ebony expanded upon her enthusiasm for social activism with internships with Environment America, the House of Representatives, and the Washington, DC chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Ebony is very much looking forward to spending the summer with the Institute for Policy Studies. She is excited to combine her interests in the historical trajectories of marginalized groups and social justice activism to call attention to the atrocities that the most vulnerable among us face at the hands of the various actors in the justice system. In her spare time, Ebony enjoys reading, trying new foods, and traveling.

Eli Massey — New Internationalism

Eli MasseyEli is a journalist, researcher, and editor from Chicago, Illinois. He graduated last spring from Lawrence University with a BA in English. His journalism work has taken him to India and the Middle East.

Before interning at IPS, Eli worked at In These Times as an editorial intern where he contributed writing on Middle Eastern politics, labor, and more.


Hannah Hunter — Visual Communications/Design

Hannah HunterHannah is from Charlottesville, Virginia. She recently graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Urban Studies. At Mary Washington, Hannah served as an Honor Council Representative and worked with various social justice organizations on campus. Last summer, she interned for the International Rescue Committee working with newly arrived refugees in the San Francisco Bay Area and Our Family Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing equity for LGBTQ individuals and their families. In her free time, Hannah loves swimming, binge watching Netflix, and exploring D.C.

Jaime Miguel McCarthy — Fundraising and Development

Jaime McCarthyJaime is a recent graduate from the International Studies Institute at the University of New Mexico (2016) with a major in international studies and minor in economics. He studied abroad at Barcelona’s Universitat Pompeu Fabra and also visited China during my freshman year through a travel seminar pointed toward my attainment of a designation in the UNM Honors College. While at UNM, he also founded the school’s intercollegiate running club, was a founding member of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, and was active in several other student organizations. His future plans include earning a Master’s in Public Administration or Development Management and working toward initiatives in literacy, financial literacy, and student success in rural communities.

Janaé Bonsu — Black Worker Initiative; Criminalization of Poverty and Race

Janae BonsuJanaé is a womanist organizer and activist-scholar with a firm belief in the dual power of direct action organizing and transformative public policy. Raised between South Carolina and New York, Janaé found her way to Chicago for graduate school where she was introduced to a powerful collective of young Black people dedicated to freedom and justice, the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100). She currently serves as BYP100’s National Public Policy Chair where she has co-authored of the organization’s public policy agendas – the Agenda to Keep Us Safe and the most recent Agenda to Build Black Futures. She is also currently a first-year doctoral student at Jane Addams College of Social Work focusing her studies on participatory action research with criminalized Black women, girls, femmes, and LGBTQ folks. Through her social work scholarship, policy advocacy and organizing, Janaé is dedicated to working towards a world free of prisons, oppressive policing, and other systemic mechanisms of punishment. In her free time, Janaé enjoys having sister-circles with her friends wherein they catch up on each other’s lives over a filling bowl of fufu, a staple food in her paternal family’s home country of Ghana.

Jorge Villarreal — Climate Policy

Jorge VillarrealJorge is from San Antonio, Texas, where he recently completed graduate studies in Public Administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio. A passionate urbanist, Jorge has spent the better part of the past decade working on political campaigns, mobilizing underrepresented youth at the grassroots, and advocating for responsible and humane urban policies everywhere from his college campus (where he helped lead the successful fight for a multimillion dollar sustainability initiative) to city hall. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, traveling, podcasts, and trying the foods that your other friends won’t. At IPS, he is working in the Climate Policy Program under the tutelage of Janet Redman.

Luisa Santos — Peace Economy Transitions

Luisa SantosLuisa was raised Brazilian in Miami, FL. She majored in Anthropology at Amherst College, and her deep sense of justice found a home and an avenue for expression among student groups organizing on-campus and in the local community. After graduating, she worked in democratic education and contributed to the budding people’s climate movement in Miami. In DC, she organizes around housing and labor rights, toward establishing a local carbon tax that is redistributed to communities, and in solidarity with Brazilians for democracy at home. Luisa is eager to be working with IPS to promote a less militarized economy and a reinvestment of resources toward civilians and the planet. Luisa is passionate about the new economy movement, popular education, and cooperatives. She enjoys the arts and the outdoors.

