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Student Profiles

Our school is internationally recognized for its excellence, and a key reason for our growing distinction is our ability to attract the best graduate students from across the globe. Here is a sampling of our student scholars. 

Dean's Fellows

We are proud to introduce the students who have been selected as Dean's Fellows. This special distinction serves to signal the professional qualities of excellence that the school cultivates and honors, to reward outstanding performance by students and to create a prestigious group of high-quality students and alumni to showcase to the world. They are selected based on academic excellence, leadership, civic engagement and regional involvement.

Robertson Fellows

The Robertson Foundation for Government aspires to make a difference by offering annual financial support for graduate students pursuing federal government careers in foreign policy, national security and international affairs. Robertson Fellows at selected universities receive full scholarships and full internship stipends from the foundation. They also commit to work for the federal government for a minimum of three of their first seven years after graduation. Note: We do not receive unsolicited applications as an internal committee makes recommendations based on applicants accepted to the school and meets the mission of the program.

Sylff Fellows

Created in 1987, the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff) program is designed to support graduate students studying in the humanities and social sciences fields at 69 universities in 44 countries. In 1991, a $1 million endowment was received to create the Sylff program at UC San Diego to support the education of outstanding students pursuing their graduate studies with high potential for global leadership.

2021–22 Dean's Fellows

  • Deepika Bagaria, MPP ’22

    Deepika Bagaria, MPP ’22

    Specialization: Environmental Policy, Program Design and Evaluation

    Deepika Bagaria earned her BTech in electrical engineering from NIT Surat (India) and has 11 years of experience working in the energy sector. Prior to attending GPS, she has worked as a field-level engineer in a power plant, served as a technical advisor to the CEO, and later as a strategic planning and risk manager of the largest power generation company in India.

    Bagaria’s research interests are evidence-based and cost-effective environmental policy in the developing world, and sustainable access of energy and water for everyone.

    Deepika worked as a graduate student researcher at the Deep Decarbonization Initiative for Professor David Victor over the summer. She is a board member on two student-run groups at GPS - Development Club and Net Impact.

  • Elissa Bozhkov, MIA ’22

    Elissa Bozhkov, MIA ’22

    Career Track: International Management
    Region: China

    Elissa Bozhkov received her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Queen’s University in Canada. She previously worked as a research assistant seeking to drive more participatory and inclusive environmental management and policy. Prior to GPS, she lived in Beijing, where she taught English in an international school and studied Mandarin. During her summer internship, Bozhkov worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) where she contributed to a project proposal to increase clean, affordable energy access for refugee camps and host communities.

    At GPS, Bozhkov is an editor-in-chief for Sinosphere (a journal of Chinese politics, national security and foreign affairs), and is a board member for Women Going Global and Net Impact. After graduation, she plans on pursuing a career in research focused on environmental justice, food security and sustainable development.

  • Cashin (Kenneth) Brown, MIA ’22

    Cashin (Kenneth) Brown, MIA ’22

    Career Track: International Management
    Region: China

    Cashin (Kenneth) Brown was born in California but spent the first few years of his life in Mexico, Thailand and Singapore. As an American with Japanese heritage and lifelong travel experience, Brown naturally thrives in international settings. He graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a B.A. in geography and a degree emphasis on linguistic nationalism. At GPS, he serves as president of Asameshikai (GPS’ Japan focus club) and treasurer of QUIRPS (GPS’ LGBT focus club).

    Witnessing environmental degradation in his hometown of Newport Coast, he knew that his career would have to address environmental sustainability on a global scale. As a surfer and ocean lover, Brown plans to focus his professional efforts on marine conservation and the blue economy. Leveraging his professional experiences – which include being a bilingual researcher at Mitsubishi Research Institute, an educator at a Japanese NGO, and a development-communications intern at an environmental policy advocacy organization – Brown is intent on leading a net-zero future with a global perspective.

