Our Students

Photo: Julie Ball

Julie Ball

Julie was born in Anchorage, Alaska and raised in Colorado and New Mexico. She received her undergraduate degree in Economics with a minor in Sociology. Her interest in economic development stemmed from her lobbying efforts to promote Indian gaming at the Roundhouse and her experience with Amigos de las Americas in Latin America as a teenager. Since that time, she has devoted herself to volunteer work in the areas of immigration, education and environmentalism. Recently, she worked with immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, particularly from The Congo and Afghanistan.  Julie's current policy interests include food security, water security, and energy and environmental conservation. Her hobbies are camping, hiking and fly fishing. She also enjoys getting down to a disco beat on roller skates.
Photo: Andrea Benites

Andrea Benites


Andrea grew up in a town just outside of Philadelphia, called Cinnaminson. Currently, she is a dual-degree student, pursuing MBA and MPP degrees. She graduated with her BA in Human Resources during May of 2021. During her undergraduate studies, she was an athlete for UNM's track and field program, elected Senator for ASUNM, and was nominated into the Lobo Scholars Program. In terms of experience, she interned for Viante NM, a state legislative organization; interned for Deb Haaland's congressional district office; and worked for BayoTech Inc. as a policy assistant. Currently, she holds the Chief of Staff position for GPSA, UNM's graduate student government; and a research/project assistant for Project Echo's DEI department. Her policy interests include environment, energy, education, and Native American affairs. Andrea is, also, a first-generation student, for her parents immigrated from Peru to the US in the 90s. In her free time, she enjoys cooking vegan food, running on trails, and exploring NM! Check out Andrea's policy blog!

Photo: Amelia Bierle

Amelia Bierle

Amelia was born and raised in Carlsbad, NM. In 2015 Amelia moved to Albuquerque to attend the University of New Mexico and play soccer for the Lobos. Amelia graduated in 2019 summa cum laude in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology with a minor in Honors Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts. After graduation, Amelia started a Post Baccalaureate Research & Education Fellowship where she had the opportunity to attend a Health Care Policy Symposium in Washington DC. The symposium solidified her passion for solving problems and giving back to the community through policy. Outside of university, Amelia enjoys playing sports, surrounding herself in nature, and cuddling her kitties—Lila and Stout. Check out Amelia's policy blog!
Photo: Hallie Brown

Hallie Brown

Hallie grew up in Edgewood, New Mexico and graduated from UNM in 2018 with degrees in Sociology and International Studies. After graduation, Hallie served as a Community Health Specialist in The Gambia with the United States Peace Corps, where she worked on a wide variety of health and nutrition projects. After being evacuated from her Peace Corps service due to COVID-19, Hallie began working in local government for the Village of Tijeras. Now, Hallie serves at the Executive Director of United Voices for Newcomer Rights, a local nonprofit that works in partnership with the newcomers to promote well-being and integration in the Albuquerque community. Outside of school and work, Hallie enjoys spending time outside and listening to podcasts. Check out Hallie's policy blog!
Photo: Darlene Castillo

Darlene Castillo


Darlene has lived in New Mexico for nearly 20 years; she grew up in Durango, Mexico and Socorro, NM before moving to Albuquerque. In 2017, she graduated from UNM with a BA in Chemistry and BS in Psychology. Darlene is a Research Scientist at UNM’s Cradle to Career Policy Institute (CCPI). Currently she is part of CCPI’s early childhood team where she is involved in numerous projects regarding childcare access. She has experience with data analysis and data collection through both interviews and surveys. Darlene’s policy interests are in health equity, education, and immigrants’ rights. Outside of work, Darlene serves on the Board of Directors for MANA de Albuquerque and enjoys spending time with her two Jack Russells. Check out Darlene's policy blog!

Photo: Julio Chavez

Julio Chavez


Julio was born in Albuquerque and raised in the South Valley. He graduated from UNM in May of 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. During his undergrad studies, Julio has interned for several campaigns, interned for Senator Tom Udall’s Washington D.C. office, and served as a student lobbyist for ASUNM in advocating for the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship. Julio is currently interning at Sandia National Labs. Policy interests of Julio include economic development in underserved areas, sustainable economic development, and energy policy. Outside of school, Julio enjoys hiking, spending time with family and close friends.

Photo: Leandra Dalen-Van De Griend

Leandra Dalen-Van De Griend

Leandra was raised in a small town in northern Minnesota and received her BA in Music Performance from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. After graduating from Hamline, Leandra worked with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota as an Employment Counselor for folks receiving cash assistance. In this role, she helped clients identify and pursue their career goals and navigate the complex world of public assistance, sparking an interest in public assistance policy and advocacy. In 2020, Leandra joined Hired, a nonprofit in Minneapolis/St. Paul that provides a variety of career services for youth and adults, as a Program Analyst. Currently, Leandra works with Hired as their Data for Impact Specialist and supports ongoing evaluation initiatives and data analysis. Outside of school and work, she enjoys watching archaeology documentaries, playing hammered dulcimer, and exploring her new Albuquerque community! Check out Leandra's policy blog!
Photo: Natasha Davalos

Natasha Davalos


Natasha is a tribal member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe. She received her Bachelor of Science in Family and Child Studies and minor in Psychology from the University of New Mexico. She has also earned her Mental Health First Aid certificate from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. She previously worked for the State of New Mexico in several settings, as a child support legal assistant, family assistance analyst, and as a CYFD intake worker. Most recently, Natasha returned to New Mexico from Delaware, where she worked with substance exposed infants and their families. With a wider lens, she is focused on giving back to her community by providing appropriate supportive services and encouragement. Natasha has been dedicated to helping families obtain sustainable living and will continue to do so at higher capacities by pursing her Master’s in Public Policy. In her free time, Natasha enjoys spending time with her family in outdoor activities, playing music, and eating New Mexico’s traditional foods.

