Executive Board

Amanda Hermans, Editor-in-Chief

Amanda Hermans is the Editor-in-Chief of the Public Purpose Journal and a second-year Master of Public Policy candidate at American University’s School of Public Affairs. She also works as a research assistant at The Lab @ DC, an evidence-based policy research agency within the Executive Office of the Mayor. In her work and studies, she is focused on making urban settings more sustainable, livable, equitable and accessible.

Prior to her time at American, Amanda worked for several years as a journalist and editor, researching and writing about a variety of topics from Medicaid expansion to urban development to outdoor recreation. She also has extensive experience in multimedia story-telling and social media management and produced a short documentary film that was nominated for several U.S. film festivals. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and backpacking, visiting farmers markets, and playing the flute and piano.

Sam Pence, President

Sam Pence is a second-year Master of Public Administration student at American University specializing in nonprofit management. His work deals primarily with the origins and impacts of community dissolution, especially at the neighborhood and city levels, as well as ways to build social capital and collective efficacy through grassroots efforts. Sam was born and raised in Indiana and, in 2016, completed his undergraduate degree in history at Georgetown University, where he served as a member of the undergraduate editorial board. Following graduation from American, he plans to enter the nonprofit field to help bridge the divides between neighbors in his adopted home of Washington, D.C.

PPJ Online Editor 2021-2022

Ryan Fisher, Managing Online Editor

Ryan Fisher is the Managing Online Editor of the Public Purpose Journal and a second-year Master of Public Policy student at American University’s School of Public Affairs. Ryan is from Central Massachusetts and received his bachelor’s degree in history from Roger Williams University. Currently, he works as a research assistant at American University’s Center for Environmental Policy, researching clean energy policies, public opinion and environmental politics. Ryan’s interests focus on the intersections of environmental policy, economics and community development—and how environmental policies can build stable communities with equitable economic growth.

Solai Sanchez, Managing Print Editor

Solai Sanchez is a second-year MPA student with a special interest in nonprofit management. Originally from Pennsylvania, Solai moved to Washington, D.C. after she earned a B.A. in archaeology from Dickinson College in 2015. Solai is currently the Member Engagement Manager at the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and a board member of a DC-based nonprofit, Archaeology in the Community. In both of these roles, she is focused on community building and promoting the power of education. After graduation, she hopes to continue working in the nonprofit sector doing work that focuses on community building, equity and program evaluation.

Gaspard Delaoustre, Communications Director

Gaspard Delaoustre is a French second year public policy student at American University, and the Communications Director for the Public Purpose Journal.

During his time as an international & European relations student at King’s College London, he studied the impact of gender in politics, and participated in the creation of a film festival that aimed to increase women’s access to the UK media industry. At AU, Gaspard focuses on LGBTQ policy, in areas related to social policy and education, and plans on working in advocacy and research.

David Steele, Finance Director

David is a second-year public administration student at American University. He obtained his undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies from AU in 2020, where he was also treasurer of the American University College Democrats. A wonk at heart with interests ranging from international affairs to tech policy, David currently works to elect Democrats as a fundraiser for a statewide campaign. When he’s not working, David enjoys playing and studying chess.

Karen Caspa, Associate Print Editor

Karen Caspa is a first-year Master of Public Administration student at American University’s School of Public Affairs. She attended the University of California, Davis, where she graduated with a degree in political science and a minor in Latin American studies. As an undergraduate student, Karen interned with the United Nations, where her passion to advocate education began. Since then, she has worked as a research fellow for an education campaign based in Nigeria, “WheelBarrow Kids Campaign.” She hopes to continue working on education projects and policies.

Resident Editors

Lennet Peñate

Lennet Peñate is a second-year Master of Public Policy and Administration student at American University. She attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where she graduated with a degree in sociology and a minor in law and society. Currently, Lennet works at the American Immigration Council in Washington, D.C. In her job, she gets to work and continue learning with others passionate about immigration and policy reform. In her free time, she enjoys reading a good book, road-tripping, arguing with her cat and doing yoga. After graduating, she hopes to continue doing work in the non-profit field, focusing on policy reform.

Julia Singer

Julia Singer is a second-year Master of Public Policy student concentrating in environmental and cyber policy. She is originally from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but spent the last few years living in North Carolina, where she earned a B.S. in marine biology with a minor in sustainability and a concentration in conservation from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Julia currently works at Oceana as a responsible fishing & shark campaign intern, and she has held previous internships with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, The Roosevelt Group and Signal Group D.C. Julia is also a current Co-President of AU’s Climate and Conservation Policy Club and was a part of the SPA Graduate Student Council during her first year. After graduating, she hopes to continue working in fisheries management and specifically focus on bycatch reduction policy.

Dakota Engel

Dakota Engel is a first-year JLC student with a special interest in the intersections of education and criminal justice policy, as well as the abolition of the death penalty. Prior to attending American University, she served as a fifth-grade teacher. Currently, she works on the Training and Community Engagement Team at Emily’s List. In her free time, Dakota loves reading political memoirs, hiking with her dog and running.