  • Chase Farrell, BA/MPP ’22

    Chase Farrell, BA/MPP ’22

    Specialization: Peace and Security, Program Design and Evaluation

    Chase Farrell represents the first admitted joint Bachelor's of Arts in Economics and Master of Public Policy at GPS. Prior to his admittance to GPS, Farrell transferred from Palomar College to UC San Dieg as an economics undergraduate. He holds a BA in Economics with a minor in computational social science from UC San Diego and is subsequently a first-generation college graduate. During his time at GPS, Chase spent two summers as an intern for Northrop Grumman, once in their Business Management Division and the second in Global Supply Chain. Farrel also served as a research assistant for Professor John Ahlquist for winter and summer quarters of his first year. Currently, Farrel is serving as an instructional assistant at GPS. After graduating, Farrel plans to gain experience in the private sector with the long-term goal of a career in foreign policy.

  • Will (Chi) Gao, MCEPA ’22

    Will (Chi) Gao, MCEPA ’22

    Specialization: Chinese Environment

    Will (Chi) Gao holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science from UC San Diego. During his study at GPS, Gao is working as the chief editor of China Focus, a student-run blog affiliated with the 21st Century China Center at GPS. During the summer of 2021, Gao worked at the Stimson Center, a think tank based in Washington D.C., as the GIS intern in the Southeast Asia Program. He helped to produce a geospatially-oriented social impact evaluation on major dam constructions in Laos. Academically, he is interested in energy transition in China and beyond, particularly the interaction between engineering reality and the power market.

    After he graduates from GPS, he hopes to work in research institutions or think tanks on issues related to global energy transition. With this broadened vision, he is also considering pursuing a Ph.D. program in the years to come.

  • Nick (Nicholas) Heimann, MIA '22

    Nick (Nicholas) Heimann, MIA '22

    Career Track: International Development and Nonprofit Management
    Region: Southeast Asia

    Nicholas Heimann is a 2022 Master of International Affairs candidate with specializations in International Development and Southeast Asia. He currently holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies-Economics from the University of California, San Diego. Nicholas has worked as a faculty research assistant for Professor Nico Ravanilla in the summer of 2021 aiding him in his South China Sea Data Initiative and their research conference being held at Emory University in December 2021. Prior to GPS, Nicholas worked as a customer service agent for Delta Air Lines for nearly 5 years before the coronavirus pandemic shifted his interests to pursue development work in the Philippines. His interests include transportation infrastructure, social development, and aviation-related topics for international development with the goal to work in poverty alleviation. Currently, Nicholas is involved with the Southeast Asia Link (SEAL) organization as a board member and works as a teaching assistant for the Making of a Modern World (MMW) department.

  • Ayush Jain, MPP ’22

    Ayush Jain, MPP ’22

    Specialization: Peace and Security, Program Design and Evaluation

    Ayush Jain is a 2022 Master of Public Policy candidate at GPS, specializing in the dual tracks of Peace and Security and Program Design and Evaluation. Originally from India, he earned his master’s degree in Literature and Postgraduate Diploma in Human Rights, International Humanitarian and Refugee Laws from there. After completing his first year at GPS, he worked at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) as a Program Quality and Digital Equity Intern. Alongside that, during the summer of 2021, he was also engaged as a Faculty Research Associate under Professor Katherine Ricke and Professor Gaurav Khanna for a project analyzing the impacts of climate change on human migration. Both his academic journey and professional experience with different organizations motivate him to work at the intersection of policymaking, development, and human rights.

  • Nikki Jazayeri, BA/MIA ’22

    Nikki Jazayeri, BA/MIA ’22

    Career Track: International Economics
    Region: Latin America

    Nikki Jazayeri is a BA/MIA and received her bachelor of arts in international studies-economics from UC San Diego. In the summer after her first year, Jazayeri interned at Avanade working as a data analyst to use PowerBI to create data visualizations to help the company see its current and forecasted pipeline in order to make better business decisions. She currently works as a teaching assistant with GPS Professor Gordon McCord's course entitled Microeconomics for Policymakers. At GPS, Jazayeri enjoys working in student-run organizations as vice president of finance for GO GPS and vice president of internal affairs for Women Going Global.

