Woodrow Wilson School Awards Advanced Degrees to 91 Future Leaders in Public Service

Jun 05 2019
By Sarah M. Binder
Source Woodrow Wilson School

At a Hooding Ceremony reception held in Frist Campus Center June 3, Dean Cecilia Rouse congratulated 91 graduate students who earned advanced degrees from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Their ranks include four Ph.D. students, 67 Master in Public Affairs (MPA) students (including two MPA/J.D. and one MPA/MBA), and 20 Master in Public Policy (MPP) students.

At the Woodrow Wilson School, they received an education centered around a “policy toolkit” of skills that can be applied domestically or internationally, at the local, regional, and national levels, to address the difficult policy challenges of our day — from income inequality and health care to climate change and a shifting world order.

Citing Princeton’s informal motto, Rouse gave the graduating students a motivational send-off, declaring them not only skilled policy analysts but also much-needed leaders in public service.

“At each juncture, I hope you thought about the way you will make your mark on the world, and invest in public service as we have invested in you. We believe that you are leaving Princeton with an ability to think about public policy issues in a broader framework,” Rouse said. “The need for talented men and women to serve the public good has never been greater. As trained passionate and compassionate policy professionals, you have an obligation to apply your skills and talents to find solutions to the most vexing policy issues in our communities, in our nation, and in the world.”

After thanking the students’ families and friends, as well as the School’s faculty and administrative staff, Rouse recognized several students who earned distinguished prizes, curricular certificates, and distinction on qualifying examinations.


Qualifying Examination (QE2) Distinction

The following students achieved high distinction or distinction on the second-year qualifying examinations:

  • High Distinction: Ryan Kuo (Field IV) (Kuo also received High Distinction on the QE1.)
  • Distinction: Margo Berends (Field II), Varsha Gandikota (Field II), Henri Hammond-Paul (Field III), Anne Ressler (Field III), and Kate Vlach (Field III)


Seven MPA students and three MPP students received certificates in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP):

  • MPA: Lachlan Carey, Erin Cheese, Remmert Dekker, Johnathan Falcone, Hanna Kim, Rebecca Kreutter, and Anne Ressler
  • MPP: Anna Engwerda-Smith, Rohit Gupta, and Daniel Mejia

Four MPA students received certificates in Health and Health Policy: Patrick Brown, Michelle Conway, Isabel DoCampo, and Maria Francisca Vidal

Three MPA students and one MPP student earned certificates in Urban Policy: Paulina López González, Leyla Mocan, Taylor Nelson, and Juliana Regina Macedo do Nascimento (MPP)

Three MPA students earned certificates in Urban Policy and Planning: Julieta Cuéllar, Graham Simpson, and Zachary Zappone

Graduate Prizes

The Master in Public Policy Prize was given to Jill Luxenberg, who “left her mark on the MPP class and the School with her academic excellence and positive energy,” said Rouse. “She has consistently cheered her classmates and the MPAs as well with her enthusiasm and upbeat attitude.”

Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Jill earned her B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and history, magna cum laude, from Brown University in 2008. She studied abroad in Turkey and returned to work there as a journalist after graduation, an experience that inspired a deep interest in international economic and trade issues. Since 2010 she has been pursuing that interest with the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the Development Resources Disaster Assistance Division, Jill managed a portfolio of agricultural programs throughout the developing world. More recently, she had the opportunity to represent the U.S. in multilateral efforts to promote food safety, advance agricultural trade, and open markets to American exports. At the Woodrow Wilson School, Jill focused on both international relations and international development courses. She plans to return to the Foreign Agricultural Service.  

The MPP Prize is given to a student who has achieved both an outstanding academic record and demonstrated a commitment to public service and community building at the Woodrow Wilson School.


The Bradford Prize was awarded to Hanna Kim, “whose warm personality, genuine enthusiasm, concern for others, and joyful spirit have allowed her to contribute a great deal to the entire Woodrow Wilson School community,” Rouse said.