Cambre Codington

Cambre Codington is a first-year Master of Public Policy student concentrating in environmental policy and climate change at American University’s School of Public Affairs. She attended Syracuse University in Upstate N.Y., where she graduated with a degree in environmental engineering and environment, sustainability and policy. Currently, Cambre is working as a housing policy intern with Neighborhood Fundamentals LLC, focusing on urban planning and infrastructure policy. In addition, she is also working as a research assistant at American University’s Center for Environmental Policy, researching climate change and sustainability initiatives. In her free time, she enjoys skiing, hanging with friends, working out and photography.

Michelle Kumar

Michelle Kumar is a first-year MPP student and received her undergraduate degree in international studies and ethics & public policy from the University of Iowa. Her policy interests center on comparative policy and how we can learn from other countries to address the nexus between racial justice, health, housing, infrastructure, education and climate issues in the U.S., particularly as they relate to immigrant and diaspora populations. Currently, she is interning with Anera, an organization that funds local development and humanitarian projects for displaced peoples in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. In her free time, Michelle enjoys baking, reading and exploring D.C. to find the best places to eat.

Saurabh Shah

Saurabh is a first-year Master of Public Policy student at American University focusing on technology policy and research methods. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a double major in political science and legal studies, and he worked in recruiting for several years before pivoting to a career in public service. Outside of academics, Saurabh interns for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and serves on the AU Graduate Leadership Council. After grad school, he aspires to work at a think tank or in local government focusing on urban innovation.

Anish Nalla

Anish Nalla is currently a first-year MPA student at American University. Previously, Anish worked as an analyst for Walter Reed National Medical Center and on the staff of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Anish graduated from Emory University in 2018 with a degree in political science.

Stockton Grunewald

Stockton is a Columnist and Resident Editor pursuing a master’s degree in political science. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History from Rockhurst University, a Jesuit college in Kansas City, Missouri. Currently, Stockton works as an intern with the Alliance for American Manufacturing and has a profound interest in labor rights, international relations and history.

Ashraya Kalavakunta headshot

Ashraya Kalavakunta

Ashraya Kalavakunta is a first-year MPP student concentrating in international development and public management. She has a special interest in sustainable development and women’s and children’s rights. Ashraya graduated with a B.A. in political science and international affairs from the University of California, Riverside. She worked as a consultant on water and public transportation projects before moving to D.C. for graduate school. In her free time, she likes exploring new food places, hiking and tutoring.

Columnists

Sam Murray

Sam Murray is currently working as a pathways intern for the FDA and is a second-year Master of Political Science student. He served as a Columnist at the Public Purpose Journal last year and is continuing through the 2021-2022 academic year. His research and interest areas are primarily on energy and the environment, policing and labor policy reforms. When taking a break from work and writing, he enjoys hiking, running, rock climbing and snowboarding.

Marcel Akhame

Marcel is a second-year Master of Public Policy student with an interest in environmental and climate change policy. He is originally from Lagos, Nigeria, but grew up in Dallas, Texas, and graduated from the University of North Texas with a B.A. in political science and a minor in economics. As an undergraduate student, Marcel interned with the City of Denton, Texas’ City Manager’s Office, and currently works as a Program Analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency. In his free time, Marcel enjoys working out, reading, and playing video games.

Cam Napier

Cam Napier

Cam Napier is a first-year Master of Public Policy student at American University’s School of Public Affairs with interests in equitable urban growth, building community identity and urban education policy. He is originally from Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated from Rhodes College with a degree in urban studies and a minor in music. In addition to scholarship in public policy, Cam has studied the history and traditions of jazz and blues, candid street photography and creative writing. Following graduation from American University, he plans to pursue a career working in social and political research or municipal government.

Andres Blume

Andres Blume is a Peruvian first-year Master of Public Policy student at American University’s School of Public Affairs. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) and, since then, has worked on education projects and policies in the Peruvian private and public sectors. He is interested in the intersections of education, media and technology policy and plans to complete a concentration on those topics.

Emily Hoofnagle

Emily Hoofnagle is a second-year Master of Political Science student with interests in social policy, political behavior, social movements and elections. She is originally from Tallahassee, Florida, and graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in political science. Emily has previously held internships with a U.S. member of Congress and a political action committee. After graduating from American University, she hopes to work for a political consulting firm or a nonprofit. In her free time, Emily enjoys reading political and historical non-fiction, reading fiction and exploring hiking trails in the D.C. area.

Christopher Fields

Chris Fields is a first-year Master of Public Administration student concentrating in policy analysis. He is originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in journalism and mass communication. After spending the previous eight years working in social media, he is looking forward to expanding his writing beyond 280 characters.

Join Our Team

The PPJ is looking for graduate students at American University’s School of Public Affairs to join the team as authors, columnists, or resident editors!