Institute Staff

Patricia Strach

Patricia Strach

Interim Executive Director

Patricia Strach is the interim executive director of the Rockefeller Institute and a professor in the departments of Political Science and Public Administration and Policy at the University at Albany. She is principal investigator on the Stories from Sullivan project, which examines how opioid misuse affects local communities and what local communities are doing to address it. Dr. Strach’s research examines public policy and mass politics. She is the author of Hiding Politics in Plain Sight: Cause Marketing, Corporate Influence, and Breast Cancer Policymaking (Oxford 2016), All in the Family: The Private Roots of American Public Policy (Stanford 2007), and articles appearing in Political Research Quarterly, Journal of Policy History, Polity, and American Politics Research. In 2008-2010 she was a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at Harvard University. Dr. Strach received her doctorate in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004.

[email protected]

(518) 445-4183

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Heather Trela

Heather Trela

Director of Operations, Fellow

Heather Trela oversees the day-to-day operations of the Rockefeller Institute and serves as the executive director’s primary liaison with management, staff, and other stakeholders. Her research focuses on federalism issues with an emphasis on marijuana policy. She was a doctoral candidate at, and holds a master’s degree in political science from, the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy as well as a bachelor’s in economics and political science from Hartwick College.

[email protected]

(518) 445-4178

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Katie Zuber

Katie Zuber

Assistant Director for Policy and Research, Executive Director of the Center for Law & Policy Solutions

Katie Zuber’s research examines the role of law in collective struggle, with an emphasis on legal advocacy among sexual and gender minorities. She has worked on several collaborative projects featured in Law & Society Review, Justice System Journal, Political Communication, and Journal of Political Marketing. Most recently, she has taught as a visiting professor in the Department of Political Science at Skidmore College, as well as at Union College and Vassar College. Zuber received her doctorate in political science from the University at Albany in 2017.

[email protected]

(518) 445-4168

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Brian Backstrom

Brian Backstrom

Director of Education Policy Studies

Brian Backstrom is the president of Great Schools for All Children and an independent consultant on K-12 education reform issues involving innovation, accountability, and choice. Mr. Backstrom previously served as president of the Albany-based Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability, a privately funded nonprofit policy research organization that investigated, crafted, and advocated for bold changes in the education landscape such as mayoral control of cities’ public schools, school-choice vouchers and innovative scholarship programs, state and parent takeovers of failing schools, and education tax credits. He is one of the founders and chief architects of New York’s early charter school movement, and is a principal player in some of the unique charter school efforts in the state. Mr. Backstrom is an alumnus of the University of Rochester with an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a Master of Science in Public Policy Analysis.

[email protected]

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Leigh Wedenoja

Leigh Wedenoja

Senior Policy Analyst

Leigh Wedenoja, senior policy analyst at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, specializes in the economics of education, labor economics, behavioral economics, policy analysis, and demography. Dr. Wedenoja has served as a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Education at Brown University since 2017. Prior to that, she served as administrator of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Federal Statistical Research Data Center at Cornell University. She has published “Labour Law Violations in Chile” in the journal International Labour Review as well as a series of working papers on education, labor, and behavioral economics. She holds a PhD in economics and a master’s in economics from Cornell University and a bachelor’s in economics, Latin American, and Caribbean Studies from the University of Michigan.

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Nicholas Simons

Nicholas Simons

Project Coordinator

Nicholas Simons leads the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, which aims to reduce violence involving firearms through research and analysis. He also specializes in education policy research and data visualization, writing pieces on K-12 and higher education topics for the Institute and building interactive graphics for Institute reports. He previously served as policy analyst for SUNY Central Administration’s Office of Government Relations, and as special assistant to the president at the University at Albany.

Mr. Simons received his bachelor’s in political science and master’s in public administration from the University at Albany.

[email protected]

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Jacklynn Blanchard

Jacklynn Blanchard

Graduate Research Assistant

Jacklynn Blanchard is pursuing a Master of Public Administration in nonprofit management and women & policy from Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder and graduated cum laude. Previously, she worked on President Obama’s reelection campaign as an early vote organizer; taught English and wrote restaurant reviews in Vietnam; worked as a teacher and volunteer coordinator for a nonprofit that aided people impacted by the criminal justice system; and worked as a recruiter for international schools. She is also a freelance journalist.

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Hilary Jackl

Hilary Jackl

Graduate Research Assistant

Hilary Jackl is a graduate research assistant working on the Stories from Sullivan project at the Rockefeller Institute of Government. She is a second-year doctoral student in the School of Criminal Justice at the University at Albany and previously earned a master’s in justice studies from San Jose State University and a bachelor’s in psychology from San Francisco State University. Her research interests include prisoner reentry, postsecondary correctional education, and ethnography and qualitative methods.

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Michael Cooper

Michael Cooper

Director of Publications

Michael Cooper supervises all stages of the publication process, handles desktop publishing, and exercises editorial supervision of the website operations of the Institute. Prior to joining the Institute in 1988, he was a production editor at Ziff-Davis Publications, the Association for Computing Machinery, and Simon & Schuster. Cooper is a graduate of the University at Albany.

[email protected]

(518) 445-4163

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Michele Charbonneau

Michele Charbonneau

Senior Staff Assistant for Publications

Michele Charbonneau assists in the various stages of publishing the Institute’s reports and publications including the New York State Statistical Yearbook. Michele received her bachelor’s degree at the University at Albany.

[email protected]

(518) 445-4164

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Heather Stone

Heather Stone

Senior Staff Assistant for Finance and Administration

Heather Stone is responsible for the daily management and processing of state financial transactions as well as managing personnel functions for the institute’s full-time, part-time, and temporary staff. She also serves as the institute’s facilities coordinator. Heather holds an associate degree in business administration from Hudson Valley Community College.

