Student Bios

Alejandro Abisambra Castillo
IV - Economics and Public Policy
Universidad de los Andes, 2015
Law/Political Science, LLB/B.A.
Bogotá, Colombia
Alejandro is a young lawyer who has worked in the Colombian government in different capacities. He has worked on pharmaceutical policy issues, including intellectual property, as well as on all of the health-related issues of the recent peace process with the local insurgent groups. In 2015, he received a bachelor’s degree in political science, and a law degree, both from the Universidad de los Andes, in Bogotá. After graduating from the MPA, Alejandro plans to continue to work on public issues that challenge global and national inequalities and contribute to shaping a more inclusive world.
Lindsey Andersen
I - International Relations
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2012
International Studies/Political Science, B.A.
Omaha, Nebraska
Lindsey was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and is a proud Cornhusker (Go Big Red!). She discovered a passion for international human rights while attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and studying and traveling abroad in Latin America. After graduating, she worked at human rights NGO, Freedom House, and then went on to do a Fulbright research fellowship in Brazil focusing on transitional justice. She then fell into the world of internet freedom, exploring the intersection of human rights and technology at the D.C.-based organization Internews. There she led projects focusing on improving digital security and developing internet policy advocacy skills for activists and journalists in Latin America. After graduation, she hopes to move into the internet policy space, working to ensure that the technologies we use and develop respect and protect human rights. In her free time, Lindsey enjoys traveling, being outdoors, hanging with her dog, eating chocolate, reading absurd fantasy novels and seeing live music.
Matthew Appleton
I - International Relations
College of the Holy Cross, 2006
Political Science, B.A.
Nashua, New Hampshire
Raised in New Hampshire and Ireland, Matt commissioned in the Navy through ROTC and serves as a surface warfare officer. A “tin can sailor” who has served aboard Aegis guided missile destroyers, Matt’s background is in navigation, weapons and combat systems. He has deployed to the Arabian Gulf, Western Pacific, Arctic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and Black Sea, and has also served as an exchange officer to the Royal Norwegian Navy frigate service where he taught air defense tactics. After earning his MPP, he will return to the Navy to serve as a naval strategy subspecialty officer. Matt’s wife, Elaine, is a Department of Defense civilian with the Defense Logistics Agency who hails from Erie, Pennsylvania. Matt enjoys kayaking, biking, rucking, running, rowing, attempting to cook, listening to bad Jimmy Buffett music, and is a proud member of Red Sox nation.
Christopher Austin
IV - Economics and Public Policy
University of Minnesota, 2011
Economics, B.A.
Saint Louis Park, Minnesota
Chris learned the ways of “Minnesota nice” after growing up in Saint Louis Park, Minnesota, before attending the University of Minnesota. After graduating with a degree in economics, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea. There, he worked with small businesses and eventually cofounded Dare to Innovate, an incubator aimed at empowering Guinean youth to address social problems through social entrepreneurship. He most recently resided in Washington, D.C., where he managed grants for Evidence Action, an international nonprofit that scales cost-effective development interventions. He spent the summer before attending WWS visiting family and camping in the San Juan National Forest. After graduating, he hopes to work on policy that addresses criminal justice reform. Chris enjoys photography, running and overly complicated board games.
Somya Bajaj
IV - Economics and Public Policy
Christ University, 2015
Economics, B.A.
Kolkata, India
Somya grew up in Kolkata and pursued her graduation in economics from Christ University, Bangalore. Her passion to serve the society enhanced when she was working with an NGO in India and started a school for kids of construction workers in Bangalore. She quit her job at Goldman Sachs and joined a Delhi-based political consultancy, Samagra Development. One of her most treasured projects includes the Education Transformation Programme to improve the quality of education across 15,000 government schools in Himachal Pradesh. With her love for traveling, she finds her way to the rarest of places ranging from the villages of Bengal to the forests of the Himalayas. Inspired by her interactions with the people in a village of West Bengal, she conducted her first ethnographic study and worked with the people to empower them by setting up self-help groups. Her book, “Their Way, The Highway,” is inspired by the stories of the people on one such encounter. Prior to WWS, Somya worked with Tata Steel on a research project in the tribal area of Kalinganagar, Odisha, to study resettlement and rehabilitation strategies by industries. She aspires to build a model of people’s participation in democracies and join mainstream politics in India.
