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Spring 2024's PPIP Washington, DC Intern Cohort
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Tami Akerele

Todd Strategy Group


Tami graduated with a degree in psychology and a minor in public health in December 2023 and is from Houston, Texas. Throughout her undergraduate years, Tami actively applied her coursework to benefit her community. Within the Texas A&M community, Tami served as a resident advisor and as the Public Relations Chair in Texas A&M Legacies, a women's organization dedicated to community outreach for on-campus essential workers. Tami also contributed as a peer educator in Texas A&M's Health Promotion Office and worked as a research assistant in various labs, focusing on diversity, health policy, and health equity. Tami's experiences and passion, stemming from her undergraduate studies, led her to develop an interest in health disparities and equity research. Currently her primary focus is addressing the maternal mortality crisis in America. Tami hopes to attend graduate school in the future, where she can gain more experience and expertise in health policy research and advocacy. Her specific interest lies in women's reproductive health on an international scale, aiming to influence global policy. Excited about her upcoming internship in D.C., Tami looks forward to interning with Todd Strategy Group. 


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Nicholas Gutteridge

US Air Force Public Affairs


Nicholas Gutteridge is a sophomore political science major with minors in psychology and professional writing. Planning to attend law school after completing his undergraduate studies, Nicholas is also completing a certificate in philosophy pre-law to better prepare himself. He has gained valuable experience through various jobs, including roles at Dairy Queen and Barnes & Noble, where he developed customer service skills and learned how to thrive in a fast-paced environment. Currently Nicholas is actively involved with The Battalion, Texas A&M’s student newspaper. Starting as a news reporter, he was later promoted to a news editor, overseeing the news desk, managing hiring, and training processes, and collaborating with reporters alongside his co-editor. Nicholas’ early exposure to the impact of national policies on everyday life, particularly living near the southern border in Los Fresnos, fueled his passion for public policy. Now, he is eager to bring his insights and experience to Washington, D.C. Nicholas applied to the Public Policy Internship Program to broaden his skill set and experience life as an intern in Washington D.C. He sees this opportunity as a crucial step in his journey toward becoming a lawyer with aspirations to work in the federal government. This spring, Nicholas is interning with the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Division located in the Pentagon, where he hopes to make a lasting impact.


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MyKaela Johnston

National Farmers Union


MyKaela Johnston, a sophomore from Belton, Texas, is set to graduate in May 2026 with a Bachelor of Arts in university studies, focusing on society, ethics, and law, with Departmental Honors. She is also pursuing minors in philosophy and communications, along with a pre-law certificate. As a student Texas A&M, MyKaela has participated in programs such as the Southeastern Conference in Washington D.C. Program, where she developed policy briefs and advocated for issues on Capitol Hill, and the Aggie Research Program, where she investigated political philosophy and the formation of autonomous regimes. MyKaela serves as a member of the Student Government Association’s Legislative Relations Commission, actively working to provide students with a voice by drafting legislation and conversing with policymakers. In addition, MyKaela is an active member of the 12th Can Food Pantry Organization, serving on its Pantry Committee. She volunteers regularly in the on-campus food pantry, overseeing logistics such as donation sorting, food ordering, and clientele accommodations. These diverse experiences have sparked MyKaela’s passion for the protection of minority communities and human rights, especially through the means of public policy. She has a drive to work in a field that enables her to use her passions and skills to make a difference. Last summer, MyKaela interned in the 169th District Court under Judge Cari Starritt-Burnett, gaining insights into legal means to provide the protections she is devoted to. This Spring, MyKaela will be interning with the National Farmers Union. During her time in the capitol, MyKaela is looking forward to learning more about the public policy process, working alongside other passionate individuals, and gaining valuable experiences.


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Henry Kull

Office of Congressman Nathaniel Moran


Henry Kull recently graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Before starting college, he interned with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas, TX, sparking his interest in pursuing a career in the legal field. At Texas A&M, Henry proudly served on the Student Government Association Judicial Court as a Judge Advocate General and Vice Chief Justice. He continued to build on his interest in law by working as a legal assistant for Rick Davis & Associates, a law firm in Bryan, TX, where he analyzed discovery for criminal cases. Additionally, he studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, last summer which furthered his interest in international affairs and instilled a passion for learning Spanish. This spring, Henry is interning with the Office of Congressman Nathaniel Moran. During his internship in Washington, D.C., Henry hopes to gain valuable public service experience, preparing him for law school and a career as an attorney.


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Valeria Laya

Office of Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia 


Valeria Laya graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, Politics and Diplomacy from Texas A&M University in December 2023. Originally from Venezuela, Valeria has spent most of her life in Tomball, Texas. On campus, she was involved in the Texas A&M University Student Senate as a senator for the off-campus caucus, in the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She held various leadership positions in the MSC L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness, seeking to provide the BCS community with international exposure. Additionally, she served as a volunteer for Orange and Maroon Legislative Day, where she visited representatives in the Texas Capitol and advocated for the investment in higher education. Lastly, she interned in France for Serve the City, an NGO that provides humanitarian aid to refugees. Valeria’s involvement has refined her leadership skills and allowed her to develop a passion for political advocacy through policy making. She hopes to use this opportunity as a first step towards a career in utilizing the legislative process and democracy as a method for societal change on a global scale.


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Susan Liu

US Space Force Public Affairs, Strategies and Assessment


Susan Liu is a sophomore studying supply chain management at Mays Business School. Originally from Manhattan, New York, Susan actively engages in various student organizations at Texas A&M. She serves as a member of the Student Senate as one of the two representatives of Mays Business School. She also serves on the Legislative Relations Commission, where she researches educational policies to advocate for the student body. This past summer, Susan participated in the Adam C. Sinn European Investment Management Trip, traveling to 5 different European countries and Washington, D.C., to study policy differences in financial firms and political priorities. This experience confirmed her growing passion for foreign policy and national affairs. As a first-generation college from an immigrant background, Susan is extremely passionate about finding a way to give back to the country she loves. This led her to pursue an internship with the United States Space Force on the Public Affairs Strategies and Assesment team, where she hopes to further her knowledge of government and public affairs.


