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Current Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows

CHRISTINA BAUM     Graduate Program: Health Behavior Health Promotion, M.P.H.

Christina Baum served in central Malawi as a Community Health Advisor from 2015-2017. While her primary project was promoting the prevention of HIV and malaria transmission, and she also worked to improve nutrition and introduce cook stoves in her community. Christina formed a service-based Malaria Club at her local secondary school and collaborated with various youth & mother groups throughout her service. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Dickinson College. Christina is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health in the concentration of Health Behavior Health Promotion at the University of Arizona and is interested in reproductive health and family planning.



RAMZY BEJJANI     Graduate Program: Landscape Architecture, M.L.A.

Ramzy Bejjani served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia from 2016 - 2018. In his primary role as an Education volunteer, Ramzy taught English to 360 ninth graders and created a Girls English Education and Empowerment club with a local teacher. While not teaching, he partnered with his local hospital to create a model home garden that showcased efficient water use, high nutrient foods, and provided seeds for the local community.  Ramzy received his B.A. from New York University, studying Global Liberal Studies with a concentration in Politics, Rights, and Development. He spent half of his undergrad abroad, and studied in Paris, London, Tel-Aviv Jaffa, and Beirut. He also has a TEFL certification through Seattle Pacific University.  Between his time as an undergrad and a Peace Corps Volunteer, Ramzy saw a lot of cities. And he’d like to make them better for everyone. As a Coverdell Fellow at the University of Arizona, Ramzy is pursuing a Masters in Landscape Architecture. He is interested in green infrastructure to mitigate the effects of extreme weather, new pedestrianism, creating accessible and abundant public parks, and the interplay between public space and democracy.



NICK BISLEY     Graduate Program: SBS, Geographic Information Systems Technology, M.S.

 Nick Bisley was born in Gresham, WI, and graduated from high school with a whopping 26 students in his class. However, this small community is in close proximity to two Native American Tribes, the Menominee and Stockbridge-Munsee, and Nick was exposed to different cultures at a young age. This began a pursuit of exploring other cultures and understanding how others view and shape their world. After obtaining a B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, he was fortunate to receive a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship and travel to Sweden for a Master’s program in Strategic Leadership toward Sustainability from the Blekinge Institute of Technology. This program consisted of 60 students from over 20 countries and really provided an opportunity to collaborate with people, from a wide socio-cultural background. Here he began to focus more on community development and how cultures use their available natural resources. A year after returning from Sweden, Nick was accepted in the US Peace Corps and served two years as an Aquaculture Extension Agent in Zambia. While there, he lived in a rural village and assisted with the development of aquaculture programs in his community, at a local orphanage, and a Zambian prison. Upon returning from Zambia, Nick took a job as an Agronomy Research Technician, and was later promoted to Storage Manager, for a large commercial potato grower in central Wisconsin. Working in a large commercial agricultural company provided insight into the challenges and opportunities that large-scale agriculture possesses. He can also tell you more about a bag of potato chips then you would ever care to know. After working there for 5 years he took an opportunity to work as a Production Manager in an aquaponics facility in western Wisconsin. It was interesting to work in a closed loop facility that reused the water in the system and was able to produce throughout the cold winters in Wisconsin. However, Nick has refocused his interest in working with food security in underserved communities. He would like to focus on the development of local agricultural systems that communities can take pride in and ownership of, building on his past experiences with Native American Tribes, rural Zambian Communities, and food security and production.


MAIYA BLOCK     Graduate Program: Health Behavior Health Promotion, M.P.H.

Maiya Block grew up in Rio Rico, AZ, attending Nogales High School. She did her Bachelor of Arts in Biology at Hendrix College in Conway, AR with a minor in Philosophy. Since then, she has traveled throughout the USA, Europe and parts of Africa doing outdoor education and volunteering. Maiya served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon from 2016-18 in the role of a science educator. During her first year as a teacher, the Anglophone Crisis started in her region with a teacher’s strike. As a consequence, Maiya’s secondary projects became her primary projects. She began to do leadership, literacy and health workshops in the community. This led to the Ndu Reproductive Health Campaign, conducted with 10 other facilitators from the community, training 100 peer educators and sensitizing the community at large about contraceptives and other means of family planning, and how to avoid STDs through radio programs. After moving to a new site upon the escalation of the crisis, Maiya continued the work in sexual and reproductive health in her next post, on the side of her Biology, Chemistry and Math classes. She also applied for a grant through Peace Corps and fundraised to produce a well and toilet for the school’s girls, to improve their menstrual hygiene and attendance. After the two years in Peace Corps, Maiya stayed for another year in Cameroon to work as a Teaching Intern, teaching IB Chemistry and Integrated Science to 8th, 10th and 11th grade at the American School of Yaoundé. In this position, she was also tasked with advising half of the 7th grade class and co-organizing a 3-week program on cultural exchange for the entire school. Maiya is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health in Health Behavior Health Promotion at the University of Arizona. She would like to one day work abroad in a non-profit organization, continuing to improve the efficacy of health behavior programs around the world.




