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: Dekaila  Begay

Dekaila Begay

Dekaila Begay is an enrolled member with the Navajo Nation, raised in Pinedale, New Mexico. She attended the University of New Mexico-Gallup branch in 2013. While at the branch she completed basic courses before transferring to the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque in 2015. In 2017 Dekaila graduated with dual Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Communication. With no idea what to do after graduating, she applied with the Navajo Police Department and went to the Northern Arizona Regional Training Academy (NARTA), graduating as a certified peace officer in December 2017. Dekaila worked with the Navajo Police Department - Window Rock District for 6 years. When it comes to policy interests, she is still sorting through what areas she would like to focus on.
Dekaila likes being outdoors and listening to music. She doesn't call herself a runner but she has completed 7 half-marathons plus other various 5k and 10k runs. She definitely considers herself a homebody, preferring to stay home and hang out with her animals.
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: Jordan Cilley

Jordan Cilley

Jordan was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She graduated from UNM in 2021 with a Bachelor in Sociology with a concentration in Human Services and Social Policy, a Bachelor in Women Studies, and an interdisciplinary undergraduate certificate in Race and Social Justice. Her policy interests consist of crime and social justice policy, along with mental health and substance abuse. These interests sparked from growing up in Albuquerque and seeing firsthand how her fellow New Mexicans and the community have been impacted. Outside of school and work, Jordan enjoys reading, painting, and gardening.
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: Katerina Evans

Katerina Evans

Katerina was born in Santa Fe New Mexico. However, she spent the last several years on the east coast, mainly in Florida and North Carolina. While in NC, she attended the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she earned a BA in International Studies with a concentration in Globalization. Her primary interests were focused on violent political contention and ethnic conflict mitigation which ignited her passion for policy-driven solutions. As an MPP student, Katerina is passionate about combating corruption and advocating for transparency, fostering arms control and nuclear nonproliferation, addressing the critical challenges of counterterrorism, safeguarding human rights, and extending humanitarian assistance. Outside of school she enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and spending time with family.
Photo: Hannah Ferrell

Hannah Ferrell

Hannah received her BA in International Studies with a minor in History at The University of New Mexico in December of 2021. She also received certificates in Peace and Global Justice Studies and Peace Corp Preparation. After graduation, she went on to complete a Paralegal Certificate and work in Worker's Compensation for a year. Now, Hannah is a student in the Masters of Public Policy Program and the Gradute/Teaching Assistant for the International Studies Institute. When not studying or working, you can find Hannah outdoors with her dog, at the gym, or hanging out with friends.
Photo: Melanie Greenham

Melanie Greenham

Melanie grew up primarily in the Los Lunas/Belen area but has had the opportunity to live in many different places throughout the USA and Mexico including Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Charleston, Guadalajara, Merida, and Mexico City. She holds two associate degrees with Honors in general and paralegal studies from Clovis Community College, and graduated summa cum laude with a BA in psychology and minors in communications and social work from Eastern New Mexico University. She has also earned numerous certificates including holistic health coaching (IIN), managed care insurance administration (AHIP, Professional Designation), and project management (Central New Mexico Community College, Highest Honors). Melanie is a loving and dedicated mother to five daughters, and her policy interests are focused on the issues involved in “high conflict” family court cases. Through the University of New Mexico’s Master of Public Policy program, Melanie hopes to change how the legal, healthcare, law enforcement, child protection, and education systems conceptualize these cases, and improve how such institutions respond to and handle this form of post-separation domestic abuse.
Photo: Gary Haldane

Gary Haldane

Gary was born and raised in Tacoma, WA. He has been in Albuquerque for 15 years now. Gary received his BA in the Fall of 2022 from UNM with a major in Political Science and a minor in sociology. His policy interest is Native American Policy especially regarding education and housing and international relations. Gary has worked and volunteered on various New Mexico campaigns helping Martin Heinrich, Ben Ray Lujan, and other New Mexico political candidates. Outside of school Gary likes to DJ and he has a long deep love for house music. He has a residency at Sidewinders Nightclub and makes regular appearances at other local institutions. He also has 2 black cats that he adores name Ciara and Kyra.
Photo: Chase Henzler