Swetha Balachandran
II - International Development
Nanyang Technological University, 2012
Accounting/Banking and Finance, BAcc/BBus
Noida, India
Swetha was born in the Netherlands and grew up in a suburb near Delhi, India. She went on to study finance and accounting at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Upon graduation, she joined the Boston Consulting Group and worked as a consultant for various government agencies and private corporations across Southeast Asia. Her projects spanned different policy issues such as public transportation, infrastructure and manpower productivity. Swetha's interest in public health and development took her to the Global Fund in Geneva where she worked on improving program quality and efficiency of health programs in sub-Saharan Africa. She split her summer internship at the Woo between working at an NGO in Cape Town which empowers slum communities to collect and use their own data, and at a think tank in Delhi, studying how informal settlements interact with the government to improve the provision of public services. After graduation from WWS, she plans to go back to India to work with the urban poor on issues of health and education. Swetha loves traveling and exploring new places, and is always planning her next adventure.
Paloma Bellatin Nieto
II - International Development
Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2014
Political Science and Government, BSS
Lima, Peru
Paloma was born and raised in Lima, Peru. From a young age, she was interested in development and reducing inequality, which was far too often seen in Lima. She studied political science and graduated top of her class. As a student, she interned in a rural development NGO and led volunteer and research groups in the Peruvian Andes. She earned a scholarship to study a semester in Sciences Po Paris. In 2012, Paloma started working at GRADE, one of the top think tanks in Latin America, on projects related to segregation, gender and violence in rural areas. In 2014, she was hired in the Social Protection Division of the FAO-UN Rome headquarters where she worked for a year and a half on policy support regarding decent rural employment and rural youth. She returned to Lima to work in the World Bank IFC on rural community development in conflict-prone mining areas, which is where she worked until coming to Princeton. Paloma co-founded the Young Professionals in Agricultural Development (YPARD) Peru chapter, and led a team in the inclusion of rural youth policies. She loves traveling, reading, writing, dancing and cooking. In the future, she would like to go back to Peru and hopes to develop innovative agriculture and rural development policies that address poverty, inequality and conflict in the Andes.
Hélène Benveniste
Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines de Paris, 2012
Science and Executive Engineering, Master
Rennes, Brittany, France
Born and raised in Brittany, France, Hélène has developed a passion for interdisciplinary approaches to solve the climate change challenge. As part of her Ph.D. studies in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, she focuses on quantifying economic impacts of climate change in terms of migrations and conflict risks, using integrated assessment models. She is also interested in international environmental agreements design, as well as using behavioral science to improve communication between scientists and policy makers on climate change. Before graduating with a MSc in science and executive engineering and a minor in geostatistics and applied probabilities from Mines ParisTech, she was a research fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado where she developed a statistical tool for scoring extreme climate events forecasts. She then started her career as deputy attaché for energy at the French Embassy in Germany, and as such followed the development and implementation of the German energy transition. Right before joining the Woodrow Wilson School, Hélène worked as a research engineer and project manager on an expertise mission for the French government; the mission, linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), aimed at assessing the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) presented by countries ahead of COP21, and used as a new tool for climate negotiations.
Margo Berends
II - International Development
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2014
Economics/Political Science, BSBA/B.A.
Aurora, Colorado
Margo grew up in Aurora, Colorado, where she spent her time swimming and pining for the beach rather than skiing or snowboarding. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with degrees in economics and political science. When she wasn’t cheering on the Huskers, she interned in Washington, D.C., and studied abroad at Oxford University and in Benin, where she developed a passion for evidence-based international development. After graduating in 2014, Margo spent a year teaching English to primary school students in Foix, France. She then moved to Washington, D.C., to intern with the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars before taking a full-time position with Global Communities, where she managed international development programs in the Middle East and Latin America. While in D.C., Margo was also an active member of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP), publishing op-ed articles as a Sustainable Development fellow and serving as the associate director of the YPFP Fellowship Program.
Leyatt Betre
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2016
Physics/Political Science, B.S.
Frisco, Texas
As a first-generation American born to Ethiopian parents, Leyatt had a small town Texas upbringing often punctuated by encounters with the wider world. While she cannot claim any encounters of the third kind, she picked up an early love of astronomy and the slightly less wide world of international politics. Leyatt went on to study physics and political science at MIT, where she sought to forge some semblance of academic and personal coherence out of her dual interests. After researching the early chemical evolution of the Milky Way, the spatial distribution of dark matter halos, the drivers of nuclear proliferation, and the role of arms control in shaping U.S. force posture, she concluded that the coherence of one’s C.V. should generally take a backseat to asking interesting questions. Leyatt is a Ph.D. student in security studies whose research interests center on issues of nuclear strategy, arms control and diplomatic history.