  • Tomás Lavados, MIA ’22

    Tomás Lavados, MIA ’22

    Career Track: International Business, International Development and Nonprofit Management
    Region: Latin America

    Tomás Lavados grew up in Chile, where he obtained an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. After working for three years in the renewable energy industry, he decided to turn towards the social sector. He volunteered for a year for a community-based organization in Brazil, and later became chief development officer for Acción Emprendedora, an NGO focused on aiding underserved entrepreneurs in Chile. He spent the summer working as a research assistant for Professor Agustina Paglayan, analyzing historical education policies across Latin America, and will be a teaching assistant for Microeconomics during the 2021 fall quarter. After graduating, he hopes to work in international development, particularly in partnerships with the private sector. He loves rock music, hiking and reading.

  • Zeyu Li, MCEPA ’22

    Zeyu Li, MCEPA ’22

    Disciplinary Specialization: Chinese Politics and Public Policy

    Zeyu Li’s specific interests lie in propaganda, public opinions and sentiment analysis. Prior to GPS, Zeyu served as a research assistant for Professor Jennifer Pan on the propaganda of Chinese local governments and Chinese public opinions about COVID-19. During her time at GPS, she has worked with professors Victor Shih, Margaret Roberts and Lei Guang for the 21st Century China Center on research relating to China’s think tank analysis and congressional sentiment of the U.S. towards China. Currently, Li is a board member for China Focus Club and digital media manager for China Focus Blog. After graduation, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in political science to further explore sentiment analysis and political methodology.

  • Kelli Maples, MPP ’22

    Kelli Maples, MPP ’22

    Specialization: Inequality and Social Policy

    As a San Diego native, Kelli Maples holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with a minor in interdisciplinary studies from San Diego State University. Prior to GPS, Maples served as a grant writer for the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors and as a policy analyst at the City of Coronado. During her time at GPS, she has worked as a data analyst at the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, and as a research assistant with Professor Claire Adida. After graduating, Maples hopes to pursue a research-oriented position involving gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

  • Jorge Mata Ochoa, MIA ’22

    Jorge Mata Ochoa, MIA ’22

    Career Track: International Politics
    Region: Latin America

    Originally from Arizona, Jorge Mata Ochoa attended the University of Arizona where he received his Bachelor of Arts in political science with a foreign affairs emphasis. During his time as an undergraduate, Mata Ochoa traveled abroad to Brazil to learn Portuguese and to Colombia to study the peace process. Throughout his undergraduate studies, he volunteered at a monastery that housed asylees and assisted them to arrive at their destination. Additionally, he volunteered for refugee organizations by tutoring or facilitating events.

    While at GPS, Mata Ochoa has interned for admissions and was an EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) intern for the academic year of 2020-21. He currently serves as the VP of Academic Affairs, president of QUIRPS. He plans to work in the government sector after he graduates from GPS.

  • Swati Nair, MIA ’22

    Swati Nair, MIA ’22

    Career Track: International Economics; International Development and Nonprofit Management
    Region: Southeast Asia

    Swati Nair received her bachelor of arts in economics and statistics from St Xavier’s College in Mumbai, India. In the summer after her first year at GPS, Swati interned at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) South Asia working on a randomized control trial aiming to reduce vaccine hesitancy in India. She also worked as a research assistant with GPS Professor Maria Carreri, focusing on political selection during times of crisis. At GPS, Swati is actively involved in student-run organizations including China Focus and Women Going Global. She is also editor-in-chief of Sinosphere Journal.

  • Laura Nora, MPP ’22

    Laura Nora, MPP ’22

    Specialization: Health Policy, Program Design and Evaluation

    Laura Nora is currently pursuing a Master of Public Policy with a concentration on Health Policy and Program Design & Evaluation. Her interests lie in evidence-based research on climate change and human health.

    Nora completed her BA in International Affairs at the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Brazil, and her international background also includes a semester of studies at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. Before joining GPS, Nora spent more than four years working as a Program Officer for Columbia University in Rio de Janeiro. She has helped create a wide variety of publications, conferences and workshops on topics such as climate change, public health and human rights. While at GPS, Nora has worked as a Graduate Student Researcher and Teacher Assistant. She also serves as a board member for Women Going Global.