[email protected]

(518) 445-4165

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Rebecca De La Cruz

Rebecca De La Cruz

Administrative Staff Assistant & Events Coordinator

Rebecca De La Cruz is an administrative staff assistant at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, providing Institute staff with programmatic support and assisting the chief of staff with event planning. Prior to working for the Institute, Rebecca was the environmental program associate for Scenic Hudson where she coordinated administrative logistics for the Policy and Advocacy department while assisting her colleagues with event planning, policy research, and community outreach. Rebecca received her bachelor’s degree from SUNY New Paltz with a major in international relations and political science.

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Sabrina Evans

Sabrina Evans

Special Assistant for Administration

Sabrina Evans joined the Rockefeller Institute staff as an administrative staff assistant in the spring of 2019 after two years working in publicity at Simon & Schuster and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, trade book publishers in New York City. Sabrina graduated from Penn State University in 2016 with dual degrees in English literature and journalism. During her time at Penn State, Sabrina interned with several local and national magazines, newspapers, radio stations, and performing arts centers. She also served as the editor-in-chief of the university’s only entirely student-run life and style magazine. At the Institute, Sabrina works closely with the administrative staff and publications team.

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Monique Owens

Monique Owens

Senior Advisor to the President for Intern and Fellow Engagement

Monique Owens, a former Empire State Fellow, serves as senior advisor to the president for intern and fellow engagement at the Rockefeller Institute, helping to mentor and expand networking opportunities for current and former Empire State Fellows, student interns, and other Institute fellows.

Ms. Owens has served as a legislative aide for the City of Buffalo Common Council, government affairs associate at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, community advocate at the Long Island Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House, and as a documentation and learning specialist at Open Buffalo, a nonprofit organization dedicated to social and economic justice.

She was awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, the Buffalo State Diversity Fellowship, and was inducted into Pi Alpha Alpha, the global honor society for public affairs and administration. She has presented research evaluating the extent of third-sector participation in emergency management planning and presented her findings at the annual conference of the American Society for Public Administration.

Ms. Owens has served as a committee member for the Erie County Democratic Party and as committee member of the Miss Borinquen Leadership Development Program, an initiative to empower Latina youth to become leaders in their communities. She holds a bachelor’s in international studies and global gender studies from the University at Buffalo and an master of public administration from Buffalo State.

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Alexander Morse

Alexander Morse

Policy Analyst and Special Assistant to Communications

Alexander Morse is a policy analyst at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, specializing in energy and environmental research. He is also the host of “Policy Outsider,” the Institute’s public policy podcast. He received his master of public administration in policy analysis and public finance from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and holds a bachelor of arts in history from the University at Albany. He previously served as a communications coordinator for the New York State Assembly, assisting various Assemblymembers across the state, preparing and implementing comprehensive legislative curricula and strategic communications plans.

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Malvin Lumpkin

Malvin Lumpkin

General Mechanic

Malvin Lumpkin is responsible for the daily maintenance of the Institute’s three historic buildings. Prior to his appointment at the Institute, Lumpkin developed skills serving as a locksmith, driver, and carpenter during his decades of service at SUNY System Administration.

[email protected]

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Nitin Londey

Nitin Londey

Student Assistant

Nitin Londey is a student assistant at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, where he helps maintain, enhance, and develop new tools for the Institute’s website. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in computer science at the University at Albany. He has experience working in Java, C++, and many related technologies.

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Center for Law & Policy Solutions

Katie Zuber

Katie Zuber

Assistant Director for Policy and Research, Executive Director of the Center for Law & Policy Solutions

Katie Zuber’s research examines the role of law in collective struggle, with an emphasis on legal advocacy among sexual and gender minorities. She has worked on several collaborative projects featured in Law & Society Review, Justice System Journal, Political Communication, and Journal of Political Marketing. Most recently, she has taught as a visiting professor in the Department of Political Science at Skidmore College, as well as at Union College and Vassar College. Zuber received her doctorate in political science from the University at Albany in 2017.

[email protected]

(518) 445-4168

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Scott Fein

Scott Fein

Fellow, Senior Advisor for the Center for Law & Policy Solutions

Scott Fein served as an assistant counsel to New York State Governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo and before that as a prosecutor. He currently serves as chair of the board of advisors of the Government Law Center of Albany Law School, a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Public Authority Reform, senior advisor to the Center for Law & Policy Solutions at the Rockefeller Institute, counsel to the New York State Archives Trust, chair of the State Bar Association’s annual program in Albany on Ethics and Civility, and previously, as the Chief Judge’s appointment to the New York State Permanent Commission on Sentencing. He has contributed to and edited numerous publications about state government, including, “Making of a Modern Constitution: The Prospects for Constitutional Reform in New York State,” “Protections in the New York State Constitution Beyond the Federal Bill of Rights,” “Rural Justice in New York State: Challenges and Recommendations,” “ New York: A Laboratory for Innovative Public Policy,” and, to be published this spring, “Upon Arriving in America: Legal Issues in Immigration.” Scott received his law degree from Georgetown Law School and Master’s in Law Degree from New York University Law School. He is a partner at Whiteman Osterman and Hanna.

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Swati Desai

Swati Desai

Senior Fellow

Senior Fellow Swati Desai is also an affiliated scholar with the Urban Institute. She has previously been associate professor of practice at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, and executive deputy commissioner for the Office of Evaluation and Research and Data Reporting at New York City’s Human Resources Administration. During her extensive service at the HRA, she developed its performance management system, the first in social services, particularly for the city’s Job Centers and employment contracts. Her research and evaluation have covered topics related to low-income programs, and how data on those programs is used, especially in New York City.