Kishan Bhatt
IV - Economics and Public Policy
Princeton University, 2017
Public and International Affairs, A.B.
Edison, New Jersey
Kishan graduated from Princeton in 2017 where he majored in public affairs and minored in global health and American studies. He is particularly passionate about biomedical research innovations and access to affordable healthcare. Kishan has interned with Remedy Partners (a health technology startup), researched counterbioterrorism strategy at the Federation of American Scientists, and directed the staff of an international scholarship program connecting eighty high school students from Japan and the United States. His prior research involvements examined the relationship between health insurance coverage and medical bankruptcies, the association of polypharmacy with adverse health outcomes, and the supply chain management of emergency medical materials in the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Kishan also sang on three continents as a member of the Nassoons, Princeton’s oldest a cappella group, and represented his peers as a four-year senator on the Undergraduate Student Government.
Ana Billingsley
III - Domestic Policy
Hunter College, 2013
Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, B.A.
San Francisco, California
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ana moved to New York to attend the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College where she majored in Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino studies with a minor in public policy. After graduating from Hunter, she worked as a research assistant at the Center for Court Innovation conducting assessments with justice-involved men in East Harlem and Newark, New Jersey. Ana went on to become a New York City Urban Fellow at the NYC Department of Correction (DOC) where she facilitated job-readiness workshops for incarcerated women. She most recently served as the director of Workforce Development at the DOC, overseeing employment and reentry programming for young adults on Rikers Island. Upon completing her graduate degree, she plans to work on local criminal justice policy reform, with an emphasis on diverting women out of the criminal justice system. Ana is an alumnus of the PPIA Junior Summer Institute at University of California-Berkeley, and the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service at NYU Wagner.
Rahul Bojja
II - International Development
Indian Institute of Technology, 1995
Mechanical Engineering, BTech
Hyderabad, Telangana, India
Rahul was born and raised in the beautiful city of the Nizams, Hyderabad in India. Graduating from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras in mechanical engineering, Rahul joined the Administrative Service of the country and has been a career bureaucrat for the last 17 years. His career has been a delightful journey through rural development, environmental and forest policy, regulatory administration, urban infrastructure development, etc. He hopes his stint at Princeton will help in his future plans to be involved in policy making at the federal and world body levels.
Samantha BonenClark
I - International Relations
University of Florida, 2014
Spanish, B.A.
Ocala, Florida
Samantha was born in Virginia, but grew up in Ocala, Florida, a town known for being the racehorse capital of the world. She swam middle distance freestyle for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for two years before transferring to the University of Florida (UF). At UF, Sam studied abroad in Nicaragua, spent a summer in Mexico City with the Department of State’s Economic Section, and graduated with a major in Spanish and a minor in Latin American studies. Since graduating, she has served with the AmeriCorps program, City Year, in Miami, Florida, worked in program management with the University of Miami’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement and completed a Fulbright English teaching assistantship in Campinas, Brazil.
Alexander Brockwehl
I - International Relations
Union College, 2011
Political Science/Spanish, B.A.
Guilford, Connecticut
Alex grew up near New Haven, Connecticut, home to the best pizza this side of the Atlantic. After studying abroad in Mexico and developing a passion for political theory, he graduated from Union College in 2011 with a degree in political science and Spanish. After graduating, he worked for a year with a nonprofit in rural Ecuador, managing a high school scholarship program and assisting a local artisans’ group and women’s cooperative. From 2012-2016, he worked for Freedom House, a democracy and human rights NGO, where he supported civil society organizations throughout Latin America to advocate before international human rights bodies and inform domestic policymakers about threats to political rights and civil liberties. He also conducted field research on indigenous rights in Peru and mass social protests in Chile. He has worked as a part-time consultant and research analyst for Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World and Freedom of the Press publications. During the summer of 2017, Alex interned as a Rosenthal fellow in the Political Section of the Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He then traveled to Greece, Kenya and Rwanda for some rest and relaxation. After graduating, he hopes to continue advancing human rights, whether by working in a policy role within government or conducting research or advocacy in the nonprofit sector. A cellist in his early years, Alex decided to forgo his initial aspirations to emulate Yo-Yo Ma in favor of sports like soccer and skiing.