CHARLES BRANDS     Graduate Program: Global Health, M.P.H. and M.B.A.








JON BROWN     Graduate Program: Education -- Teaching & Teacher Ed. (Math Ed.), M.A.

Jon Brown is from the small town of Yale, OK. He stayed nearby to get his B.S. in Secondary Education and Mathematics from Oklahoma State University. After completing his Clinical Internship in Costa Rica, he came back to Oklahoma with a real zeal for helping students understand and appreciate math. He taught in Oklahoma for five years, but then decided that his place was somewhere else. That is when he decided to join the Peace Corps. He served in Mozambique from 2015-2017 as an English teacher at a professional school in Inhambane province. Now that he has completed service, Jon wants to continue his studies in math education under the Teaching and Teacher Education program at the UA. Along with having a real passion for mathematics, he also enjoys hiking, visual art, music, theatre, and cooking.




JENNIFER CAMPBELL     Graduate Program: Master’s Entry to the Profession of Nursing


Jennifer Campbell grew up in Tempe, AZ and attended Northern Arizona University for both her undergraduate and first master’s degree.  She was working in the financial arena for approximately seven years, when her husband suggested they join the Peace Corps.  Once she got up off the floor, she enthusiastically attended an informational meeting at a local bookstore and began the application process!  She served in rural Thailand with her husband and it was a transformational experience.  She thrived in the development of youth and in collaborating with her Thai counterparts.  Her legacy is the still-going-strong youth group called Sisters of Isaan (SOI).  Jennifer stayed overseas, teaching mathematics at international schools in Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Guatemala and finally Thailand.  In 2017, she and her husband made the decision to return to the US and continue their education. She began working on completing the Master of Science for Entry to the Profession of Nursing (MEPN) in May and will graduate August of 2020!


KEYANIA CAMPBELL     Graduate Program: Applied Intercultural Arts Research – Ethnomusicology, M.A.

Keyania Campbell was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, and received her B.S. in Liberal Studies from Texas A&M University-Commerce in 2013. She served in Divjake, Lushnje, Albania as an Education volunteer from 2016-2018. She taught English lessons and life skills to young adults by using American pop and hip-hop to practice speaking and encourage critical thinking. She is currently studying in the Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in the Applied Intercultural Arts Research department. Keyania's research interests include community music programs, intangible cultural heritage, and sustainable archiving. She likes science fiction and ferrets.



KATY CREMER      Graduate Program: Epidemiology, M.P.H.

Katy Cremer is pursuing a Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology. She completed her undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Sociology at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Katy served in Peace Corps Namibia from 2015 to 2017 as a community health volunteer. During her service she created various projects involving her local health center, the school, as well as the community. Additionally, she directed a regional camp YEAH (Youth Exploring and Achieving in Health) where adolescent men and women learn about regional health issues such as HIV and teenage pregnancy. Her research interests include infectious and chronic diseases and hopes to pursue a career following her completion of her M.P.H.





GABRIELA CORONEL     Graduate Program: Policy and Management, M.P.H., and Latin American Studies, M.A.

Gabriela Coronel served as a Health Promoter on the rural coast of Ecuador from 2017-2019. Throughout her service, her main projects focused on sexual and reproductive health among adolescents, HIV education and promotion among hacienda workers, and hospital quality improvement projects with the local professionals. She is from right outside Nashville, TN, but graduated from East Tennessee State University with a B.S. in Public Health, including a semester field experience at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She is pursuing her passions for public health administration and working with underserved communities at the University of Arizona by getting a dual Master of Public Health in Health Policy and Management and a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies. Her research interests include Border Health and Health Disparities among Latinx Americans.





JACK DEBOER     Graduate Program: Development Practice, M.A.









SOPHIA EWINGHILL     Graduate Program: Public Administration, M.P.A.

Sophia Ewinghill is originally from Northern, CA where she attended California State University, Sacramento receiving a BA in Communication Studies Public Relations and minored in Music Performance. After college, she worked in advertising and public relations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Later on she focused her interests in the nonprofit industry while employed at InAlliance, Inc. in Sacramento. There she worked with adults with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries within case management and organizational development, which ultimately led her to join the Peace Corps.

