5 Students Awarded Pforzheimer Grants

The National Civic League has awarded mini-grants for research on civic engagement and local governance to five students from three universities. The grants will help cover research and travel costs for students analyzing particular aspects of public administration and community work.

Stephanie Puello, University of Colorado at Denver School of Public Affairs, PhD candidate 

Stephanie will use the mini-grant for dissertation research focused on election administration and voter restoration policies pertaining to citizens with felony convictions. Stephanie is an AmeriCorps VISTA alum and served a two-year term as a Mayoral appointee with the City and County of Denver’s Women’s Commission. She earned her Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of Denver and an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Florida International University.

Stephanie’s research will include a focus on civic engagement, administrative burdens, public opinion, and representative bureaucracy. Her dissertation examines recent voter restoration policies that have diffused across multiple states and have extended voting rights to returning citizens (i.e., citizens with felonies). This research will examine the influence that both re-enfranchisement and policy design have on civic engagement. 

Tasfia Jahangir, Emory University, Master of Public Health (MPH) Candidate

Tasfia earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California (USC), where she studied Psychology, Spanish, and Public Health. In her final years of undergraduate study, Tasfia founded a university-based chapter of the MINDS Foundation to promote research and mental health education. MINDS is a non-governmental organization in India that provides free mental health resources, such as psychotherapy, mental health education, and prescriptions to low-income communities. 

Tasfia’s research relates to the recognition of intimate partner violence (IPV) as a public health issue and the understanding that IPV victimization arises from contextual, environmental, systemic, and social stressors. While much research on IPV examines the characteristics and consequences of physical harm, Tasfia will focus her work on the role of contextual factors in perpetuating victimization, such as the economic factors associated with financial abuse. 

Thomas Benson, University of Delaware, PhD Candidate and Dissertation Fellow in Political Science & International Relations 

With an interest in Environmental Justice, Sustainability, and Urban Politics, Thomas has seven academic publications (three more under review) and two non-academic publications (two forthcoming 2022). He has also been an instructor for Environmental Politics, a teaching assistant for seven classes, and a research assistant for three professors. Thomas has received recognition for his work, such as The Aspen Institute’s Future Climate Leaders Award, the American Political Science Association First-Gen Grant, UD’s Green Hen Award for Excellence, and two Political Science Graduate Research Awards for exceptional papers. In sharing his research, Thomas has presented at nine conferences since May 2020, and will present his research at three conferences in 2022. 

Thomas’ research will examine whether the reality of “smart” cities matches the rhetoric in terms of their work on environmental sustainability. Specifically, it looks at why some smart cities successfully address ecological dimensions, whilst others fall short and the role of urban governance structures in this variation in success, with a particular focus on four comparative cases: Washington D.C. and Boston (U.S.) and Leeds and Bristol (UK).

Elliot M. Zettas, University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs, Doctoral Student

Elliot’s research interests include social entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, social equity, and nonprofit finance. Elliot is a Senior Manager at Generation Schools Network, where he manages three regional postsecondary and workforce readiness clusters that support over 20,000 K-12 students. Elliot holds a Master of Public Administration (2019), concentration in Nonprofit Management, from Arkansas State University and Bachelor of Science, Individualized Degree Program- Entrepreneurial Innovation (2015), from Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Recognizing that many startup nonprofits fail and that poor financial sustainability is often the cause, Elliott’s research will seek to identify to what extent diversification or concentration is associated with the financial health of these nonprofits. Additionally, it will examine if other factors such as founders’ experience, board effectiveness, and years of operation prior to 501(c)3 status are associated with financial health. Elliot will focus on Colorado nonprofit organizations using surveys, interviews and financial data.

Julia Cummings University of Colorado Denver, PhD student 

Julia is a third-year PhD student at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs. Her research interests include how political communications impact voter behavior. She has an MBA with a marketing emphasis from University of Colorado Denver and a BA in Humanities, magna cum laude, from University of Colorado Boulder. She has worked at CU Denver since 2007 as the School of Education & Human Development’s marketing director. Her previous work experience includes marketing and public affairs roles at the Smithsonian Institution, National Audubon Society and Denver Museum of Nature & Science. 

Julia’s research focuses on the voting behavior of young prospective voters in urban precincts and their intention to vote after viewing political communications with varying attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her trial experiment in Denver will be followed by a more extensive experiment at community colleges in two urban precincts (one in a Democrat-learning state and one in a Republican-learning state) during the 2022 midterm elections as part of her PhD dissertation work.

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