The application for the 2020-2022 Empire State Fellows Class is now closed.

The Empire State Fellows Program is a full-time leadership training program that will prepare the next generation of talented professionals for careers as New York State policy-makers. The incoming class of Empire State Fellows will serve from September 2020 to September 2022. At the end of the Fellowship, a performance review process will identify Fellows that will be given the opportunity to continue to serve as leaders in New York State government after completing the program.

Engagement in the work of New York State government lies at the heart of the Empire State Fellows Program. Each Empire Fellow is appointed to work directly with a Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, or other high-level policy maker. Each Empire Fellow works at a state office or agency, such as the Office of Children and Family Services, the Department of State, Department of Labor, the Department of Environmental Conservation, or in the Governor’s Executive Chamber. Work assignments offer Fellows unparalleled experience collaborating with senior officials and participating in the policy-making process.

While taking part in the work of government, Empire Fellows have the opportunity to participate in educational and professional development programs that help them to serve as effective and ethical government leaders. The educational component of the Empire State Fellows Program will kick-off with a one-week course in September 2020. Educational coursework continues on a semi-monthly basis. Meanwhile, professional development activities, including a breakfast presentation series and mentoring by Cabinet members and other government leaders, enhances Empire Fellows’ collaboration with policy-makers.


Omotolani Elumade

Tolani holds a BA in history from Fisk University, master of professional studies in criminal justice from St. John’s University, and she is completing an executive master in public administration from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Prior to the Empire State Fellows, Tolani worked as a special projects manager for the NYC Department of Correction where she worked on various initiatives. These included EEO compliance, diversity, inclusion, equity, recruitment and leadership development, security response, and other projects under the Anti-Violence Reform Agenda, a landmark criminal justice reform strategy aimed at reducing violence and improving the quality of life for incarcerated individuals and officers. Tolani’s interest in public policy is rooted in strategizing around how to translate large, complicated legislation and policy into seamless operations for agency implementation. She is also interested in bottom-up approaches to policymaking. Tolani is excited to continue to learn about policymaking and implementation on a state level. Tolani is placed at the Workers’ Compensation Board.

Paula Granger

Paula holds dual BA degrees in philosophy and women’s studies from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. She recently graduated with an MA degree in nonproliferation and terrorism studies and a specialization in financial crime management from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Paula also studied Persian at the Defense Language Institute and earned a congressionally approved AA degree in Persian-Farsi studies. Paula has been a member of the Army National Guard for nine years and received a Joint Service Commendation Medal for her work at United States Cyber Command. Here, she briefed high-level civilian and military decision makers on the current cyberthreat landscape, which included authoring cyber intelligence products with readership from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. Previously, Paula worked at The Julian Center, a nonprofit organization that focuses on assisting domestic and sexual violence survivors. Here, she held several different positions over eight years, including working directly with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department as a victim advocate. She and her team received the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department North District Baker One Award, which recognized their efforts to educate the community about domestic and sexual violence while assisting those most affected. Paula is placed at the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

Nathaniel Gray

Nathaniel Gray holds a BFA in musical theater from Pace University and his MSW from Fordham University, where he received the Claver Award for excellence and graduated with honors. Prior to the Empire State Fellows, Nathaniel’s focus has been on homeless LGBTQ youth in New York City, working for the Hetrick-Martin Institute and the Ali Forney Center in direct practice, policy design, and grant writing. Nathaniel was the founder of The Proud Path, an educational tool for parents of queer youth, and provided queer-competency training for teachers and social workers at nonprofits like Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City as well as at several public and private schools. For that work, Nathaniel was honored to receive the 2018 New York Nonprofit Media 40 Under 40 Award. Nathaniel is also a part of the Anti-Defamation League’s cadre of antibias trainers and has delivered the Anti-Defamation League’s peer training program to students across the state of New York. Nathaniel’s dedication is to address the disproportionate rates of homelessness and suicide in queer youth through inclusive and affirming policy design. One of the inaugural LGBTQ fellows, Nathaniel is placed with the Office of Children and Family Services.

Chloe Hanna

Chloe has nearly a decade of experience in nonprofit management and program development, with expertise in conservation and education. She holds a BA in Middle Eastern studies from Barnard College, and recently obtained a master of environmental management degree from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. While attending graduate school, Chloe managed an urban forestry program for high-school-aged youth and developed a carbon budget for New York City’s forests. Prior to graduate school, she served as business operations manager for the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, where she led a team in developing a green career pathways program that placed 72 at-risk youth in jobs in its first year. Chloe has also coordinated scholarship and exchange programs in Egypt, administered social services for low-income families in Los Angeles, and served as a founding board member for a survivor-led organization committed to ending human trafficking. She is dedicated to empowering underserved communities through environmental stewardship. Chloe is placed at the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

Thomas Hisgen

Thomas holds a BA in music with a minor in East Asian studies from the University of Wisconsin –Whitewater and an MBA in global impact management, as well as an MA in international environmental policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. As a recent graduate student, he served as president of the Veterans Organization. He also served in the United States Marine Corps as an Arabic linguist and intelligence analyst, functioning as a Middle East subject matter expert, providing vital insight to strategic decision makers and combatant commanders. He holds an AA in Arabic from the Defense Language Institute. Thomas is committed to environmental sustentation through the intersection of sustainable development. Thomas is placed at the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Zachary Hobbs

Zach is a civic and community education professional, developing effective partnerships between educational institutions and social change organizations, and developing students as effective and engaged leaders and citizens. He has worked in civic education in Andover and Lawrence, MA, at Phillips Academy – Andover; in New Orleans at Tulane University; and, most recently, he served as director of community service at Boston University. A native of upstate New York, Zach earned a master of education at Harvard University, focusing on lifespan civic identity development, and a bachelor of arts in history at Boston University. Zach is placed in the Executive Chamber.

Belia E. Jimenez

Belia holds a BS in telecommunications management from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a bachelor of arts in English textual studies from Syracuse University. She has more than two decades of experience working with top media organizations including Viacom, Turner, iHeart Media, ABC, and Univision. She brings a range of experience as a researcher and strategist helping Fortune 500 companies market products to target populations and has extensive experience in TV, digital, social, and radio. She recently worked with Univision’s community empowerment initiatives, the company’s prosocial campaigns that provide the Hispanic community with access to information, resources, and tools. In this role, she contributed to the development and launch of education-focused programs that empower parents to help their children succeed in school. She also participated in the company’s nonpartisan voter engagement efforts for the 2016 elections. As a professional, she focuses on understanding people, the behaviors that drive them, and figuring out how to solve problems. She is a native New Yorker who was born and raised in the area of Washington Heights. Belia is placed at the Department of State.

Douglas Priest

Doug holds a BS and an MA in history from the College at Brockport, State University of New York, and a PhD in history from Michigan State University. He has worked in the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors focusing on technology and digital media. Before joining the Empire State Fellows program, Doug was the department head for digital at Townsquare Media in Albany, New York. Prior to Townsquare, he worked at H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online with a focus on digital transformation to make rigorous and open scholarship and discussion available to scholars around the globe. Doug is excited to bring his combination of experience in technology, management, analysis, and strategy to high-impact projects for New York State. Doug is placed in the Executive Chamber.

Alexandria Trujillo

Alexandria earned a BS in biological sciences and a PhD in pharmacology and toxicology from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. While in Buffalo, Alexandria worked for nonprofit organizations aimed at diversifying STEM fields and retaining underrepresented minorities in science. Alexandria advocates for evidenced-based policy and cofounded a nonprofit organization, Science Demands Action, to bring science-backed solutions to policy issues in western New York. As a lifelong New York state resident, Alexandria is dedicated to improving environmental, health, and social justice concerns in New York State. Alexandria is placed with the Department of Transportation.

The Empire State Fellows Program is one of the three parts of Former Governor Cuomo’s New NY Leaders Initiative, which is designed to renew the connection between the public and private sectors and prepare a new generation of leaders to serve in state government. The Excelsior Service Fellowship Program brings highly-talented recent graduates to serve throughout the state government, and the New NY Leaders Internship Program offers hundreds of college students an opportunity to work in state government.


Griselle Baret

Griselle holds a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications and an M.A. in Educational Leadership, specializing in Politics and Advocacy, both from New York University. More recently, Griselle completed the Center for Bronx Non-profits Executive Management Certificate Program. Griselle co-founded the Hunts Point Alliance for Children (HPAC) organization, in response to the poor educational outcomes of Hunts Point students. She has been the Deputy Director of HPAC since 2016, managing the daily operations of the organization, and also served as the organization’s Director of Evaluation and Program Development, and Program Director. As Program Director, Griselle developed and managed all HPAC youth development programs for children from birth to college, including the Hunts Point Children’s Shakespeare Ensemble, the Career and Education Mentoring Program in partnership with Fordham University, and HPAC's Education Counseling programs, among others.

