Fellows in Action

Welcome to our 2020 Brandeis Segal Fellows

Congratulations to our newest Brandeis Segal Fellows. Our 2020 Fellows were selected from a competitive pool of inspiring candidates and represent citizen leadership from the Brandeis undergraduate and Heller MPP programs.

Zayna Basma 2020 Heller MPP Segal Fellow

Zayna Basma is a dual Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Policy candidate at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, concentrating in Children, Youth and Family Policy, with a focus on education policy. Currently, she is an intern for the Systems for Student Success Office at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, a board member of the F.W. Parker Charter Essential School in Devens, her alma mater, and a research assistant at the Center for Youth and Communities at the Heller School, focusing on educational outcomes and opportunities for foster youth. Zayna believes that everyone deserves equal access and opportunities to education, and she is particularly interested in the intersectionality of education and immigration. In 2018 she received her bachelors from UMass Lowell, majoring in political science, with minors in Arabic and Spanish studies. As an undergraduate, she worked on research related to the media coverage and educational experiences of refugees in the United States. She also worked as an intern for MA State Senator Jennifer Flanagan, and then for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office, supporting Warren’s Immigration Specialist. In addition, Zayna served as the co-coordinator of a mentoring program at SayDaNar Community Development Center, a non-profit focused on Burmese refugees in Lowell. Zayna is originally from Shirley, Massachusetts, and she enjoys being the oldest of four siblings, playing scrabble, and endless espresso shots in her coffee. This summer as a Segal Fellow, Zayna is excited to learn about the impact of systems-level education policy on creating equitable educational opportunities for all students, while exploring methods of engaging youth voice in educational processes.

Lydia Casmier 2020 Heller MPP Segal Fellow

Lydia Casmier Derfler is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. As an organizer, activist, and St. Louis native, she is committed to developing equitable policy solutions for people of color, with a special interest in serving Black and undocumented communities. Lydia currently works as a Program Administrator in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Brandeis. She also serves on the Heller Student Association, as well as the President’s Task Force on Campus Sustainability. Before attending Heller, she was a Director in the Office of Precollege Programs at Brandeis.

Lydia taught high school English in Medellin, Colombia prior to moving to Boston. She also served as an AmeriCorps Member at the Mary’s Center Teen Program in Washington, D.C., where she continued to work as a Youth Development Coordinator for six years following her service. Lydia received her Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Howard University. She completed research assistantships at the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies and in UCLA’s Department of History through the UC-HBCU Initiative. Lydia is excited to work on cutting-edge policy advocacy campaigns as a Segal Fellow this summer.

Mary O'Leary 2020 Heller MPP Segal Fellow

Mary O’Leary is an MPP candidate at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University concentrating in Women, Gender, and Sexuality. As someone committed to advocacy, social justice, and community service, she is particularly passionate about intersectional feminist and anti-racist efforts to decrease gender-based violence. At Brandeis, Mary works as a graduate assistant in the Office of the Registrar and co-chairs the Social Committee of the MPP Student Association. Previously, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the rural community of Dallas, Pennsylvania, from 2018-2019, helping to coordinate a meal delivery program supporting local families. Mary graduated Summa Cum Laude from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 2018, where she double majored in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies. Born in Brigantine, New Jersey, and raised in Philadelphia, Mary loves the shore, Wawa coffee, and new adventures. This summer, Mary is excited to broaden her understanding of gender-based violence policy, as well as gain invaluable experience working within an activist organization.