  • McKenzie Richardson, MPP ’22

    McKenzie Richardson, MPP ’22

    Specialization: Peace and Security, Program Design and Evaluation

    McKenzie Richardson received her bachelor's degree from UC San Diego in political science, public policy with a minor in business. She attended GPS immediately after graduating from UC San Diego. During her time at UC San Diego, Richardson interest in public policy by working at a local child development nonprofit, her local Congressman's office and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Richardson spent the past summer interning at the International Security Program within the Center for Strategic and International Studies focusing on emerging technology and international partnerships in national security. She hopes to use her experience researching the new frontiers of national security to assist her career after GPS in the private or public sectors.

    At GPS, Richardson is the current GO GPS president and is the vice president of Internal Affairs for the Strategic Studies Group.

  • Alberto Santos-Davidson, MPP ’22

    Alberto Santos-Davidson, MPP ’22

    Specialization: Environmental Policy, Health Policy

    Alberto Santos-Davidson holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental Studies and sociology from Whitman College but his interests in environmental protection began long before then, thanks to a childhood spent outdoors. Prior to attending GPS, Santos-Davidson worked in urban planning and local-level environmental policy in both the private and public sectors, including nearly a year with the City of San Diego’s Environmental Policy and Analysis group. Over the past summer, he worked for an environmental lobbying firm based out of Sacramento, which successfully worked on legislation banning PFAS in food packaging, a bill which will facilitate the creation of wildlife corridors and the inclusion of environmentally sensitive vegetation management language into several bills related to wildfire mitigation. He is continuing this work part time during the academic year, primarily supporting different wildlife crossing initiatives. Santos-Davidson was selected by GPS to attend the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland in late Fall 2021. After graduating from GPS, he hopes to continue to be part of researching, drafting and implementing new environmental policies which will protect local ecosystems and our planet for future generations.

  • Tyler Spencer, MIA ’22

    Tyler Spencer, MIA ’22

    Career Track: International Economics
    Region: Latin America

    Tyler Spencer holds a BA in history with minors in global information and social enterprise from UC Santa Cruz. Prior to GPS, he managed a portfolio of city, state and federal contracts for social service delivery to the homeless youth population in San Francisco. His research and policy interests include development, education, poverty, inclusion and economic empowerment of marginalized populations. At GPS, Spencer is a graduate student researcher at the Program Design and Evaluation Lab and SDG Policy Initiative. He serves as president of the Development Club. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career in international development.

  • Harrison Tang, BA/MIA ’22

    Harrison Tang, BA/MIA ’22

    Career Track: International Development and Nonprofit Management
    Region: Southeast Asia

    Harrison Tang holds an undergraduate degree from UC San Diego in international business and political science. He is interested in researching frameworks for socially inclusive development. Before GPS, he worked in the education industry as an administrative assistant, managing business operations and partnerships with clients. He also interned with the US-ASEAN Business Council, where he researched economic policy issues impacting the private sector in Southeast Asia. Currently, he serves as a board member for the Southeast Asia Link and QuIRPS student organizations. After graduating from GPS, Tang plans to pursue a project management position focused on sustainable development.

  • Miriam Vakhitova, MPP ’22

    Miriam Vakhitova, MPP ’22

    Specialization: Environmental Policy, Inequality and Social Policy

    Originally from Russia, Miriam Vakhitova earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and film and media studies from the University of Rochester. Vakhitova used her passion for both disciplines when she lived in Spain and worked on her documentary film exploring the Catalan Independence Movement. Her undergraduate research was a Human Rights Report on exile and return of Crimean Tatars. After receiving her BA, she transitioned into international development and worked for the United Nations Development Programme in New York City, as well as became a Russian/English Independent Professional Interpreter. In New York, Vakhitova also served as an Immigration Assistant at the International Rescue Committee where she supervised the Citizenship Assistance Workshop.

    Vakhitova is currently involved with Vinci 504, a New Orleans-based philanthropic organization that funds and operates programs in the education, music, arts and sustainable food segments. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career that helps achieve social and environmental justice.