Mikael Russell Cejtin

Mikael holds a B.S. in wildlife biology from the University of Vermont’s School of Environment and Natural Resources and a Master of Environmental Science from Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Previously, Mikael worked as a Conservation Program Associate at the Lake Placid Land Conservancy and as Adjunct Professor at Paul Smith’s College, where he taught environmental policy and natural resource economics courses. As a field biologist, Mikael has studied wildlife species including bobcats, mountain lions, and wolves. Mikael has published in academic as well as non-academic journals and strives to advance social and environmental well-being through creativity, service, collaboration, and leadership.

Victoria Clingan

Victoria holds a B.A. in Philosophy with a Minor in Women’s Studies from Siena College and an M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. For more than 10 years Victoria worked at the Brain Injury Association of New York State. She has held various positions within the organization, most recently serving as Director of Engagement and Advocacy. Victoria is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist Trainer, holds the NYS Public Librarian’s Professional Certification, and is also a Notary Public. Victoria also served as a member of the Shaker Heritage Society Board of Trustees, the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (ACPHS) Experiential Education Advisory Panel and the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Improving the Transition Experience (BRITE) Professional Stakeholder Committee.

Shevaun Culmer-Reid

Shevaun holds a B.A. in Spanish and International Studies from Spelman College and a Master of Public Policy from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Shevaun has worked as a Program Manager for Business Development and for Partner Engagement at the Center for Internet Security (CIS). Previously, she worked as Program Manager at the Secretariat of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), at the Organization of American States (OAS) where she collaborated with US Government agencies and other international, regional and sub-regional organizations to develop and implement capacity building projects in aviation security and tourism security for 34 OAS Member States. Shevaun also interned for Partners of the Americas in the Citizens Working for Justice Program in La Paz, Bolivia and in their head office in Washington, DC where she supported USAID-funded projects.

Peter Kiernan

Peter holds a B.A. in Political Science from Columbia University and an M.Phil. in Conflict Resolution from Trinity College Dublin. He worked as the Chief Operating Officer at With Honor, an organization that works to promote the election of veterans. Previously, Peter served as Legislative Assistant at the New York State Senate and interned at the Council for Foreign Relations of the Center for Geoeconomic Studies. Peter also served in the United States Marine Corps, as a MARSOC Raider, which involved leading over 40 complex special operations missions in Afghanistan as well as diplomatically engagine with village leaders. Peter was the youngest Marine to be selected to serve as a Raider in the Marine Special Operations Command. Peter is involved in veteran advocacy, is an avid traveler, and holds a Gold Parachutist Insignia, among other awards.

Christine Monte

Christine earned a BA from the University at Albany SUNY, an MPA from the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, and a JD from The Pennsylvania State University, The Dickinson School of Law. She has extensive experience with federal, state, and local government and the private sector and has previously worked with New York State and local government in the emergency management and job training fields. As an attorney in private practice, she worked on extensive litigation and advisory matters for a range of private and government clients. Christine served approximately 11 years as a Deputy Attorney General in the Advisory Division of the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, where she advised elected and appointed state officials on numerous matters, drafted Advisory Opinions on behalf of the Attorney General, served as an Administrative Law Judge, drafted and approved state contracts and rules, and advised various state boards and commissions at public meetings. She also worked extensively with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center, and Indiana State Police on critical infrastructure protection, intelligence matters, state and nationwide suspicious activity reporting, privacy laws and policies, and continuity of government and operations. She represented the Indiana Attorney General’s Office in various capacities on interagency workgroups and task forces, including the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana. She has presented at conferences for the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and United States Department of Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence and Analysis on predictive policing, and critical operations and information collection and sharing considerations for fusion centers nationwide.

Priya Nair

Priya holds a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies from Vassar College and is a native New Yorker. Immediately before ESF, Priya was the LGBTQ Liaison for the New York City Council Speaker. In this position, Priya also covered criminal justice and HIV/AIDS issues for the Speaker’s Office and was on the emergency services team. In 2018, Priya was a participant in the NYC Unity Project campaign, a citywide commitment to supporting and empowering LGBTQ young people. Prior, Priya worked at the American Civil Liberties Union supporting advocacy and litigation on issues of reproductive justice, women, LGBTQ, HIV/AIDS, and religious freedom and belief. Priya is an experienced organizer and policy-maker with a commitment to intersectional social change.


Jessica Scott

Jessica holds a Master's degree in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, as well as a B.S. in Animal Behavior from Bucknell University. Immediately prior to ESF, Jessica produced massive online open courses (MOOCs) on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the SDG Academy, the global online education arm of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. While at Yale, Jessica developed substantive expertise at the intersection of climate and security, writing climate policy for the Department of Defense and the UN Development Programme. She also worked as a research consultant at the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development & Social Policy, where she developed a proposal to align the field of early childhood development with the SDGs, using methodology developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Formerly, Jessica co-directed a US State Department fellowship on US foreign policy for international scholars and directed a national sustainability leadership program for college students, both at Bard College.

Padma Seemangal

Padma holds a B.A. in English Literary Studies & Government from St. Lawrence University and an M.S. in Urban Policy Analysis & Management from the Milano School for International Affairs at The New School. She has worked as a consultant for the Public Advocate for the City of New York, for a New York City Council Member, and for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additionally, Padma worked as Program & Communications Manager at the Women’s City Club of New York, where she served as the lead staff person for strategic planning and was responsible for developing and implementing the organization's rich diverse policy program initiatives. She also served as Acting Executive Director and Program Director at the Indo-Caribbean Alliance, Inc. where she designed youth development programs, which she expanded to include immigration services. Padma interned at the League of Women Voters of the City of New York where she assisted in capacity-building efforts.

Brenda (Brent) Whitfield

Brent has over twenty-five years of experience as a social service worker working directly with families and vulnerable populations, as well as in public policy. Zie is committed to serving the needs of disadvantaged populations, including the foster care, homeless, and special-needs populations. Brent has worked as a Resident Manager at Hope for Youth, Inc., a residential group home for teenagers with behavioral and mental health issues. Zie has also worked as a case associate with the Jewish Board of Children & Family Services and as a therapeutic foster case worker with the Cardinal McCloskey Family & Children Services. Brent worked at the Children’s Law Center in the Bronx and for the past 10 years has volunteered in the hotline of the New York City Anti-Violence Project. Most recently zie has worked as a community coordinator and project advisor in Program Development and Policy at the NYC Department of Homeless Services. Brent holds a B.A. in Government from St. Lawrence University.

The Empire State Fellows Program is one of the three parts of Former Governor Cuomo’s New NY Leaders Initiative, which is designed to renew the connection between the public and private sectors and prepare a new generation of leaders to serve in state government. The Excelsior Service Fellowship Program brings highly-talented recent graduates to serve throughout the state government, and the New NY Leaders Internship Program offers hundreds of college students an opportunity to work in state government.


Tiffany Battles

Tiffany joins the Empire State Fellows program after extensive work in mental health services, ranging from individual, family, and group therapeutic services to research and analysis on children's behavioral health, public health, state and federal policy. She began her career as a Day Treatment Clinician with Parsons Child and Family Center providing therapeutic services to children and youth who have serious emotional disturbance and in need of integrated clinical and educational programming for school achievement and success. This direct-service experience informed her later mental health policy work, particularly focused on improving clinical and recovery outcomes for children and youth. Tiffany worked as part of a four-person team at the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene on the development and implementation of a complex interagency project under the Governor's Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) to address the needs of an array of populations, including children and youth with behavioral health needs or are in foster care, the medically fragile, the developmentally disabled, and those who have issues with substance use. In this role, Tiffany managed the children's transformation workplan and was charged with maintaining ongoing communication with both senior and executive staff. Tiffany was the project lead in the development of a cross-systems provider designation process for the children's behavioral health and health transition to Medicaid Managed Care and conducted webinars and presentations to providers. Earlier in her role, Tiffany also assisted in the development of the assessment tool for Health Homes Serving Children and Home and Community Based Services and led the development of the Medicaid State Plan Provider Manual for Children's Behavioral Health Early and Periodic Screening and Diagnostic Testing (EPSDT) Services. Tiffany received her Bachelor's in Human Development from SUNY at Oswego and Masters in Social Work from SUNY at Binghamton. Placement: Executive Chamber.

