Winners of Inaugural “Future Leaders in Policy” Competition Announced

State University of New York (SUNY) undergraduate and graduate students presented original policy research to a diverse panel of judges made up of New York State leaders and experts


Winners given an opportunity to further develop their research and receive $500 upon publication with the Rockefeller Institute


Albany, NY — Today, the Rockefeller Institute of Government announced three winners for its first annual “Future Leaders in Policy” competition, which showcases the best of SUNY undergraduate and graduate research in public policy.

Leading up to the virtual event, students worked with Rockefeller Institute researchers to refine their presentations and enhance their policy communication skills. On April 16th, participants presented their research to a diverse panel of judges made up of New York State leaders and policy experts who selected three winners. The winners will be given an opportunity to work with Rockefeller Institute experts to further develop their research and will receive $500 upon publication of their research with the Institute.

“The inaugural ‘Future Leaders in Policy’ competition was a great success,” said Rockefeller Institute Executive Director of Research Laura Schultz. “The participants did an outstanding job presenting their original research to our judges. We look forward to continuing to work with the winners to publish their research in the coming months. We also want to thank our judges for volunteering their time to provide a unique professional development opportunity for SUNY students.”

The winners of the competition are:

  • Kaley Donaldson of Buffalo State University for her presentation, “Prevalence and Impact of Diaper Need in Erie County, New York.” Donaldson is the communications specialist for Child Care Resource Network in Erie County where she helps create and foster high-quality early education experiences for all children by educating parents, childcare providers, and legislators. Donaldson received a bachelor’s degree in communication from SUNY Brockport in 2015 and is currently working to complete her master’s degree in public administration.
  • Gabby Mayers of Stony Brook University for their presentation, “Addressing the Racial Disparities and Homophobia in Mental Healthcare.” Mayers is a senior sociology student and has dedicated much of their time as an undergraduate to presenting research aimed at addressing racial and social issues at conferences.
  • Stephanie Taboada of Stony Brook University for her presentation, “Potential of Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) to Decarbonize New York’s Energy System.” Taboada is a chemical engineering PhD candidate whose research focuses on advancing renewable natural gas production and utilization in New York State by providing the following: a comprehensive statewide resource assessment, optimization of an emerging pathway to produce RNG, known as power to gas (P2G), and creation of a pathway to produce valuable feedstocks, such as synthesis gas, from renewable natural gas.

The Institute would like to offer a special thank you to the judges for the competition: Amanda Babine, Melodie Baker, Jeff Cheek, and Dominic Colafati.