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26 June 2019

The Robert Strauss Center is very pleased to announce the acceptance of thirteen graduate students to its 2019 – 2020 class of the Brumley Next Generation Graduate Fellows program. Now entering its fifth year, the program’s new class comprises an impressive group of graduate and PhD students drawn from schools and departments across UT campus. 

Involving graduate students in the Strauss Center’s research programs is an important part of the Center’s service mission, and the Next Generation Brumley Fellows program enables the Strauss Center to directly engage with students on enhancing their research and professional opportunities. The goal of the program is to provide a transformative experience for UT graduate students from an array of disciplines, accelerating their path towards career success. The Fellows program emphasizes building professional and scholarly skills and networks, as well as gaining exposure to perspectives and methods from outside the Fellows’ home departments.  Towards that end, each year we select the Fellows for each of our research programs in a highly-competitive process involving applicants from varying fields of study. 

The graduate fellowship program consists of two core components.  First, each Fellow will work with their faculty mentor to identify a policymaker or scholar of particular significance for their career plans, whom the Strauss Center will then bring to campus for a dinner with that Fellow, a private colloquium with the full group of Fellows, and a public talk.  Second, each Fellow participates in a mentor-guided research project, which also includes the option of Strauss Center financial support for associated research expenses.  

Meet the 2019 – 2020 Brumley Next Generation Graduate Fellows: 

Mohamed Abufalgha is entering the second year of his master’s degree program at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. In the Global Policy Studies program, he focuses on conflict studies and diplomacy. Mohamed received his Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and as an undergraduate, he worked as a research assistant, studying issues related to Syrian and Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. Mohamed is interested in religious and ideological movements across the MENA region. In his Brumley Fellowship, Mohamed will work under the guidance of Dr. Samy Ayoub, Distinguished Scholar at the Strauss Center and Assistant Professor of Law and Middle Eastern Studies.  

Otitoaleke (Leke) Akinola is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Leke received his B.S. in Electronic and Computer Engineering in Nigeria and has experience in solid state electronics, computer networking and security, telecommunications, embedded systems, robotics, and image processing. Presently, he is working on synthesizing new 2-dimensional magnetic materials for electronic applications and developing nanomagnetic devices for neuromorphic computing architecture. Leke’s research interests include physically unclonable functions with magnetic tunnel junctions and how international cybersecurity and intellectual property (IP) laws affects engineering design decisions. As a Brumley Fellow, Leke will work with Bobby Chesney, Director of the Strauss Center and Charles I. Francis Professor in Law. Upon completion of his degree, Leke plans to be a research and development engineering scientist, social entrepreneur, and innovator.

Meagan Bennett is a third year dual-degree master’s student in Global Policy Studies at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies in the Dual Language track for Arabic and Persian. Her research examines the intersection of intelligence, policy, and diplomacy, focused on national security, information warfare, creative insurgency, and strategic communications. She is spending the summer of 2019 as an intern with the State Department in the Office of Iranian Affairs at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Previously, she worked as a federal and private contractor in the Middle East for several years. Meagan is a veteran of the U.S. Army where she served as an Arabic linguist in Military Intelligence, including tours in the Middle East. In her Brumley Fellowship, Meagan will work with Dr. Alan Kessler, Resident Intelligence Officer at the LBJ School. 

Nathan Bumagny is a Master of Global Policy Studies candidate and Chancellor's Scholar at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. His research interests include the Middle East, North Africa, and religious extremism. As a Graduate Archer Fellow, Nathan spent the summer in Washington, DC interning at the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project. Prior to this, Nathan spent thirteen months living in Morocco as a Boren Scholar. He is a combat veteran and served in the Army National Guard for seven years, completing a tour in Afghanistan in 2012. In his Brumley Fellowship, Nathan will work under the guidance of Stephen Slick, the Director of the Intelligence Studies Project. Nathan is passionate about public service and hopes to contribute to US foreign policy upon graduating in 2020. 

Fei Guo is a third-year Ph.D. student specializing in the history of modern China. Fei is interested in state power and development and his current research focuses on China in the early 1950s, particularly the various mass campaigns designed to eradicate the enemies of the new communist state. Fei will work under the guidance of Scott Wolford, Associate Professor in the Department of Government. Upon completion of his doctoral studies, Fei plans to be a professional academic and hopes to continue to bridge the gap between academic research and public policy.