Chase Henzler

Chase grew up in Williamsburg, VA. After graduating community college, he moved to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University where he graduated with a degree in Political Science with a concentration in U.S. Government. While in Richmond, Chase worked for the then Majority Leader, Delegate Herring in the House of Delegates in multiple roles both on campaign and legislative sides. In August of 2022, he moved to Santa Fe to work on Commissioner Garcia Richard's re-election campaign as her Deputy Finance Director. This past spring, Chase worked in New Mexico's House of Representatives mainly working with both the Health and Human Services Committee and Labor, Veterans' And Military Affairs Committee. Currently he works at the New Mexico State Land Office. His policy interests revolve around reforms to elections, campaigns and legislative processes. Chase has two cats and likes to go see live music. His favorite artists include Courtney Barnett and Japanese Breakfast.
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: Maggie Klug

Maggie Klug

Maggie was born and raised in Newport News, Virginia. In 2021, after two years at the University of Mary Washington, Maggie moved to Albuquerque, NM and transferred to the University of New Mexico. She graduated in 2023 with her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Psychology. Her current policy interests include social welfare policy, health, and education. In her spare time, Maggie enjoys reading, running, baking, and hiking and spending time with her two cats.
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!
Photo: Blanca Ortiz

Blanca Ortiz

Blanca was born and raised in Santa Fe, NM, and earned her Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science from Earlham College. She’s no stranger to the hardships that many individuals and families navigate in their day-to-day lives. These challenges have emboldened her to be present and active in her community. She currently works as a Site Coordinator for Communities in Schools New Mexico, where she helps to provide resources that support the betterment and quality of life of underserved communities. Blanca is passionate about education and immigration, and she hopes to explore policies intended to bridge the socioeconomic gap. She is especially interested in changes in immigration law and theory coincident with prevailing social issues
Photo: Griffin Rinehimer Woolery

Griffin Rinehimer Woolery

Griffin was raised in New Mexico; graduating from Moriarty High School in 2014 and from the University of New Mexico in 2020 with a BS in Population Health and Political Science and now working towards a Master’s of Public Policy with a minor in Public Health. Her passion for policy was unlocked during her time as a high school senior in We the People, a national constitutional competition hosted by the Center for Civic Education (Thank you for your unwavering support, Amy Page). Griffin’s policy interests are broad, seeking to understand and address structural inequities built into government processes and policy through the lens of public health. Griffin works as a Senior Project Manager for UNM’s College of Population Health managing their Academic Health Department grant. She is grateful to be back in the 505 with her husband and son after two long pandemic years spent in Nevada.
Photo: Anna Rose

Anna Rose

Anna was born and raised in rural northern Michigan and has spent her adult life living in several mid-sized American cities including Burlington VT, New Haven CT, Buffalo NY, Long Beach CA, and Albuquerque, NM. She has a BA in Sociology and has worked as a baker, preschool teacher, mental health clinician, and union representative. In her time in the labor movement, she had the great privilege to organize and learn with workers across the country in the healthcare, education, food service, and logistics sectors. Her current policy interests include labor, military and defense spending, and social welfare. She works as a Graduate Assistant for the UNM Language Learning Center. Outside of work and school, she enjoys meeting new people and spending time with her friends and family.
Photo: Erin Spurgeon

Erin Spurgeon

Erin was born in Missouri and raised in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. In 2022, she graduated from UNM with honors and received her BA in Political Science with a minor in Communications. During undergrad, she interned for Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez in her D.C. office. Currently, she works as the Digital Media Coordinator for Health Action New Mexico, a statewide health advocacy non-profit. She is interested in studying the relationship between health outcomes and income inequality, specifically in how the U.S. differs from other wealthy countries. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing tennis, and spending time with her dog — Suki.
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!


Photo: Sara Wiedmaier

Sara Wiedmaier

Sara grew up in Las Cruces, NM. She began her college studies at NMSU, where she had the opportunity to study abroad in Brazil. She interned and worked two summers at Sapphire Energy, an algae research company just outside of Las Cruces. She was selected for the Undergraduate Pipeline Network summer research program at UNM’s Health Sciences Center and interned at Intellicyt, a local biotech startup in Albuquerque. She transferred to UNM and graduated cum laude in 2016 with a BS in Biology, BA in Portuguese and minors in French and Marketing. While at UNM, Sara was among the founding members of the “UNM for Bernie” student group, which later became the Young Progressives Demanding Action group and volunteered on various local campaigns. In 2017, she was selected for the NM Legislative Internship and has worked for the Legislative Council Service since 2018. Sara has staffed various interim legislative committees, including Science and Technology; Indian Affairs; Radioactive and Hazardous Materials; and the Water and Natural Resources Committee. She has always been passionate about environmental issues and human rights. Outside of school and work, Sara enjoys rock climbing, hiking, yoga, camping and traveling. She is grateful to call New Mexico home.