2020 AWARDS & DISTINCTIONS
ROBERT F. WAGNER AWARD FOR PUBLIC SERVICE
for leadership capacity and exceptional contribution to public service
Maria I. Melendez (EMPA)
Maria I. Melendez is the founder and CEO of Embrace Her Legacy, which offers personal and leadership development programs for women and girls. After transitioning the organization from a for-profit business model to a nonprofit organization, she knew that scaling the organization required expertise that she lacked as she originally hails from the music and media industry. She decided to attend NYU Wagner to learn how to best serve her students and organization. While at NYU Wagner, she learned and applied various skill sets in real-time, including fundraising, leadership development, project management, team building, financial decision making, and more. She looks forward to continuing to scale Embrace Her Legacy's impact after graduating from NYU Wagner in May 2020.
Kyleigh Russ (MPA)
Kyleigh Russ came to NYU Wagner to understand how to make systemic, lasting change to public policy. Initially focused on policy analysis, Kyleigh quickly took advantage of the opportunities at NYU to found Govern for America, which is a nonprofit whose mission is to build the next generation of public sector leaders by recruiting, training, and placing exceptional college graduates into full-time state and local government fellowships, allowing Kyleigh to amplify her impact on public policy across the country.
MARTIN DWORKIS MEMORIAL AWARD
for academic achievement, participation in school activities, and public service
Alexis Captanian (MUP)
Alexis Captanian came to NYU Wagner to explore community development policies that advance equity and wellbeing. As a student, she focused on understanding housing and land-use systems and enhancing analytical skills to assess policy within these fields. At the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, Alexis contributes to ongoing discussions and critical research on housing and neighborhoods. She will use this knowledge to move the needle on issues in her home state of California.
Tashiah Singleton (MPA)
Tashiah Singleton's passion lies at the intersection of education, economic mobility, and organizational leadership. At NYU Wagner, she focused on broadening and deepening her expertise in policy analysis, operations, and talent management. With enhanced skills and a renewed commitment to public service, she plans to improve organizational culture, teams, and systems to achieve equity for under-resourced communities.
Anjana Sreedhar (MPA)
Anjana Sreedhar came to NYU Wagner to shift her career from broader healthcare best practices to understanding healthcare operations and management on the ground. While at NYU Wagner, Anjana delved into management, finance, and policy coursework to become a well-rounded healthcare manager and leader. She is excited to use this knowledge as an incoming Administrative Fellow at NYU Langone. As a former NYU undergraduate alumna, Anjana is excited to continue to be in the NYU family in her post-graduate career.
STERLING D. SPERO PRIZE
For exceptional long-form written work submitted by a graduating student during the academic year.
Brittany Muscato (MPA)
for “Are Corporate Tax Incentives the Modern-Day Welfare?"
For exceptional short-form written work submitted by a graduating student during the academic year.
Ryan Newberry (MPA)
for “Final Reflection on Community Organizing”
HAMMAD FUND INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP AWARD
for contribution to the global experience, academic success, and exceptional capacity for international leadership
Patrick Maury (MPA)
Patrick Maury attended NYU Wagner after working in municipal government in Burlington, VT. Patrick is a member of the International Public Service Association and was in the process of planning the student group’s annual summit before the pandemic disrupted plans. In January 2020, he traveled to Accra, Ghana to research plastic waste management with his Capstone teammates on behalf of their client, the United Nations Capital Development Fund. While at NYU Wagner, he developed an interest in the field of emergency management and interned with FEMA Region 2. During the past year, he participated in NYC's John D. Solomon Fellowship for emergency management where he worked with the Department of Social Services to strengthen New York's coastal storm planning and assist with the COVID-19 pandemic response.
Mehek Yousafzai (MPA)
Mehek Yousafzai came to NYU Wagner to shift her career from being a physician to learning the administrative side of health. During her time at NYU Wagner, she had her research on Opioid Stewardship in Orthopedic Surgery published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. As she continues to grow on the other side of medicine, she plans to use this newly enhanced knowledge in creating a holistic patient experience that is beyond treatment only. While at NYU Wagner, she served as the Chairperson for Wagner International Public Service Association.
named in honor of previous NYU Wagner deans
HOWARD NEWMAN AWARD
for exemplary work done by a Capstone team
Miranda Adams (MUP)
Justin Flaminiano (MUP)
Maria Free (MUP)
Alejandro Martinez (MUP)
Kelly McGuinness (MUP)
The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) is tasked with providing safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible transport options and developing infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles. In 2021, New York City will implement a toll fee for vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street in an attempt to decongest the city’s central business district, using evidence from global examples to encourage modal shifts to mass transit. In anticipation of this shift, DOT engaged the Capstone team to identify specific subway stations with the highest likelihood for additional users as a result of congestion pricing. The Capstone team analyzed commuting behavior, travel time to the congestion zone, station accessibility, and income to determine which stations are likely to see an increase in users. Utilizing existing safety data, the team provided DOT with priority areas for infrastructure investments. The team’s research culminated in a report identifying top target stations and recommendations for infrastructure that facilitate shifting modes due to congestion pricing.
Juan Ardila (MPA)
Giovanni Barcenes (MPA)
Palak Kaushal (MPA)
Savannah Romero (MPA)
Pay Our Interns (POI) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for paid internships in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Following the organization’s successful advocacy campaign in 2018 for paid internships in the United States Congress, POI enlisted the Capstone team to research the effects of unpaid internships in the New York City Council. The team contacted all 51 council members, conducted stakeholder interviews, and administered a survey to current and former council interns to better understand the landscape and financial burden of unpaid internships. The team compiled a final report that presents evidence showing the detrimental effects of unpaid internships and makes policy recommendations for paying interns at the New York City Council, which POI plans to use as a model for advocacy efforts in NYC and other municipalities across the United States.