[email protected]

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Elizabeth Pérez-Chiqués

Elizabeth Pérez-Chiqués

Visiting Fellow

Elizabeth Pérez-Chiqués is an instrumental part of the Rockefeller Institute’s research team studying the opioid epidemic in New York’s rural Sullivan County. She is trained in qualitative methods and ethnography. Pérez-Chiqués is the co-founder of ABRE Puerto Rico, a nonprofit organization that specializes in government transparency and civic technology. Prior to returning to graduate school, she was the deputy administrator for prevention and community services in Puerto Rico. She holds a doctorate in public administration and policy from the University at Albany, and a bachelor of arts and master of public policy from the University of Chicago.

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Jeremy Creelan

Jeremy Creelan

Visiting Fellow

As a visiting fellow of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, Jeremy M. Creelan focuses on reform and social justice issues. Creelan is currently a partner at the law firm Jenner & Block, where he focuses on complex commercial litigation and government controversies and public policy litigation practices. In 2014, he was appointed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo as co-chair of the Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice to develop recommendations and plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State and implement additional reforms to the juvenile justice system. Prior to rejoining Jenner & Block, he served as special counsel for public integrity and ethics reform and then as special counsel to Governor Cuomo, as well as deputy director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Creelan has authored significant reform legislation for the State of New York, prosecuted numerous voting rights cases and co-authored a landmark, comprehensive study of New York State’s legislative process. In addition, Creelan has served as an adjunct professor at the NYU School of Law from 2005 to 2007, where he taught election law. He is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School.

[email protected]

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Joe Popcun

Joe Popcun

Visiting Fellow

Joe Popcun oversees the New York State’s criminal justice, corrections and victim assistance agencies. He also contributes to the development of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s public safety agenda, maintains contact with stakeholder and constituency groups, and participates in budget negotiations.

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Trevor Craft

Trevor Craft

Center for Law & Policy Solutions Research Intern

Trevor Craft is a University at Albany public policy and administration major with a concentration in health and human services. After completing his associate’s degree at Hudson Valley Community College, he spent two years managing an online retail website before returning to UAlbany to complete his bachelor’s degree. At Hudson Valley Community College, he was awarded a Department of History, Philosophy, and Social Science Award for Excellence in Academic Writing.

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Nicholas Gonzalez

Nicholas Gonzalez

Center for Law & Policy Solutions Research Intern

Nicholas Gonzalez is a University at Albany senior majoring in political science with a concentration in public law and a minor in communications. Gonzalez serves as a Purple & Gold Student Ambassador for the University at Albany, ethics chairman of the Student Association Senate, and a tour guide for Undergraduate Admissions. Gonzalez previously interned at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the New York State Senate for Senator Leroy Comrie, and Cooley LLP.

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Kevin Kelleher

Kevin Kelleher

Center for Law & Policy Solutions Research Intern

Kevin Kelleher is a University at Albany junior majoring in political science with a concentration in public law. Prior to joining the Center for Law & Policy Solutions, he interned for the Queens County Criminal Court, which sparked his interest in the study of law. As a three-time member of the Dean’s List of Distinguished Students, he has completed courses in American politics, the philosophy of law, and race, law and society. Outside the classroom, Kelleher participates in Club Baseball and is a member of UAlbany Campus Recreation.

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Myckelia Rose

Myckelia Rose

Center for Law & Policy Solutions Research Intern

Myckelia Rose is a University at Albany senior majoring in public policy with a concentration in law, civil rights, gender, race, and society. Prior to transferring to UAlbany, Rose worked as a resident assistant and community advisor at Onondaga Community College, where she organized programs on career development and promoted community involvement in the downtown Syracuse area. An active member of UAlbany’s student body, she has volunteered for the Poor People’s Campaign, and became a member of the Albany State University Black Alliance.

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Ofu Takor

Ofu Takor

Center for Law & Policy Solutions Research Intern

Ofu Takor is a University at Albany senior majoring in political science with an American politics concentration and a double minor in journalism and French. She has previously interned in the Albany office of Assemblyman Robin Schimminger of the 140th District in Buffalo, as well as the National Women’s Law Center in Washington D.C. Deeply committed to the study of human rights, she has served as president of SUNY Albany’s Chapter of Amnesty International for the past three years.

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Education

Brian Backstrom

Brian Backstrom

Director of Education Policy Studies

Brian Backstrom is the president of Great Schools for All Children and an independent consultant on K-12 education reform issues involving innovation, accountability, and choice. Mr. Backstrom previously served as president of the Albany-based Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability, a privately funded nonprofit policy research organization that investigated, crafted, and advocated for bold changes in the education landscape such as mayoral control of cities’ public schools, school-choice vouchers and innovative scholarship programs, state and parent takeovers of failing schools, and education tax credits. He is one of the founders and chief architects of New York’s early charter school movement, and is a principal player in some of the unique charter school efforts in the state. Mr. Backstrom is an alumnus of the University of Rochester with an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a Master of Science in Public Policy Analysis.

[email protected]

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Alan Wagner

Alan Wagner

Deputy Director of Education Policy Studies

In addition to serving as Deputy Director of Education Policy Studies at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, Dr. Alan P. Wagner is a professor in the Department of Educational Policy & Leadership at the University at Albany. An economist with broad interests in education policy in the U.S. and abroad, Wagner’s most recent work concerns higher education and workforce development. Professor Wagner previously held a senior position in the Directorate for Education, Employment, Labor and Social Affairs at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and was on the faculty at Purdue University. Wagner currently serves on the boards of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems and the Greater Capital Region Principals’ Center. He received his A.B. from the University of Michigan and his master’s and doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, all in economics.

[email protected]

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Tom Gais

Tom Gais

Senior Fellow

Since coming to the Rockefeller Institute in 1994, Gais has served as director, co-director, senior fellow, and fellow. His research focuses include:

  • American federalism, particularly the implementation of national social and health initiatives by state governments
  • the dynamics of state spending on social programs and relationships to changing needs
  • the role of analysis and experimentation in the routine operations of government
  • the comparative effectiveness of faith-based social service organizations
  • performance measurement and management
  • nonprofit social service organizations and their relations with governments
  • campaign finance reforms and their effects
  • state constitutional reforms
  • interest group formation, maintenance, and strategies

Gais has taught at Barnard College, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan. He received his doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

[email protected]

(518) 445-4159

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Jennifer Laursen

Jennifer Laursen

Senior Fellow for Arts and Humanities Policy

Jennifer Laursen is senior fellow for arts and humanities policy at the Rockefeller Institute, where she develops and implements SUNY system-wide arts initiatives. Prior to joining the Institute, Jennifer was co-founder and director of Chamber Music Abu Dhabi, a UAE-based organization which partners with universities and schools to present concerts and art collaborations. She co-founded the North Carolina-based Mallarmé Youth Chamber Orchestra (MYCO)  and was president of the board of the Durham Youth Orchestras in Durham, North Carolina. She has taught biology and developed science curriculum at the junior college and university levels and conducted research in ecology and molecular biology. She holds a bachelor’s in science education from Oregon State University and a master’s in biology from Cal State Hayward (East Bay).

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Bruce Johnstone

Bruce Johnstone

Senior Fellow

D. Bruce Johnstone is Distinguished Service Professor of Higher and Comparative Education Emeritus at the State University of New York at Buffalo, former director of the International Comparative Higher Education Finance and Accessibility Project, and an associate of the Rockefeller Institute of Government. His principal scholarship is in higher education finance, governance, and policy formation in domestic and international contexts. He has led World Bank studies in Morocco, Romania, Kenya, and the East Caribbean Sates and has conducted conferences on cost-sharing in Tanzania, Kenya, the Czech Republic, Russia, and China. Johnstone has held posts of vice president for administration at the University of Pennsylvania, president of the State University College at Buffalo, and chancellor of the State University of New York system, the latter from 1988 to 1994. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard and a doctorate from the University of Minnesota.

[email protected]

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Patrick McGuinn

Patrick McGuinn

Fellow

Dr. McGuinn is a professor of political science and education at Drew University and a senior research specialist at the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. He holds a doctorate in government and a Master of Education in Education Policy from the University of Virginia. He has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University, and the Miller Center for Public Affairs. His first book, “No Child Left Behind and the Transformation of Federal Education Policy,” was honored as a Choice outstanding academic title. He is a regular commentator on education policy and politics in media outlets and was recognized as one of the nation’s top Edu-Scholars by Education Week for the past seven years. His work at the Rockefeller Institute focuses on the intersection of politics, governance, and public policy in K-12 and higher education.

[email protected]

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Amalia Dache

Amalia Dache

Richard P. Nathan Public Policy Fellow

Dr. Amalia Dache is an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, Dr. Dache was an Afro-Cuban American scholar and assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri. Her experiences as a former Cuban refugee and student traversing U.S. educational systems, such as urban K-12 schools, community college, state college, and a private research-intensive university inform her research and professional experiences. She earned her Ph.D. from University of Rochester’s Margaret Warner School of Education. Dr. Dache plans to use the fellowship to work closely with local governments in Rochester and other western New York cities with similar racial and economic demographics to share and publish geographic data on racial, transit, and economic factors inhibiting access to local postsecondary education.

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Michael W. Klein

Michael W. Klein

Richard P. Nathan Public Policy Fellow

Dr. Michael W. Klein is an associate member of Rutgers University Ph.D. in Higher Education Program Faculty. Previously, he was a research associate for the Office of the Provost and interim executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. Before joining the Hughes Center, Dr. Klein served as the executive director of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities (NJASCU), a nonprofit advocacy organization for New Jersey’s state colleges and universities, from 2012 to 2017. He served as NJASCU’s director of government and legal affairs between 1998 and 2011. Upon his departure from NJASCU, he was presented with a Joint Legislative Resolution from the members of the Senate and Assembly Higher Education Committees, commending his service to public higher education in New Jersey. As a Nathan Fellow, Dr. Klein will advance his research on the affordability and accessibility of higher education.

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Fiscal Analysis

Laura Schultz

Laura Schultz

Director of Fiscal Analysis & Senior Economist

Dr. Laura Schultz has an extensive research portfolio studying how innovation creates economic opportunity. While at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, she developed measures used to assess levels of innovation in the US economy and their contribution to gross domestic product. As a faculty member at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, she worked with collegiate entrepreneurs as a commercialization adviser to guide them through the early stages of validation and venture formation. She has studied how university and state policies can foster or hinder an entrepreneurial ecosystem. At the Rockefeller Institute, she explores how state and local governments can support innovation and generate economic growth. As director of fiscal analysis, Dr. Schultz evaluates the fiscal and economic impacts of federal, state, and local policies and emerging economic trends. She is working to develop new channels to communicate her team’s research findings to a broader audience through blog posts, interactive data visualization tools, and podcasts.

[email protected]

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Michelle Cummings

Michelle Cummings

Fiscal Policy Analyst

Michelle Cummings is a fiscal policy analyst at the Rockefeller Institute of Government. Among other important roles, Michelle has served as the deputy commissioner and director of tax and fiscal studies at the New York Department of Taxation & Finance/Office of Tax Policy Analysis. She is also an adjunct in the University at Albany Department of Economics, specializing in state and local finance, and public finance. She has taught at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs, as well as Union College.  

She holds a master’s in economics from the University at Albany and a bachelor of science in business from the State University of New York at Fredonia.

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Jim DeWan

Jim DeWan

Visiting Fellow

Jim DeWan is the Assistant Director of the Policy Analysis and Strategic Planning Unit of the Employee Benefits Division at the New York State Department of Civil Service. At the Department of Civil Service, he develops policy alternatives for the New York State Health Insurance Program to ensure compliance with state and federal laws and improve health outcomes for the program’s 1.2 million enrollees. Prior to joining the Department of Civil Service, Jim worked for the New York State Executive Chamber and the Division of the Budget. In those positions, he worked on the publication of the February 2013 Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission Report and the enactment of various pieces of legislation, including the “Tier 5” and “Tier 6” pension reform bills and the New York State real property tax cap law. Jim holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship at Syracuse University.

[email protected]

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Remaz Omer

Remaz Omer

Summer Policy Scholar

Remaz Omer is a University at Albany senior, double majoring in globalization and political science with a global politics concentration. Prior to joining the Rockefeller Institute of Government, she interned with the SUNY Center for International Development, as well as the New York State Division of Human Rights. As an active member of her faith community, she has volunteered as a youth mentor and community organizer. Throughout her undergraduate studies, Omer has developed a deep interest in minority politics and human rights. She is a Delta Theta Sigma Scholar.

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Modina Jackson

Modina Jackson

Summer Policy Scholar

Modina Jackson is a senior at the University at Albany, double majoring in economics and English. Modina is currently a part of the Civic Engagement Committee in the NAACP’s UAlbany chapter where she focuses on voter registration, as well as building a bridge between the UAlbany students and the community. Before transferring to the University at Albany, Modina studied at SUNY Geneseo, where she was the vice president for Habitat for Humanity Geneseo and assisted in building homes for the homeless. Modina continued that path in Albany and began working for the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless. Modina also interned at the Bozeman Law, PLLC, where she shadowed a family attorney and exposed to New York City Housing and Family Court procedures, dealings, and regulations.

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Lauren Hufnagel

Lauren Hufnagel

Summer Policy Scholar

Lauren Hufnagel is a University at Albany senior majoring in public policy with a concentration in finance. She also has minors in economics and history. Currently enrolled in the BA/MPA program at Rockefeller College, Lauren plans to get her JD at Albany Law School.

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Health

Tom Gais

Tom Gais

Senior Fellow

Since coming to the Rockefeller Institute in 1994, Gais has served as director, co-director, senior fellow, and fellow. His research focuses include:

  • American federalism, particularly the implementation of national social and health initiatives by state governments
  • the dynamics of state spending on social programs and relationships to changing needs
  • the role of analysis and experimentation in the routine operations of government
  • the comparative effectiveness of faith-based social service organizations
  • performance measurement and management
  • nonprofit social service organizations and their relations with governments
  • campaign finance reforms and their effects
  • state constitutional reforms
  • interest group formation, maintenance, and strategies

Gais has taught at Barnard College, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan. He received his doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

[email protected]

(518) 445-4159

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John Kaelin

John Kaelin

Visiting Fellow

John J. Kaelin has diverse executive-level experience in the health care industry spanning government, academia, U.S.-based health insurers, and health systems in the Middle East. He has held senior executive positions in three major health insurers (UnitedHealthcare, CareFirst, and currently Centene Corporation) and has worked closely with states and the federal government on the implementation of risk adjusted payments in publicly financed insurance programs, Medicaid financing, and state health reform initiatives. In addition, John has been focused on the intersection of health financing and public policy including extensive work with states on Medicaid and the coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In 2014, he spent the year living in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where he served as a special adviser to the government on the implementation of a mandatory health insurance system.

From 1998 to 2003, Kaelin served as the executive director of a health policy and research institute at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he supported the state of Maryland’s policy development for health finance and public health, as well as research for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Kaelin has held senior positions in New York State government in both the Budget Division and Health Department, where as director of Managed Care Financing, he led the team that developed the financing models for the state’s first Medicaid managed care waiver in 1997.

[email protected]

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Michael K. Gusmano

Michael K. Gusmano

Visiting Fellow

Michael K. Gusmano is a visiting fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government and an associate professor in the Department of Health Systems and Policy at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Dr. Gusmano is also a research scholar at the Hastings Center. His research examines the politics of health and social policy in the U.S. In addition, he co-directs the World Cities Project, which compares large city health systems across the world. He is the author of “Health Care in World Cities: New York, London and Paris” (With Victor G. Rodwin and Daniel Weisz; Johns Hopkins University Press 2010), “Healthy Voices/Unhealthy Silence” (with Colleen Grogan; Georgetown University Press 2007), and “Growing Older in World Cities” (with Victor G. Rodwin; Vanderbilt University Press, 2006). In 1995-1997 he was a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at Yale University. Gusmano received his doctorate in political science from the University of Maryland College Park in 1995.

[email protected]

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Tara Watson

Tara Watson

Richard P. Nathan Public Policy Fellow

Dr. Tara Watson is a professor of Economics and chair of the Public Health program at Williams College. As an applied microeconomist focused on U.S. social policy, Dr. Watson will focus her fellowship research on the U.S. social safety net and its implementation in New York State. Before graduate school, Dr. Watson worked at the Brookings Institution, studied health policy with a postdoctoral Robert Wood Johnson Fellowship in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan from 2007 to 2009, and spent a year as a visiting scholar at the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. She has also served as deputy assistant secretary for microeconomic analysis in the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Economic Policy in 2015 to 2016.

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Ricardo Azziz

Ricardo Azziz

Fellow

Ricardo Azziz is an educator-scientist-physician-executive with over 20 years of leadership experience in higher education, research, and academic healthcare. Dr. Azziz is a recognized authority in mergers and other major organizational changes in higher education. He is also a long-term champion for faculty and leadership development, and enhanced diversity and inclusion, in academics.

Dr. Azziz serves as the Chief Officer of Academic Health and Hospital Affairs for the State University of New York (SUNY), providing support, strategic oversight, guidance, and advocacy for the educational, research and clinical programs within the SUNY academic health and health professions portfolio. He also serves as Director of the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute.

Dr. Azziz previously served as founding President of Georgia Regents University (GRU), one of four comprehensive public research universities in Georgia, and founding CEO of the Georgia Regents Health System (GRHS, now Augusta University Health System). He also served as president of the Georgia Health Sciences University (GHSU) and was tasked then with creating the state’s only public academic health center, now including GRHS. He was then tapped to lead the successful consolidation of GHSU and Augusta State University to create GRU.

Dr. Azziz  is also an internationally recognized clinical translational scientist, developing over the past 25 years an important program in androgen excess disorders research, and publishing over 500 peer-reviewed articles, reviews, and chapters and nine textbooks; and an accomplished visual artist.

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Local Government

Greg Rabb

Greg Rabb

Richard P. Nathan Public Policy Fellow

Dr. Gregory Rabb is a professor of Political Science at Jamestown Community College. He is a national mentor and consultant to the College in Advance Placement U.S. and Comparative Government and Politics. He is also an adjunct lecturer in political science at Buffalo State College. Outside of campus, Dr. Rabb has been president and councilman at large of the Jamestown City Council since 2008, a city of Jamestown marriage officer since 2011, and he was delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention from New York’s U.S. House District 27. Dr. Rabb’s fellowship research will take an in-depth look at 10 representative small cities in New York State to examine conditions that led to fiscal stress in 2018, and how these cities have coped, with recommendations for short-, middle-, and long-term policy solutions.

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Gerald Benjamin

Gerald Benjamin

Senior Visiting Fellow

Gerald Benjamin is the associate vice president for regional engagement and director of The Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz. Dr. Benjamin also served as chair of the Department of Political Science and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He has written and commented extensively on state and local government and regional governance with a special emphasis on New York. He is also former director of NY State and Local Studies at the Rockefeller Institute.

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Lisa Parshall

Lisa Parshall

Fellow

Dr. Parshall is an associate professor of political science at Daemen College in Amherst, New York, specializing in American politics, public law, and public policy. She currently serves as the chair of the State and Local Politics Section of the New York State Political Science Association and as second vice president of the Northeastern Political Science Association. Dr. Parshall’s research interest is in municipal development and reorganization in New York State. Her work with the Rockefeller Institute focuses on the fiscal stressors underlying the village dissolution movement, the effects of state processes and incentives, the role of evidence-based studies in the statewide dissolution debate, and an analysis of the post-dissolution fiscal impact for the merged communities.

[email protected]

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Board of Advisors

Jim Malatras

Chair

President - SUNY Empire State College

Jim Malatras is president of SUNY Empire State College. As president of the Rockefeller Institute of Government from February 2017 to July 2019, he led the Institute’s modernization effort to offer policymakers evidence-based policy analysis and recommendations on timely topics. Prior to that, Dr. Malatras held several high-ranking positions in New York State government, including director of state operations to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, where he managed the day-to-day operation of state government and served as the administration’s point person on policy. He previously served as deputy secretary for policy management to Governor Cuomo and as deputy director of policy on Governor Cuomo’s successful campaign for governor. An education policy expert, Dr. Malatras served as the executive director of the governor’s New NY Education Reform Commission from 2012-2014. Dr. Malatras also previously served as executive directive of legislative affairs and state policy to Attorney General Cuomo and legislative director to former assemblyman and current Rockefeller Institute board member, Richard L. Brodsky. Dr. Malatras received his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate in political science from the University at Albany.

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Richard Brodsky

Senior Fellow - Demos and NYU Wagner

Richard Brodsky is a senior fellow at Demos and NYU Wagner. He previously served 14 terms in the New York State Assembly where he chaired the Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions.

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Donald Blinken

Former Chair - State University of New York Board of Trustees

Donald Blinken served as chair of the SUNY Board of Trustees from 1978 to 1990, and as the U.S. ambassador to Hungary from 1994 to 1998. Ambassador Blinken was formerly president of the Mark Rothko Foundation, president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and served on the Board of the New York Public Library. He co-founded the investment and venture capital firm of E.M. Warbug, Pincus & Co.

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Dall Forsythe

Adjunct Professor of Finance - NYU Wagner

Dall Forsythe is an adjunct professor of finance at NYU Wagner. He previously held faculty positions at Columbia University, the Kennedy School at Harvard, the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College (CUNY), and the University of Albany (when he was also a senior fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government). Dr. Forsythe served as the budget director for the State of New York and for the New York City . Board of Education as well as the managing director in Lehman Brother’s public finance department.

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Elizabeth Garvey

Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs and General Counsel - The State University of New York

Elizabeth Garvey, J.D., was appointed vice chancellor for legal affairs and general counsel in January 2018. In this role, she serves on the Chancellor’s Cabinet as the legal adviser to the State University of New York (SUNY) System Administration and provides legal advice and opinions for the board of trustees, chancellor, and leadership.

Ms. Garvey brings more than 13 years of public service experience to SUNY System Administration. Most recently, she served as lead counsel for the New York State Senate Majority, managing the team of legal and support staff responsible for the legal and policy review of all legislation before the Senate.