Renee Campbell

Renee joins the Empire State Fellows program after a career at the armed services. Renee served as Chief of Police at two military installations, where she interpreted federal laws and policies for the protection of personnel and resources. As Chief of Police, Renee led a $2 million nuclear weapon storage upgrade and achieved nuclear certification for the site. She worked on enhancing protection through the implementation of federal laws, policies, and discipline. As a Branch Chief at the Pentagon, Renee researched over 400 federal policy inquiries that were critical to $166.3 billion in corporate appropriations. Additionally, Renee earned a Bronze Star for her role in strategic policy partnerships advances in Kabul, Afghanistan, and helped to enable Afghan police growth through conflict resolution and multinational policy decision making. Most recently, Renee worked at the Peace Corps, where she built and managed the budget for a regional office. Renee holds an MS in Urban Policy and Leadership from Hunter College, an MA in Organizational Management from George Washington University, and a BS in Criminology from Florida State University. Renee received military education at the Command and General Staff College. Placement: Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Briane Cornish

Briane joins the Empire State Fellows program from the justice policy field. For the last 10 years, Briane's work and volunteer experiences have centered on justice and public policy. As an undergraduate, Briane interned in the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, Charles Rangel's Harlem Office, the Public Advocate for the City of New York, and the Judiciary Joint Committee at the Massachusetts State Senate. As a law student, she interned at the Department of Justice's Office of Policy and Legislation as well as with a nonprofit advocacy group focused on raising the minimum wage. After graduating, Briane served as Project Manager at The Clean Slate Initiative, where she managed the deployment of an online assistance web tool for pro-bono attorneys writing their first criminal record expungement petitions. She later served as Access to Justice Fellow at Responsive Law, where she performed a state-by-state analysis that resulted in a published report on the legal access in the 50 states. Briane co-founded and served as operations chair for the DC Reduced Fee Lawyers Group, a web-based criminal and civil legal services directory for D.C. residents of modest means. Most recently, Briane served as Legal Fellow at the District of Columbia Corrections Information Council, where she conducted inspections of correctional facilities, including holding confidential interviews with inmates to gather information on confinement conditions. Briane received her Bachelor's Degree from Tufts University and her JD from Stanford Law School. Placement: Council on Community Reentry and Reintegration

Candi Griffin-Jenkins

Candi joins the Empire State Fellows after serving as Assistant Dean for Graduate Admissions and Student Services at the University at Albany's School of Social Welfare. As Assistant Dean, she was a member of the Senior Leadership Team, which is responsible for creating school policy, planning, and strategizing on implementation. Additionally, Candi was a member of the school’s Masters of Social Welfare Program Committee, which is responsible for the oversight of the masters program's policy, curriculum, admissions outcomes, and student recruitment plus engagement practices. Formerly, Candi served as the Director of the Liberty Partnerships Rising Stars Program at the University at Albany for more than 10 years. Liberty is a program that was created to address New York's drop-out rate and provides services such as tutoring, mentoring, employment readiness, and college preparation workshops. During her tenure as Director, Candi served as the Co-Chair of the Legislative Advocacy Statewide Committee, which was responsible for managing relations with members of the legislature. She also served as a member of the Statewide Steering Committee of the State Education Department as well as the President of the Capital Region’s Liberty Partnerships Programs. Candi is a recipient of the YMCA Adult Achiever Award and the Initiatives for Women Scholarship Award from the University at Albany. Candi received her MSW from the University at Albany’s School of Social Welfare. Placement: Higher Education Services Corporation.

Jennifer Maurici

Jennifer brings to the Empire Fellows program a background as diverse as the New York City borough of Queens where she was born and raised. Her commitment to public service spans two decades and began as a reporter for the Queens Tribune, where she wrote stories communicating quality of life issues faced by Queens residents and advocated for change on their behalf to government agencies and elected officials. Jennifer then began a career in the non-profit sector. As Senior Director of Education at Junior Achievement of New York, Inc., she fostered partnerships between public and private schools and Fortune 500 companies throughout New York City. She then worked as Program Supervisor of Best Buddies, International, where she oversaw the general operations of three regional offices and ensured the quality of high school and adult volunteer programs that advocate for people with disabilities. For the past ten years, Jennifer has worked in the child welfare system, first as a child protective services specialist, then in supervisory positions in foster care and adoption programs. Most recently, Jennifer worked as a social worker at the Center for Family Representation, where she provided direct social-work support and advocacy to parents involved with the child welfare system. Jennifer believes in the importance of volunteerism and worked with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in Arizona to raise the minimum wage and participated in the first Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) with the NYC Department of Homeless Services. Jennifer holds a BA in Journalism from SUNY New Paltz and an MSW from Arizona State University. She was awarded Student of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Arizona Chapter. Jennifer is currently working on her PhD in Social Work at Fordham University, specializing in Children and Families Policy. Placement: Office of Children and Family Services.

Monique S. Owens

Monique comes to the Empire Fellows program from the field of social and economic justice. Monique has local government as well as coalition building and community organizing experience. She worked as Legislative Aide for the City of Buffalo Common Council, where she served as liaison to constituents, city departments, and local governmental agencies and community organizations. She also worked as Government Affairs Associate at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and as Community Advocate at the Long Island Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House. Most recently, she worked as a Documentation and Learning Specialist at Open Buffalo, a nonprofit organization dedicated to social and economic justice. Monique was awarded the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence, the Buffalo State Diversity Fellowship, and was inducted into Pi Alpha Alpha, the global honor society for public affairs and administration. She has presented research evaluating the extent of third-sector participation in emergency management planning and presented her findings at the annual conference of the American Society for Public Administration. Beyond her academic accomplishments, Monique has shown a commitment to community service and the enhancement of social equity as an advocate for a variety of vulnerable and historically marginalized communities. Monique has served as a committee member for the Erie County Democratic Party and as committee member of the Miss Borinquen Leadership Development Program, an initiative to empower Latina youth to become leaders in their communities. Monique holds a BA in International Studies and Global Gender Studies from SUNY at University at Buffalo and an MPA from SUNY at Buffalo State. Placement: Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Abbey J. Marr

Abbey comes to the Empire State Fellows program from the field of law and policy advocacy. Abbey worked as a Paralegal Specialist at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, drafting memoranda and pleadings for cases regarding violations of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act, and Title IX of the Education Amendments. Abbey focused on expanding the parameters of legal education, helping campaign for, develop, and teach Harvard Law School's Reproductive Justice course. As a Ford Foundation Legal Fellow at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Abbey drafted a primer on labor law and domestic workers' rights in ten states and localities. Most recently, Abbey worked as Policy Analyst and Reproductive Justice Law Fellow at Advocates for Youth, where, under Abbey's leadership, the organization began its first involvement in litigation, filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court's Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which addressed abortion restrictions. Abbey also served as an adjunct professor at University of DC Law School, teaching the Summer 2017 Reproductive Rights and Justice seminar. Abbey holds a JD from Harvard Law School and a Bachelor's in Political Science and Women's Studies from George Washington University. Placement: Executive Chamber.


Deborah Zamer

Deborah joins the Fellowship from the field of social work, reproductive rights advocacy, and private business. She served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood (UHPP), overseeing the selection of a CEO, helping to set forth a new strategic plan, and working to strengthen the organization's fiscal health. After her tenure as Chair, Deborah was founding Chair of a philanthropic group benefitting UHPP, making a significant mark on its donor fund. Deborah was awarded the Fellowship on Women and Public Policy by the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society and was then selected for the Public Management Institute of New York State, leading her to the New York State Division of Budget. Deborah served with the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa, worked as an addiction counselor to female inmates at Peter Young Treatment, Housing and Industries, and most recently worked in her family-owned real estate business. Deborah holds a BA in Political Science from SUNY at Binghamton and MSW from SUNY at Albany. Placement: Executive Chamber.

The Empire State Fellows Program is one of the three parts of Former Governor Cuomo’s New NY Leaders Initiative, which is designed to renew the connection between the public and private sectors and prepare a new generation of leaders to serve in state government. The Excelsior Service Fellowship Program brings highly-talented recent graduates to serve throughout the state government, and the New NY Leaders Internship Program offers hundreds of college students an opportunity to work in state government.


Thomas E. Baines

Thomas joins the Empire State Fellows program after a career in housing and development working directly with State and Federal funding. Working for a private developer in the City of Buffalo, he began his career managing all facets of affordable housing. Thomas then served as the Executive Director of the Batavia Housing Authority where he was responsible for all fiscal and day-to-day operations. At the pleasure of the Mayor, he also served as the Director of Administration and Finance for the City of Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency where his primary duties were to overseeing the fiscal operations of the agency, as well as ensuring the appropriate use of all Federal Entitlement Grants. Thomas received his Bachelor's from SUNY Oneonta and M.B.A. from Medaille College in Buffalo, N.Y. Placement: Office of General Services

Terrence Byrd-El

Terrence joins the Empire State Fellows program with 17 years of human service and community development experience. He is a passionate, committed, and ethical member of his community and he brings extensive knowledge, leadership and expertise working with communities of poverty. Most recently he served as Workforce Development Coordinator at State CEO Contractor, assisting over 200 individuals access employment or training opportunities. He began his career working with various community-based organizations as a case manager, program director, and program developer. His most recent work was in Community Economic Development, with a focus on workforce development. He is an active citizen in the Syracuse community, participating in various anti-poverty initiatives, speaking with youth throughout the community and serves as a researcher for the Street Addiction Institute in partnership with Syracuse University. Currently, he is completing his Doctorate in Executive Leadership from St. John Fisher College; he holds a Master of Science in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University and a Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York at Albany in Sociology. He is also a member of the International Economic Development Council and working towards becoming a Certified Economic Developer. Mr. Byrd-El takes pride in being a public servant and considers himself a "Servant of Humanity." Placement: Department of State

Camilla Campisi

Camilla joins the Empire State Fellows program after more than a decade of advocacy and policy experience with a variety of international organizations. Most recently, she was a UN Representative with the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) in New York, where she led the organization's peacebuilding program. Prior to QUNO, she was an Advocate with Refugees International (RI), based in Washington, DC. While at RI, Camilla carried out multiple assessment missions to a variety of countries in Africa and Asia, with a particular focus on advocating for the protection and humanitarian needs of refugees and internally displaced people. Before joining RI, she was the Field Relations Manager for InterExchange Au Pair USA, a nonprofit cultural exchange program. Camilla also has experience working on refugee resettlement with the International Organization for Migration in Geneva and the International Rescue Committee. Camilla has a Bachelor's degree in French from Rutgers University and a Master's degree in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Camilla was born in Sweden and grew up in New Jersey. She also speaks Swedish and French. Placement: Department of State


Kirk Dobson

Kirk joins the Empire State Fellows program after many years in political and management consulting in Massachusetts, New York, and most recently, Georgia. During his time consulting he has worked on various political campaigns and initiatives in various capacities, ranging from fundraising and communications to campaign management. Kirk has recently returned to New York after spending five years in the Atlanta area, where he pursued his doctoral degree in public administration with the University System of Georgia – Valdosta State University. His dissertation is titled "The Future of E-Filing in the State of Georgia," which focuses on the planning and implementation of a Statewide electronic filing system for the State of Georgia's judicial system. In addition to his doctoral work, Kirk received both a Bachelor of Arts (cum laude) and a Master of Arts degrees from Fordham University. Placement: Department of Health


Sita Fey

Sita joins the Empire State Fellows program following a career as an educator. She is from the upstate region of Otsego County, N.Y. As an elementary school librarian, Sita transformed the learning space, curriculum, and expectations of certified school librarians in Cooperstown. She secured over $10,000 in local grants to integrate technology into the library, partnered with the public libraries for events, and paved the way for educational leadership in a teaching role. Her dedication to education was exemplified through her relationships with students, parents, and the community. Sita was named the 2014 Rotary Outstanding Educator of the Year for Cooperstown Central Schools. In addition to her teaching role, Sita's last year at Cooperstown was spent directly collaborating with the School Superintendent, Business Administrator, and Director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction. Prior to Cooperstown, Sita spent ten years at the Creating Rural Opportunities after school program with the Oneonta City School District at Riverside Elementary. Her community endeavors include previous service on the local board of Catholic Charities, the City of Oneonta Commission on Community Relations and Human Rights, and the ONC BOCES School Library Systems Council. Sita attended Schenevus Central School and has a BS in childhood education from SUNY Oneonta, a MSIS from The University at Albany, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration. She is a member of The New York State Library Association, School Administrators Association of New York, and Delta Kappa Gamma's International's educational network. She is currently the Vice President for Opportunities For Otsego, a community action agency. Placement: Executive Chamber


Ernest Modarelli IV

Ernest is a community activist, pedestrian safety advocate, and Hell's Kitchen resident who comes to the Empire State Fellows Program after a career in the field of Digital Communications where he worked for The United Nations International School and on Gale Brewer's Campaign for Manhattan Borough President. He also started a Digital Communication and Development service for nonprofit organizations throughout the Tristate area. Ernest was appointed to three terms as a member of Manhattan Community Board 4 beginning in 2010, where he served on The Hell's Kitchen Land Use Committee, was the Transportation Committee Co-Chair, and was elected as the board's Second Vice-Chair. Ernest served as Vice President of The Chelsea Hell's Kitchen Pedestrian Safety Society (CHEKPEDS), an organization that advocates for pedestrian safety improvements throughout New York City. He was elected to the Manhattan Democratic County Committee in 2014 and was a candidate for Judicial Delegate. He sits on the Board of Directors for the Academy of St. Joseph of the Palisades and is a member of the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club. He earned his Masters and Bachelor's Degrees in Public Administration from The City University of New York, John Jay College. A New Jersey native, Ernest moved to New York City in 2002. Placement: Executive Chamber

Hanna Reyes

Hanna joins the Empire State Fellows program following her role as Confidential Stenographer for New York State's Executive Chamber. During her time with the Chamber, Hanna assisted on the implementation of the Governor's Ethics, Risk and Compliance State-wide initiative. While obtaining her Master of Science from the King Graduate School-Monroe College, Hanna conducted research on re-entry and wrote her master thesis entitled: Role of Social Service Programs on Successful Reintegration of Ex-convict Mothers into Society. Hanna was formerly a Rhetoric co-instructor for Binghamton University's Michael J. Boyd Educational Opportunity Summer Program, and an English-Social Studies Tutor/Counselor for La Guardia Community College's upward bound program. Hanna is a McNair Scholar, a volunteer for the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) and is a CASA Jr. Board member. She has an Executive Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Fordham University, a Master of Science from the King Graduate School-Monroe College and a Bachelor of Arts from Binghamton University. Placement: Executive Chamber

Kimberly Wedderburn

Kimberly joins the Empire State Fellows as a recent graduate of Fordham University School of Law and a former Special Education teacher. Kimberly began her teaching career as a New York City Teaching Fellow and received her Master's Degree in Special Education from Brooklyn College. Kimberly taught both special and general education high school students in English and Social Studies classes. She also served as the Services for Students with Disabilities Coordinator and Testing Supervisor for the College Board, and designed the curriculum and taught Introduction to Law and SAT Preparation courses. Kimberly worked as a public school teacher while attending law school in the evening. As a law student, she interned with Samsung Corporation's Legal Compliance Department in Seoul, South Korea; she was a Judicial Intern in the Superior Court of New Jersey; she completed an externship with New York City Conflicts of Interest Board; and she worked as a Law Clerk for the Law Office of Sybil Shainwald. Kimberly received the Archibald R. Murray Public Service Award for her dedication to public service law and was a staff member of the Environmental Law Review. Kimberly earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional Writing from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is originally from Brooklyn, NY. Placement: Department of Labor

The Empire State Fellows Program is one of the three parts of Former Governor Cuomo’s New NY Leaders Initiative, which is designed to renew the connection between the public and private sectors and prepare a new generation of leaders to serve in state government.  The Excelsior Service Fellowship Program brings highly-talented recent graduates to serve throughout the state government, and the New NY Leaders Internship Program offers hundreds of college students an opportunity to work in state government.

2015-2017 Empire State Fellows Class

Amir Bassiri

Amir Bassiri comes to the Empire State Fellows program after four years at Urban Upbound, a not-for-profit organization committed to breaking cycles of poverty in New York City. As Director of Development, Amir oversaw a variety of the organization’s financial, strategic and operational matters. During his time at Urban Upbound, Amir developed several public/private partnerships, including one that led to the creation of a worker-owned cooperative. Additionally, Amir led and managed the creation of a living financial model to assess program and contract profitability and to guide strategic decision making. A California native, Amir graduated from the University of California, Davis with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Economics and Psychology (Double Major), before earning a Master’s in Social Enterprise Administration (M.S.W) from Columbia University. Amir is also fluent in Farsi. Placement: Executive Chamber


Luana Y. Ferreira

Luana Y. Ferreira joins the Empire State Fellows program with a background in education and professional development in diversity affairs. She began her career as a New York City Teaching Fellow, working with school districts as a teacher, staff developer and data specialist. An advocate for closing the achievement gap, Luana has also worked for Summer on the Hill, the I Have a Dream Foundation and Alianza Dominicana’s Summer Youth Employment programs, all not-for-profit entities that support student success. Luana was a research assistant for the Research Institute for the Study of Languages in Urban Settings (RISLUS) in New York, where she helped develop and administer diagnostic tools to assess English proficiency levels of immigrant Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE). Additionally, she served as a lead for strategic planning and implementation of diversity and inclusion initiatives, presenting at the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS) and the National Dominican Student Conference at Wharton. Luana received her B.A. from SUNY New Paltz, her M.S. Ed. from the City College of New York and a Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics from the CUNY Graduate Center. Recently, Luana taught at CUNY Lehman and Teachers College. She speaks Spanish, French and Portuguese and was born and raised in Washington Heights, New York.Placement: Department of State