As a Community HIV/AIDS Education Peace Corps Volunteer in Swaziland from 2010 - 2012, Sophia organized and developed various projects with stakeholders and community members as they focused on public health education and social welfare programs within her rural village. She also had the opportunity to promote alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs and various volunteerism projects across the country. When Sophia returned from Swaziland she relocated to Phoenix to work for the International Rescue Committee involving refugee resettlement. In June 2014, she became the Peace Corps regional recruiter for Arizona overseeing all recruitment in the state.

To further her career in public service management she became a Paul D. Coverdell Fellow and a Public Administration M.P.A. student at the University of Arizona. Her interests include working with local and federal government agencies, nonprofit organizations focusing on diversity and inclusion, various social welfare programming, Native reservations and tribal colleges, education institutions, and immigration and refugee service. Sophia hopes to work with under-served communities at home or abroad, and use education and development as a tool to fight social inequity within historically marginalized and low socioeconomic communities.


ABRAM FARLEY     Graduate Program: Hydrology, M.S.

Abram Farley served in northern Tanzania (2016-18) as a mathematics teacher at a secondary school. Through his role as a teacher in the community, he also taught computer literacy, helped complete a school library, facilitated student leadership conferences, and organized a female empowerment and reproductive health training (through Huru International). Prior to serving in the Peace Corps, he studied Physics at Kalamazoo College and then spent one year serving with AmeriCorps through City Year Milwaukee. At University of Arizona, he is now pursuing a Master’s in Hydrology and Water Resources after being inspired by the water development projects being completed in Tanzania.




ISABELLA FASSI     Graduate Program: SBS, Public Administration, M.P.A.

Isabella graduated from the University of Missouri - Kansas City in 2013 with a dual B.A. in Spanish and sociology. Subsequently, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chikwawa, Malawi from 2013-2015, teaching English literature and language to secondary school students and coordinating education-related secondary projects. Following her time in Malawi, Isabella moved to Guatemala where she taught at Panajachel Colegio Internacional for two years. She is pursuing a dual M.A. degree in Latin American studies and public administration.






LISA FLORAN     Graduate Program: Health Behavior Health Promotion, M.P.H.

Lisa Floran served as a preventive health volunteer with Peace Corps Senegal from 2011-2013. There, she primarily collaborated with Plan International to develop, implement, and measure a Life Skills intervention for adolescents in rural and urban areas. After Peace Corps, Lisa worked on development, communications, and public health efforts with Heartland Health Outreach, a healthcare provider for vulnerable populations, and Get IN Chicago, a private fund dedicated to youth violence reduction at the Chicago Community Trust. Lisa grew up in Indiana and received her Bachelor of Arts in the Program of Liberal Studies (formerly the Great Books Program) from the University of Notre Dame. As a Coverdell Fellow at the University of Arizona, she is pursuing a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Health Behavior Health Promotion. Her research interests include health psychology, health communication, and innovative strategies to strengthen mental health and support behavior change among adolescents.




EMILY FREED     Graduate Program: CALS, SNRE, Wildlife & Fisheries, M.S.

Emily Freed is from Michigan and studied Anthropology and German at Western Michigan University. Emily served as a health volunteer in Madagascar from 2016-2017. During her Peace Corps service Emily worked with the local hospital and community health workers to increase the health of children under 5 and pregnant or nursing mothers. Emily also implemented a Grassroots soccer Skillz Girls program to educated 13-18 year olds about confidence, healthy relationships and sexual health. Currently Emily is pursuing her master of science in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation.






CHRIS FREIMUND     Graduate Program: CALS, SNRE, Natural Resource Studies, M.S.

Chris Freimund served in Guatemala from 2015-2017 as a Healthy Schools, Peace Corps Volunteer. His work focused primarily on health promotion, food security, and the connection between environmental and community well-being. Chris graduated from the University of Montana with an undergraduate degree in Spanish, minoring in International Development Studies. At the University of Arizona he will be completing a Masters in Natural Resource Studies, with research interests including community based natural resource management and climate change adaptation.






Photo of Julian Griffee, Current FellowJULIAN GRIFFEE     Graduate Program: CAPLA, Planning – Environmental, M.S.


Originally from North Carolina, Julian Griffee earned his B.S. from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in geography with a concentration in land use planning. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Julian worked for almost a year as a Planner I with the Planning Department for the City of Mount Airy, North Carolina. He served as the Planning Department's liaison to the City’s Historic Preservation Committee and the City’s Appearance Commission.  Julian joined U.S. Peace Corps to serve as an urban and regional planning volunteer in the Southeastern European nation of Albania, from March 2016 through May 2018. While in Albania, he orchestrated community-based projects through his primary assignment at the municipality of Shijak’s city hall - creating a now city-wide recycling effort, as well as using a U.S. AID grant to create his site’s first public park. His efforts also created opportunities for youth to participate in summer camps, interest groups and a Model UN committee both years he was there.  Wanting to continue his studies of urban planning and development, Julian joined the University of Arizona’s Planning Program as a Peace Corps Coverdell Fellowship. His Coverdell assistantship is with the City of Tucson Department of Transportation.



Photo of Sarah Gruza, Current Fellow

SARAH GRUZA     Graduate Program: Environmental and Occupational health, M.P.H.

Sarah Gruza served in Ukraine as a Youth Development Specialist Volunteer from 2015-2017. Her primary projects focused on engaging youth in civic education and leadership, along with HIV/AIDS prevention and tooling youth with skills needed for the workforce. Before joining the Peace Corps, she completed her Bachelor's degree in Allied Health Sciences at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. While in school, she volunteered with a local HIV/AIDS health prevention clinic in Grand Rapids, and a university coalition geared towards environmental stewardship and sustainability. Shortly after graduating, Sarah interned with the Division of Environmental Health on a project geared towards building resilience against climate effects at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in Lansing, MI. She is now pursuing a Master's degree in Public Health (M.P.H.) with an emphasis on Environmental Health.




ROBERT HARTWELL     Graduate Program: SBS, Development Practice, M.D.P

Robert Hartwell is from Bedford, MA and earned dual Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Justice Studies from the University of New Hampshire in 2016.  From September 2016 to December 2017, he served as an Agriculture Extension Agent in Cameroon. His primary focus was on improving the the technical and business practices of smallholder farmers. He developed a demonstration farm that served as an outdoor classroom to introduce new farming techniques and improved crop varieties. To meet the demand for the improved crop varieties, Robert organized a seed distribution campaign that incorporated nutritional trainings to combat issues with malnutrition.  In addition to farming, Robert taught English at the local primary school. He also worked with A2Empowerment to allow 15 young women to further their education at a secondary school in a neighboring village. This led to the creation of a girls group that met weekly to discuss topics such as career planning, HIV/AIDS, family planning, and other subjects.  Upon his return to the U.S., Robert began an internship with Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. in the Office of Third Goal. Specifically, his projects revolved around the Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools program.  Robert is currently pursuing a Master's in Development Practice. He is interested in working with communities in Central and West Africa on child and women's empowerment initiatives.



DIONNA HATCH     Graduate Program: Landscape Architecture, M.L.A.

Dionna Hatch is originally from Michigan, but left in 2002 and has since lived in Guatemala, Ohio, Pennsylvania, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Nigeria before settling with her family of 6 in Tucson, Arizona in 2014. She served as an Agroforestry and Income Generation Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala from 2002 to 2004. In Guatemala, she worked with 2 women's groups on projects like aloe shampoo, flower nurseries, cooking and baking classes, and wood burning stoves.  Dionna is pursuing her Masters in Landscape Architecture as the logical combination of a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science and Management (Michigan State University; 2000) and a Masters in Public Health (Wright State University; 2008). Her academic interests include utilizing green spaces to fight climate change, improve human health, and provide a soothing aesthetic in a busy world.




Photo of Lauren Jaeger, Current Fellow

LAUREN JAEGER     Graduate Program: Health Behavior Health Promotion, M.P.H. and Marketing,  M.B.A.

Lauren Jaeger is pursuing dual degree in Public Health and Business Adminsitration at the University of Arizona. From 2015-2017, Lauren served with the Peace Corps as an English Education volunteer in Moldova. Her secondary projects included serving as the director of Moldova Anti-Trafficking in Persons, where she developed and facilitated educational programs on human trafficking and gender based violence prevention. Lauren currently serves as a student Ambassador for the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and as the Graduate Program Coordinator of the Peace Corps Coverdell Program.




REBECCA JOHNSTONE     Graduate Program: Landscape Architecture, M.L.A.

Rebecca Johnstone was raised in small-town Chewelah, WA. She served as a Peace Corps Environment Volunteer in The Gambia from 2013 – 2015 where she focused on more sustainable food systems education, and improving the infrastructure at the school in a small rural village. Rebecca continued working on different food systems while volunteering around the world. She holds a B.S. in Wildlife Habitat Ecology and Management from Montana State University, Bozeman. She is currently pursuing a Master in Landscape Architecture, and is interested in helping young people learn more about their environments and designing places to facilitate that.



KEEGAN KRAUSE     Graduate Programs: Global Health, M.P.H., and Latin American Studies, M.A.





PAUL LA FARGA     Graduate Program: Urban Planning, M.A.











HUNTER LOHSE     Graduate Program: Landscape Architecture, M.L.A.

Hunter Lohse served a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines from 2017-2019 as an Education volunteer. With the assistance of a USAID Let Girls Learn grant, he developed a technology and research hub for the national high school in his community. He designed and implemented the formation of two student groups: the Research Hub Management Team and the Reading Buddies Club. The RHMT consisted of 18 students (3 from each grade level) that manages and catalogues hub inventory and equipment. The RBC cultivated leadership and reading skills by pairing up Grade 11 and Grade 8 students for bi-weekly tutoring sessions. Hunter received his B.S. in Textiles & Apparel from the University of Texas at Austin. After graduation, he received his TEFL certification and taught English in Seoul, South Korea for two years. After returning to Texas, he worked in the film and fashion industry until finding his way back to education teaching adult education at Trinity Valley Community College. While living on the Blackland Prairie, Hunter began cultivating his love of native plants through garden design and public service projects in his spare time. As a Coverdell Fellow, Hunter is pursuing a Masters in Landscape Architecture. He is interested in urban ecology and promoting public awareness of the relationships between humans and native flora & fauna through interactions within public spaces.


SEAN MACCABE     Graduate Program: CAPLA Landscape Architecture, M.L.A.

Originally from Merrimack, New Hampshire, Sean Maccabe has spent much of his adult life in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Fort Collins, Colorado. While in Colorado, he pursued his undergraduate degree at Colorado State University and received a B.S. in Rangeland Ecology. During and after school, Sean worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a Range Technician, then served with the Peace Corps in The Gambia, West Africa as an Environment and Agriculture Extension Volunteer. While in The Gambia, he worked with women's groups teaching agricultural improvement techniques such as; composting, mulching, beekeeping, perma-garden construction, and marketing agricultural products. Besides helping to train villagers in agriculture, Sean helped the village to secure grant funds to construct a new well system with a solar powered pump and several taps distributed throughout the village. At the University of Arizona, Sean will be pursuing a Master's in Landscape Architecture where he hopes to integrate his knowledge in the Natural Resources and agricultural to design sustainable systems in underserved communities to help address issues in food security.



SEHDIA MANSARAY     Graduate Program: SBS, Development Practice, M.D.P.

Sehdia Mansaray was an Agroforestry Specialist in Kaolack, Senegal, from 2016 - 2018. In her primary work, she collaborated with farmers, women’s groups, and students in fruit tree and live fence propagation and management. She explored relationships between culture, economy, and the environment, particularly through a grant for a woman’s garden and as a regional Cashew Point of Contact and Work Zone Coordinator. Sehdia’s secondary work with volunteers and staff was mainly conducted during her tenure as a coordinator of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Before joining the Peace Corps, she graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science, Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, and French minor. Currently, Sehdia is pursuing a Master’s in Development Practice. As an MDP student, her interests include stakeholder identity and decision making, natural resource management, collaborative development, and neocolonialism. Her ultimate goals are to create spaces for more culturally appropriate and informed development programs alongside educational resources that give youth a more balanced view of the world.



HANNAH MARTIN     Graduate Program: Health Behavior Health Promotion, M.P.H.

Hannah Martin is originally from Omaha, NE where she attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln receiving a BA in Psychology and French. She then served in Benin as an English Education Volunteer from 2016-2018. Besides teaching English, Hannah organized teacher trainings, created an English club, facilitated events focused on health and gender equality, and co-led youth development camps. At the University of Arizona, Hannah is pursuing a Master of Public Health and serving as the Peace Corps Campus Recruiter.





Photo of Brenda Mbaabu, Current FellowBRENDA MBAABU     Graduate Program:  Epidemiology, M.P.H.

My name is Brenda Mbaabu and I am currently enrolled as a student in the MPH in Epidemiology track at the University of Arizona. I recently returned from serving as Health Sector Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Gambia and previously worked with the Alliance for Rural Community Health as a dental program coordinator and health coach. I enjoy doing more hands on, in the field internships which include analyzing community health outcomes that in turn inform policies, health education materials, and promotion strategies. I am interested in working with homeless, refugee, and African/African American populations with great concentration on maternal and child health issues. I am curious about infectious diseases such as vector-borne diseases and HIV/AIDS as well as non-infectious diseases such as malnutrition, diabetes, asthma, seizure disorders, pneumonia etc. I would like to help uncover the incidences, prevalence, and prevention methods towards reductions of exposures. My primary aim is not the location but the dexterity of work. I am open to studying healthcare systems and best practice interventions so as to improve patient education, access of resources, and interdisciplinary collaborations in implementing well informed patient centered care.



Photo of Jake Meyers, Current Fellow

JAKE MEYERS     Graduate Program:  SBS, Development Practice, M.D.P.

Jake Meyers served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin from 2015-2017 in the environmental sector. His main focus was food security and worked with a group of beekeepers in a protected forest. During his service, Jake led a Women’s day march with 500 high school girls during a Let Girls Learn campaign, introduced a test and treat program for malaria with 300 pre-school students, and developed a household rabbit raising project and community food security center.  Before joining the Peace Corps, he graduated from Washington & Jefferson College with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and is from Pennsylvania. After his Peace Corps service, he was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Research grant and worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Ministry of Environment in Cambodia studying the socio-economic implications of fire management in a floating village and flooded forest on the Tonle Sap Lake. He is now pursuing a Master’s Degree in Development Practice.



HENNESSY MILLER     Graduate Program: Graduate Program: University of Arizona South, Education, Secondary Education, M.Ed.

Hennessy Miller's journey to teaching has been slightly circuitous, buts she is glad to have found her way back to Tucson in a field she is passionate about. Following her Peace Corps service as an Environmental Health volunteer in Panama from 2013-2015, Hennessy earned her M.S. in Watershed Management and Ecohydrology from the School of Natural Resources at the University of Arizona in 2017. After a two year stint in San Diego working on coastal wetland restoration and sea-level rise adaptation, Hennessy decided to follow her heart and passions and change careers. Currently an 8th grade science teacher in the Sunnyside Unified School District, she is pursuing a Master’s in Education through the University of Arizona South's Borderland/Alternative MED program, which emphasizes culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy along our border region. When she has a spare minute, Hennessy enjoys baking sourdough bread, playing pick up soccer, or volunteering as a birth doula.




Photo of Olivia Mothershead, Current Fellow

OLIVIA MOTHERSHEAD     Graduate Program: Education – Language, Reading & Culture, M.A.

Olivia Mothershead is originally from Kent, Washington. She received her B.A. in English Literature and German as well as her Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certification from Western Washington University in 2013. After graduation, Olivia was an English Teaching Assistant in Austria through the Fulbright Commission.  Olivia served as an English Education Peace Corps Volunteer in the Country of Georgia from 2016 to 2018. As a volunteer, Olivia was active in many initiatives, including an environmental stewardship summer camp for youth and a set of workshops for communities to discuss and challenge gender roles and stereotypes in Georgian society. She is now pursuing her M.A. in Language, Reading & Culture from the University of Arizona.




MARIO NUÑO-WHELAN     Graduate Program: Landscape Architecture, M.L.A.

Mario served as a Youth Volunteer in Arequipa and Lima, Peru from 2010-2013.  Working primarily as a supplemental teacher in a small – half Quechua, half Spanish-speaking – mountain town, he partnered with educators and local leaders on literacy, summer school, computer training and soccer coaching projects through the elementary and high school. After service, he returned home to Albuquerque, New Mexico where he spent two years working as a community organizer for The Wilderness Society, then one year in the field, working for a small design/build landscape company.  He is excited to bridge his passion for conservation, construction, and community development with his training in Landscape Architecture.




Photo of Brennen O'Donnell, Current Fellow



BRENNEN O’DONNELL     Graduate Program: SBS, Public Administration, M.P.A.







Photo of Lena Porell, Current Fellow

LENA PORELL     Graduate Program: CAPLA, Planning, M.S.

Lena is pursuing her M.S. in Urban Planning focusing on affordable housing and community development.  Originally from New England, she served as an Education Volunteer in Anamulenge, Omusati, Namibia from 2015-2017. Lena primarily worked as an English Second Language teacher for 7th and 8th grade students at John Pandeni Combined School.  During her service, she partnered with local teachers to start various after school clubs and fix up the old school library. Lena is also a co-founder of the leadership development program, Serve 2 Lead, which focuses on leadership, project management and community service. Lena believes community-drivin initiatives and bottom-up approaches are key to successful development and is excited to bring that into her Urban Planning career!




ALIZABETH POTUCEK     Graduate Program: Landscape Architecture, M.L.A.

Alizabeth served in Cameroon from 2013-2015 as an Agricultural Extension volunteer. In the rural village of Mbang-Mboum she collaborated on various community projects related to food security, youth empowerment and public health.  Since returning from Cameroon, Aliz has worked as a program coordinator at a native plant restoration non-profit in Moab, Utah and as a campus garden coordinator at the University of Utah. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. Aliz is thrilled to pursue her Masters in Landscape Architecture at the University of Arizona as a Coverdell Fellow. Her research interests include the intersection of ecological resilience and social infrastructure through community-based design.  In her spare time she likes to explore the landscape and the desert biota on her bicycle.   




