Sacramento 2016 Fellows

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Meet the 2016 Sacramento Fellows

Ryan Alward, Senior Hydrogeologist, GEI Consultants, Inc.


Ryan Alward is a California Professional Geologist and Certified Hydrogeologist currently working for GEI Consultants, Inc., one of the nation’s leading geotechnical, environmental, water resources, and ecological science and engineering firms, in their Rancho Cordova office. He specializes in groundwater well design, well construction and well rehabilitation, and has overseen the construction of multiple water supply wells and municipal well rehabilitations. As a groundwater resources hydrogeologist Ryan assists his clients on projects from the grant writing/proposal phase through the design, construction oversight and regulatory compliance for groundwater supply, groundwater substitution transfers and groundwater banking and storage projects. In the last three years, Ryan has managed the successful rehabilitation of more than 10 water supply wells in Northern California.

A member of GEI for over 10 years, Ryan is currently one of the youngest Junior Associate employee owners of GEI. The firm is ranked number 107 on Engineering News Record’s (ENR) 2015 Top 500 Design Firms list, having risen 15 positions since 2014, and 163 positions since 2007. The firm was also ranked No. 79 on ENR’s 2015 Top 100 Pure Designers list, up 10 positions from No. 89 in 2014. In addition, Ryan is also a member of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, as well as a member of the Groundwater Resources Association (GRA) of California, an organization dedicated to resource management that protects and improves groundwater supply and quality through education and technical leadership. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Geology at California State University, Chico in 2004.
Ryan enjoys motorcycle rides with his wife Christine, abalone diving, hunting, rock climbing, playing guitar, singing and cooking homemade meals for his friends.


Debra Cooper, Policy Consultant, California State Senate Office of Research


Debra Cooper was born and raised in Houston, TX. She received her B.S. in psychology from Duke University and later received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Emory University. Her graduate research focused on studying treatments for drug addiction. After receiving her doctorate, she continued doing research in drug addiction as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Dr. Cooper’s experiences participating in science outreach at K-12 schools and community events made her realize she enjoyed talking about science and wanted to transfer into a career that applied her scientific background more directly. She applied for and was accepted to the Science & Technology Policy Fellowship through the California Council on Science and Technology. The fellowship introduces scientists into the California Capitol to work on state policies.

Debra was placed in the California State Senate Office of Research where she was soon hired on as a policy consultant. She still works for the Senate Office of Research were she provides research and consults for the State Senate on human services, mental health, and veterans affairs issues.

Outside of work, Debra volunteers her time tutoring and mentoring with Improve Your Tomorrow, a college prep program for young men of color in South Sacramento.


Julissa Delgado, Field Representative, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer


Julissa Delgado is a Field Representative in U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s Sacramento office responsible for keeping senior staff and the Senator updated of community priorities and projects in a 14 county-region within Northern California. Prior to joining this position, Ms. Delgado worked as a Field Representative for California Assembly Member Roger Dickinson serving as a community liaison on a variety of issues pertaining to women, the LGBTQ and Latino/a community, health, higher education and immigration.
Ms. Delgado is a first generation Mexican-American originally from the Los Angeles area. She graduated from the University of California, Davis in Political Science with minors in Latin American and Hemispheric Studies, and Chicana/o Studies. During her time at UC Davis, Ms. Delgado participated in the UC Washington Program and studied abroad in Latin America. Throughout her undergraduate career, Ms. Delgado volunteered at both non-profit and governmental organizations to pursue her interests in public service.


Vivian Ericson, Legislative Aide, California State Assembly/Assemblymember Cristina Garcia


Vivian Ericson is a Legislative Aide in the Office of Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). She began her time in the capitol through a fellowship with the California Council on Science and Technology in the same office. While staffing the member on the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife she gained a deeper understanding of the disparities across different communities in terms of access to clean water, open spaces and resources to create healthy communities. Additionally, she covered the issue areas of Health, Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, Aging and Long term Care, and Privacy and Consumer Protection.

Prior to coming to Sacramento Vivian completed her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University and obtained a B.S. in Cell and Developmental Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She became increasingly involved in a science outreach program called Science Bus during graduate school and eventually served as a co-president. This led to her serving on various education committees while at Stanford as a student representative. Her experiences working with different communities were what brought her to Sacramento to pursue a career in public policy. In her spare time she can usually be found outside—whether it’s climbing, learning to back-country ski, or wandering around the Sierra with a map and compass.


Tanya Faison, Community Organizer, Incite Insight & Black Lives Matter Sacramento

sac-Faison.jpegTanya Faison was born and raised in Sacramento, California. Tanya studied Political Science and has always been very passionate about social justice issues. In 2001, Tanya was moved by the story of Donovan Jackson, a 16 year old boy who was beaten by Inglewood police in front of his father. It was then that Tanya started taking notice to the ongoing problem of police brutality. In 2008, Tanya became intrigued with the presidential election, and decided that she finally found something that she wanted to build a career around. In 2009 Oscar Grant was killed by BART police in Oakland California. It was then that Tanya decided that she wanted to use the knowledge she gained about politics, and use to help fight systemic racial inequalities for people of color in the United States. In August of 2014 Tanya founded Incite Insight. Tanya’s goal was to help rebuild communities, inspire change through political processes, and empower people of color to fight for equality. Tanya saw a need for systemic equality in our educational process, mass incarceration and private prisons, how people/communities of color are policed and tried in our courts.  In November of 2015, Incite Insight became the Sacramento chapter for Black Lives Matter. Today, Tanya continues to fight for racial justice with a team of 17 passionate leaders, focusing on local law enforcement reform and community inclusion in areas of Sacramento that have become victim to gentrification.


Matthew Hamlett, Legislative Assistant, California State Assembly


Matthew Hamlett is a Legislative Assistant in the Office of Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego). He consults Dr. Weber on multiple issues including Banking and Finance, Jobs and Economic Development, Revenue and Taxation, and Utilities and Commerce. Prior to being hired as a Legislative Assistant, Matthew served as a Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellow in the same office.

An alumni of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Matthew was active in multiple arenas as a class representative in student government, president of the political science honor society Phi Sigma Alpha, member of the football team and captain and national qualifier for the Cal Lutheran track and field team. He also participated in the Lutheran Colleges Washington Semester in Washington D.C. during which he interned at the Federal Reserves Department of Community and Consumer Affairs. While there he produced a report on mobile banking and how it could be used as a tool to include traditionally disenfranchised groups in the banking system.

Matthew is the son of Bobby and Angela Hamlett who continue to live in his hometown of Long Beach California after over 25 years. His sister Danielle, is currently in her first year at California State University East Bay. He attributes his grounding in progressive values to his upbringing where his mother a social worker, and his father a coach, have always emphasized the incredible potential of all people as well as not only believing in your principles, but living by them.


Sarah Kerber, Legislative Assistant, California School Employees Association


Sarah Kerber works in the Governmental Relations office of the California School Employees Association (CSEA), AFL-CIO, the largest classified school employees union in the United States, representing more than 220,000 school support staff throughout California who perform a wide range of essential work in California's public schools. Sarah helps coordinate committee and executive board lobbying activities on behalf of CSEA's membership in California and Washington D.C.

After receiving her Bachelor's degree in Political Economies of Industrial Societies from the University of California, Berkeley, she moved to Taiwan to teach English and improve her conversational Chinese. She then moved to New York City to work in the entertainment industry in some of New York's premiere companies before returning to California to pursue her passion for political policy.

Sarah is a passionate advocate for labor, women and families in her local community. She is an active member in several political clubs and neighborhoods associations in Sacramento including Sacramento Country Young Democrats, Preservation Sacramento, and the Feminist Democrats of Sacramento County, where she served on the board as Communications Director in 2014-15. She completed the City Management Academy (CMA) program offered by the City of Sacramento through the Neighborhood Services Division in 2015, where residents are provided an opportunity to learn how the City is managed and operated, discuss challenges facing the City of Sacramento and learn about strategies used to address them. She spends her free time attending city government meetings, volunteering with local charities, and supporting political campaigns in the Sacramento region.


Nikita Koraddi, Legislative Aide, California State Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez


Nikita Koraddi is a Legislative Aide in the Office of Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), where she oversees a number of policy areas, including natural resources and the environment, energy and utilities, agriculture, and housing. Previously, Nikita served as an Executive Fellow in the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), where she assisted in the implementation of programmatic improvements to improve DTSC’s ability to issue timely and enforceable hazardous waste permits that protect public health and the environment. She was also involved in efforts to modernize the Department’s public participation protocols to strengthen community engagement and enhance environmental justice considerations.

Nikita currently serves as the Community Affairs Director for the Asian Pacific Islander Capitol Association (APICA), a nonprofit dedicated to the recruitment, development, and retention of API staff within the Capitol community. In her first year on the board, Nikita spearheaded APICA’s inaugural college internship program; raised funds to support a local women’s shelter; and hosted a panel on domestic violence in the API community. She also serves as the Co-Director of Events for the Capital Fellows Alumni Association, which strengthens the Fellows network through personal and professional development opportunities. As a Steering Committee Member of the newly formed Sacramento Valley Water Justice Network, she is helping develop a locally focused effort to realize the human right to safe, clean and affordable water throughout the region. She is also affiliated with the Sacramento County Young Democrats and hopes to be a more engaged Sacramento resident and community leader.

Nikita graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in political science and minors in Global Poverty and Practice and Ethnic Studies. She was born in India and moved to San Diego at the age of 12. She enjoys exceptionally spicy food, Zumba, and all-things-Bollywood.


Joie Rodolfa, Counsel, Law Offices of John Biard


Joie Rodolfa currently serves as a general liability defense attorney with the Law Offices of John Biard. In this capacity she has been exceedingly successful in trial as well as in her aggressive law and motion practice. This success has earned her the Rising Star Award a national accolade bestowed on the Travelers attorney deemed to have the most potential in litigation and trial work.

Prior to her position with Travelers, Joie attended law school at the Santa Clara University, School of law where she graduated Magna Cum Laude and became a member of the Order of the Coif. During that time she participated in two judicial internships with the Santa Clara County Superior Court and worked with the Katherine and George Alexander Community Law Clinic.

In her free time Joie enjoys focusing on her interests in health and fitness. She is currently working to obtain her Nutrition Certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. With that she hopes to ultimately take her career in a direction of working to affect public policy in the area of health and agriculture with the aim of creating a food industry easier to navigate for the common consumer.


Jennifer Teykaerts, Community Program Specialist II, California Department of Developmental Services


By day, Jennifer Teykaerts is an analyst with the California Department of Developmental Services in the Early Start and Health Services Section, providing funding and guidance to local programs that serve infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities across California. Her role includes developing contracts, managing projects, preparing the annual Federal grant application, and serving as a liaison to State councils and stakeholder committees.

By night, and in pretty much every other free moment of the day, Jennifer is a dedicated activist and advocate for women in her hometown of Sacramento. In 2010, Jennifer co-founded V-Day Sacramento, an all-volunteer local branch of the international V-Day organization, which raises funds and awareness to end violence against women and girls. She has produced four successful benefit performances of “The Vagina Monologues,” and raised over $60,000 for community organizations serving women affected by violence. Jennifer also serves as Board President for the Northern California Association for Women Take Back the Night, a non-profit organization raising awareness about domestic violence and sexual abuse through an annual “Take Back the Night” rally and march through Midtown. In early 2015, Jennifer co-founded #SacCircle to bring together fellow passionate and civic-minded women in Sacramento to leverage resources, share knowledge, and maximize their collective impact on the community.

In her ever-elusive free time, Jennifer enjoys seeking out craft beers with her husband, obsessing over Game of Thrones fan theories, and falling down the Pinterest rabbit hole for hours at a time. Her favorite sport is wine tasting, and her worst-kept secret is that she is a hardcore fan of the Harry Potter universe.


Denise Tugade, Analyst, Cambria Solutions, Inc.

sac-Tugade.pngDenise is an Analyst for Cambria Solutions, Inc., an information technology and management consulting firm focusing on health and human services. She currently provides project management, data analysis for the California Medicaid Management Information Systems of the Department of Health Care Services. She is also a graduate student at The George Washington University, where she is pursuing a Masters in Public Health in Epidemiology. She recently moved to Sacramento from Rwanda, where she trained community health workers to use smart phones to create Electronic Health Records, coordinated the delivery of water filters and high efficiency cook stoves to rural villages and evaluated public health programs.



Claire van Zuiden, Associate, California Strategies and Advocacy


Claire van Zuiden is an Associate at California Strategies & Advocacy, a state-wide governmental affairs consulting firm, where she is focused environment and energy policy. On behalf of clean technology clients, van Zuiden develops strategies to facilitate progressive alternative transportation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency policies and programs in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.
In addition to permitting, policy and regulation, van Zuiden has extensive experience in securing public funding and incentives for key projects in California, and since joining the firm in 2009 has helped achieve unparalleled levels of grant awards to accelerate alternative transportation, renewable energy, and water conservation projects.
Prior to joining California Strategies, van Zuiden managed the CPV Consortium, a global, non-profit Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) industry organization. She continues to advise and support the solar association, including orchestrating full-day educational workshops and media events in conjunction with worldwide solar conferences and speaking on behalf of the CPV industry at many conferences around the world.Van Zuiden executes the CPV Consortium’s initiatives to ensure that there is a single industry voice in addressing energy issues and an accurate knowledge of the technology and deployment available to audiences worldwide.
Van Zuiden earned a Master of Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University where she was the President of her graduate program and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from University of California Davis where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She lives in Sacramento and has been a Community Tree Planting Leader for the Sacramento Tree Foundation.


Danny Yost, Legislative Liaison, California Department of Transportation


Danny Yost is a manager with Caltrans who liaises with the Legislature, State Transportation Agency, Department of Finance, and the Governor's Office. His legislative portfolio includes the environment, multimodal transportation solutions, traffic safety, commercial vehicles, pavement, signs, and property. He writes and analyzes legislation and prepares executives and experts for legislative testimony.
Danny currently co-chairs the Midtown Neighborhood Association, which he helped reactivate in late 2015. He previously served as a Transportation Commissioner for the City of Walnut Creek while working as a Transportation Engineer and Planner for Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants. He also served as a fellow for the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee on transit policy.
Danny graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2006 with a B.S. in Civil & Environmental Engineering with a Minor in City & Regional Planning and in 2012 with a Master of Public Policy. He published his thesis on greenhouse gas and energy credits for large buildings. As a graduate student, Danny led the PolicyMatters Journal as Editor-in-Chief and co-hosted the journal's policy conference-Governing California: A Discussion at the Capitol. He also assisted in teaching undergraduate courses on leadership communication, leadership theory, public policy, and statistics. Danny enjoys running, biking, movies, concrete canoes, and tutoring his nieces and nephew.