Dora Fisher

Dora Fisher brings a decade of experience in aging and public health to the Empire State Fellows program. She joins us following her role as the Director of Older Adult Programs for Oral Health America, overseeing the aging strategies for this national organization and conceptualizing community-based public health aging programs implemented across the country. Prior to that, she held a research position as a gerontologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, writing and researching peer-reviewed publications on aging and disability health promotion. Before her role as a gerontological researcher, she oversaw health programming for older adults at a community health center in Chicago, worked in advocacy for senior centers in New York City, and was a policy analyst for the Office of the NYC Public Advocate. She has a Master of Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College. Dora originally hails from Connecticut and the Boston area, and she is excited to return closer to home after many years in Chicago. Placement: Office for the Aging


Daniel Friedman

Daniel Friedman joins the Empire State Fellows program following a career in political consulting and communications around the country. Daniel was a campaign manager and communications director for candidates for public office and institutions in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Southwest. As a campaign manager, Daniel helped candidates build winning organizations from the ground up, including fundraising, organizing and communications strategy. As an advisor to policymakers and political candidates, Daniel wrestled with politically sensitive policy matters in a variety of high-stakes settings, including health care, transportation and immigration law. Daniel earned his Bachelor's in Political Science at American University and his Master's in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University where he studied management and public finance.Placement: Empire State Development


Aaron Gladd

Aaron Gladd comes to the Empire State Fellows program as a former Active Duty United States Army Officer and combat Veteran whose service included Operation Enduring Freedom. Assigned to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Aaron served as a Sapper Platoon Leader where he led 41 Soldiers in Counter Improvised Explosive Device Operations throughout Eastern Afghanistan. Aaron also served as his Battalion’s dismounted tactics Master Trainer, with training oversight of over 400 Soldiers. Before enlisting in the service, Aaron ran legislative and budget operations in the New York State Senate under the Deputy Leader and was a New York State Senate Graduate Fellow. Aaron also worked for U.S. Congressman Michael McNulty. A native of Saranac Lake, Aaron holds a B.A. in Public Law from the University at Albany, an M.P.A. in Local Government Management and Finance from the Nelson Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, and is a graduate of the United States Army Infantry School and the United States Army Engineer School.


Omar J. Herrera

Omar J. Herrera comes to the Empire State Fellows program from his role as Trustee & Deputy Mayor of the Village of Ossining, NY, in Westchester County. As Trustee, he and his colleagues adopted a “Complete Streets Policy” which ensured that all future roadways are strategically designed to consider pedestrian safety, access and equitable mobility for all. Omar also voted on a successful resolution supporting Governor Cuomo’s “Raise the Age” initiative to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18; restored the previously censored video recording and airing of public comment section during board meetings making the actions of the Board more transparent; and, launched virtual and mobile office hours for community outreach. Prior to his work in public office, Omar was a legislative assistant at the Westchester County Board of Legislators, where he worked on constituent affairs, case management, legislative research and community outreach. In addition, he served as the Public Relations Director for the Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce and was a small business owner of an event management firm. Omar received his Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Media from Pace                                     University Dyson College of Arts & Sciences.Placement: Executive Chamber

Giancarlo Pellegrini

Giancarlo Pellegrini comes to the Empire State Fellows program from Sidley Austin LLP, where he served as an Associate in the firm’s Litigation practice. During his five years in private practice, Giancarlo primarily represented financial institutions in federal investigations related to the trading of equities and fixed-income products. Giancarlo also has handled pro bono cases in an array of areas including tenants’ rights, voter fraud protection, immigration asylum claims, veterans’ benefits, and advocacy at the United Nations related to alleged war crimes. Giancarlo holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Lehigh University where he graduated magna cum laude with departmental honors, and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. Giancarlo is admitted to practice law in New York, the District of Columbia, and the Supreme Court of the United States. Giancarlo is also a member of the American Bar Association and is proficient in Italian. Placement: Executive Chamber


Michael-Sean Spence

Michael-Sean Spence joins the Empire State Fellows program after a career as an Assistant District Attorney for the Queens County District Attorney's Office in Queens, New York. As a criminal prosecutor, Michael-Sean led various inter-agency investigations into organized tax evasion, organized commercial theft, identity theft and related crimes. During Michael-Sean's tenure, the Crimes Against Revenue Unit collected more than $3 million in restitution for State and local governments, as well as seized evidence valued in excess of $4.5 million. Michael-Sean is a regular speaker to youth and community organizations to help the community better understand their rights and the criminal justice system. Michael-Sean received his Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the University of Maryland-College Park and his law degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. Placement: Division of Criminal Justice


Allison Weingarten

Allison Weingarten served as program director of the Queens Community House (QCH). In the face of severe financial challenges to the organization and after school program, Allison skillfully kept the program open and led an effort to successfully restore government funding in 2015. Prior to working for QCH, Allison served as Legislative Director of the Subcommittee on Workplace Safety under its Chair Assembly Member Rory Lancman (now, a New York City Councilman).  Allison earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a master’s degree in Social Work at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Allison has spent the last ten years of her life in Ithaca and Queens, New York and she is excited to return to her hometown of Niskayuna, New York. Placement: Division of the Budget


Ron Zacchi

Ron Zacchi joins the Empire State Fellows from a position as the Assistant Director of Communications and Development for the Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS). Before joining CUCS, he worked at the Center for Social Inclusion on initiatives designed to dismantle structural racism.  Ron served as Executive Director for Marriage Equality New York (MENY) where he led a successful statewide grassroots campaign for equal marriage rights in New York State. Before moving into the not-for-profit sector, Ron worked for nearly a decade in the private sector as a marketing executive. Ron received his Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) from Baruch’s Executive Program in the School of Public Affairs and his Bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University School of Communications. Placement: Office for Temporary and Disability Assistance


The Empire State Fellows Program is one of the three parts of Former Governor Cuomo’s New NY Leaders Initiative, which is designed to renew the connection between the public and private sectors and prepare a new generation of leaders to serve in state government.  The Excelsior Service Fellowship Program brings highly-talented recent graduates to serve throughout the state government, and the New NY Leaders Internship Program offers hundreds of college students an opportunity to work in state government.

2014-2016 Empire State Fellows Class

Ana Almanzar

Ana J. Almanzar joins the Empire State Fellows from a position as the Northeast Program Manager of Civic Engagement at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund where she helped to expand the organization's citizenship application assistance, voter engagement, and voter protection programs. During her tenure at NALEO, Ana managed and organized citizenship application assistance workshops in which countless attorneys and volunteers assisted thousands of lawful permanent residents to become naturalized U.S. citizens.  As a result, Ana helped thousands of Americans to become active participants in the civil and political process.  Prior to joining NALEO, Ana served as a special events planner for the Staff Activities Unit at the United Nations where she assisted U.N. staff with their transition to New York City. Ana holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from SUNY Delhi, a second Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (Magna Cum Laude) from Columbia University, and a Master's of International Affairs, Political and Economic Development and Immigration Policy Reform from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. Ana was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Placement: Executive Chamber


Angel Audiffred

Angel Audiffred comes to the Empire State Fellows Program with experience in advertising, media and government. While working in advertising, Angel worked as an account supervisor and directed the production of various campaigns, while managing relations with the client.  Working at a national cable network, Angel managed day-to-day studio operations and communications and community outreach for the station. Angel also served at the New York City Council, where he worked as a Chief of Staff for two council members and press officer for the Majority Leader and Speaker of the Council. Angel resides in Queens, New York and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising and Marketing from F.I.T., SUNY and a graduate degree in Strategic Communications at Columbia University. Placement: New York State Department of Labor


Joshua Beams

Joshua J. Beams comes to the Empire State Fellows program from a role as a U.S. Army Human Resources Officer. Joshua was deployed to southern Afghanistan in 2011-2012 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During his deployment Joshua was the brigade liaison officer for the 4th Squadron 4th Cavalry Regiment. His duties included planning and presenting battalion level humanitarian and combat operations, he was responsible for ensuring all tools necessary to be successful in the mission were available to the Soldiers on the front lines. Joshua received his Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oneonta in Mass Communications and his Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Placement: New York State Homes and Community Renewal