John Rodrigues 2020 Brandeis Undergraduate Segal Fellow

John Rodrigues is a Cape Verdean-American born and raised in Brockton, MA. He is a junior majoring in Health: Science, Society, and Policy, with triple minors in African-African American Studies, Legal Studies, and Social Justice Social Policy. While at Brandeis John has found community in the Student Support Services Program as a Peer Mentor and as a member of the Student Leadership Board, creating inclusive spaces by planning study breaks, cultural enrichment events and mentoring first year students in the program. He works in the Undergraduate Admissions Office as a front desk worker and for Public Safety as a campus driver. He is also a part of the Student Health Advisory Committee as a Minority Representative, advocating on behalf of minority students to ensure an inclusive holistic experience at the campus health center. Last summer he participated in the Justice Brandeis Summer, specifically in the Health, Law, and Justice program. For 10 weeks, he explored legal and ethical issues in the American healthcare system and the numerous reforms it has undergone, while also discussing the future of the healthcare system. He engaged directly with key stakeholders and underwent an immersive learning experience through projects and field visits. Through his advocacy and passion, John plans on addressing the legal system’s interaction with different diseases and illnesses and the impact that inadequate access to health services has on incarceration rates. He wants to gain a better understanding of the times when society has responded to health issues through legal action rather than medical intervention. He also plans to use his advocacy to address the systemic racism that exists in this system and its impact on access and the quality of care that minoritized groups receive. John is excited to have an impact on healthcare policy as a Segal Fellow this summer.

Alejandra Tinoco-Bonilla 2020 Undergraduate Segal Fellow
Alejandra Bonilla is an activist born and raised in San Jose, CA. She is currently a junior at Brandeis University and a Martin Luther King Jr. Fellow, triple majoring in Anthropology, International Global Studies, and Latin American and Latino Studies, as well as minoring in Legal Studies. During her time at Brandeis, Alejandra has been active in clubs such as Brandeis Labor Coalition, The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII), and Brandeis Pro-Choice, and has held a job at the Campus Card Office. In her free time, she has volunteered with both the Waltham WATCH Housing Clinic and TRII. During the summer of 2018, Alejandra gained knowledge and awareness of the immigration movement through an internship at the TRII clinic, where she studied immigration law and assisted with asylum cases by conducting interviews with clients and researching country conditions. She also became involved in the Boston chapter of the grassroots organization Movimiento Cosecha that fights for dignity, respect, and permanent protection for all immigrants. During winter break 2019, Alejandra, along with two comrades from Brandeis and Movimiento Cosecha, led a fundraiser to support caravaners arriving at the US/Mexico border. Most recently, Alejandra studied abroad in Valparaíso, Chile, during the fall of 2019. There she witnessed the social uprising of the pueblo against the oppressive neo-liberal state. These experiences, along with her identity as a Chicana, low-income, first-generation college student, inform what she aspires to do in the future: advocate for marginalized folks in and out of her community and engage in harm reduction and rapid response work to assist those in urgent situations. Alejandra aspires to attend law school and receive a JD and MPP dual degree to fight alongside her community for social justice. In the spring of 2020, she will be studying abroad in Merida, Mexico, where she hopes to learn more about her roots and Mexican politics. Through her Segal summer internship, she hopes to focus on issues related to housing, immigration, gentrification, or the minimum wage.
Irma Zamarripa 2020 Brandeis Undergraduate Segal Fellow

Irma Zamarripa is a Mexican-American immigrant who was raised in Dallas, Texas, for the next 18 years of her life. During this time, she endured many realities that seemed normal, such as growing up in an environment filled with drugs, crime, and prostitution. These challenges allowed her to understand the importance of education; it served as a safe space for her, allowing her to develop and achieve her full academic potential. Upon entering college as a first-generation student, Irma took part in several leadership roles and commitments that reflected her passion for social justice. She also joined non-profit organizations like Global Brigades, which allowed her to revitalize underdeveloped communities in Honduras by addressing economic and health disparities. At Brandeis, she recently declared an Independent Interdisciplinary Major in Public Policy. Her unique experiences and commitments shaped her interest in pursuing a career path that will allow her to understand a complex education system. In the future, she hopes to work for the U.S. Department of Education, in order to develop and modify ineffective and discriminatory policies. She is hopeful that her work will help foster and provide underrepresented students with more access to opportunities. During her free time, Irma enjoys reading about the life, art, and the legacy of one of her role models, Frida Kahlo, a passionate Mexican artist and activist who challenged social structures and changed history forever. As a Segal Fellow, Irma is excited to continue to raise awareness about the importance of human rights, equity, and diversity by continuing to explore her passion for education and law.