 Claire Huitt is a third-year dual degree student with the University of Texas School of Law and the LBJ School of Public Affairs, pursuing her J.D. and M.A. in Global Policy Studies. She specializes in Security, Law, and Diplomacy and holds a Graduate Portfolio in Security Studies from the Clements Center for National Security.  For the past two years, Claire has worked as a Graduate Student Associate with the Strauss Center. She has worked as an intern for the Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the Department of Justice in the Office of International Affairs, and the Texas House of Representatives. In her Brumley Fellowship, Claire will work with Derek Jinks, Distinguished Scholar  the Strauss Center and Marrs McLean Professor in Law. Upon completion of her studies, Claire intends to practice law and hopes to make a career in government practice, ideally at the federal level utilizing her expertise in foreign policy and national security.

Sam Lee is a second-year Master of Global Policy student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where he specializes in human security and migration. In 2011, he earned dual bachelor’s degrees in business administration and Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi. He then spent the next seven years working in various non-profits around the world before deciding to pivot away from direct service and move toward more policy-oriented solutions. He recently completed an internship at the Texas Legislature with the Office of State Representative César Blanco, where he worked on legislation relating to human trafficking and the 2020 census. Sam will work with Stephanie Leutert, Director of the Central America/Mexico Policy Initiative at the Strauss Center. Post-graduation, Sam plans to get involved in one of the intergovernmental regional organizations focused on human security and promoting deeper integration within the Americas.

Matthew Preisser is a second year dual-degree student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Cockrell School of Engineering. He received a B.Eng in Biosystems Engineering with a concentration in ecology, as well as minors in Sustainability Studies and German from Auburn University. His research interests include the application of technology and applied sciences to benefit at-risk communities impacted by climate change and extreme weather events. In conjunction with Brumley, Matthew will be conducting research as a National Science Foundation Fellow on the uses of satellite imagery in disaster preparedness in Southern Asia. In his Brumley Fellowship, he will work under the guidance of Dr. Josh Busby, Associate Professor of Public Affairs and Distinguished Scholar at the Strauss Center. Upon graduation, Matthew will pursue work in international humanitarian aid, with an emphasis on disaster preparedness or water security.

 Sarah Propst is a second-year law student at the University of Texas School of Law. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from UT Austin. Prior to law school, Sarah worked as a senior scientist at Merck & Co. researching and developing novel biologic and vaccine therapies. Sarah is particularly interested in the intersection of law and technology. She will be researching potential engineering and legal approaches to space debris and traffic management. As a Brumley Next Generation Graduate Fellow, Sarah will be working with Dr. Moriba Jah from the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. 

 Laura Quaglia is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include national security policymaking and agenda-setting from a comparative perspective, specifically the reform in the U.S. intelligence community after 9/11 and on the diffusion of national security policies from the U.S. to the G20 countries. Prior to joining the Brumley Next Generation Fellows, she served as a graduate research fellow with the Policy Agendas Project. Laura received her B.A. in International Relations and her M.A in International Strategic Studies from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil. In her Brumley Fellowship, Laura will work with Paul Pope, Senior Fellow at the Intelligence Studies Project. Upon completing her Ph.D., Laura plans to hold an academic position and maintain strong ties to public service.

Ari Tolany is entering the final year of her master's program in Middle Eastern Studies, where she currently studies Persian. Her research focuses on intersections of gender, law, and the state in Iran, South, and Central Asia. Her thesis examines how reforms to marriage law in India in the twentieth century shaped political parties and identities. In her Brumley Fellowship, Ari will work with Ashley Moran, Director of the State Fragility Initiative at the Strauss Center. Upon completion of her degree, Ari hopes to work for a non-profit outside the United States before earning her doctorate.  

Olimpia Valdivia is a second-year Ph.D. student at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies program at UT Austin. She is from Guanajuato Mexico, holds a B.A. in Social Anthropology, and a MA. in Asian and African Studies from El Colegio de México. Her broad areas of study are youth and violence, migration, and refugees. Currently, she is developing a transnational and qualitative dissertation research project regarding the experiences of Central American adolescents who have backgrounds as gang members (like Mara Salvatrucha, MS 13, and 18th Street) as they leave their home countries and traverse the increasingly arcane asylum process through Mexico. The goal of this project is to analyze how those minors experience structural violence in their home countries, how their gang affiliation and such an environment of generalized violence negatively affect their human rights and allow them to migrate in search of protection. In her Brumley Fellowship, Monste will work with Dr. Jacob Dizard of the Central America/Mexico Policy Initiative.

Willy Vasquez is entering the third year of his Ph.D. program in Electrical and Computer Engineering. His research is at the intersection of cryptography and systems security, designing provably secure systems based on advanced cryptographic primitives. As a Brumley Fellow, Willy will work with Bobby Chesney, Director of the Strauss Center, under the Cybersecurity Studies program. Upon completion of his Ph.D., he plans to pursue a position in academia and transition his research into a startup.

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