Hanna is originally from Seoul, Korea, and received her A.B. at Princeton in 2015 with highest honors from the Woodrow Wilson School, as well as certificates in East Asian studies and translation and intercultural communication. As a 2015 recipient of the Scholars in the Nation’s Service (SINSI) fellowship, Hanna spent two years in government service, initially working for the State Department as a Burma Desk officer, then serving as at the Defense Department as the country director for Indonesia and Timor Leste, and finally finishing her SINSI fellowship as an adviser to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s Board of Directors. Her work has spanned a wide range of issues including conflict resolution, multilateral diplomacy, and economic development. In the future, she hopes to combine her experiences in diplomacy, security policy, and international development to promote sustainable economic growth. After graduation, she will begin working at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington.

The Bradford Prize is given to a STEP student who has achieved both a distinguished academic record and a record of service in the School. The award was created and named for the late Associate Dean David Bradford, who played a key role in the creation and administration of the STEP program.


The Somers Prize was awarded to Leyla Mocan, who, noted Rouse, earned a stellar academic record in Field IV, served as a highly popular stats tutor, and served as an effective and dedicated teaching assistant in the b-track applied econometrics courses. Leyla demonstrated both leadership and service to the School as co-chair of WWAC — the WWS graduate student government — in 2018. 

Leyla grew up in Denver, Colorado, and spent her high school years in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She earned her B.S. in economics with a concentration in statistics and minor in mathematics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, she worked at the Federal Reserve Board. She then joined the Obama Administration and served as a special adviser in the Office of Economic Policy at the Treasury Department. Leyla spent her summer internship at the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Legal and Economic Justice, where she helped to develop a comprehensive plan for eliminating chronic homelessness in Hawaii and did research on eviction in the state.

The Somers Prize — established by the late Anne Somers to honor the memory of her husband, the late Herman M. “Red” Somers, a former Woodrow Wilson School faculty member — is awarded to a student with domestic policy interests who has a distinguished academic and public service record.


The Stokes Prize was co-awarded to Amn Nasir and Harrison Diamond Pollock.

“Amn excelled in her coursework, and she took an extraordinary number of courses here — 19, which is three more than we require! Amn distinguished herself by her commitments to social justice and community service at the School,” said Rouse. “She co-chaired the very successful service auction in December 2018, which brought together the School community to raise nearly $20,000 for Trenton's Isles Youth Institute. She also co-chaired the 23rd annual Students and Alumni of Color weekend in April, which focused on people of color and representation in the workforce.”

“Harrison served as the curriculum co-chair of WWAC and took this responsibility very seriously. He also dedicated many hours helping to share his enthusiasm for and impart knowledge of Stata to his fellow classmates across both cohorts in the program,” Rouse said. “He will be working our Junior Summer Institute this summer and then in the fall he will work with Professor David Lee to help improve our b-track statistics core curriculum.”

Born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, Amn developed a deep interest in the intersection between women’s rights and public service early on. After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago, she worked for the World Bank. She then worked with the Office of the Chief Minister of Punjab, focusing on improving service delivery in several sectors, including education, health, water, and solid waste management. At the Woodrow Wilson School, Amn concentrated on economics and international development. Last summer, she interned with IDinsight in Zambia, where she developed a monitoring and evaluation framework for the Ministry of Community Development’s cash transfer program.

Harrison was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. Before coming to Princeton, he worked for five years in Uganda, Kenya, and the U.S. with the NGO, Innovations for Poverty Action. His work ranged from helping to promote open data and research transparency to managing evaluations of election debates, anti-vote buying campaigns, and vaccination tracking apps. At the Woodrow Wilson School, he concentrated in international development. This past summer he interned with Engineers Without Borders Canada in Cote D’Ivoire, helping to map the impact investment ecosystem in the country. He hopes to work to help create a culture of evidence-based policymaking across the world.

The Stokes Prize recognizes both academic achievement and public service leadership and is awarded to the graduating MPA student/s whose achievements best exemplify the life and work of the late Donald E. Stokes, former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School (1974-1992).