Milen Mehari — Criminalization of Poverty and Race

Milen MehariMilen is a native of the East African nation Eritrea, but currently calls Northern Virginia her home. She is a sophomore at the University of Mary Washington, study Philosophy: Pre-law, English, and Women and Gender Studies. Milen is a former DC Youth Poetry Slam Team member who has travel the District and country performing poetry of witness. She has brought her enthusiasm for social justice to her school’s African Student Union where she has lead student run discussions on the treatment of African refugees and the internal issues that lead displacement of these people. For the future Milen want to bring her talent and motivation to the fight to liberate Eritrean people both in the state and those in the diaspora.

On Tim Tang — Global Economy

On Tim TangOn Tim (or OT, as everyone calls her) was born in Singapore and raised in Hong Kong. She is a rising senior at Colgate University, where she is double majoring in Political Science and International Relations. Her previous two summers were spent teaching English at Summerbridge Hong Kong and serving as a student paralegal in bankruptcy law at the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York. She has been active in student government since her first year at Colgate, and was recently elected Senior Class President. She enjoys learning to cook, writing poetry, and having great conversations with people from all backgrounds.

Watch this video, produced and edited by Visual Communications and Design intern Hannah Hunter, to learn more about the 2016 summer experience from the Next Leaders themselves.

Meet Our Summer 2015 Next Leaders!

Alissa Weinman — Climate Policy Project 


Alissa Weinman hails from the Washington, D.C. area and recently completed her studies in Anthropology, Environmental Studies, and Political Science at The College of Wooster. At Wooster, Alissa split her time between advancing sustainability on campus as a Sustainability Intern and Greenhouse Club President and writing her senior thesis on the role of community organizing and urban agriculture in the Dudley neighborhood of Boston, MA. Alissa is enthusiastic about issues regarding environmental justice, food sovereignty, and the green economy. In her spare time, she loves getting off the grid to hike, listening to podcasts, and volunteering at a local farmers market.

Aseante Hylick —


Aseante Hylick is from Austin, Texas. She is currently completing a graduate degree in Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin where she’s focusing on leveraging the influence of faith based organizations and community leadership to address issues of mental health, restorative reform, and social justice in vulnerable populations. She has over twelve years of experience in creating or implementing civic platforms such as summer mentoring programs, non-profit social media campaigns, program fundraising, and citywide health awareness events. Aseante also spent five years as the director of programing for a local non-profit that serviced four high-needs zip codes in Austin, Texas.

Christine Dickason — OtherWords


Christine Dickason is from Memphis, Tennessee. She graduated in May from the University of Mississippi with a B.A. in Public Policy Leadership. As an undergraduate, Christine served as the Student Director of the University Food Bank, as well as holding internships in a Congressman’s office, at the Center for American Progress, with Organizing for Action, and in the Office of the First Lady at the White House. She is particularly interested in social justices issues related to educational inequities and access to food. In her free time, Christine enjoys traveling to new places, volunteering at farmers markets, cooking, and fanatically cheering on the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team.

Daniel Valenzuela — Global Economy


Daniel Valenzuela is from Sterling, Virginia. As a junior at Harvard University, Daniel primarily studies philosophy while also dabbling in economics. He hopes to complete a thesis exploring what distributive justice demands of institutions and what people must do to meet those demands. During the academic year, Daniel spends time volunteering with a small claims court advisory service and working as a student liaison for his school’s information systems department. Outside of school, he has spent time working for the National Institutes of Health and for a local car dealership. Daniel enjoys reading everything, listening to hip-hop, and eating pho.

Chloe Sigal — New Economy Working Group


Chloe Sigal grew up on the outskirts of Philadelphia. She is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in Sociology with a concentration in Structures of Opportunity and Inequality. At Penn, Chloe organized with the Student Labor Action Project and led economic justice campaigns including unionization drives, anti-sweatshop solidarity campaigns, and, most recently, a non-profit Payments in Lieu of Taxes campaign. Chloe enjoys sobremesa and the great outdoors and is passionate about combating economic exploitation and creating a more equal playing field with and for poor and working-class people.

Eileen Huang — Global Economy


All the way from Vancouver, Canada, Eileen Huang is about to begin her third year at Rice University. Aside from her studies in Mathematical Economic Analysis and Political Science, Eileen is particularly interested in social advocacy, finance and economics. She has held numerous leadership positions in APASA, an Asian American sociopolitical group, and is involved in her school’s Finance Club as the Chief Economist. She hopes to call attention to data disaggregation for minority groups, and increase financial literacy of low-income families. In her free time, Eileen can be found watching suspense movies, inventing her own dishes, and less frequently, jumping out of planes.