Prior to that, she served as first assistant counsel to the majority for the New York State Senate, and also held the roles of assistant counsel to the majority for the New York State Senate, and was a Richard A. Weibe Fellow for the New York State Senate Graduate Fellowship Program.

In addition to her experience with the New York State Senate, Garvey worked as an associate for Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman, and Dicker, LLP.

Garvey earned a B.A. in Communication, cum laude, from Mary Baldwin College and a J.D., cum laude, from Albany Law School of Union University.

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Kathryn Haslanger

CEO - Jewish Association Serving the Aging

Kathryn Haslanger is the chief executive officer of the Jewish Association Serving the Aging. Ms. Haslanger has served previously as a senior vice president, community benefit and external affairs, of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and as vice president for health policy at the United Hospital Fund. She was the deputy commissioner at the Human Resources Administration in New York City.

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Carol Kellermann

President, 2008-2018 - Citizens Budget Commission

Carol Kellermann served as president of Citizens Budget Commission, the leading nonpartisan nonprofit research organization in New York on city and state fiscal issues, from 2008 to 2018. As an experienced nonprofit leader and consultant, she focuses on solving problems for organizations and people that contribute to the vitality and stability of New York City and  New York State.

Prior to leading CBC, Kellermann served from 2002 to 2006 as chief executive of the September 11th Fund, a $500+ million charitable fund created by the New York Community Trust and United Way of New York City to provide assistance to victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks; as chief executive of Learning Leaders, the oldest school volunteer program in the country, with a corps of 10,000+ volunteers in NYC public schools; and as executive director of The Leonard N. Stern Foundation, where she administered all grant-making and technical assistance activities for the private foundation and reorganized Homes for the Homeless, a $30 million+ provider of transitional housing in New York City.

Kellermann has additionally served as a principal for Podesta Group, Inc., chief of staff for Congressman Charles E. Schumer, and held several executive positions in New York City government. She has served on the boards of America’s Public Television Stations, The September 11th Fund, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Homes for the Homeless, and Council of Advocates, Planned Parenthood of New York City.

She holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. from Harvard College.

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Tod A. Laursen

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor - The State University of New York

Tod A. Laursen is the senior vice chancellor and provost of the State University of New York (SUNY), a post he assumed in September of 2018. Dr. Laursen joined SUNY from Khalifa University (KU) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where he was the founding president and served as its leader since 2010. In February of 2017, KU as it exists today was formed by the merger of three Abu Dhabi higher education institutions: Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (KUSTAR), the Masdar Institute, and the Petroleum Institute. Dr. Laursen had served as the president of KUSTAR for the first seven years of his tenure in Abu Dhabi, and was named leader of the merged institution subsequently.

Prior to becoming president of Khalifa University, Dr. Laursen was a member of the faculty of Duke University (USA), between the years of 1992 and 2010, during which time he had appointments in civil engineering, biomedical engineering, and mechanical engineering. He served as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from 2008-2010, and served as senior associate dean for education in the Pratt School of Engineering from 2003-2008. In the latter capacity, he had oversight responsibility for all undergraduate and graduate engineering programs at Duke.

Dr. Laursen earned his Ph.D. and M.Sc. postgraduate degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University and a B.Sc. in the same subject from Oregon State University. He specializes in computational mechanics, a subfield of engineering mechanics concerned with development of new computational algorithms and tools used by engineers to analyze mechanical and structural systems. He has published over 100 refereed articles, book chapters, and abstracts, and has authored or co-edited two books. His particular focus is development of methods to analyze contact, impact and frictional phenomena, in highly nonlinear and complex systems.

He is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the International Association of Computational Mechanics, and the United States Association for Computational Mechanics. He also holds memberships in the American Society for Engineering Education and Tau Beta Pi. He served as an at-large member of the Executive Committee for the United States Association for Computational Mechanics between 2007 and 2010, and currently services as a member of the Executive Council of the International Association for Computational Mechanics (until 2020). Additionally, he has served on the scientific advisory committees of several of the most important national and international congresses in computational mechanics.

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H. Carl McCall

Chair Emeritus - The State University of New York

H. Carl McCall served as chairman of the State University of New York Board of Trustees from 2011 through 2019. He first joined the board as a member on October 22, 2007. He is currently an author in residence at the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

Mr. McCall served as Comptroller of the State of New York from May 1993 to December 2002. As Chief Fiscal Officer of the State, he was responsible for governmental and financial oversight and pension fund management.  As sole Trustee of the 880,000-member State and Local Retirement Systems, Mr. McCall was responsible for investing a pension fund valued at $120 billion.

Mr. McCall has had a distinguished career as a public servant. He served three terms as a New York State Senator representing the upper Manhattan district of New York City; as an Ambassador to the United Nations; as a Commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and as the Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights.

Mr. McCall has been a passionate advocate for public education. He served as President of the New York City Board of Education from 1991 – 1993, where he set policy for the largest school system in the nation and as the Chairman of the Public Higher Education Conference Board, a coalition of 14 member organization which supports a strong and vibrant public higher education system in New York State.

He has also been active in the private sector; he served as a Vice President of Citibank and as Corporate Director of the New York Stock Exchange, Tyco International, New Plan Realty Corporation and Ariel Investment.

He was educated at Dartmouth College, Andover Newton Theological Seminary and the University of Edinburgh. He is the recipient of nine honorary degrees.

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Robert Megna

Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer - The State University of New York

Robert Megna was appointed senior vice chancellor and chief operating officer of the State University of New York in November 2017. In this role, he oversees the operations of chief information officer, the State University of New York (SUNY) Plaza business functions, capital facilities, campus energy management, and the Charter School Institute. In total, he is responsible for some of SUNY’s most significant economic development and administrative functions, helping grow a more sustainable and collaborative SUNY.

