Cassandra Vega is a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program and Douglass Residential College. Majoring in Political Science and minoring in Latino and Caribbean Studies, she is working as the undergraduate research assistant for the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice, and completing her final year of the Institute for Women’s Leadership certificate program. She is a founding executive board member of the Women’s Pre-Law Society and led Douglass’ Human Rights House as a Global Village Ambassador. Off campus, she interned with Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman’s District Office, Robert Wood Johnson Foundations’ Pioneering Ideas Team, and the Center for Hispanic Research Policy and Development through the Governor’s Hispanic Fellows Program. Vega loves to talk about intersectionality in activism, cry over the New York Knicks, volunteer as a poll worker, and get a fat cup at Edo’s after class. She plans to attend law school and use her degree to improve the quality of life for overexploited and underserved communities across the country.
2022 - 2023 Fellows
Charles Strehlo is an Honors student at the School of Arts & Sciences, majoring in Philosophy and Political Science. Charles spent his most recent summer working for the Brooklyn District Attorney in the Hate Crimes Bureau. With a variety of different tasks including drafting subpoenas, interviewing witnesses, reviewing bodycam and summarizing case facts, Charles has earned a new appreciation for how the law can help the average person. He worked this position while also participating in the Simon Wiesenthal Government Advocacy Program, workshopping with different political advocates around NYC and learning about combatting antisemitism from a government level. At Rutgers, Charles has competed with the Rutgers Mock Trial team and worked on the board to run conferences for the Institute for Domestic and International Affairs. He's worked part time while at Rutgers, tutoring for the SAT and helping teach college math classes. Following graduation, Charles plans on attending law school with a possible focus on constitutional law (but he's not completely sure yet). In his free time, Charles loves boxing, weightlifting, meditation, creative writing, and a slew of other completely random activities!
Kenna Srivastava is a student in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in Philosophy, History and Political Science, with a minor in Economics. On campus, she serves as Secretary for the Rutgers Democrats, the University’s largest partisan student organization. Her civic engagement was catalyzed by the early aughts of the 2016 election cycle, during which she developed interests in political messaging and identity, as well as normative and meta-ethics. In the time since, she worked extensively with grassroots nonprofits and on various campaigns, most recently with those of Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-07) and Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ-06) ahead of the 2022 Midterm Elections. In addition to her campaign experience, she was selected to participate in the 2022 NEW Leadership New Jersey summer institute run by the Center for American Women and Politics. She has previously conducted research on the impacts of geopolitical instability on the prices of oil futures in association with the Courant School of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. Outside of class, you can find Kenna listening to mildly depressing indie music, reading memoirs, or dissecting sitcoms. After her tenure at Rutgers, Kenna hopes to attend law school, where she plans to focus on constitutional law and socio-legal theory.
Megan Ruskey is a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program majoring in Psychology. Megan first became interested in research during freshman year when her Exposition and Argument essay was accepted into the Undergraduate Research Writing Conference. Since then, she has completed the Writing Theory Internship and began working as a tutor for the writing center. Megan also works as a research assistant for Dr. Nicolas in his social psychology laboratory where she studies spatial agency bias. In her sophomore year, Megan participated in the Institute for Research on Women, which fostered her passion for gender studies and intersectional feminism. Megan's interest in social policy evolved from her experience as a Girl's Leadership Council member at the Alice Paul Institute. Here, she was exposed to various feminist topics, human rights issues, and traveled to the United Nations to speak with other young feminists for International Day of the Girl. She is excited to continue learning about social issues and researching policy as a Gardner Fellow.
