Student Bios

Joshua Portzer
MPP
I - International Relations
University of Virginia, 2010; University of Arkansas, 2019
Middle Eastern Languages/Philosophy, B.A.; Operations Management, M.S./M.C.
Atlanta, Georgia
Lieutenant Josh “Minkus” Portzer was born in Hickory, North Carolina. He attended the University of Virginia, graduating with distinction in 2010 with a B.A. in both Middle Eastern languages and philosophy. He was selected for Naval Flight Officer (NFO) training and commissioned an ensign in 2010 through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC). After completing advanced training at the P-3 Fleet Replacement Squadron, Patrol Squadron THREE ZERO (VP-30), he reported to Patrol Squadron FOUR (VP-4), Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, in 2012. There he deployed twice to the C6F EUCOM/AFRICOM Areas of Responsibility (AOR). Josh reported to the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School (MPRWS) in 2015, completing both the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course and a transition to the P-8A Poseidon. During his tenure he was the program manager for the Maritime WTI program, the innovation cross functional team chair, and led the MPRWS’ Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS) transition team. In 2018, he deployed on the USS HARRY S TRUMAN (CVN 75) to the C6F AOR, earning his Officer of the Deck, Underway (OOD (U)). Most recently, he served on the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) as the assistant navigator and Ventilation Production Group superintendent. He additionally served as a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate and a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer. For his service, Josh has received numerous awards including the Navy and Marine Association Leadership Award, Secretary of the Navy Innovation Award and the Navy Achievement Medal. He currently resides in Norfolk, Virginia, with his wife, Joelle.
Sri Harshita Rallabhandi
MPA1
II - International Development
University of Calfornia-Berkeley, 2014
Public Health, B.A.
San Dimas, California
Harshita was born in India and raised in Southern California. As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, Harshita majored in public health with a minor in public policy, finding her passion for women’s health, gender equity, and international development policy. After graduating, Harshita worked at Kaiser Permanente IT in Pasadena, before moving to Bangalore, India, to work for Sattva Consulting, social impact consulting firm. During two years there, she designed and implemented CSR programs in youth empowerment, education, skilling, and community development for Indian companies. After moving back, Harshita followed her true north star in two roles: at Jhpiego, a women’s and family health organization in Baltimore; and at Women in Global Health, a gender equity policy and advocacy organization for which she runs communications. With her MPA, Harshita hopes to pursue a career in rights-based, gender-transformative policy for health development. Harshita enjoys cooking without recipes, discussing immigrant identity, race and feminism, trying (and falling from) new yoga poses, and holding no allegiance to any sports teams.
Pooja Ramamurthi
PhD
RV College of Engineering, 2011; Royal Institute of Technology, 2013
Chemical Engineering, BEng; Mechanical Engineering, MSc
Bangalore, India
Pooja has experience in the areas of modern energy access, energy transitions, climate change and sustainability. Her research focuses on finding innovative solutions to global energy and environmental challenges. Before Princeton, Pooja worked on these challenges at premier think tanks. Most recently, she worked in Delhi as a senior policy analyst at the University of Chicago. Her work has resulted in her being invited to international and national conferences and published in peer reviewed journals and articles in leading newspapers. Pooja received her double master’s degree in sustainable energy from the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, and Instituto Superior Tecnico, Portugal, via the prestigious Erasmus Mundus Innoenergy Scholarship granted by the European Commission. Her current research interests involve understanding how developing countries make energy and climate decisions.
Sofia Ramirez
MPA1
II - International Development
University of San Diego, 2017
International Relations, B.A.
San Diego, California
Sofia had a multicultural upbringing in the San Diego/Tijuana border region. She graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of San Diego with a B.A. in international relations and minor in Asian studies. After earning her degree, she moved to New York City where she first worked as a Latin America research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations and then as an analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit, producing economic forecasts for various countries in the region. Sofia served as the 2019 Young Professionals in Foreign Policy Latin America fellow, publishing opinion-editorials on political and economic developments. Throughout her undergraduate studies, Sofia studied abroad in Beijing and Qingdao, China, and participated in the Critical Language Scholarship program in Tainan, Taiwan. She interned for Congressman Scott Peters in his district office and reelection campaign and worked as a research assistant at Justice in Mexico, a think tank dedicated to improving security and the rule of law. Sofia speaks Spanish and Chinese, and has an elementary command of Portuguese. She enjoys traveling, learning new languages and gardening. While at Princeton, Sofia is eager to delve into Sino-Latin American relations and foreign aid policy development and implementation. As a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs fellow, Sofia looks forward to a career as a Foreign Service Officer after graduation.
Yvette Ramirez
MPA1
II - International Development
Harvard University, 2012
Sociology, B.A.
San Francisco, California
Yvette is a first-generation college graduate who was raised in the Mission District of San Francisco by her working-class Mexican parents. At Harvard College, she majored in sociology, studied abroad in Namibia and South Africa, and obtained her middle school teacher license. After graduation, she spent three years volunteering throughout Latin America in a migrant shelter, a home for vulnerable children, and various education nonprofit organizations. In the United States, she has worked on early childhood research at Stanford University, and as the manager of a nonprofit organization that supports youth in San Francisco's foster care and juvenile justice systems. Yvette plans on using her MPA degree to focus on education and child welfare in Latin American countries. She is especially interested in the development of foster care programs, which is an area she previously studied in Ecuador.
D.J. Rasmussen
PhD
University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009; University of California-Davis, 2013
Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, B.S.; Civil and Environmental Engineering, M.S.
Cedarburg, Wisconsin
D.J. studies both the natural and political science aspects of coastal floods. He uses statistical models to estimate the frequency of coastal floods of various depths in both the present and under various projections of future climate. D.J. also examines the politics surrounding efforts to initiate, design, and build coastal flood protection. D.J.’s career goals are: 1) to examine how expert-produced technical decision making tools are used by stakeholders to make decisions in the context of uncertain coastal flood risk, and 2) to draw lessons from past natural disaster policies. His hope is that these efforts will lead to future planning and policies that save money and protect human lives. A portfolio of his work can be viewed at: http://www.djrasmussen.co.
Rocio Rodarte
MPA2
III - Domestic Policy
Brown University, 2011
International Relations, B.A.
East Los Angeles, California
An East Los Angeles native, Rocio graduated from Brown University with a bachelor’s in international relations. Her internships with the County of Los Angeles and the U.S House of Representatives shifted her focus to domestic policies impacting underserved communities. Upon graduating, she worked at Lake Research Partners, a national political strategy research firm, as a Logistics Assistant and Junior Analyst. Rocio subsequently spent four years on Capitol Hill, serving as a policy aide to U.S. Senator Michael F. Bennet. Her policy work has centered on immigration, criminal justice reform, and civil rights issues. Rocio is an alumnus of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Internship, American University’s WeLead Women in Politics Institute Leadership Program, and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) Transatlantic Youth Leadership Program. She currently serves on the Diversity Advisory Council for Brown University’s president. Rocio spent her summer interning in San Francisco with the Mission Asset Fund, a financial inclusion and tech nonprofit. She focused on overseeing legislative efforts for California’s first-ever Financial Empowerment Fund bill and working on program implementation preparations for the bill’s expected passage this fall. Rocio enjoys dancing, traveling, hiking, camping and podcasting.
Kaitlin Roh
MPA1
II - International Development
Macalester College, 2012
Educational Studies/Political Science, B.A.
Columbus, Nebraska
Interested in education, youth development, and disability rights, Kaitlin seeks to create and evaluate effective and inclusive policies and programs. After graduating from Macalester College with a B.A. in political science and educational studies, Kaitlin received a Fulbright award to Jordan to study the experience of mothers in accessing services for their children with disabilities. In the following years in Jordan, she worked with refugees in host communities and camps and then for USAID, where she sought to make education and youth projects inclusive of students with disabilities. Kaitlin returned to the U.S. and supported NYC youth with disabilities and their families on their transition from high school to adulthood. Through traveling and living abroad, Kaitlin enjoys learning from other cultures and their approach to inclusion and equity.
Emily Romano
MPA2
IV - Economics and Public Policy
Rice University, 2011
Mathematical Economic Analysis/Policy Studies, B.A.
Gainesville, Florida
Born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Emily graduated from Rice University with a B.A. in mathematical economic analysis and policy studies in May 2011. While in high school, and as an undergraduate at Rice, she spent summers working in Honduras, Peru and Costa Rica, becoming passionate about international development. After graduation, Emily joined Root Capital, a nonprofit social investment fund that lends capital and delivers financial training to small agricultural businesses in Latin America and Africa. Emily began her career at Root Capital in portfolio operations, where she designed and implemented a loan management system and processed loan transactions, and later worked in risk management, where she developed lending policies and procedures and performed analysis on the non-performing loan portfolio. During the summer between her first and second year in the MPA program, Emily interned at the Mind, Behavior, and Development Unit (eMBeD) of the World Bank, supporting projects on social inclusion in Pakistan and clean cookstoves in Sub-Saharan Africa. Upon completing her graduate degree, she hopes to continue working for a nonprofit organization that focuses on global poverty reduction. In her free time, Emily enjoys playing tennis, yoga, running, swimming and spending a day (or week) at the beach.