Mr. Megna has spent nearly three decades in public service leadership with a focus on creating long-term policy and strategic initiatives related to business, finance, and facilities. He joined SUNY System Administration from Stony Brook University where he served as senior vice president for finance and administration. In this role, he oversaw all administrative, business, and facility areas including human resources, internal audit, police and emergency management, design and construction, environmental health and safety, and parking and transportation. Prior to joining Stony Brook, he served as executive director of the NYS Thruway Authority and NYS Canal Corporation, overseeing operations and finances of both organizations.

In addition to these roles, he served as budget director for the NYS Division of the Budget, during which time the state achieved its highest financial rating in 40 years from three major credit rating agencies and passed four on-time budgets for the first time since the 1970s, showing his ability to improve both fiscal operations and relationships across highly complex organizations. While serving in this role, he also chaired multiple governmental boards including the Financial Restructuring Board, the New York Racing Association, and the Public Authorities Control Board.

Other highlights of Mr. Megna’s career include serving as commissioner for NYS Taxation and Finance where he was responsible for the collection of $90 billion in state and local taxes. He has also served as director of the Revenue and Economics Unit at the NYS Division of Budget, assistant commissioner of the Office of Tax Policy at the Virginia Department of Taxation, director of tax studies at the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance, and deputy director of fiscal studies on the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

Mr. Megna earned an M.S. in Economics from the London School of Economic and Political Science at the University of London, and received both his B.A. in Economics and M.P.A. from Fordham University.

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Rossana Rosado

Secretary of State - New York State Department of State

From becoming the first woman to serve as editor and publisher of the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the country, to championing prisoner re-entry initiatives, to her work as an award-winning producer, Rossana Rosado brings a depth and diversity of experience as New York Secretary of State. Governor Cuomo appointed Secretary Rosado to the position on February 3, 2016 and she was unanimously confirmed by the New York State Senate on June 15, 2016. Her leadership has helped make the Department of State one of the most dynamic agencies in State government.

Secretary Rosado is best known for her successful tenure as the publisher & CEO of El Diario La Prensa, where she spent 18 years, overseeing more than $22 million in annual revenue. Whether it’s women’s empowerment, the re-entry and reintegration of prisoners into society, or a fairer and more humane immigration policy,

Secretary Rosado advocated in the paper’s editorial pages for advancement on issues affecting a wide array of New Yorkers. She solidified the paper, and herself, as influential leaders for social and economic justice. During her 30-year media career, Secretary Rosado earned an Emmy Award, a STAR Award from the NY Women’s Agenda, and a Peabody Award for Journalism.

Secretary Rosado is equally accomplished in her roles in public service. She served on the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey from 2012 to 2015 and was recently reappointed to that role in 2017. Secretary Rosado was a distinguished lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice prior to joining the Cuomo administration, and has been a member of the College’s Foundation Board of Trustees since 2012. She has served as an advisor to elected officials on their transition teams at the highest levels in the City and State.

Along with her roles in business and public service, Secretary Rosado has been personally involved in issues with respect to prisoner re-entry. She chairs Governor Cuomo’s Council on Community Re-entry and Reintegration of New Yorkers returning from prison and served on Governor David Paterson’s Task Force on Juvenile Justice. She has taught at Sing Sing and Otisville Correctional Facilities in New York State.

A native New Yorker, Secretary Rosado received her B.A. in Journalism from Pace University.

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James R. Tallon, Jr.

Former President - United Hospital Fund of New York

James R. Tallon, Jr., a nationally recognized health care policy leader, was president of the United Hospital Fund of New York from 1993-2017. He previously served as a member of the New York State Board of Regents, headed the Health Care Policy Advisory Committee during the gubernatorial transition period in 2006, and is a former member of the boards of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the New York Academy of Medicine, and the Center for Health Policy Development. He has held visiting lecturer appointments at the Columbia University and Harvard University schools of public health. Mr. Tallon represented Binghamton and parts of Broome County in the New York State Assembly for 19 years beginning in 1975.

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Henry Louis Taylor, Jr.

Founding Director - University at Buffalo Center for Urban Studies

Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., is the founding director of the University at Buffalo Center for Urban Studies and is a full professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the School of Architecture and Planning. Dr. Taylor is also the coordinator of the department Community Development and Urban Management Specialization.

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Randolph F. Treece

Magistrate Judge - United States District Court for the Northern District of New York

Randolph F. Treece was appointed magistrate judge to the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York in 2001. Mr. Treece is the first African-American to be appointed to the federal judiciary in the Northern District of New York and the first person of color to be appointed or elected to the judiciary at any level, state or federal, in 104 years in eastern, upstate New York. Prior to his appointment as magistrate judge, Mr. Treece served as counsel to the Office of the State Comptroller in H. Carl McCall’s administration and directed and coordinated all aspects of the Division of Legal Services in accordance with the comptroller’s overall goals, objectives, and philosophy. He earned a Juris Doctorate from Albany Law School in 1976 and promptly commenced a private practice, specializing in criminal law and litigation. Mr. Treece will also serve as an advisory member of the Institute’s (yet to be announced) new Center for Law and Policy.

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Cynthia Rivera Weissblum

President and CEO - Edwin Gould Foundation

Cynthia Rivera Weissblum is the president and CEO of the Edwin Gould Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, Ms. Rivera Weissblum served as CEO of Results Collaborative Group, Ltd., a consulting firm dedicated to effective philanthropy and program development. She served as CEO of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), one of New York City’s first mentoring and college preparatory programs for underserved high school students and as director of the New York State Mentoring Program.

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