Sandhya Rajagopalan is an Honors College junior majoring in Economics and Political Science with a minor in French. At the Honors College, she is a Changemaking Mentor and an intern in the Professional Development department. She also works with the Eagleton Institute of Politics as an intern for both the RU Ready program, which aims to educate high school students about civic engagement, and the RU Voting program, which focuses on voter registration and mobilization. She currently works as a research assistant for the Center of American Women in Politics (CAWP) to create a new database of New Jersey officeholders, verify government-appointed boards, and collect ongoing data on women leaders in the U.S. government. In addition, she is assisting Dr. Elizabeth Matto, Professor and Director of the Center for Youth Political Participation at Eagleton, with her book on the best democratic practices for engaging citizens. In her free time, she likes to chat with friends, listen to podcasts, and read!
Raisa Rubin-Stankiewicz (she/her) is a rising junior in the School of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Psychology. She serves as the State Policy Advocate for March for Our Lives New Jersey, helping pass the 2022 Gun Safety Package 3.0 and advocating for related gun violence prevention policies in the state. In high school, she participated in a three-year research course, where she co-lead a research project on whether people's awareness and knowledge of three different genocides, one past and two present, affected their opinions on the policy actions the United States should take around foreign intervention and refugee acceptance. She previously served as a board member for the racial justice organization Not in Our Town Princeton and as a youth advisor for Vote16USA, a national organization advocating for lowering the voting age to 16. She is very interested in focusing and further exploring issues of mental health policy, disability justice, restorative justice, and decarceration. In her free time, Raisa enjoys reading, singing, and FaceTiming her friend's dog, Leelu.
Simon Mendoza is an Honors College junior majoring in Political Science, with a minor in Global Studies. Simon’s primary academic interests are international law, criminal justice, and queer theory. He has previously aided in research for the UPenn Borders and Boundaries Project and the Rutgers Veteran Congress Member Project under Professor Michael Kenwick. The former position involved documenting infrastructure and militarization at international border crossings over time; and the latter focused on compiling data to better understand the demographics of elected officials in the United States. Outside of academia, Simon is involved in networking, community building, and facilitating mutual aid for queer people. The main platforms for this outreach include social media and event spaces. Through the Lloyd C. Gardener Fellowship, Simon hopes to further devote time into researching the unique sociocultural circumstances that affect the queer community. After Rutgers Simon wishes to pursue a post-graduate degree and ultimately work with an NGO to rectify disparities that harm vulnerable populations. In his free time, Simon enjoys nightlife, fitness, and film.
Astha Lakhankar (she/her) is an Honors College junior, majoring in Economics and minoring in Statistics and Latino & Caribbean Studies. During her time at Rutgers, she has grown an interest in academia by working as a research assistant through both the Aresty Research Center and the School of Communication and Information. Through these institutions, Astha has studied the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young children's behavioral health as well as methods related to computational social science. Additionally, she has worked as an intern for the New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition, a designated organization within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program, focused on promoting clean transportation and alternative fuels. Currently, Astha is the head news editor of The Daily Targum, where she investigates and reports on a number of issues relevant to the Rutgers community, such as funding for graduate students and University administration initiatives. After she graduates, she hopes to work as an economic analyst in the sustainable technology and transportation fields. During her free time, Astha enjoys learning about fashion history, watching horror movies, and trying out hot chocolates at different cafes.
Ashni Kapadia is a rising junior in the School of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Molecular Biology/Biochemistry and Philosophy. On campus, Ashni worked as a peer reviewer for the Aresty Undergraduate Research journal, tutored for the learning center, and is a board member of the Molecular Biology Society. Off-campus, she works at a research lab studying drug interaction and metabolism through machine learning computational studies along with an intrabacterial drug metabolism platform that informs and can help create new therapeutic strategies. Her interest in public health and policy reform stems from her work as a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line, EMT, and working as a patient care technician at a hospital. Ashni hopes that the Gardner Fellowship helps her understand the delicate balance between public policy and community health, as well as what goes into sustainable health reform. After college, Ashni aspires to attend medical school and pursue a career in medicine, advocating for her patient’s rights. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, watching Netflix, and traveling.
Hanna Hammoud is a rising junior in the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, double majoring in Political Science and Philosophy and minoring in Law and History. Hanna’s political interests center around economic distribution, delegations of political power, and international political affairs. Her philosophical interests center around political philosophy, ethical systems, philosophy of mind, and much more. At Rutgers, Hanna has been a member of the Paul Robeson Living-Learning Community since her freshman year, learning about the life and legacy of Rutgers graduate Paul Robeson alongside her LLC peers. She is also a member of the Community Ambassador Program, where she collaborates with other cultural LLCs to give back to the community through volunteer service with organizations such as Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick. She currently works at the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, contributing to projects as an office assistant. As part of her political experience, Hanna campaigned as an intern for New Jersey representative Josh Gottheimer during his primary campaign in 2020, where she learned about the intricacies of political campaigns and how local politics is influential on a broader scale. An aspiring lawyer, Hanna is a member of the Rutgers Moot Court Association and the Pre-Law Society. Hanna’s primary legal interest is constitutional law, as she has always been fascinated by the political and philosophical implications deriving from various interpretations of the United States constitution. Other legal fields that interest her are international law, employment and labor law, and real estate law. Outside of being a student at Rutgers, Hanna is a recently licensed New Jersey real estate salesperson and NJ REALTOR, and has received the New Jersey REALTORS Educational Foundation Scholarship award. In her free time, Hanna enjoys reading, writing, drawing, cooking, and binging podcasts and political news streams.
Shalini Gossain (she/her) is a rising junior pursuing a major in Cell Biology and Neuroscience and a minor in Religion. She became interested in advocating for social issues through the New Jersey Organizing Project (NJOP): a power building organization that focuses on disaster recovery systems and the opioid overdose crisis. As an organizing fellow for NJOP, Shalini had the opportunity to conduct 1-1 meetings with members who have been impacted by the opioid epidemic. She enjoyed generating deep connections and listening to their self-interests. In 2021, Shalini joined a delegation of NJOP members on a trip to NYC to call for global access to the COVID-19 vaccines, which was a pivotal moment in which drove her to work on a global perspective. This summer, Shalini has started her new job role at RWJ University Hospital as a Clinical Care Technician, and she aims to pursue medicine upon graduation. Through this Fellowship, Shalini is excited to think critically, engage in valued conversations, and learn how global issues and events impact us directly and indirectly. In her free time, Shalini likes to bike, do yoga, and watch the Great British Bake Off.
Destiny Colmenares is a rising junior in the School of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Political Science and double minoring in Sociology and Women's and Gender Studies. Destiny is also currently a Leadership Scholar in the Institute for Women's Leadership, where she is completing a social action project that centers around supporting survivors of domestic violence in Middlesex County. On campus, Destiny is also an Attorney and Assistant Tournament Director for Rutgers Mock Trial, earning trial advocacy skills by presenting legal arguments before real attorneys and judges throughout the country. Further, Destiny is President and Co-Founder of the Women's Pre-Law Society, among the first women-centered pre-law student organizations in the United States. This past spring, Destiny interned at the global legal organization the Center for Reproductive Rights, where she researched the nationwide impact of Roe v. Wade's overturn on vulnerable communities of women such as women of color and assisted in drafting repro-specific legal education materials. This summer, Destiny is working at the Middlesex County Bar Association as the Lawyer Referral Service Administrator. As a proud first-generation Mexican American, Destiny plans to attend law school in the future and add to the less than 2% of Latina lawyers in the country. In her free time, Destiny enjoys taking long walks, listening to music, and tweeting about her day.