Photo of Mariana Rivera-Torres, Current Fellow

MARIANA RIVERA- TORRES     Graduate Program: CALS, SNRE, Water, Society, & Policy, M.S.

Mariana Rivera-Torres completed her Peace Corps service in Guatemala from 2015-2017, as a Healthy Schools Coordinator. Most of her work focused on strengthening and implementing health promotion policies and practices within the Guatemalan public education system. Mariana completed her undergraduate studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where she studied post-conflict social and economic development in Africa and Latin America. Her research interests include sustainable development, community-based natural resource management, conflict resolution, and water security.




NATALIE SAXON     Graduate Program: Graduate Program: Education, TEACH AZ, M.Ed.

Natalie Saxon is an RPCV from Guatemala in the Youth in Development Project. She is currently studying to get her Master's in Secondary Education to teach Spanish in the Teach Arizona Program. Prior to her time in Guatemala, she worked in guest services for the cruise ship industry in Alaska and managed an office for a Healthcare consulting firm in Atlanta. She had the privilege of training under Karen Sharp for one year as a Teaching Artist at Seattle Children's Theatre. Natalie received her Bachelor's in Theatre from Samford University and is a trained actress and vocalist. Her hobbies include interior design, writing and hiking. 




STEPHANIE MUGABONAKE     Graduate Program: SBS, English, TESL, M.A.

Stephanie Mugabonake served as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) volunteer in Rwanda from 2015- 2017.  Her primary project was teaching at a local boarding school, designing and implementing culturally-relatable classroom curriculum to high school students.  In addition to her work in the classroom, Mugabonake lead grant and budget writing tasks which lead to the building and development of a library for her host community.  She additionally facilitated a Community Finance Initiative, an 8-month training program which equips individuals with basic financial knowledge, as well as worked with counterparts planning and facilitating youth leadership camps.  Stephanie will complete her MA in TESL (Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages) in the Spring of 2020.  Currently, she is working as a staff instructor at Pima Community College in the Refugee Education Program, both teaching and developing program curriculum.  





Photo of Sean Schrag-Toso, Current Fellow

SEAN SCHRAG-TOSO     Graduate Program: Hydrology, M.S.

Sean Schrag-Toso served as a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Volunteer in Panama's largest indigenous area, the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé from mid-2015 until late-2017. During this time he collaborated with community members to secure a reliable source of potable water for the community, and successfully distribute that water to households through a gravity fed aqueduct. Additionally, Sean co-facilitated workshops on health-related issues and facilitated youth camps and clubs focused on leadership, healthy life habits, teamwork, and goal setting. This experience led him to pursue a masters in Hydrology and Water Resources, hoping to contribute to a better understanding of water availability in the future and how water needs, both environmental and human, will be met. Sean is from Tucson, AZ and feels at home in the landscape that water has architected in the American Southwest.




HANNAH SCOTT     Graduate Program: Policy and Management, M.P.H.

Hannah Scott graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and minors in Spanish and Global & Regional Studies from the University of Vermont. As a part of her studies she spent a semester abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina studying Spanish and public health. Upon graduation she moved to Patzicia, Guatemala to serve as a Peace Corps Maternal and Children’s Health Volunteer. Her work focused on building capacity within health center personnel to strengthen health education programs both on the city and state level. Additionally she focused on spreading awareness about malnutrition through educational events and mural projects. After Peace Corps, Hannah moved to New York City to work for the West Side Campaign Against Hunger. For two years Hannah navigated the social services system and hunger network of NYC for hundreds of clients. She became involved in local politics by advocating for her clients on the city, state and federal level. This experience has led her to pursue a Master’s in Public Health with a focus on Policy and Management. In her free time Hannah can be found running, listening to podcasts and having political debates with friends and strangers alike.  



Photo of Jessica Seline, Current Fellow

JESS SELINE     Graduate Program:  Health Behavior Health Promotion, M.P.H.

Jess Seline served in Guatemala from 2014-2016 as a Maternal Child Health Volunteer. They are originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota and received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Spanish and Anthropology with a minor in Global Health, studying for a year in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After graduating college, Jess served in Peace Corps. Much of their service was focused on community empowerment, and Jess helped organize a latrine project that focused on teaching project management skills to community health workers. Jess also worked on a variety of health education initiatives during their service, including behavior change courses for health professionals, HIV workshops, and health education classes with youth and pregnant mothers.  At the University of Arizona, Jess is pursuing a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior Health Promotion. They are particularly interested in the intersection of migration, health, and community empowerment, especially with migrants from Central and South America.