Fellow Spotlight: Jaila Allen

Because of the Segal Network, I am able to fully step into my complete self. I am able to connect with amazing people who are doing exceptional work.

In general, when looking at the healthcare system and health outcomes, it is important for me to ensure that all people, no matter their socioeconomic status, race, gender, or any other personal identifiers, are obtaining the best and most cost-effective care possible. By doing this, I hope to decrease mortality rates of low-income people, people of color and gender minorities. One of my main goals this semester is to expand my global understanding of the world of public health and health care through course work, field studies and volunteer work with local health care providers. During my time abroad in Denmark, I am pushing myself to step outside of what is expected and go above and beyond. I hope to be able to work with general practitioners as a way to be able to better understand how the Danish idea of universal health care is implemented and ways to bring about some of these practices back to the states. Ultimately, I am striving to be the global citizen leader that The Segal Program believed me to be.

Pictured Above: Jaila Allen presenting successes from her summer internship with The Door, Inc.

I am currently studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. My studies include classes like Health Delivery and Prioritization, Gender and Sexuality in Scandinavia, Epidemiology: A Danish Case Study, Gendered Perspectives on Human Rights, and Danish Language and Culture. As a current junior, I am still working towards my Bachelor's degree at Brandeis in Health: Science, Society and Policy and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Studying and living abroad have been integral components of furthering my education around healthcare and how different healthcare systems function. Not only have I been able to expand my learning on a global context, but also living in Copenhagen and traveling to other European countries has pushed me to expand my understanding of the world outside of an American context. I now fully understand how harmful an ethnocentric view of the world can be; because of this, I am working on understanding the complexities of other countries and cultures, which allows me to better understand their healthcare systems. I see my time abroad as an extension of my Segal Summer Internship with The Door, Inc. in New York City, where I worked on increasing access to healthcare resources for underserved communities and to expand the voice of queer adolescents of color. Through my efforts, I was able to increase LGBTQ youth’s interaction with and feedback through The Door’s online portal, which empowers underserved youth to access resources that meet their needs.

Being a part of the Segal Network has afforded me with the tools that I needed to be able to fully advocate for myself, while also surrounding me with people who motivate me to be the active change I want to see in the world. Throughout my experiences within my internship and semester abroad, I have used my citizen leader trainings and lessons to properly navigate challenges and opportunities that may come up in my new career. I also was able to meet many other Fellows from the Network this November during the bi-annual Segal Fellow Retreat, which reaffirmed the many ways one can be a citizen leader. The Segal Program has not only provided me with the tools and resources to do be a citizen leader, but has also pushed me outside of my comfort zone, allowing me to self-reflect on ways to improve myself and the world around me.



Pictured Above: Jaila Allen in Copenhagen Denmark during her fall semester abroad
If you are interested in reading our previous Fellow Spotlights please check out our Segal Fellow Spotlight Archive

2019 Heller Master of Public Policy Capstone Presentations

2018 Heller MPP Segal Fellows John Valinch & Leila Quinn

On Friday December 13, 2019, at the Heller School, 2018 Master of Public Policy Segal Fellows Leila Quinn and John Valinch presented their capstone projects to their academic and professional community. The capstone is a final-year project that encapsulates a passion or topic that each presenter analyzes and gives policy proposals for review.

For more information on the Heller MPP Capstone, please visit the Heller School website.

Leila Quinn presented on encouraging development of vacant lots to resolve issues with Boston’s housing crisis
John Valinch presented on the benefits of investing in employee owned businesses

2019 Segal Fellow Retreat

Fellows, Staff and Partners at the 2019 Segal Fellow Retreat at Babson College in Wellesley, MA
On November 1-3, more than 60 Fellows, Founders, and Partners met at Babson College in Wellesley MA for the bi-annual Segal Fellow Retreat. Fellows from 2008-2019 met to share their experiences, offer resources and guidance, and enjoy activities to inspire their impact of together.

“The Segal Program is a source of inspiration, encouragement and energy. Individual passions drive collective progress. It has helped me expand my connections and resources and my understanding of and respect for social justice issues that aren’t my personal passions.”

Julie Livingstone, 2007 CNCS Segal Fellow