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Impressive New Class of Ph.D. Students Join SPP This Fall

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New PhDs

This fall, the UMD School of Public Policy welcomed an impressive new class of nine doctoral students. The following is a brief description of the research interests and biography information for this incoming class, as written by each student. Join the School in welcoming these new Ph.D. students!

Clifton Cottrell is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and native of Shawnee, OK. He is at UMD to study Native American mitigation and adaptation strategies related to climate change. Cottrell has bachelor's degrees in history and political science from the University of the Ozarks. He also earned a Master of Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School at the University of Texas and a juris doctorate from Baylor University.

His career has taken him across the country, including as a park ranger at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the urban planner for a small parish outside New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina, and as the policy director of a national Native trade association in Washington, D.C. In his free time, Cottrell does lots of trail running, wildlife management, and puzzles with his daughter.

Michael Cowan is an incoming Ph.D. student at the School of Public Policy. He plans to study civil conflict and is particularly interested in the psychology of violence. From 2014 to 2018, he worked as a program officer for Democracy International, a democracy, rights and governance development contractor for USAID. While there, he worked primarily on the analytical services team in East Africa and South Asia. He earned his B.A. in government and politics and his M.P.P from the University of Maryland.

Mathew Feehan is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army and he is functionally designated as a strategist responsible for developing national level military strategy. He is a former intelligence officer and pilot currently serving as a military faculty member at National Defense University’s (NDU) College of Information and Cyberspace, where he teaches courses in national security to senior military and government civilian leaders. He is enrolled full time in the University of Maryland Public Policy doctoral program and teaches courses in the undergraduate program.

He holds a master’s degree in strategic intelligence from National Intelligence University and a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Simpson College. He is also a graduate of the Joint Professional Military Education program, U.S. Army Strategic Arts Program at the Army War College and the Chief Information Officer Leadership Program from NDU where he received the Department of Defense Chief Information Officer graduate certificate. Previously he served in a number of strategic and operational planning assignments as well as intelligence planning positions. He has served overseas in Korea, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Pacific region. His awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal (three awards) and numerous other campaign and individual unit awards.

Tiffany Ford is from Chicago, Illinois. She is a Public Policy doctoral student with a concentration in social policy. Her research interests focus on social and income inequality. Ford earned her Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in community health sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Miami, where she double majored in human and social development and economics, with a minor in health sector management and policy. Prior to beginning this program, she worked as a senior policy analyst for health reform and health equity at a social justice-oriented policy research think tank in Chicago. Her research and writing in that role spanned an assortment of topics, including criminal records, policing, gentrification and education.

Ford’s all-time favorite movie is a split between Coach Carter and all eight Harry Potter movies. The Prince of Egypt gets an honorable mention. She could – and does – watch each of these movies over and over again. She has a sweet four-legged baby named Dandelion who is joining her in Maryland. Dandelion doesn’t realize that she is a 50-pound pitbull. In her free time, Ford enjoys traveling, cooking, reading, playing/watching football (Go Canes!), doing DIY projects and going on adventures with her dog.

Neeraj Negi is from Haldwani (India) - a town at the foothills of the Himalayas. He is interested in examining impacts of climate change mitigation and adaptation interventions, especially those that promote sustainable forest management. Negi has an undergraduate degree in biology from Kumoun University, India (1991-94). In addition, he has a post graduate diploma in forestry management from the Indian Institute of Forest Management (1996-98), and a master’s degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University (2003-05). From 1998-2003 he worked at Seva Mandir, an NGO based in western India. He designed and implemented community-based micro projects that addressed concerns related to sustainable forest management, smallholder agriculture, drought proofing and rural livelihoods. During this period, he also provided field research assistance to several academics and research institutions.

Since 2005, he has been working at the Independent Evaluation Office of the Global Environment Facility, Washington D.C., in different capacities. During this engagement, he has led, or been part of, a wide range of evaluations covering topics such as impact of climate change mitigation projects; effectiveness of development interventions; performance based allocation; and, governance of network organizations. Negi is learning opera and intends to develop further as a tenor. ‘My Cousin Vinny’ is among his all-time favorite movies.

Xingchi Shen is from China. He will be specializing in energy and environmental policy. Shen’s research interests include: home energy-efficiency improvements, the development of renewable energy in developing countries, environmental regulation and big data analysis. He holds a B.A. in public administration and an M.S. in public policy from Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU). Shen was the deputy secretary-general of SJTU's students' union from 2014 to 2016 and organized various university-level activities covering aspects of culture, innovation and practice, serving all students at SJTU. Shen’s favorite hobbies are playing basketball and watching movies.

Bryce Slinger is an incoming PhD student at the University of Maryland, School of Public Policy. He grew up in Chicago, IL and Raleigh, NC. Slinger holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Macalester College in anthropology and a Master of Public Health with a focus in global environmental health science from Tulane University.

After serving in the United States Peace Corps in Uganda, he became fascinated by the intersections of health care delivery systems and global security. In 2014, Slinger joined the federal government as a Presidential Management Fellow. He is currently the deputy director for strategy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

In his spare time, Slinger performs with Lizard Girl, a Washington Improv Theater-affiliated comedy team, and Ugh, a local indie team. He loves to travel and has visited all six permanently inhabited continents. His favorite movie is X-Men (2010). He says, “What can I say? I love allegories and super powers.”

Mel George Vallimyalil is from India and will be joining the PhD program at SPP, specializing in energy and environmental policy. His research objective is to explore different alternatives for the future energy mix and corresponding transition pathways that may lead to a low carbon society. Vallimyalil intends to work on the intersection of Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) and Industrial Ecology methods such as Input-Output Analysis for simultaneous assessment of climate change and circular economy aspects. The present scenario models, often, do not take into account the need for inclusive growth in developing countries while targeting emission reductions. With a revised demand curve, the future energy pathways could look quite different from those in popular scenarios.

He holds a master’s degree in energy science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He then worked for nine years with Bharat Petroleum Corp., a Fortune 500 Government of India enterprise in the oil and gas sector. As manager (R&D) at their labs near New Delhi, he led renewable energy projects, petroleum subsidy policy studies, energy scenarios modeling and R&D strategy development. He was also a Sunday School Catechism teacher for the last five years. Vallimyalil’s hobbies include reading (anything from PG Wodehouse to history, politics and religion) and binge-watching Netflix and The West Wing. His favorite movies of all time include A Few Good Men and Scent of a Woman. Apart from the great climax scenes, these movies make one think and bring up the timeless question - do you follow your duty or your conscience? Vallimyalil says he’s learned, "You don't need to wear a patch on your arm to have honor". In other words, no matter what job he has, where he lives, or who he is around, he wants his actions to reflect the person he is.

Saleha Waqar is from Islamabad, Pakistan, but has been living in Washington DC. Her policy interests include social protection, employment, active labor market programs and informal labor markets. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 2009, majoring in philosophy; and then completed her master’s degree from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna in Austria where she studied international law and economics. Waqar has been working for the past seven years at the World Bank primarily in the areas of rural and agricultural livelihoods, and social protection and job creation in low and middle income countries. 

In her free time, she likes to paint. Her favorite medium is oil and she likes painting portraits. Waqar also loves to read and has a large, very eclectic collection of books. She is also a big fan of Solidcore in DC, which is a strength training workout. She is also very interested in learning languages and hope to add a few more to her list over the next decade. She has been travelling a lot for work in the past few years so she is looking forward to not travelling for a while as she begins her PhD!

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