ZACHARY SIBBERSON     Graduate Program: CALS, Water, Society & Policy, M.S.

Zachary Sibberson is originally from Ding Dong, Texas. He is pursuing a Masters of Science with a concentration in Water, Society and Policy. He completed his undergraduate degree in Environmental Chemistry from Texas A&M - Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas. Zach served in Peace Corps Nicaragua from 2015 to 2017 as a community based environmental specialist. During his service he worked on numerous projects focusing on local environmental issues, the primary and secondary schools in which he was teaching natural science, as well as food stability in four neighborhoods within the community. He ran a tree nursery and community garden in each of the neighborhoods and gave talks on how to make organic compost and organic pesticides. Additionally, he co-directed a regional camp RACCStar (Región Autónoma de la Costa Caribe Sur) where teenage men and women learned about self-esteem and how they can make impacts on their respective communities after the camp.



Photo of Abdul Sigal, Current Fellow

ABDUL SIGAL     Graduate Program:  SBS, Development Practice, M.D.P.

Abdul Sigal served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana from October 2013-January 2017 working primarily in agriculture, community development and small-scale income gernerating activities for local communities.  Later in his service he worked on a multi sector USAID project called RING (Resiliency in Northern Ghana).  Abdul graduated from the University of California - Davis in 2012, earning a degree in managerial Economics with agricultural economics emphasis.  He now pursues his master's degree in Development Practice from the University of Arizona.  Upon completing his studies, Abdul will advance his career in agriculture and rural development focusing on East and West African sub continents.  His main hobby is playing and watching soccer.




Photo of David Thalenberg, Current Fellow


DAVID THALENBERG     Graduate Program: SBS, LAS & Public Administration, M.A., M.P.A.






REBECCA VERLAQUE     Graduate Program: Master’s Entry to the Profession of Nursing

Becca Verlaque served as a community health educator in rural Senegal from 2013- 2015. In this role, she focused on maternal and child health, reproductive health, nutrition, and disease prevention. She was able to work on secondary projects related to environmental sustainability and gender equity. Becca's time focused on community health in Senegal is what led her to her current pursuit- the Masters Entry to the Profession of Nursing (MEPN) program at the University of Arizona. She is interested in becoming a public health nurse.

Prior to graduate school, Becca earned a B.A. in International Development Studies from UCLA with minors in Spanish and Environmental Systems. She has worked as grants manager for the Firelight Foundation, and as a health program specialist for the County of Santa Cruz in California. Since moving to Tucson for the MEPN program, Becca has been enjoying hiking, bike commuting, watching sunsets and monsoons, and admiring other people's dogs.



ALEXIS WAIT     Graduate Program: Family and Child Health – Global Health, M.P.H.

Originally from Michigan, Alexis Wait earned her B.S. from the University of Michigan in Anthropology and Ecology in 2015. After obtaining her degree, Alexis spent two years working as a volunteer at various organizations as a research assistant and teacher. Alexis joined the U.S. Peace Corps to serve as a science teacher in Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone, from 2017 to 2018. In addition to her role as an educator, Alexis developed four female soccer teams at her school and the other schools in her town. Her passion for athletics, health, and female empowerment motivated her to fight for these young women so they could have the same opportunity as the boys to participate in sports. Alexis will continue her passion to serve minority communities as she pursues a Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Family and Child Global Health. Outside of academia, Alexis enjoys rock climbing, cooking, and traveling.



JACY WOODRUFF      Graduate Program: Business Administration, M.B.A.

Always with a flare for the dramatic, Jacy obtained a dual B.A. from Western Washington University in Theater Arts and Spanish and often joked about staring in telenovelas. Realizing that her love of performance was truly a love for making people smile, her transition into service was a natural fit. Jacy served as an environmental health volunteer in Panama 2011-2013. Although her primary focus was latrine coverage and potable water systems; Jacy found much joy in her side projects which included a weekly "love of literature" reading night and hosting a Youth Leadership, Gender, and Development camp.

Upon her return to the states Jacy continued in service joining the public sector at the National Science Foundation and more recently working as a Grants Management Specialist with the U.S. Department of Labor. As the federal liaison to grantees working on various workforce development programs, Jacy discovered her passion for project management, compliance, and creating sustainable solutions that address the needs of job seekers and businesses. This passion led her to apply for and be accepted into the Eller College of Management where she will be pursuing her MBA.

Last updated 27 Aug 2019