Kendré Henderson Keys

Kendré Henderson Keys joins the Empire State Fellows Program after a career as an Assistant District Attorney for the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office in Fort Worth, Texas. As a criminal prosecutor, Kendré gained extensive trial experience in felony and misdemeanor trials, post-verdict appellate brief writing, and grand jury investigations and presentations. Kendré also worked in the Family Violence Division of the office. Kendré also volunteered with the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth and as a policy advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Kendré received her Bachelor of Arts in English from The University of Texas in Austin and her law degree from The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Placement: Executive Chamber

Jonathan Lang

Jonathan joins the Empire State Fellows from a position as the Director of Governmental Projects and Community Development for the Empire State Pride Agenda where he was responsible for overseeing all of the Pride Agenda’s advocacy activities with the Executive Chamber and New York State agencies. Jonathan was also responsible for the oversight of Pride Agenda activities related to the NYS LGBT Health and Human Services Network, and for the maintenance and expansion of the Network’s public funding streams from New York State government. In recognition of his work on this issue, Jonathan was awarded the “LGBT POC Advocate Award” and the “Avant-Garde Transformational Leadership Award” by In Our Own Voices, an Albany-based organization that provides services for LGBT people of color in the Capital Region and was recognized by City & State in their “Rising Stars 40 Under 40” issue. Jonathan has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Denison University in Granville, OH, and currently resides in Albany, NY.  Placement: New York State Department of Health

Katie Neer

Katie Neer is a recent graduate of Syracuse University College of Law, where she spent her last semester in Washington D.C. in the Student Honors Program, working for the Trial Unit in the Enforcement Division of the SEC. Throughout law school, Katie gained litigation experience as a law clerk in a Syracuse law firm, and expanded upon her legislative background working with a telecommunication corporation’s New York City government relations team. Prior to law school, Katie was the Legislative Representative at a top Albany-based lobbying and public affairs firm for three years. She worked with a wide variety of clients, from Fortune 500 companies to trade associations, strategically advocating and representing their interests to policy makers in New York State Government.  While a registered lobbyist, Katie attended Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and received her Master’s in Public Administration, magna cum laude. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, magna cum laude, from the State University at Albany, where she was a Captain and goalie on the Division I Women’s Varsity Lacrosse team. Katie also completed the 2008 NYS Assembly Internship Program. Placement: Executive Chamber

Lilian V. Pascone

Lilian V. Pascone comes to the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as Legislative and Budget Director for New York City Council Member Mark Weprin. In that role, she managed the budget of the Queens Delegation, enacted legislation strengthening pedestrian safety, and advised the Council Member on land use projects throughout the city. While at the Council, Lilian worked with the Council Member to expand services to children and families affected by autism and designed the creation of a new initiative for Neighborhood NORCs. Before joining the Council Member’s office, Lilian worked as a legal fellow for the Democracy Project at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Lilian graduated from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and passed the bar exam in New York and New Jersey. She studied Chinese Language, Literature, and Film at Swarthmore College and speaks Mandarin Chinese and Portuguese. Lilian was born in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and was raised in Homecrest, Brooklyn. Placement: New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales


Esteban (Steve) Ramos

Esteban Ramos joins the Empire State Fellows from a position as the Executive Director of Fresh Youth Initiatives (FYI), a not-for-profit youth development organization in New York City providing young people ages 9-18 with the support, encouragement, and skills they need to become productive, confident, and caring young adults. He started at FYI in an apprenticeship, working his way to the top of the organization, becoming its “home grown” Executive Director, impacting the lives of thousands of individuals and young people that have walked through its door. He is a member of the Latino Social Work Task Force, the Advisory Committee for Lehman College’s Social Work Department, and the Wurzweiler Community Partnership Committee for Yeshiva University, as well as an honorary member of the Fuerza Latina Alumni Group. Esteban obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Lehman College, a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Yeshiva University, and successfully completed Columbia Business School’s Institute for Not-For-Profit Management-Executive Level Program. Placement: New York State Office of Children and Family Services


Shelly Weizman

Shelly Weizman joins the Empire State Fellows Program from a position of Senior Staff Attorney with MFY Legal Services, Inc.'s Disability and Aging Rights Project, where she led efforts to expand and enforce the rights of people with psychiatric and physical disabilities living in institutional settings in New York City.  In that role, Shelly pioneered a law reform strategy centered on strategic relationship-building with clients, families, people in government, mental health providers, residential care providers, and advocacy groups. While at MFY, Shelly utilized a holistic set of tools on behalf of her clients, including civil rights litigation, community organizing and education, legislative and regulatory reform, coalition-building, direct client representation, and training. Shelly has given lectures on disability rights at the New York City Bar Association and Columbia University Schools of Law and Social Work.  Prior to law school, Shelly worked as an outreach coordinator at Cornerstone Recovery, a community-based organization in Houston, Texas that provides services and supports to adolescents in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.  Shelly received her law degree with a concentration in Health Law and Policy from Seton Hall University School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts with honors from the University of Houston. Placement: New York State Office of Mental Health


The Empire State Fellows Program is one of the three parts of Former Governor Cuomo’s New NY Leaders Initiative, which is designed to renew the connection between the public and private sectors and prepare a new generation of leaders to serve in state government.  The Excelsior Service Fellowship Program brings highly-talented recent graduates to serve throughout the state government, and the New NY Leaders Internship Program offers hundreds of college students an opportunity to work in state government.

2013-2015 Empire State Fellows Class

Jalila Aissi

Jalila Aissi comes to the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as an Attorney with Cleantech Law Partners, where she advised startups, not-for-profits and other companies in the renewable energy sector.  She also managed a large government grant and contract portfolio for the Wildlife Conservation Society, a leading global conservation organization.  Previously, Jalila led projects for the Net Impact Service Corps and sat on the Grants Committee of the NYC Venture Philanthropy Fund.  She also served on the Energy Committee of the NYC Bar Association and completed the CleantechExecs Program at NYU Polytechnic Institute.  Jalila earned her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from UCLA and her law degree from University of San Diego School of Law.  She has been admitted to the state bars of California and New York.  Placement: Executive Chamber


Allison K. Auldridge

Allison Auldridge comes to the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as a Policy Associate for Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).  In that role, Allison was responsible for helping extend critical financial protections to same-sex older adults in New York, develop strategic partnerships with diverse aging, HIV and LGBT organizations, represent SAGE on state and regional advisory boards, and oversee SAGE’s national “Spousal Impoverishment Protections” Medicaid Initiative.  Prior to her work with SAGE, Allison spent over four years as a communications and marketing professional, first with the Madison Park Development Corporation in Boston, and later with the Brooklyn Historical Society.  Allison received her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Smith College and her Master’s of Science in Urban Policy Management from the New School.  Placement: Empire State Development Corporation


Sidra Chaudhary

Sidra Chaudhary joins the Empire State Fellows Program from a position as the Program Director for the Liberty Partnerships Program (“LPP”) at the State University of New York at Albany.  In this role, Sidra was responsible for the acquisition and financial oversight of a 1.75 million dollar grant from the State Education Department, all program operations and development, and program evaluation.  As director, Sidra created and implemented strategies designed to help close the achievement gap for underprivileged youth at risk for dropping out from middle school and high school.  Before joining the LPP, Sidra worked in various human service organizations including the Young Adult Institute in Queens, NY, the Girls Incorporated of the Greater Capital Region, and Clearview Center, Inc. in Albany, NY.  Sidra received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the State University of New York at Purchase and her Masters in Social Welfare from the State University of New York at Albany.  She is currently a board member of the Juvenile Court Accountability Board with the Albany County Probation Department.  Placement: Executive Chamber

Nora Cronin

Nora Cronin joins the Empire State Fellows Program after a career as a Senior Assistant District Attorney for the Brooklyn District Attorney.  As a criminal prosecutor, Nora gained extensive trial experience in both felony and misdemeanor trials, and engaged in post-verdict appellate issues, grand jury investigations, and motion practice.  Nora has also consulted with the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative in Panama, where she instructed attorneys and police on investigative and trial techniques.  Before beginning her career as an attorney, Nora was a Staff Writer for the Long Island Press, where she covered issues on politics and the environment.  Nora received her Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and Philosophy cum laude from Mary Washington College located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and her law degree from St. Johns University School of Law.  Nora speaks and writes Spanish.  Placement: Executive Chamber

