Introducing the Sixth Brown in Washington Cohort

Eight Students Start New Semester with Offices and Agencies Across Washington D.C.

September 30, 2019

The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs in collaboration with the Swearer Center at Brown University, is pleased to announce the newest participants of the Brown in Washington program for the Fall 2019 semester. These eight students represent a variety of backgrounds and majors, contributing to the missions of both the Swearer Center and the Watson Institute, while providing practical experience in the public policy sphere.

The Brown in Washington program offers students a semester living and interning in Washington, D.C., working with top public and nonprofit sector agencies, while completing a full course load with Brown University faculty. Additionally, meetings with distinguished scholars, alumni, and practitioners along with visits to government agencies and organizations, including the US Department of State, the UN Foundation, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, are also part of their experience in D.C.

The Brown in Washington program is accepting applications for the Spring 2020 semester! For more information about the program and to apply, visit The priority application deadline is October 18, 2019 and the regular deadline is November 1, 2019.

About the Students

Damian Ballard is a junior concentrating in Political Science with a focus on international and comparative politics. This semester, he is interning in the Office of Senator Jack Reed (D-RI). Originally from Orange County, C.A., Damian graduated and commissioned from Valley Forge Military College as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army prior to transferring to Brown. While currently serving in the Rhode Island Army National Guard, he will transition to Active Duty following his graduation in 2020. As a student-soldier, Damian is dedicated to lessening the detrimental effects of the civilian-military divide in our national community through education and cooperative efforts. On campus, he works with the Brown University Student Veteran Society, the Brown Institute for Policy, and is currently spearheading a new group dedicated to professional leadership development. Damian is also an avid food enthusiast and amateur cook.

Maya Dayan is a sophomore student at Brown University majoring in Public Policy and Applied Math. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Maya grew up in Colorado and became a U.S. Citizen in the fall of 2017. She hopes to fulfill her civic duty through political engagement, community service, and a career in the public sector. She aims to use mathematical expertise to craft effective, progressive public policy. Maya grew up in Boulder, C.O. but spent her last two years of high school attending the Mahindra United World College in India, where she helped lead Kriya: Empowerment Through Action, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of women in rural Maharashtra. In her final year, she was a founding member of Kriya Iron, an initiative dedicated to fighting anemia in the villages surrounding her campus. Kriya Iron was a finalist 2017 Aurora Humanitarian Project. Maya has volunteered in the Providence community through the Rhode Island Urban Debate League and through Generation Citizen, both of which provide educational opportunities to public school students. She has also worked as an intern for Folio Investment for six months, focusing on Socially Responsible Investment, and plans to put this experience to use during her internship at the Rhode Island Treasury Department this summer. She will be an intern at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights this semester.

Vanessa Fajardo is a junior at Brown concentrating in Public Policy. She's originally from Miami but now resides in Dallas, Texas. Her first-generation Cuban-American and low-income background is what ultimately led her to be interested in education equity and access. Since coming to college, she has become president of Quest Scholars at Brown and the Operations and Logistics Manager at the UFLi Center. Over the summer, with the support of the superintendent, she spearheaded her high school district's first-ever College Academy, a two-week, multifaceted workshop encouraging students to expand their college search beyond the city's limits. She also interned at the Vickery Meadows Eagle Scholars Program and did research on the program's impact of various workshops and lesson plans on immigrant student achievement and engagement. Vanessa hopes to continue her work in educational access and equity through research and legislation. She will be an intern at the U.S. Department of Education this semester.

Riley Hughes is a junior at Brown University concentrating in Education Studies, focusing on policy and history. Her interest in education policy stems from her passion for politics and her time spent working with kids as a camp counselor. In 2018, Riley participated in U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin’s Chicago Summer Internship Program; her work focused on research surrounding national government types and current leadership styles at the international level. At Brown, Riley is a member of the Women’s Water Polo team, earning an All-Academic Superior award from the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches after her freshman season. Riley was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois. She will be an intern in the Office of Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) this semester.

Elaina Kim is a rising junior at Brown University. She is concentrating in East Asian Studies with a focus on Korea, and intends to also concentrate in International Relations. As an immigrant from South Korea, Elaina has been interested in learning more about how historical relations affect current national identities and foreign policies. In particular, she hopes to delve deeper into understanding both Korea’s positions in current international affairs and the role of diplomacy in them. For these goals, Elaina has deepened her fluency in Korean through her involvement in her church’s translation team and her job as an interpreter for Brown Real Estate. In order to deepen her knowledge of current affairs in East Asia, she studied abroad last summer at Yonsei University, taking classes on Asia’s nuclear policy and political economy. In order to develop her career interests in diplomacy and law, Elaina worked on interpersonal communication through her role as a Meiklejohn Peer Adviser, and during her time with Immigration Counseling Services and Girl Scout college preparation projects. Elaina enjoys reading novels and baking with friends. This semester, she is interning with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

Hans Lei is a rising junior at Brown University seeking to dual concentrate in Economics and Political Science. This semester, he is an intern at The Brookings Institution - John L. Thornton China Center. He is interested in macroeconomic policy, financial regulation, and international development. On campus, Hans is involved in the Brown Socially Responsible Investment Fund, Model United Nations, and the Brown Journal of Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He previously worked for The Millennium Project, a futurist think tank based in Washington, D.C. Hans hopes to build his career around seeing how public and private institutions work together to build markets and promote sustainable development.

Olivia Siemens is a sophomore at Brown University concentrating in Public Policy with a focus on Government, Law, and Ethics. She is passionate about constitutional law, foreign policy, and criminal justice policy, and she hopes to integrate these interests to achieve comprehensive, evidence-based criminal justice reform in the United States. Olivia has a strong background in law-oriented community service. After her first year of college, she worked at a civil litigation firm in her hometown of Santa Barbara, where she managed client communications for a mass tort case following the devastating 2017 Southern California mudflows. She is also a volunteer tutor at the Rhode Island Women’s Correctional Facility and serves as Brown’s Title IX Council undergraduate representative. Olivia is involved on campus as the Managing Editor of "The Brown Journal of World Affairs" and the Senior Editor of "Her Campus." After graduation, Olivia intends to pursue a career as a defense attorney and leading advocate for sentencing reform, nationwide re-enfranchisement, and the de-stigmatization of formerly incarcerated people. She will be an intern in the Office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) this semester.

Ronnie Strode III is a junior at Brown University concentrating in Political Science with a focus on the exploration of the criminal justice system. As a member of a bi-racial family, he is interested in observing how the criminal justice system interacts differently with minorities. He currently volunteers at the Rhode Island Public Health Institute (RIPHI) and helps conduct research on health disparities in Rhode Island. This past summer, he interned at his local courthouse, observing the duties and processes of the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney. In the future, he hopes to partner with an organization involved with prison reform and the effects of mass incarceration. As a native of the Pacific Northwest, Ronnie enjoys the outdoors. This semester, he will be interning in the Office of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA).