Meet the 2018 New Jersey Fellows
(back to NLC 2018 Fellows)
Director of Media and Outreach, NJ State Legislature
Jesus Alcazar currently serves as the Director of Media and Outreach for Senator Jeff Van Drew, Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, and Assemblyman Bruce Land in the First Legislative District.
Inspired by the historic campaign of then-Senator Barack Obama, he found a passion for politics that led him to study Political Science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. During his time as an undergraduate, he interned with the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) and was successful in various grassroots campaigns aimed at tackling student debt and environmental issues. For his work with the NJPIRG, he was invited to the White House in 2012 to stand behind President Barack Obama as he signed legislation that reduced student loan interest rates. He also interned for Congressman Frank Pallone’s congressional office and was a Trainee for M Public Affairs (now known as Kivvit).
After graduating in 2015, he worked on the Andrzejczak and Land for Assembly campaign, where he played an important role in defeating an incumbent during a low-turnout campaign year. Outside of his professional work, he currently serves as the Vice President of the Southern Region for the New Jersey Young Democrats and is the Sergeant-at-Arms of the South Jersey Young Democrats.
Staff Member, Governor-Elect Phil Murphy
Jonathan serves on Governor-Elect Phil Murphy’s transition team as the Briefing Coordinator and Assistant Director of the Agriculture Transition Committee. Jonathan served on the Phil Murphy for Governor campaign as the Briefing Coordinator where he drafted and prepared briefing materials for all daily events and meetings for Gubernatorial Candidate Phil Murphy and Lieutenant Governor Candidate Sheila Oliver. He was also a member of the campaign’s policy team where he helped research and formulate policy and met with stakeholders.
Psychiatric Emergency Screener, Cape Counseling Services, Inc
Ashley Bennett graduated from Egg Harbor Township High School in 2003. While in high school, Ashley became an Emergency Medical Technician and discovered her passion to serve others.
Ashley went on to attend Rutgers University, where she earned a degree in Psychology and a minor in Organizational Leadership. While at Rutgers, Ashley became a Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program Scholar and completed original research as well as presented at the McNair Conference at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
She went on to pursue a graduate degree at Georgian Court University, where she earned a Master in Community Counseling. Ashley furthered her education by completing a Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University, where she worked in The Forensic Neuropsychology Research as a Research Assistant. During this time she has presented original research at both the Association for Psychological Science and the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies National Conferences.
Ashley has also been the project leader in the Forensic lab for the past two years on Exposure to Violence and Trauma research. She is currently working with her advisor and research team members on several manuscripts for publication.
Ashley has been in the mental health field for a decade and currently works as a psychiatric emergency screener in a local emergency room where she conducts mental health assessments and links those in crisis with mental health treatment. Ashley is completing two additional graduate degrees in Public Health and Business Administration, with plans to get involved with policy. Ashley is the newly-elected Freeholder of District 3 of Atlantic County, New Jersey, where her race garnered national attention when her opponent mocked the Women’s March on Washington on social media. This spurred Ashley to enter politics for the first time.
Ashley is a passionate believer in the policies that truly benefit everyone and strongly advocates for education, our youth, and social justice. Ashley has been featured in national and international media outlets like the Fox29News with Hank Flynn, News One Now with Roland Martin, MSNBC Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC Mitchell Reports with Andrea Mitchell, Daily Show with Trevor Noah, WNYC Sunday Calling with Joan Walsh, MSNBC with Richard Lui, MSNBC with Rachel Maddow, WNYC Brian Lehrer, CNN Erin Burnett Out Front, and the Associated Press. Ashley is also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
Urban Health Physician
Raoul Bhatta is a physician working to improve health care delivery systems within New Jersey. He joins NLC to develop strategic solutions specific to NJ that link policy with local capacity development.
Most recently, Raoul has been working on public health problems stemming from the opioid epidemic as Project Manager at the NJ Department of Health. He also sits on the Advisory Board of the Environmental Committee of East Brunswick, is the Chief of Health Policy & Strategy at Stand NJ, and is the Director of Strategy and Business Development for Simply Jerk Jamaican Grill in South Brunswick.
Previously, Raoul completed a combined BA/MD program with Lehigh University and Drexel University College of Medicine, his internship and certification in Aviation Medicine through the US Army Medical Department, and an MPA in urban policy from Columbia University.
Raoul lives with his wife Katie and dog Milo in East Brunswick. Together, they enjoy time with their families, friends, working out, and leverage all available nearby dog parks.
Software Engineer, MLB Advanced Media (BAMTECH Media)
Ruell Calvin Brown is a Software Engineer currently working as an Android Developer at BAMTech Media–a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company and spin-off of MLB Advanced Media. He previously held a similar role at The New York Times. He is also the CEO/Founder of Bamplify LLC, a company that implements software engineering solutions - implementing the team’s app ideas and/or those of other organizations.
Program Coordinator, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice
Johanna Calle is a longtime New Jersey resident, born in Ecuador and raised in Hackensack, NJ. Growing up as an undocumented student changed her life and impacted her interest in social justice. She started her advocacy as a high school student urging Congress to pass the Dream Act and has made several visits to Washington D.C. in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Johanna is the Program Coordinator at the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ), and will be taking on the role of Director in 2018. In her work with the NJIAJ, she has built the organization’s programmatic and administrative capacity, growing their membership and staff, while managing their advocacy campaigns.
Johanna’s professional experience includes working as a Leadership Gifts Coordinator at the American Civil Liberties Union and participating in the ACLU of Northern California’s MiACLU campaign, visiting various affiliates fighting for immigrants’ rights. Johanna believes in the power of education and was able to engage first hand while teaching at Dr. E. Alma Flagg Elementary in Newark before her role at the NJAIJ.
She enjoys mentoring and giving back to her community. She has returned to her former schools in Hackensack to mentor students and their families, and currently serves as a Trustee on the Hackensack Board of Education. Johanna is also a Board Member at the Anti-Poverty Network.
She graduated from The College of New Jersey with a double major in Sociology and Political Science, where she established the Students for Barack Obama chapter on campus. Johanna also holds a Master in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University, where she explored the victimization of immigrants in her research.
Government and Community Engagement Coordinator, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Tiffany Chang is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to her role as Government and Community Engagement Coordinator at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Tiffany worked as a professional musician in North America, North Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia. She has performed at notable New York City venues, including Madison Square Garden, The Apollo Theater, Blue Note Jazz Club, Rockwood Music Hall, and others. In her career, Tiffany has also collaborated with Grammy award-winning trumpeter Brian Lynch, National Endowment for the Arts Composer Fellow Robert Dick, Swiss Chris, and Michael Veal, Professor of Music and African American Studies at Yale University.
Assistant Professor of Medicine/Faculty Practice Physician, Rowan University
Currently, Dr. Magdala Chery serves as a primary care general internist with a career focus in women's health, health disparities, and academic medicine. As a New Jersey native, she attended Montclair State University for undergrad, obtained her master’s degree and medical degree from Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Chery then went on to complete an internal medicine residency program at the University of Connecticut (UCONN). Now she serves as an assistant professor at RowanSOM which allows her to teach and inspire future generations of physicians.
Her passion for addressing health policy topics and issues impacting women and girls stems from years of community involvement. As an Albert Schweitzer Fellow, she created and implemented a yearlong after-school program in Camden, NJ called Project S.I.S. (Stand I Stand) for adolescent females addressing Healthy People 2020 initiatives. This gave way to her being selected as a PASP (Paul Ambrose Scholars Program) Scholar allowing her the opportunity to conduct a dating violence and making smart choices workshop in Camden.
Dr. Chery’s interest in health care and health disparities extends beyond US boards. She most recently completed a Yale University/Stanford University Global Health Fellowship which granted her the opportunity to do amazing work in South Africa in the area of HIV/Tuberculosis Management. This is in addition to completing multiple medical trips to Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico in the past. All these experiences have aligned and enforced Dr. Chery's focus on women's health and addressing disparities/gaps in the care of women and minorities. In 2016, she was selected for the Changemaker Award and was invited to attend the First United State of Women Conference/Summit put on by the White House.
In her spare time, Dr. Chery loves mentoring young women in her local community and serving as a role model for those around her. She feels she has been burdened with a passion to serve and believes we all have a responsibility to fight wrongs, advocate for those in need, and commit to making the world a better place.
Michael Enich is a radical, intersectional psychiatrist in training and community health activist currently in his second year at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Enich prides himself on strong relationships as well as working in and with local communities; his dedication to public mental health started with integrating comprehensive peer-based wellness education programming into residence halls and student government at his undergraduate institution. He eventually expanded his work to local rural free health providers including HealthFinders Free Clinic and the Rice County Mental Health Collective in southeastern Minnesota.
He came to New Jersey to serve as a Youth Advocate in Jesuit Volunteer Corps at Covenant House, Newark. There Enich found his passion for providing comprehensive supportive programming for young people experiencing homelessness - him and his coworkers were integral in providing wrap-around legal, educational, health, vocational and mental health services. He found himself spending extra time at Nancy’s Place, a transitional living program for young people experiencing mental illness and decided he should follow that interest. To add to Covenant House’s already extensive programming he developed a supportive poetry group, a youth leadership council and LGBTQIA* group.
Enich envisions a world where health is approached in a similar multi-faceted way, and this vision is what grounds his desire to be a physician. At Robert Wood Johnson, he has joined the Student Operations Committee of The Promise Clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured people of New Brunswick and works with other student leaders to integrate social needs and mental health support into offered services; he also began a research project identifying potential barriers to young people with mental illness’ access to mental health care care, along with creating and implementing electronic health education resources for patients with HIV/AIDS at The Robert Wood Johnson AIDS Program. He graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN with a B.A. in Religion in 2014.
Communications Coordinator, The Citizens Campaign
Steven Galante is the Communications Coordinator with The Citizens Campaign where he is helping to craft a modern civics curriculum for high schools and adults around the country. He is also an advocate for new and innovative media and journalism initiatives that will foster a more robust and inclusive democracy.
Before joining The Citizens Campaign he was a journalist for a variety of publications since 2008 covering municipal news, state and local politics, business, technology and public policy. In 2012, he received a first-place award from the New Jersey Press Association for news writing. He also has experience volunteering with grassroots political action organizations and organizing youths around political causes.
Steven received his master’s degree from the School of Communications and Information Studies at Rutgers University. He also received the Henry J. Raimondo Legislative Graduate Fellowship with the Eagleton Institute of Politics where he worked as a policy researcher with the Office of Legislative Services for the New Jersey Legislature. Additionally with Eagleton, he served as a general researcher with the Rutgers-Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.
Policy Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey
Dianna Houenou serves as Policy Counsel for the ACLU of New Jersey. In that role, she conducts legal and policy analysis related to the ACLU-NJ’s advocacy campaigns and public policy goals. Her work focuses primarily on criminal justice reform issues, including police practices and immigrants’ rights. She facilitates ACLU-NJ coalitions, particularly Newark Communities for Accountable Policing (N-CAP), which advocates for meaningful lasting police reform, and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR), which advocates for marijuana legalization as a matter of racial and social justice.
Charity Jeffries has been working as a campaign operative since her graduation from Western Carolina University in North Carolina. Most recently, she was the Field Director for the Second Legislative District campaigns and in this capacity served as the Atlantic County Field Lead for Phil Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign. Charity is a veteran of numerous political and issue-based campaigns, having worked in North Carolina several times, Boston, and most recently New Jersey. Coming from North Carolina, Charity understands how important state and local elections can be for education, civil rights, and working class families.
Growing up in rural western NC as the daughter of a veteran and a public school teacher, Charity saw first hand just how out of touch a lot of representatives are with their constituents, she set a mission to change that by working to elect strong, honest leadership of all levels. Charity is looking forward to being an active and engaged resident of New Jersey and learning from a strong political campaign system.
Charity is also an Alumni of Alpha Gamma Delta International Fraternity, Theta Omicron Chapter.
Political Coordinator, Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters
Garrison Jens Keck currently serves as the Political Coordinator for the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters. He assists Political Director Lizette Delgado-Polanco in managing the political activity of the Northeast Carpenters’ vast territory that includes New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Parts of Pennsylvania. Garrison works closely with the various local unions that make up the Northeast Carpenters' near forty-thousand-person membership. These local’s ability to organize their members to get out the vote is what allows Garrison and the rest of the Carpenters Union political staff to play such an influential role in races both local and statewide. This capability is what made it possible for the Northeast Carpenters to mobilize close to one-thousand members for Phil Murphy and the Democratic line on Election Day 2017.
Prior to his employment by the Northeast Carpenters, Garrison served as a staffer for the Middlesex County Democratic Organization. It was working for the Middlesex Democrats where he got his first experience in politics working with municipal, legislative and countywide campaigns throughout Middlesex County.
Garrison, born in Morristown, currently resides Allamuchy Township, New Jersey where he has lived for the past sixteen years. In his free time enjoys spending time with his family and his three dogs Elvis, Cash and Bob Marley.
Assistant Prosecutor, Hudson County Prosecutor's Office
Andrew Macurdy is an Assistant Prosecutor at the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office in Jersey City. He is also an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, and a member of the faculty at the Harvard Law School Trial Advocacy Program. He previously clerked for the Honorable Michael Chagares at the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Newark, and the Honorable Miriam Cedarbaum at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.
After law school, he worked at Arnold & Porter LLP in Washington DC, where he represented a range of clients, including indigent criminal defendants. A native of Mount Holly, NJ, Andrew graduated from Swarthmore College as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Andrew serves as a board member of his local neighborhood organization in Jersey City, the Historic Paulus Hook Association.
Associate Counsel, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
Andrea McChristian is Associate Counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. In her time at the Institute, Andrea has served as the primary author of a report on New Jersey's youth justice system, participated in work related to the federal consent decree bringing reforms to the Newark Police Division, and has been featured in the New York Times as part of a reflection on the Newark Rebellion.
Medical Writer, Apothecom
Jason McSheene, PhD is a medical writer and scientific communications specialist currently residing in Hamilton, NJ. He was born and raised in Wayne, NJ, earned his B.S. in Biomedical Sciences from Rochester Institute of Technology, and has been part of the Princeton-Trenton area since he started his PhD in Molecular Biology at Princeton University in 2008. As a proud, lifelong nerd, he celebrates the power of education and its role in changing lives for the better.
Cristian Moreno-Rodriguez was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey but his origins begin in Putla Villa De Guerrero, Oaxaca, Mexico where his parents are originally from. Born to immigrant parents and raised by an undocumented community, Cristian’s passions and goals in life center around the need to protect the rights and civil liberties of immigrants. Through his personal studies, Cristian has learned to embrace his culture and identifies as Chicano, a Mexican-American with a defiant political attitude.
In 2017, Cristian became a first-generation college graduate, obtaining a bachelor's in Political Science with a concentration in Pre-Law studies from Stockton University as a Provost Scholar. While at Stockton, Cristian served as President of the College Democrats, President of the Mock Trial Team, a member of the Student Senate, and as the Student Trustee on the University’s Board of Trustees. Cristian plans on attending Rutgers University next year to pursue a Law Degree with the intent of focusing on immigration and constitutional law.
This past fall, Cristian was a Congressional Intern for Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-03) in Washington D.C. Cristian interned for the Chicano Congressman because of his long history as a grassroots organizer and his strong commitment to progressive values as Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Cristian spent his time in D.C. learning the inner workings of the federal legislative process and gauging the effectiveness of Congress in protecting the civil liberties and rights of the most vulnerable populations in America.
Presently, Cristian has returned back to his community in Atlantic City, and is working as a community organizer. He hopes to do his part in order to make New Jersey a sanctuary for all.
Organizer, Make the Road New Jersey
Nedia Morsy, originally from Hillside, New Jersey, is an organizer at Make the Road New Jersey (MRNJ), a local organization based in Elizabeth, New Jersey which seeks to build the power of immigrant and working class families to achieve dignity and respect through community organizing, high-quality legal and support services, and transformative education.
Before MRNJ, as a college student, Nedia co-founded the First Generation Association, a hub for organizing to support first-generation students at Amherst College. Successes included expanding the Political Science department’s catalog to include domestic policy courses, organizing a successful petition for the College to cover graduation celebration expenses for marginalized students, and redesigning the physical and organizational structure of the College’s Multicultural Resource Center to improve accessibility. After Amherst, Nedia was invited to participate in the Coro Fellows program in St. Louis. As a Coro Fellow, Nedia co-organized a weeklong surveying trip to D.C. to meet with national and local stakeholders on a variety of issues.
Before returning to New Jersey, Nedia served as the field and GOTV director for a Working Families candidate for New York State Senate. Now at MRNJ, Nedia is responsible for expanding educational opportunities for immigrant youth in greater Union County and youth leadership development. Since joining MRNJ in late 2016, the youth organizing arm has grown from four youth volunteers to 40+ active members.
PhD Student Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolution
Johnny Quispe is a doctoral candidate at Rutgers University’s Department of Ecology and Evolution investigating the effects of sea-level rise to coastal wetlands, vulnerabilities of coastal areas to flooding, identifying areas for restoration and flooding mitigation, and quantifying damages from future flooding. He aims to connect and reconnect communities with their shorelines, while learning from locals about their coasts’ past; especially in low-income inner cities where communities might not have access to waterfronts and do not have the opportunity to interact with the surrounding waterways. Johnny plans to expand his research into disadvantaged coastal communities working to keep their coastal identity in the midst of a changing world, foster sustainable relationships with their natural resources, and to inspire minorities to pursue careers in the sciences.
Prior to pursuing his graduate degree, Johnny earned his Bachelor of Science in International Environmental Policy, Institutions, and Behaviors at Rutgers University. He then went on to continue his focus on environmental issues in New Jersey by working on conservation, restoration, and remediation sites in NJ via nonprofit, public, and academic sectors. He worked on achieving holistic remediations for federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA/Superfund), and state Site Remediation Program (SRP) sites through advocacy, technical research, public engagement, and education.
In the last year, Johnny interned at the New Jersey Department of State and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, New Jersey Future, Jersey Water Works, and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Headquarters where he conducted research for the Emergency and Remedial Response Division. Johnny is a Rutgers University Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience Fellow and student co-chair for the Atlantic Estuarine Research Federation. He is a graduate of Eagleton Institute of Politics Graduate Fellowship program at Rutgers University.
Johnny’s recent research experience has led him to work on marsh and bog restorations, environmental resource inventories, watershed- and water-quality protection, and several other projects. He strongly believes in the creation and implementation of science-based policies and hopes to continue bringing science and scientists into the political arena. In his spare time, Johnny enjoys traveling, spending time outdoors, visiting museums, and playing board games.
Manager, Energy Efficiency & Demand Management, Consolidated Edison Company of NY
Rebecca Roberts is a manager in Con Edison’s Energy Efficiency & Demand Management department. In this role, Rebecca leads an innovative team that develops and pilots new energy saving products, services, and technologies to serve the NYC utility’s 3.4 million residential and commercial customers. Rebecca’s team has developed novel program offerings that span everything from in classroom energy education of 5th graders, to new ways to leverage smart home devices to reduce load on the energy grid, to the embrace of new models for incentivizing and financing energy efficient products and projects. Rebecca also led a team that developed Con Edison’s long-term portfolio strategy for achieving its increasing efficiency goals. Through this energy efficiency work, Rebecca proudly supports the clean energy economy and contributes to the reduction of energy use, and the corresponding greenhouse gas emissions, that is critical to greening the tristate area.
Rebecca supports the development of the next generation of energy leaders as a mentor at Energy Tech High School in Queens. Rebecca also helps plan fundraisers for the Sunrise Association, a nonprofit organization that sends children with cancer to camp. Rebecca previously served as volunteer for the NYC Department of the Aging, where she helped an elderly senior citizen pay her bills. She has served as Secretary of the Board of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, a nonprofit organization that addresses responsible investment in university endowments.
As a student at Wesleyan University, where Rebecca earned her B.A. in American Studies, Rebecca founded the Committee for Investor Responsibility, a committee comprised of students, faculty, staff, and alumni who together engage in shareholder advocacy for University-held securities. Rebecca recently earned her M.B.A., with concentrations in Leadership & Change Management and Finance, from New York University’s Stern School of Business. Rebecca is a proud product of Clifton, NJ and a new homeowner in Fair Lawn, NJ with her husband, Dan.
Transition Staffer, State of New Jersey
Dennis Zeveloff is currently working in Trenton on the transition team for Governor-Elect Phil Murphy. He is responsible for coordinating the policy committees’ work and is Deputy Policy Director for the Stronger and Fairer Economy Committee. He previously served as a policy advisor on the Murphy for Governor campaign in Newark, where he focused on issues related to workforce development and economic growth.
Dennis received joint law and business degrees (JD/M.B.A.) from Yale University in 2017. There, he was a vice-president of the American Constitutional Society and involved with the law school’s Community and Economic Development Clinic. He also interned at the Kennedy School’s Government Performance Lab and at New America’s Opportunity@Work initiative.
Prior to graduate school, Dennis worked in education policy and consulting in Washington DC. Dennis cares deeply about making government effective for and responsive to all of its residents, and working towards a just society that fosters Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms. He is also interested in helping progressive candidates win and retain office.
In his spare time, Dennis enjoys running, sandwich eating, comedy, and musical theater. His favorite activity is reading. Dennis grew up in northern New Jersey. After graduating from Tenafly High School, he attended Dartmouth College and double majored in Government and Cognitive Science.