  • Joshua (Josh) Zajdel, MIA ’22

    Joshua (Josh) Zajdel, MIA ’22

    Career Track: International Economics
    Region: Latin America

    Joshua Zajdel is a Master of International Affairs student focused on international economics and Latin America. Currently, he is working with the San Diego Association of Government to create a data dashboard that will track the region’s progress towards achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.

    He has previously worked as a biologist and received a bachelor of science degree in zoology and a master of science degree in ecology. He is particularly interested in how land use influences economic development and how trade policy can be used to help regions achieve sustainable development goals.

2022–23 Robertson Fellows

  • Elisabeth Earley, MIA ’23

    Elisabeth Earley, MIA ’23

    Career Track: International Development and Nonprofit Management
    Regional Focus: Latin America

    Elisabeth Earley graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in political science, specializing in quantitative methods and survey design. There, she worked as a research assistant investigating international anticorruption interventions and assessing their effectiveness and scalability. She also conducted survey experiments measuring confirmation bias for political news on social media. Outside of academic research, Earley studied Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, played intramural soccer and coordinated volunteers for the student-led organization Bears for Elder Welfare. After graduation, she assisted fieldwork in Brazil and Nepal for the World Bank, and most recently, served as project manager for a large-scale study by the Inter-American Development Bank that used banking and mobility data to track and measure the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Latin American SMEs.

  • McKenzie Hartman, MIA ‘24

    McKenzie Hartman, MIA ‘24

    Career Track: International Politics

    McKenzie Hartman was raised in Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from The Ohio State University in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and international relations and diplomacy and minors in Spanish and German. During her undergraduate studies, she studied abroad in Chile and interned with the Political/Economic section of the U.S. embassy in Bolivia, where she researched for the annual human rights report and helped organize bilateral exchanges between health professionals. After graduation, she worked for the Franklin County Board of Elections and hiked the Pacific Crest Trail across the country. She then served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Germany. There, she taught classes on both the English language and American culture and politics. McKenzie hopes to use her time at GPS to prepare her for a career in diplomacy.

  • Toyli Hojaguliyev, MIA ‘24

    Toyli Hojaguliyev, MIA ‘24

    Career Track: International Economics

    Toyli Hojaguliyev earned his bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego in political science, focused on international relations. Toyli's multilingualism (fluent in four languages) piqued his interest in international relations. He combined research in social science and policy in a set of undergraduate research experiences at UC San Diego. His undergraduate honors thesis was focused on analyzing whether the international norm "Responsibility to protect R2P" helps to deter occurence of international conflicts. He then moved to U.K. where he worked in a multilateral development bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as an analyst and focused on international finance. Toyli is excited to use his graduate degree  to further his career in international affairs.

  • Peter Joseph Wilborn, MPP ’23

    Peter Joseph Wilborn, MPP ’23

    Career Track: Inequality and Social Policy

    Peter Joseph Wilborn is an Atlanta native and 2019 graduate of Morehouse College where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and International Affairs. While at Morehouse, he participated in the STARs Program as a research assistant at UC San Diego and was a Public Policy and International Affairs fellow at the Ford School in the University of Michigan. Following graduation, he joined the Peace Corps as an English teacher, where he also worked with local communities in East Africa until he was evacuated by the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. Upon his return, he joined the Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) as a site manager for COVID-19 testing centers, eventually leading the logistics planning for all Georgia-based sites. His interests lie in regional and international development and policy geared toward human security, and plans to continue developing those skills while at GPS.

2021–22 Sylff Fellows

  • Brandon Callegari, MIA ’23

    Brandon Callegari, MIA ’23

    Specialization: International Politics and Korea

    Brandon Callegari graduated from Princeton University in 2021, with a B.A. from the School of Public and International Affairs. While at Princeton, his research involved human rights for displaced peoples, with a specific focus on North Korean defectors. He has previously interned in Indonesia and South Korea for community development and human rights nonprofit organizations, spearheading sustainable development projects for local villages in Bali and creating United Nations petitions to recognize atrocities committed against Zainichi Koreans after the Korean War. At UC San Diego, Callegari is continuing his focus on North Korean human rights and international human rights issues more generally.

Read more student stories → GPS News