Maria Romano
MPA1
II - International Development
Duke University, 2014
Cultural Anthropology/Public Policy, B.A.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Maria is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, but grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. At Duke University, she studied public policy, cultural anthropology and French, and spent her summers and a semester abroad studying youth labor migration in Togo, India, and China. After graduating in 2014, she worked for two years at a Maryland nonprofit called Identity, which provides after-school education, workforce development, and other support services to Latino youth and their families. In 2017 Maria joined DAI, a USAID implementing partner, where she managed two local governance projects – one in Honduras and the other in Kosovo. At Princeton, Maria plans to study international development with a focus on youth, education, migration and workforce development. After graduating from the MPA, she aspires to work for international organizations such as UNICEF, IOM, or Plan International. Maria enjoys cooking, yoga, soccer, krav maga, and all forms of arts and crafts.
Osama Safeer
MPA1
II - International Development
Lahore University of Management Sciences, 2013
Economics, B.S.
Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan
Osama was born and raised in Rawalpindi of the Pakistani Punjab, a city that wraps Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. An economics and math degree from LUMS Lahore later, Osama almost went for the writing on the wall which was an economics Ph.D. The slightest change of heart took him to high impact work for the Government of Punjab's Health and Education sectors. Osama focused on helping build, from ground up, monitoring forces for 50,000 schools and 3,000 health facilities across a province of 110 million people. Interspersed with some work in the nonprofit sector, Osama hope's to use his MPA to both widen and deepen the net for the toughest policy challenges facing the third world. He hopes to use these 2 years at Princeton staying busy and exploring the considerably advanced policy implications across politics, lawmaking, security, international relationsm, and international development. Osama prefers data over food, movies over seasons and music over books. Above all he likes to travel.
Sagatom Saha
MPA2
I - International Relations
American University, 2015
Business/International Studies, B.S./B.A.
Marlton, New Jersey
Born and raised outside of Philadelphia in New Jersey, Sagatom moved to Washington, D.C., to attend American University where he graduated with a degree in business administration and international studies. While at American, he studied abroad in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Tbilisi, Georgia. After graduation, Sagatom joined the Council on Foreign Relations, where he helped direct its Program on Energy Security and Climate Change. While at CFR, he published widely on emerging international security problems stemming from global energy transitions including U.S.-China economic competition, Russia’s predatory nuclear industry, and global climate risk. Sagatom left the Council on Foreign Relations to pursue research on a Fulbright grant in Kyiv, Ukraine, on advancing the country’s energy sector reforms. While in Ukraine, he also helped advise Ukrainian policymakers and civil society on international energy policy and draft energy reform legislation. Sagatom spent the past summer as a graduate researcher in the State Department's Office of Energy Transformation, which leads the U.S. government's international clean energy policy.
Fionnuala Seiferth
MPA2
III - Domestic Policy
New York University, 2013
International Relations, B.A.
Lincoln, Massachusetts
Before the Woo, Fionnuala worked for the Administration of New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio on various initiatives including the roll out of the City's Paid Sick Leave Law and the successful campaign to end chronic veteran homelessness. Most recently, Fionnuala worked at City Hall for the Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services where she focused on homeless and inter-agency initiatives. This summer, Fionnnuala worked as a Graduate Fellow at Citizens Housing and Planning Council where she developed recommendations for New York City's next housing plan. After graduating from Woodrow Wilson, she is interested in continuing to work with government to improve housing and service delivery for vulnerable individuals.
Manna Selassie
MPA2
I - International Relations
Occidental College, 2014
Diplomacy & World Affairs, B.A.
Trenton, New Jersey
Manna is a Trenton, New Jersey, native just getting back to the East Coast after long stints in California and Asia. Studying diplomacy at Occidental College brought her to a two-year Fulbright fellowship in Taiwan. She spent her first year learning to shoot the breeze with farmers in one of their most remote indigenous villages, and the next year navigating the subways of the busy capital city. Manna dedicated the past three years to not only cultural exchange and public service, but also environmental sustainability through volunteering at GreenPeace Taiwan and co-chairing the Philadelphia School District’s green infrastructure committee as an AmeriCorps VISTA. This past summer, she completed her internship with the U.S. Department of State. After graduating WWS, she looks forward to a career in the Foreign Service. Manna enjoys indie movies, podcasts, the Jersey Shore (not the TV show!), swimming, historical fiction and memoirs.
Ashley Semanskee
MPA2
IV - Economics and Public Policy
Stanford University, 2015
Human Biology, B.A.
Edmonds, Washington
Ashley was born and raised in Edmonds, Washington. She graduated from Stanford University in 2015, where she majored in human biology and economics. After graduation, she worked as a research assistant at the Kaiser Family Foundation supporting research on private insurance, health reform, and the Affordable Care Act. This past summer, she worked at the Senate Finance Committee on a bipartisan package of prescription drug pricing reforms in Medicare and Medicaid. She intends to pursue a public sector career using evidence-based policy to build a better American health care system – one that provides affordable, high-quality care to all Americans. Ashley loves to travel, write, run and eat. She has studied and worked abroad in Oxford, Madagascar and Budapest.

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