Photo: Elsa Goossen

Elsa Goossen

Elsa grew up in Kansas and received her BA in Latin American Studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has made her home in the Southwest since college, first as a Mennonite Voluntary Service participant in Alamosa, Colorado, where she spent two years with an immigrant resource center. This thread led her to the border, where she lived in community at Annunciation House, a hospitality network in El Paso for people in migration. Elsa currently works as a paralegal at ACLU-NM and supports litigation focused on immigrants’ rights and mass incarceration. A lifelong walker of trails – be it prairie, forest, alpine, or desert – Elsa also holds a strong interest in environmental justice and climate change mitigation. Elsewhere, you may find her frequenting the local library or playing her fiddle with local musicians! Check out Elsa's policy blog!
Photo: Mark Hume

Mark Hume

Mark received his undergraduate degree in Political Science and History and UNM. Prior to working at UNM, Mark worked as a Department of Defense personnel security contactor, conducting Top Secret background investigations on federal clearance candidates with a team of 1,400 investigators all over the country. Mark has also conducted qualitative research working as a project assistant for Sandia Market Research and has also moonlighted as a freelance writer, editor and quality control specialist Viacom. Mark is currently a Research Assistant working on a Kellogg Foundation grant, analyzing evaluation documentation for NM grantees and providing Evaluation Technical Assistance via office hours and workshops. Check out Mark's policy blog here!
Photo: Marleen Linares-Gonzalez

Marleen Linares-Gonzalez

Marleen is an MPP student born in Puerto Rico and raised in San Antonio, Texas. She received her BA in Journalism and Mass Communication and Art History at the University of Iowa. Since graduating from Iowa, Marleen has worked in various communication and outreach roles within higher education in addition to working with multiple non-profits and political campaigns. Her work has paved the way for her interest in public policy, specifically that which results in the progressive advancement for marginalized communities. She’s particularly interested in cultural equity, education, and the arts. She fled the Midwest winters and landed in Albuquerque, where she enjoys exploring the southwest landscape with her two pups, catching as many art shows as possible, and rooting on the San Antonio Spurs from a distance. Check out Marleen's policy blog!
Photo: Cayley Marshall

Cayley Marshall


Cayley was born in Salt Lake City and grew up between California and Washington State. They currently live in a small town near Seattle when not at school. They graduated with their BA in Criminology from UNM. They currently work with the Global Education Office helping incoming exchange students. Cayley enjoys playing games with friends, spending time with family, and walking their 2 dogs. 

Photo: Arlo Menchaca

Arlo Menchaca

Arlo was raised in Hobbs NM and moved to Albuquerque NM in 2015 to attend UNM where he earned a BA in Psychology and Philosophy with a concentration in Pre-Law. In terms of psychology, Arlo was most interested in research and data analysis; and in terms of philosophy, he was most interested in political thought and ethics. Arlo was afforded the opportunity to attend a conference which revolved around policy and he discovered that policy married his two passions. He is excited to develop the skills of a policy analyst so he may do his part in bridging the gap between academia and public policy. Check out Arlo's policy blog!

Makenzie Sanchez

Photo: Caitlyn Sandoval

Caitlyn Sandoval

Born in Guatemala and raised in Albuquerque, Caitlyn attended the University of New Mexico where she graduated with her undergraduate degree in Sociology with a minor in Political Science. Her interest in equitable access to education was sparked by her work with El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, where she worked alongside immigrant youth in advocating and organizing for the passage of the DREAM Act. After graduating from UNM, she spent one year as an AmeriCorps service member working with a team on launching a community school for immigrant and refugee students in the International District of Albuquerque. She spent the last two years at a local nonprofit where she supported young people aging out of foster care in developing career and education goals. Being that access to education has been a through-line in her work as a student and as a professional, Caitlyn is now interested in pursuing this work through a policy lens. Outside of graduate school, Caitlyn enjoys her early morning jogs and afternoon walks with her dog Gigi. Check out Caitlyn's policy blog!
Photo: Isaiah Torres

Isaiah Torres


Isaiah was born in Albuquerque and raised in the North Valley area. He graduated and received his bachelor's in Government at New Mexico State University. During his time at NMSU, he was elected the College of Democrats' President his senior year, interned for Mayor Tim Keller of Albuquerque, and worked as a Residental Assistant for student housing at the university. Since graduation, he has spent the last three months interning for the Congressional Office for Senator Martin Heinrich. Currently, he is working on a Congressional election campaign for Gabe Vasquez and then plans to return to work for Senator Martin Heinrich's Albuquerque office after the election. Isaiah enjoys being active, attending concerts, and spending time with his family. He has aspirations of traveling the world and is dedicated to serving the community and people of New Mexico. Check out Isaiah's policy blog!