Carlos Cuevas

Carlos Cuevas comes to the Empire State Fellows Program after completing his term as the Executive Fellow at the Urban Health Plan (UHP), a federally qualified community health center network located in the South Bronx.  As the Executive Fellow, Carlos reported directly to the President & CEO on a variety of financial, policy and operational matters.  At UHP, Carlos developed a financial reporting system to help department managers better track spending and spot trends in visit volume and supply utilization.  Additionally, Carlos conducted research projects for UHP senior management on Integrated Delivery Systems to help the organization develop strategic plans to adjust to the changing care delivery models and incentives system.  During his health care career, Carlos has also worked with other health care organizations, including:  The Military Health System of the United States Department of Defense, the William F. Ryan Community Health Network, the Greater New York Hospital Association and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.  Prior to his career in health care, Carlos worked as an analyst at a hedge fund in midtown Manhattan.  Carlos is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy and Comparative Effectiveness and Outcomes Research (COER) from SUNY Albany.  A native New Yorker, Carlos was born in the Bronx and earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Economics, a Master in Public Administration (M.P.A.), and a Master in Public Health (M.P.H.), from Columbia University.  Placement: Executive Chamber

Raymond Cummings

Raymond Cummings, Jr. joins the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as the Interim Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Staff Development for the Archdiocese of New York.  Raymond was responsible for overseeing matters related to the Archdiocesan curriculum, providing schools with leadership and training in the use of cooperative problem-solving techniques, and in the understanding and implementation of the New York State Common Core Learning Standards.  Raymond also engaged in strategic planning to identify and develop system-wide plans/programs for instructional interventions and professional development.  In addition to his work with the Archdiocese, Raymond has taught courses as an adjunct professor at Fordham University and Teachers College, Columbia University. Raymond also spent four years as a middle school Language Arts teacher in Miami.  Raymond earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and American Literature from Harvard University, his Masters in Education from the University of Florida, and his Doctorate in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Raymond feels that his experience in the Empire State Fellows Program will allow him to strengthen his knowledge, skills, and dispositions to continue to serve the educators, children, and families of the state of New York. Placement: Executive Chamber 

Ana Doroghazi

Anna Doroghazi joins the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as the Director of Public Policy and Communication for Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS), the coalition of Connecticut's nine sexual assault crisis services programs.  While there, Anna led successful efforts to update the state's stalking statutes and improve laws related to sexual violence and people with disabilities.  She also managed the organization’s media and communications strategies and served on several statewide workgroups related to victim services.  Prior to her work at CONNSACS, Anna interned with Freedom from Torture in London, England, and worked as a domestic violence victim advocate in Michigan.  Anna received her Bachelor of Arts in European Studies and Spanish magna cum laude from Hillsdale College, and her Master’s of Science in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Placement: Executive Chamber


Tanisha Dyall

Tanisha Dyall comes to the Empire State Fellows Program with an international development and public policy background.  Her work so far has focused on policies that address the root causes of socioeconomic challenges that stunt global development.  In her most recent role as Senior Associate for National Membership Programs at the United Nations Foundation, Tanisha was involved in designing and implementing programs that supported the success of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.  Tanisha also mobilized 120+ grassroots Chapters across the U.S., and build a strong U.S.-UN relationship by developing relationships with UN agencies such as the United Nations Development Program, UN Women and the United Nations Department of Public Information.  Tanisha also worked with the U.S. Department of State to educate the American public about U.S.-UN policy.  Tanisha earned her Bachelor of Arts in Government and Politics, her Masters of Arts in International Relations, and a Graduate Certificate in International Law from St. Johns University.  Placement: Executive Chamber


Alexandra Greene

Alexandra Greene comes to the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as Legal Associate at the Office of Labor and Employee Relations within the Newark Public Schools (“NPS”).  In that position, Alexandra was responsible for addressing legal and policy issues pertaining to a variety of matters such as new school initiatives, federally funded grants, as well as the negotiation of and compliance with collective bargaining agreements between NPS and eight labor unions.  Alexandra assisted in the creation of district-wide policies to address emerging needs and maximize human capital.  Alexandra earned her Bachelor of Arts in Human Development (Educational Psychology) from Boston College, Juris Doctor from the University of Connecticut School of Law, and is currently working towards a Masters of Arts in Sociology and Education at Columbia University. Placement: Executive Chamber



Imran Khan

Imran Khan has served as a policy fellow with the U.S. Department of Energy and as an Education Pioneers fellow in Houston, his hometown.  In 2009, he founded Develop U, a non-profit organization aimed at community development, urban renewal, and neighborhood revitalization in South Dallas.  During the summer of 2010, Imran worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, teaming up with PepsiCo and CitySquare to deliver food as part of a student nutrition and summer enrichment program for underserved communities in Dallas.  Prior to this, Imran taught high school science in Dallas area public schools and worked at 3M as a materials scientist.  His professional interests include anti-poverty programs, community development, and resource access through the use of effective social policy and government operations.  Imran received his Bachelors of Science in biochemistry from Texas A&M University, Masters in Education from Southern Methodist University, and Masters in Public Policy from the University of Virginia’s Batten School.  Placement: Executive Chamber


Richard Lecky

Richard Lecky joins the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as the Director of Regulatory Compliance for the Institute for Family Health, where he worked to ensure compliance with federal and state rules and regulations.  Prior to joining the Institute for Family Health, Richard was a real estate attorney with the law firm of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, and a Real Estate Appraiser & Research Analyst at Cushman & Wakefield.  Richard has also dedicated substantial time volunteering with the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc., which is committed to reforms in healthcare and criminal law that promote a public health approach to substance abuse.  Richard received his Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and his law degree from Howard University.  Placement: Executive Chamber



Ana Liss

Ana Liss has a background in economic development, fiscal policy, public budgeting, local government ethics, and journalism.  Ana comes to the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as a Business Development Associate at the Greater Rochester Enterprise, where she managed a regional business retention and expansion program and performed labor market research.  Previously, Ana was a Research Associate for the Center for Government Research, where she traversed New York State assisting local governments interested in consolidation.  Ana also worked for WETM 18 News Today and 13 WHAM News as an on-air television reporter, producer and anchor, focused on political, economic, and social events in upstate New York.  Ana graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Ithaca College and earned her Masters of Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania Fels Institute.  Placement: Executive Chamber



Shaymaa Mousa

Shaymaa Mousa brings experience as a doctor, medical researcher, and public health policy analyst to the Empire State Fellows Program.  Shaymaa worked as a medical intern at Cairo University Hospitals, where she moved through rotations in Internal Medicine, General Surgery, Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine, and Anesthesiology.  Subsequently, Shaymaa conducted medical research at Pharmaceutical Research Institute at Albany College of Pharmacy.  Shaymaa received her Degree in Medicine from the University of Cairo and her Master’s in Public Health from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Shaymaa speaks fluent Arabic and basic French.  Placement: New York State Department of Health




Laura Valeria Gonzalez Murphy

Laura Valeria Gonzalez Murphy joins the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as an Assistant Research Professor of Political Science at the State University of New York at Albany.  During her tenure at the University, Laura co-directed implementation of a project titled “The International Context of Immigration Reform: US, Mexico and Beyond,” which involved researching and comparing immigration policies and reform in the United States and Mexico.  Laura has also published a book and numerous articles on topics including Mexican migration to the United States, Mexican immigration policy, and boarder security.  Previously, Laura spent seven years working for the New York State Office of Rural Affairs, where she focused on farm worker services.  Laura earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science summa cum laude from Elmira University, her Master’s of Science in Urban Planning and Environmental Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and her PhD in Comparative Politics/International Relations at the State University of New York at Albany.  Laura is fluent in Spanish. Placement: New York State Department of State


Christopher Ortiz

Christopher Ortiz comes to the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as an Associate Attorney at the New York law office of Kaye Scholer LLP, where he focused on antitrust, general commercial and real estate litigation matters.  During his tenure at the firm, Chris maintained a robust pro bono practice representing immigrants seeking asylum in the United States and defending the City of New York in tort litigation.  Outside of Kaye Scholer, Chris led the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, a voting rights affiliate of the New York State Democratic Party, as Secretary and a Committee Co-Chair in the organization, where he recruited and organized Election Day poll-monitors and advocated for measures to increase voter-participation.  Chris graduated Summa Cum Laude with his Bachelor of Arts in Government and Politics from St. Johns University and earned his law degree at Cornell Law School.  He also served as an editor of the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy.  Placement:  Executive Chamber


Rajiv Shah

Rajiv Shah joins the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as a Volunteer Assistant Attorney General, where his caseload ranged from statewide environmental crimes, including cases involving air and water pollution, solid and hazardous waste and endangered species, to auto insurance fraud and other white collar crimes.  Previously, Rajiv served as a judicial clerk for the Kings County Civil Court and as a judicial intern for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.  Before becoming an attorney, Rajiv worked as a scientist first at the Stroud Water Research Center's Microbiology Laboratory, and later at Dr. Nathaniel Heintz's Neuroscience Laboratory at the Rockefeller University.  Rajiv received his Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Pennsylvania and his law degree from Fordham University. Placement: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation



Jahnhoy Smith

Jahnhoy Smith comes to the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as an Operations Manager at New York City Health & Hospital Corp/Metro Plus Health Plan.  In that role, Jahnhoy was responsible for overseeing the operational and policy issues related to Government sponsored health programs, namely Medicare and Medicaid.  Jahnhoy managed Medicare Operations and business strategies to meet planned objectives and external business partners to ensure that the Medicare program performance was consistent with the corporation’s business and regulatory requirements.  Jahnhoy received his Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration from the City University of New York-Brooklyn College, and his Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Management from Baruch College/Mount Sinai Medical School. Placement: New York State Division of Budget



Trey Joseph Wadsworth

Trey Joseph Wadsworth joins the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as a Transportation Planner for Sustainability at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.  In that role, Trey functioned as the Project Manager for a strategic multimodal plan, weMove Massachusetts, which is a data driven capital investment prioritization methodology and MAP-21 compliant state long-range transportation plan.  Trey was also the principal designer of the performance management framework for MassDOT’s progressive GreenDOT Policy Implementation Plan that utilizes state-of-the-practice performance management techniques, and was the author of MassDOT’s bold statewide mode shift goal, using a pioneering measure specifically chosen to minimize the use of limited staff and financial resources for future performance management.  Trey earned a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from Concordia University in Montreal, and both a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a Masters of Regional Planning from the State University of New York at Albany. Placement: Executive Chamber



Peter W. Walke

Peter W. Walke comes to the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as a Naval Intelligence Officer, having risen to the rank of Lieutenant.  Peter deployed twice in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In his final posting at NORAD -Unites States Northern Command, Peter was regularly required to distill potential threat indications and decide whether they represented an imminent danger to the United States and Canada.  For example, when North Korea launched ballistic missiles, within seconds, Peter was required to assess whether or not it was a threat.  He was also called upon to decide whether a commercial airliner that had lost communications represented a September 11th-style threat and needed to be shot down.  During his nine years in the military, Peter also developed budgets for new organizations, managed civilian and military direct reports, contributed to the initial operating capability of United States Africa Command, and wrote policies governing the entire United States European Command targeting enterprise.  Peter received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science cum laude from Williams College, and his Masters of Applied Geography from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Placement: Executive Chamber

Angela Wu

Angela Wu joins the Empire State Fellows Program after a first career during which she rose to become a Senior Project Manager at the prestigious landscape architecture firm of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.  In that role, Angela developed and managed a $12 million budget and coordinated the initial stages of a 300-acre waterfront revitalization project in Toronto, which was recognized by the Clinton Climate Initiative as one of sixteen founding climate positive “Cities for the Future”.  Angela has also worked for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, where she analyzed various development project proposals’ potential impact on and economic contribution to New York City.  Angela graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in History of Art & Architecture from Harvard University and earned both her Master in Business Administration and her Master of Environmental Management from Yale University. Placement: Executive Chamber

2012-2014 Empire State Fellows Class

Michael Baer

Michael Baer is an Empire State Fellow placed at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC).  At NYS DEC, Michael is responsible for evaluating new opportunities to expand finance and funding available for investments in wastewater infrastructure and green infrastructure for stormwater management. He is also assessing the opportunity to expand wetland mitigation banking instruments in the State.  Previously he was the Chief Financial Officer for JP Morgan Asset Management’s US Equity, Global Multi-Asset Group, Private Equity, and Hedge Fund of Funds investment platforms where he was responsible for financial planning and strategy for more than $180 billion in client assets and financial oversight of an operating budget of over $275 million. Michael’s writings include policy papers about the use of social impact bonds as a new outcomes-based social finance investment vehicle in financing water supply and sanitation services in developing countries. Michael earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Babson College and a Masters of Science of Global Affairs at New York University. Michael is also a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Placement: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Tamara Dews

Tamara works in the Executive Chamber with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. Tamara began her fellowship with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) where she managed the MWBE Program Unit. Prior to the fellowship, Tamara managed the Business & Legal Affairs division of Sony Music Entertainment where she led the team responsible for identifying ancillary markets to promote and distribute Sony’s music. Tamara earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and Politics from Mount Holyoke College and an Intellectual Property Law Certification from the New York University School of Professional & Continuing Studies. Tamara serves on the Board of Directors for the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association and the Board of Directors of Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow. In addition, Tamara speaks Italian, Spanish, Latin and some Japanese.

Placement: Executive Chamber, formerly at New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities

Alejandra Diaz

Since joining the Empire State Fellowship, Alejandra has worked on a range of healthcare policy areas and contributed to the 2013-2014 budget process. Prior to the Empire State Fellowship, Alejandra was a Lead Experience Architect at NTT DATA, INC. where she led a team in developing qualitative research approaches and used the resulting audience insights to inform and design services, system interfaces, business processes, and communication strategies for healthcare clients. Alejandra earned a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Science, History of Medicine from Yale University, and a Business Certificate from the Columbia University School of Continuing Education. Alejandra has served on the New York Community Advisory Board for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and HIV Prevention Trials Network.  

Placement: Executive Chamber, Healthcare

Samuel Filler

Samuel Filler currently leads Governor Cuomo’s Craft Beverage Initiative at Empire State Development. Samuel served as the Director of Programs for the Transportation and Land Use Collaborative (TLUC), an urban planning consulting firm in Southern California that specialized in stakeholder engagement in Latino communities. He was also selected to be a Coro Fellow in Southern California and an Americorps member with City Year. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Vassar College, and a Master of Urban Planning from the
NYU Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.  

Placement: Empire State Development


Jennifer M. Gómez

Having spent her first year of the Empire State Fellowship at the Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance, Jennifer M. Gómez is now at the Executive Chamber applying her legal and policy expertise to improve the lives of low-income children and families. Previously, Jennifer served as Legislative Counsel at the New York City Council, where she advised council members on a wide array of issues, including the impact of policies instituted by the Administration for Children’s Services, the Department of Homeless Services, and the Human Resources Administration. Formerly a litigation associate at Simpson Thacher and Bartlett LLP and a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, Jennifer is currently a director on the board of the Dominican Bar Association and was recently appointed to serve on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Homelessness & Poverty. Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Latin American Studies, cum laude, from Mount Holyoke College and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the California Law Review. Jennifer speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian.

Placement: Executive Chamber

Dylan J. Hayden

Dylan’s work at the Department of Labor and the Division of Criminal Justice Services over the past year have positioned him to help shape policy in areas such as workforce development, economic growth, disaster preparedness, and performance management for State agencies. As an Afghanistan veteran, his insight into the challenges faced by transitioning service members helped structure veteran employment programs and his logistical understanding helped him to coordinate Department of Labor staffing of 20 Disaster Assistance Centers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Additionally, Dylan has been responsible for assisting the State’s public safety agencies improve their performance management to help make their operations more transparent to New Yorkers. Prior to becoming a Fellow, Dylan worked as an Arabic/ Pashto-Afghan Language Analyst for the United States Navy. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a B.A. in Political Science from SUNY New Paltz, and an Associate’s Degree in Arabic from the Defense Language Institute.

Placement: Division of Criminal Justice Services

Kisha Santiago

Kisha Santiago joined HCR as a member of the first class of New York State Empire Fellows. Kisha is an urban and regional planner and has a range of experience in the private and nonprofit sector. Prior to the fellowship, Kisha was the Vice President and Senior Project Manager of the Rosenberg Housing Group, a private affordable housing development company that specializes in working with public housing authorities on mixed-finance projects. Since joining HCR, Kisha worked on several of the agency’s major initiatives including the 2013 Executive Budget development and implementation planning, New York Works, NY Performs, Homeownership Repair and Rebuild Fund, and a wide range of disaster recovery programs. In August 2013, Kisha received a permanent appointment with HCR as Assistant Commissioner. Kisha will continue to lead agency initiatives and strategic planning in her oversight of the Budget Services Unit (BSU) and the new Project Management Office (PMO). She holds a Masters in Regional and Urban Planning degree and a B.A. in Psychology from SUNY Albany.

Placement: Homes and Community Renewal 

Nora Yates

Nora is currently involved in agency operations projects for the Executive Chamber, including the statewide performance management initiative. Before the Fellowship, Nora Yates was the Executive Director of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, where she has revitalized and expanded the 42 year old organization. She previously worked at the Empire State Pride Agenda directing statewide field campaigns. Nora developed and taught various courses as an adjunct professor at the State University of New York at Albany for six years, and served as a project manager at Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group. Nora earned a Bachelor of Arts in French and Women’s Studies, and a Master of Arts in Women’s Studies at the State University of New York at Albany. Nora also earned a Master in Public Administration from the Sage Graduate School.

Placement: Executive Chamber State of New York