Sophie Brown is a rising junior in the Honors College double majoring in English and Linguistics and minoring in French and Women’s and Gender Studies. Her research interests lie at the intersection of language and society, and as a research assistant at the SC&I Computational Social Science Lab, she gets to study these issues by doing qualitative coding on projects related to feminism, masculinity, and patriarchy. Last year, she was also an Aresty research assistant to Professor Martin Gliserman, helping investigate linguistic patterns in English-language novels. As a Senior Peer Reviewer and copy editor for the Aresty RURJ Undergraduate Research Journal, she teaches a weekly class to help other undergraduates learn about research from a publishing and peer review standpoint. Sophie is passionate about issues of gender and race, and interned with the nonprofit organization VOW for Girls last summer to help raise funds to end child marriage. She hopes to combine her interests in language, writing, and research to continue advocating for equality and to change the way that we talk about social issues. In her free time, Sophie loves watching horror movies, visiting cat cafes, and pretending that she has an eye for graphic design.
Sheaa Amin is an Honors College junior at the School of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Political Science and Mathematics with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Her interests lie in taking a gender-based lens on political participation, labor relations, and advocacy. She is a second-year Leadership Scholar at the Institute for Women’s Leadership, focusing her Social Action Project on gender-based inequities in the service industry. Most recently, Sheaa was a 2022 recipient of the Rutgers Eagleton-Washington Award and spent her summer interning at APIA Vote in Washington D.C. Here, she further developed her passions for grassroots organizing, civic engagement, and uplifting the voices of the Asian American community. Prior to this role, she has worked on various campaigns on their Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) outreach efforts, ranging from local to presidential. Sheaa has been involved at the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), where she developed the policy action project curriculum and helped execute the NJ NEW Leadership ® Program. She was chosen to attend the Harvard Public Policy and Leadership conference during the fall of her sophomore year, which helped her realize her passions could be turned into a career. Sheaa plans to pursue a career in advocacy or legislative affairs before pursuing her Masters in Public Policy. Sheaa is a proud member of Douglass College, previously serving as the mentor-in-residence to the Douglass Changemaking Community for continuing students within the Honors College. Around campus, Sheaa serves as a Resident Assistant, as SAS 2024 Representative in the Rutgers University Student Assembly, and on the executive board of Alpha Chi Omega. In her free time, Sheaa loves spending time with her dog, trying new coffee shops, and watching musicals.
Adewonuola Adefowoju is a junior in the Honors Program and DRC, majoring in English and minoring in Business Technical Writing. Throughout the pandemic, Adewonuola has had the opportunity to work with middle management of Grace Medical Consult, a psychiatrist practice in New Jersey, where she was able to grasp the business technical side of the medical industry. Adewonuola has also furthered her experience in business with A&A Garage Studio, a photography studio in New Jersey, as a co-founder and co-owner. Adewonuola, along with her sister and business partner, built A&A Garage Studio from scratch in their own garage and have been functioning since 2019. During the virtual 2020-2021 school year, Adewonuola joined NJPIRG, a student advocacy group, as well as the Douglass Black Students’ Congress (DBSC), a black women’s organization on campus. At NJPIRG, Adewonuola was a top intern in the Homelessness and Hunger campaign, whose goal was to bring awareness to and end food insecurity in the local New Brunswick area. In DBSC, she has been on the e-board since the 2021 spring semester juggling through different roles and is now presently the Co-VP. A fun fact about Adewonuola is that she competed in a pageant hosted by a Rutgers organization and was the runner up!
Naaima Abd-Elhameed is a rising junior in the School of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Journalism and Media Studies with a specialization in Global Media and double minoring in Arabic and International and Global Studies. Currently, Naaima is a Peer Writer for the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Summer Institute at Rutgers. She is also an intern for TurnUp Activism, which is a non-profit mobile app organization that motivates advocacy for all spheres of social issues. On campus, Naaima is a member of Rutgers UNICEF and Arab Cultural Club, in addition to being a Writing Tutor at Plangere Writing Center throughout the fall and spring semesters. She has also made the Dean’s List every semester since her freshman year. In the upcoming school year, Naaima hopes to join The Daily Targum writing staff. After her undergraduate years are over, she plans to work towards a Master’s degree in journalism or a related field. Beyond academics, she enjoys traveling to new countries, going to concerts, working on art pieces, and hanging out with her cats.