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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.



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.




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.







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.



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. Since returning to the U.S., she volunteered with a Wyoming based domestic violence shelter and in the University of Wyoming’s Trauma and Sexual Assault Prevention Lab. 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.

Keegan Krause served in the Dominican Republic as an education volunteer, partnering with the Dominican public school system and the DREAM Project, a local NGO focusing on education and youth development. During his service, Keegan’s primary project was to facilitate teacher training, primary level Spanish literacy intervention, and promote child centered education in the home. As secondary projects, Keegan facilitated HIV/AIDS education and environmental resource management and coral restoration initiatives on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. Keegan has a B.A. in Anthropology and International Studies from the University of Nebraska, and is a certified K-12 English teacher. Upon completing his Peace Corps service, Keegan and his wife moved to Galveston, Texas, where he continued working in education as a teacher with the Galveston Independent School District, and eventually taking a position as a Bilingual Community Health Educator with the Southeast Texas Poison Center at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Keegan is pursuing an M.P.H. in Global Family and Child Health, and an M.A. in Latin American Studies as a Peace Corps Fellow. He is interested in indigenous populations and health culture, traditional medicine and access to healthcare, community health worker initiatives, drug use and violence, infectious disease, ethnographic research, and family health culture.



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.




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.




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 Plannaing career!




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.




Photo of Stephanie Mugabonake, Current Fellow



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






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.




Photo of Jessica Seline, Current Fellow

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

Jessica Seline served in Guatemala from 2014-2016 as a Maternal Child Health Volunteer. She is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She received her 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, Jessica served in Peace Corps. Much of her service was focused on community empowerment, and Jessica helped organize a latrine project that focused on teaching project management skills to community health workers. Jessica also worked on a variety of health education initiatives during her service, including behavior change courses for health professionals, HIV workshops, and health education classes with youth and pregnant mothers.  At the University of Arizona, Jessica is pursuing a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior Health Promotion. She is particularly interested in the intersection of migration, health, and community empowerment, especially with migrants from Central and South America.



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.









Last updated 11 Jun 2019