Kelsey Clark — Development


Kelsey Clark is a senior Political Science major at the College of Wooster. She has recently returned from a semester abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland as a research intern for The Scottish Parliament, serving as a staff member for the deputy minister of the Justice Committee. Kelsey spent the last summer lending her abilities to the expansion and development of an emerging non-profit, The Pink Ribbon Girls. For her final year at Wooster, she hopes to build off of her previous research on cosmopolitan theory to write a senior thesis on how national identities influence the ethical obligations of states. Kelsey also plays soccer for the Wooster women’s soccer team, creates pottery, and enjoys traveling.

Joash Mencias — Communications


Joash Mencias comes from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. He attended the College of DuPage, where he served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, and he’ll continue his education at DePaul University where he’ll study public relations. Inspired by his faith, Joash takes an interest in seeking social justice and has been active in the Filipino-American United Methodist community in the Chicago area. In addition to his passion for social justice, he is a current events, politics, and weather enthusiast.

Qossay Alsattari — New Internationalism


Qossay grew up in Ramallah in the West Bank. He is currently finishing his undergraduate studies at Kenyon College where he majors in Economics and International Studies. Qossay spent last summer interning at the Center for Development Studies at Birzeit University where he worked closely with economist Raja Khalidi. His research interests include political economy and social mobility in the Middle East and North Africa. Carrying on in the tradition of his Quaker education at the Ramallah Friends School, Qossay remains committed to studying policy through the lens of social justice and human rights. He enjoys eating dessert with good friends and going on long walks.

Laith Shakir — Foreign Policy In Focus


Laith Shakir is a junior at American University, pursuing a double major in philosophy and history with a minor in literature. Outside of his academic pursuits, Laith is committed to social justice in the Middle East: he has spent two summers in the West Bank, studying and working with various NGOs committed to peace in the region. He is also passionate about education, and works with 3P Speech to coach debate students across the country. In his free time, Laith enjoys arguing about the Song of Ice and Fire books on the internet, getting too emotional about The X-Files, and reading whatever he can get his hands on.

Olivia Alperstein — OtherWords


Olivia Alperstein hails from Newton, MA and received a BA in Classical civilization and theater from Wesleyan University. Most recently she worked as a communications and development intern for Massachusetts Advocates for Children. In addition to a stint as opinion editor and news editor for her school newspaper, her prior experience includes legal internships, volunteering and conducting research and fundraising for political campaigns, and working in not-for-profit advocacy. She is passionate about social and economic justice and the intersection between socioeconomic issues, and she hopes to pursue a career advocating for laws and legislation that produce long-term change.

Joshua Thomas-Serrano — Criminalization of Poverty


Joshua received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Policy with a double-minor in Urban Studies and Sociology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He is from Brooklyn, New York and has spent time as an undergraduate studying in Vietnam and Washington DC. He recently interned at Action For the City, based in Hanoi, Vietnam, and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, based in Washington DC. He is passionate about the interconnected racial and economic justice movements.

Gabriel Sub — New Economy Maryland


Gabriel grew up in New York City and graduated from Bard College majoring in Political Studies with a concentration in International Political Economy. He currently organizes with Rethinking Economics, an international student group fighting for pluralism in economics curricula. A dual Dutch-U.S. citizen, he recently returned from the Netherlands where he worked promoting and introducing the thriving bike scene to tourists and took graduate classes for half a year. A previous intern for the New Economy Coalition and canvasser/campaign manager for the NY Working Families Party, Gabriel is thrilled to be working with IPS to promote an equitable and sustainable economy that prioritizes people and planet over profit. He will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts university in the Fall.

Angela Pradhan — Foreign Policy in Focus


Angela Pradhan hails from Long Island, New York but is a Manhattan city girl at heart. She just completed her first year at Ithaca College’s Park School of Communications as a Journalism major and International Politics minor. Awarded with the selective Martin Luther King Scholar for social justice research and civic engagement, she served as a co-anchor and assistant producer for Ithaca College’s first sociopolitical talk show, The RoundTable. A founder of the Huntington Chapter of the United Nations’ Girl Up program, she received the national President’s Volunteer Service Award for her work in international educational gender equality and her role in sparking national debate over a policy proposal for microaggressions. Angela plans to inform FPIF readers about international social justice issues and impact laws that infringe upon human rights.