Alumni Council Leadership

In the spring of 2017, the Gardner Fellowship convened an Alumni event that brought together the 2017-2018 Gardner Fellows and those from previous classes. The event featured panels of Gardner Alum on networking, graduate programs, law, business, non-profit organizations, and other post-graduate careers, and was a huge success. Since then, the spring Alumni Event has become an annual part of the Gardner Fellowship. In addition, the program has developed an Alumni Council, which runs the annual Alumni Event, and has also developed a mentoring program to connect current Gardner Fellows with Gardner Alumni.

Lisa L. Miller

Lisa L. Miller is Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University and has had the privilege of serving as the Director of the Gardner Fellowship since 2017. Professor Miller has enjoyed building on the work of Professors Bathory and Professor Murphy to grow the program’s Alumni Network and Advisory Council, and to expand the program’s reach in SAS. In keeping with the tradition of changing the Fellowship theme to meet contemporary challenges, in 2019, with the help of Gardner Advisory Council, Professor Miller shifted to the current theme, Security and Sustainability. Professor Miller’s research interests are in law and constitutions, racial inequality, violent crime and criminal justice, democratic accountability and social policy. Her most recent book, The Myth of Mob Rule: Violent Crime and Democratic Politics (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores the politics of crime and punishment cross-nationally. Miller has served as a Visiting Scholar at the University of Oxford and at Princeton University.

Matt Matsuda

Professor Matt Matsuda teaches Modern European and Asia/ Pacific global-comparative histories in the Rutgers-New Brunswick History Department, where he has been since 1993. He is the author of The Memory of the Modern (1996), Empire of Love (2003), Pacific Worlds (2012), A Primer for Teaching Pacific Histories (2020), and many articles, and is an editor for the Cambridge History of the Pacific Ocean (2022). He is also founding editor of the Palgrave Studies in Pacific Histories, currently, 7 volumes ranging over histories of anthropology, science, Oceanian empire, and early modern commodity trading. His next book will be Genetic Drift: Genealogies, Genomes, and Histories in the Pacific (2023). From 2015-2021 he was the founding Academic Dean/ Professor in Residence at the Honors College-New Brunswick, developing an interdisciplinary academic experience and social innovation curricula for a scholarly community. He has also previously served as the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program (2012-15) and as College Avenue Campus Dean, as well as a departmental undergraduate vice-chair. Dr. Matsuda took over the directorship of the Lloyd C. Gardner Fellowship Program in 2022. When possible, he and his wife, documentary filmmaker Lee Quinby, live at the beach in Rockaway, NY. His family is from Japan, Hawai‘i and California, and he lived in in Paris for three years while doing research work for his UCLA Ph.D. He is also a guitarist and songwriter with a 1985 underground album, and still plays with geezer bands.

Vega, Cassandra

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.

Strehlo, Charles

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!

Srivastava, Kenna

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.

Ruskey, Megan

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.

Rajagopalan, Sandhya

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!

Rubin-Stankiewicz, Raisa

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.

Mendoza, Simon

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.

Lakhankar, Astha

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.

Kapadia, Ashni

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.

Hammoud, Hanna

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.

Gossain, Shalini

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.

Colmenares, Destiny

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.

Brown, Sophie

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.

Amin, Sheaa

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.

Research Description

The Gardner Fellowship requires an independent research project with a faculty mentor in the spring semester. The fellowship year ends in an annual Policy Conference during the reading days in May. We have breakfast and lunch together and the Fellows generate poster presentations to summarize their research for fellows, alumni, faculty mentors, family, and other friends of the Gardner program.

Assessing the Effects of Insurance from the ACA on Primary Health Outcomes in the United States

The Affordable Care Act has reportedly helped to bring increased rates of insurance to low-income populations and provide more affordable insurance options to those struggling to afford it. Primarily, this is achieved through funding state programs to support the health of low-income communities, expanding pre-existing Medicaid eligibility to give more direct federal aid to low-income families, and through availing those ineligible for Medicaid with discounted rates for private health insurance through the healthcare exchanges. However, state responses to the funding received from the ACA differ drastically, leading to inconsistent outcomes. Moreover, literature suggests this population is still underinsured and that health outcomes continue to suffer. Using the National Health Interview Survey from years 2015-2019, this paper attempts to correlate the various types of insurance to various indicators of primary health. These include incidences of chronic illness and access to primary healthcare, as lower indices are generally indicative of poor and worsening health outcomes over time. Primarily analyzed in this paper are the differences in health outcomes between populations that are covered under private health insurance, Medicaid, and marketplace-based (exchange) insurance. In doing so, this paper aims to assess the state of the Medicaid program and the average efficiency of exchange based plans across the United States in promoting the general wellness of such populations.

Access to Reproductive Justice through the Indian Health Service:  Contraceptives and Colonialism

The Indian Health Service (IHS)–a federal agency obligated by treaty to provide healthcare to Indigenous people in the US–has a history of colonialist practices and reproductive abuse that is continued by its promotion of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), denying Indigenous patients fully informed consent and, as a result, access to reproductive justice. I analyzed the IHS “2021 Formulary Brief: LARC” and IHS “2016 Formulary Brief: Contraception” and compared the directives given to clinicians with the language of the Center for Disease Controls and the Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. I compared the information IHS offers for each contraceptive method in these formulary briefs with their respective FDA warning labels. I analyzed and coded results for “birth control” on the IHS website search engine to determine what information patients could find about contraceptives and whether contraceptives were promoted, omitting extraneous results. I found that IHS clinicians are encouraged to “Engage in shared decision making to select the most appropriate contraceptive for each individual patient,” unlike similar government agencies, and are offered information that asserts the superiority of LARCs and contradicts FDA warning labels. I found 50% of the search results for “birth control” yield information that promotes LARCs.
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