Empire State Fellows Program

The Empire State Fellows program of the New York State Department of State, which includes an educational component developed and administered by the Rockefeller Institute, is a full-time, two-year leadership training program aimed at preparing the next generation of talented professionals for careers as New York State policymakers.

Engagement in the work of New York State government lies at the heart of the Empire State Fellows Program. Governor Andrew Cuomo appoints each Empire Fellow to work directly with a Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, or other high-level policy maker. Each Empire Fellow works at a state office or agency, such as the Empire State Development Corporation, the Department of State, the Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Department of Labor, or in the Governor’s Executive Chamber. Work assignments offer Fellows unparalleled experience collaborating with senior officials and participating in the policy-making process.

While taking part in the work of government, Empire Fellows have the opportunity to participate in educational and professional development programs that help them to serve as effective and ethical government leaders.

Learn more.

Meet the Fellows

Tiffany Battles

Tiffany joins the Empire State Fellows program after extensive work in mental health services, ranging from individual, family, and group therapeutic services to research and analysis on children’s behavioral health, public health, state and federal policy. She began her career as a Day Treatment Clinician with Parsons Child and Family Center providing therapeutic services to children and youth who have serious emotional disturbance and were in need of integrated clinical and educational programming for school achievement and success. This direct-service experience informed her later mental health policy work, particularly focused on improving clinical and recovery outcomes for children and youth.

Tiffany worked as part of a four-person team at the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene on the development and implementation of a complex interagency project under the Governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) to address the needs of an array of populations, including children and youth with behavioral health needs or those in foster care, the medically fragile, the developmentally disabled, and those who have issues with substance use. In this role, Tiffany managed the children’s transformation work plan and was charged with maintaining ongoing communication with both senior and executive staff.

Tiffany was the project lead in the development of a cross-systems provider designation process for the children’s behavioral health and health transition to Medicaid Managed Care and conducted webinars and presentations to providers. Earlier in her role, Tiffany also assisted in the development of the assessment tool for Health Homes Serving Children and Home and Community Based Services and led the development of the Medicaid State Plan Provider Manual for Children’s Behavioral Health Early and Periodic Screening and Diagnostic Testing (EPSDT) Services. Tiffany received her bachelor’s in Human Development from SUNY Oswego and Master of Social Work from SUNY Binghamton.

Placement: Executive Chamber

Briane Cornish

Briane joins the Empire State Fellows program from the justice policy field. For the last 10 years, Briane’s work and volunteer experiences have centered on justice and public policy. As an undergraduate, Briane interned in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, Charles Rangel’s Harlem Office, the Public Advocate for the City of New York, and the Judiciary Joint Committee at the Massachusetts State Senate. As a law student, she interned at the Department of Justice’s Office of Policy and Legislation as well as with a nonprofit advocacy group focused on raising the minimum wage.

After graduating, Briane served as Project Manager at The Clean Slate Initiative, where she managed the deployment of an online assistance web tool for pro-bono attorneys writing their first criminal record expungement petitions. She later served as Access to Justice Fellow at Responsive Law, where she performed a state-by-state analysis that resulted in a published report on the legal access in the 50 states. Briane co-founded and served as operations chair for the DC Reduced Fee Lawyers Group, a web-based criminal and civil legal services directory for D.C. residents of modest means.

Most recently, Briane served as Legal Fellow at the District of Columbia Corrections Information Council, where she conducted inspections of correctional facilities, including holding confidential interviews with inmates to gather information on confinement conditions. Briane received her bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and her JD from Stanford Law School.

Placement: Council on Community Reentry and Reintegration

Candi Griffin-Jenkins

Candi joins the Empire State Fellows after serving as Assistant Dean for Graduate Admissions and Student Services at the University at Albany’s School of Social Welfare. As Assistant Dean, she was a member of the Senior Leadership Team, which is responsible for creating school policy, planning, and strategizing on implementation. Additionally, Candi was a member of the school’s Masters of Social Welfare Program Committee, which is responsible for the oversight of the masters program’s policy, curriculum, admissions outcomes, and student recruitment plus engagement practices.

Formerly, Candi served as the Director of the Liberty Partnerships Rising Stars Program at the University at Albany for more than 10 years. Liberty is a program that was created to address New York’s drop-out rate and provides services such as tutoring, mentoring, employment readiness, and college preparation workshops. During her tenure as Director, Candi served as the Co-Chair of the Legislative Advocacy Statewide Committee, which was responsible for managing relations with members of the legislature. She also served as a member of the Statewide Steering Committee of the State Education Department as well as the President of the Capital Region’s Liberty Partnerships Programs. Candi is a recipient of the YMCA Adult Achiever Award and the Initiatives for Women Scholarship Award from the University at Albany. Candi received her MSW from the University at Albany’s School of Social Welfare.