JO IVEY BOUFFORD AWARD
for innovative solutions to public service challenges
Sindu Janakiram (MPA)
Ignacio Paullier (MPA)
Kyungye Hyun (MBA)
The team designed a financial product that enables allocating investments into companies that have demonstrated best practices in supporting refugee populations. The team won first place at the 2020 Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge, which consisted of 95 teams from over 74 schools and representing over 50 countries.
ROBERT BERNE AWARD FOR LEADERSHIP
for significant contribution to the NYU Wagner community
Lilian Aluri (MPA)
Lilian Aluri is passionate about using her communication skills to advocate for and with marginalized communities, particularly within the area of disability rights and inclusion. While at NYU Wagner, she deepened her understanding of public policy and human rights, honed her writing and analytical skills within the context of public policy, and served as the 2019-20 Ombudsperson in the Wagner Student Association and a Co-Chair of the WagnerCares Committee.
Ignacio Aravena (MUP)
Ignacio Aravena’s interest in affordable housing and policy encouraged him to study urban planning at NYU Wagner where he focused on strengthening his skills in policy analysis, especially in housing, segregation, and economic development in cities. After this experience, he renewed his commitment to participate in the public policy process in his country, Chile. He is highly motivated to promote the invaluable role of good policy discussions to improve the welfare of citizens. His goal is to contribute to making Chile the first developed country in Latin America by promoting better and more inclusive growth.
Dennis Grishin (MPA)
Dennis Grishin came to NYU Wagner to further his knowledge of health economics and policy. He focused his studies on understanding the US healthcare system and international examples for possible reforms. He will use this knowledge as a Healthcare Consultant with Huron Consulting Group, starting in July, focusing on revenue cycle process improvement for healthcare providers. While at NYU Wagner, he served as a Peer Advisor and Chair of the Wagner Health Network.
Sergio Pelaez (EMPA)
Sergio Pelaez is committed to developing and growing as a world leader capable of understanding the complex interaction of the private and public sectors in our system and driving the necessary changes to have a more just, equitable, and productive society. He came to NYU Wagner to broaden his knowledge about public service in areas such as education, healthcare, housing, and technology, and will now be part of McKinsey & Company’s management consulting team, working with clients to help them solve their most pressing challenges.
Janelle Sauz (MPA)
Janelle Sauz’s passion for achieving health equity led her to the health policy and management program at NYU Wagner. She focused on increasing her capacity around equity, diversity, and inclusion by serving as the Vice Chair of the Wagner Diversity Council, being a member of the NYU Social Sector Leadership Fellowship, and interning with the Office of Diversity & Inclusion at Port Authority. With a background in public health and quality improvement, she plans to design systems that enable historically marginalized communities to thrive.
Amanda Alfano (EMPA)
Prior to NYU Wagner, Amanda Alfano was working as a Staff Nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. She came to NYU Wagner to acquire the skills and training necessary to be an effective nurse leader and healthcare innovator. While at NYU Wagner, she was promoted and has overseen multiple departments within the hospital system. She is currently the Patient Care Director of Ambulatory Surgery and a Surgical Short-Stay Unit and plans to continue leading her teams and leverage her education to work towards improving health advocacy and equity on a large scale.
ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF THE YEAR
Katherine Grainger is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service. She is also a respected attorney, has worked on civil rights, women’s rights, labor, and education issues. Currently, Katherine is Partner of Civitas Public Affairs Group. She has previously served as assistant counsel to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo where she was responsible for crafting and implementing major legislative initiatives, including the Marriage Equality Act, and overseeing pressing regulatory, budgetary, and litigation matters. Prior to joining the Governor’s staff, she was a senior staff member in the New York State Senate. Katherine has also worked extensively on reproductive rights and justice as vice president for public policy and political initiatives at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and as the director of state policy at the Center for Reproductive Rights. A frequent public speaker, Katherine is quoted widely in the national press and has appeared on PBS’s “Frontline” and NPR. Katherine earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and women’s studies from the George Washington University and her law degree from Northeastern School of Law.
PROFESSOR OF THE YEAR
Dr. Vanessa Léon is Assistant Clinical Professor of Urban Planning and Public Service and will serve as the Director of the Urban Planning program at NYU Wagner beginning in the 2020/21 academic year. As a scholar-practitioner, Vanessa’s work is situated at the carrefour between disaster management, community engagement, local development, and public policy. For about a decade, she undertook an in-depth analysis of Haiti's institutional development over the past 30 years in order to evaluate the country's post-earthquake capacity for local governance, urban development, and improved public service delivery. She was one of five Haitian-Americans selected by the Haitian Embassy in Washington DC to serve as a Haiti Future Leaders Fellow in 2015. Also in 2015, she was inducted into the Haitian Roundtable’s 1804 List as one of the “Top 5 to Watch” among Haitian-Americans. Dr. Léon was named one of “40 Urban Leaders Under 40” by Next City in 2014. She obtained her PhD in Public and Urban Policy from The New School, her Master of Urban Planning from NYU Wagner, and her Bachelor of Arts in African and African American Studies and in American Studies from Brandeis University. Vanessa is also the Chief Executive Officer of Pinchina, an international urban planning and public policy firm she founded in 2010.