Placement: Higher Education Services Corporation

Jennifer Maurici

Jennifer brings to the Empire Fellows program a background as diverse as the New York City borough of Queens where she was born and raised. Her commitment to public service spans two decades and began as a reporter for the Queens Tribune, where she wrote stories communicating quality of life issues faced by Queens residents and advocated for change on their behalf to government agencies and elected officials. Jennifer then began a career in the non-profit sector. As Senior Director of Education at Junior Achievement of New York, Inc., she fostered partnerships between public and private schools and Fortune 500 companies throughout New York City. She then worked as Program Supervisor of Best Buddies, International, where she oversaw the general operations of three regional offices and ensured the quality of high school and adult volunteer programs that advocate for people with disabilities.

For the past ten years, Jennifer has worked in the child welfare system, first as a child protective services specialist, then in supervisory positions in foster care and adoption programs. Most recently, Jennifer worked as a social worker at the Center for Family Representation, where she provided direct social work support and advocacy to parents involved with the child welfare system.

Jennifer believes in the importance of volunteerism and worked with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in Arizona to raise the minimum wage and participated in the first Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) with the NYC Department of Homeless Services.

Jennifer holds a bachelor’s in Journalism from SUNY New Paltz and an MSW from Arizona State University. She was awarded Student of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Arizona Chapter. Jennifer is currently working on her doctorate in Social Work at Fordham University, specializing in Children and Families Policy.

Placement: Office of Children and Family Services

Monique S. Owens

Monique comes to the Empire Fellows program from the field of social and economic justice. Monique has experience in local government as well as in coalition building and community organizing. She worked as Legislative Aide for the City of Buffalo Common Council, where she served as liaison to constituents, city departments, and local governmental agencies and community organizations. She also worked as Government Affairs Associate at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and as Community Advocate at the Long Island Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House. Most recently, she worked as a Documentation and Learning Specialist at Open Buffalo, a nonprofit organization dedicated to social and economic justice.

Monique 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.

Beyond her academic accomplishments, Monique has shown a commitment to community service and the enhancement of social equity as an advocate for a variety of vulnerable and historically marginalized communities. Monique 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. Monique holds a bachelor’s in International Studies and Global Gender Studies from the University at Buffalo and an MPA from Buffalo State.

Placement: Division of Criminal Justice Services

Abbey J. Marr

Abbey comes to the Empire State Fellows program from the field of law and policy advocacy. Abbey worked as a Paralegal Specialist at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, drafting memoranda and pleadings for cases regarding violations of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act, and Title IX of the Education Amendments. Abbey focused on expanding the parameters of legal education, helping campaign for, develop, and teach Harvard Law School’s Reproductive Justice course. As a Ford Foundation Legal Fellow at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Abbey drafted a primer on labor law and domestic workers’ rights in 10 states and localities.

Most recently, Abbey worked as Policy Analyst and Reproductive Justice Law Fellow at Advocates for Youth, where, under Abbey’s leadership, the organization began its first involvement in litigation, filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which addressed abortion restrictions. Abbey also served as an adjunct professor at University of DC Law School, teaching the Summer 2017 Reproductive Rights and Justice seminar. Abbey holds a JD from Harvard Law School and a bachelor’s in Political Science and Women’s Studies from George Washington University.

Placement: Executive Chamber

Deborah Zamer

Deborah joins the Fellowship from the field of social work, reproductive rights advocacy, and private business. She served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood (UHPP), overseeing the selection of a CEO, helping to set forth a new strategic plan, and working to strengthen the organization’s fiscal health. After her tenure as Chair, Deborah was founding Chair of a philanthropic group benefitting UHPP, making a significant mark on its donor fund.

Deborah was awarded the Fellowship on Women and Public Policy by the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society and was then selected for the Public Management Institute of New York State, leading her to the New York State Division of Budget. Deborah served with the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa, worked as an addiction counselor to female inmates at Peter Young Treatment, Housing and Industries, and most recently worked in her family-owned real estate business. Deborah holds a bachelor’s in Political Science from SUNY Binghamton and an MSW from the University at Albany.

Placement: Executive Chamber