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Joseph Matasso

Office of Congressman Morgan Luttrell


Joe Matasso is a sophomore finance major in the Honors Program at Mays Business School. Proud to be a second-generation Aggie from Magnolia, Texas, Joe has been actively involved in several on-campus organizations. During his freshman year, he was a delegate for the Gilbert Leadership Conference, a member of the Freshman Leadership Organization “FEAST”, and a committee member for COSGA. For the past two years, he has served as a volunteer for the AVID Program, mentoring first-generation students in the Bryan/College Station area. He has worked various jobs, including at a golf course, crawfish restaurant, construction sites, Walmart warehouses, Brookshire Brothers, and most recently Camp Ozark. Joe is the founder of “ScholarShape”, an advising service that simplifies the scholarship application process for parents and students. Joe has long been fascinated by the study of politics and history, enjoying the exploration of how history drives nations to interact on the global stage. Joe is interning with the Office of Congressman Morgan Luttrell in Washington, D.C. He is excited to witness first-hand how the U.S. government and legislative process functions. He looks forward to contributing to the law-making process and hopes to solidify further his interests in the realms of public service and business. Throughout his internship experience, Joe plans to take in everything that our nation’s capital has to offer.


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Volodymyr Ploskanych

U.S. Department of Defense


Volodymyr, a current junior in the Corps of Cadets as a member of Company B2. He is a first-generation Aggie from Temple, Texas, originally from Ukraine. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and a Minor in Cyber Security. Volodymyr served as the president of the Ukrainian Club, a recognized student organization at Texas A&M. Upon founding the organization, he discovered an outpouring of support from the local student community on campus and the surprisingly large Bryan-College Station Ukrainian community, presenting a real opportunity for Aggies to do good during the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. Volodymyr also contributes to student bonfire by cutting down trees and stacking logs when he can, believing that Bonfire is one of the most important traditions for the spirit of Aggieland. Academically, he is interested in all things’ sociology, especially in the international context. In the Summer of 2023, he completed a 10-week internship program with the National Security Innovation Network, focusing on a project evaluating the implementation of the U.S. Army National Guard’s Holistic Health & Fitness initiative. After graduation, Volodymyr hopes to work in the Peace Corps or a similarly service-oriented organization.


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Jacob Pratt

Office of Congressman Brian Babin


Jacob Pratt is a graduate of Texas A&M University’s Mays School of Business, holding a degree in finance. During his time at Texas A&M, Jacob actively participated in the Aggie Men’s Club, where he served as the Media Relations Chair and as Secretary on the Executive Council. In the spring of 2023 Jacob was admitted to Texas A&M’s Public Policy Internship Program where he worked as a Legislative Aid in State Representative Craig Goldman’s office, Chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee, during the 88th Legislative Session. It was in this experience that Jacob discovered his passion for public policy, specifically with an interest in energy and licensing & administrative procedures. After completing his internship, he secured positions in both Senator Kelly Hancock’s and Representative Greg Bonnen’s offices during the first and second 88th Legislative Special Sessions, further developing his skills. Having been accepted into the Public Policy Program for a second time, Jacob is working postgrad in Washington, D. C., exploring opportunities in both state and federal level public policy to determine his career path.


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Mirella Schwartz

U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs


Mirella Schwartz is a recent graduate of Texas A&M University from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. In December 2023, she completed her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a concentration in international politics and diplomacy. She plans to attend graduate school in Fall 2024 where she will pursue a Master of International Affairs. During her time at Texas A&M, Mirella has been involved in several on-campus organizations. She served as an Associate Justice on the Texas A&M Judicial Court, a U.S. Army War College Liaison for the MSC’s Student Conference on National Affairs, a member of the Ags Reach service organization, and worked part-time as a student assistant for the Academic Building Advising Center. Formerly, Mirella was also a Fish Camp Counselor and member of the Student Government Association’s Legislative Relations Committee. Mirella is passionate about U.S. foreign policy and national security. In her undergraduate tenure, she has conducted extensive research on the rise of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, militarized Artificial Intelligence, EU-China relations, and the broader U.S.-China great-power competition. However, these are just a few of her academic interests. As a generalist, Mirella is fascinated by a range of global issues, and as a dedicated life-long learner, she is intent on studying as much of these as she can. Mirella also enjoys traveling, experiencing different cultures, and meeting new people. She attributes her appreciation of exchange and cross-cultural connection to her upbringing on the Big Island of Hawaii: a diverse and culturally rich community that brings together populations from across the world. She continues to seek similar environments, valuing how they have contributed to her personal and professional growth. Mirella’s interests in both foreign policy and national security paired with her passion for people, have driven her to pursue a career in public service. She is excited to take these next steps towards her goals of effecting positive global change.


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Charles (Mason) Shoalmire

Bose Public Affairs


Charles Mason Shoalmire is a second year Master of Science in Materials Science & Engineering who graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Material Science & Engineering from Texas A&M in May 2022. Hailing from Texarkana, Texas, Mason is passionate about the development and commercialization of technology to serve the public good, leading to his involvement in research at Texas A&M. As an undergraduate, Mason had the privilege of leading a senior design project for developing corrosion resistant coatings for AZZ Inc. He is an accomplished researcher, contributing to multiple projects, publishing in journals like Applied Energy, and presenting at several conferences such as Composites, Materials, and Structures 2023. During his work characterizing high temperature materials for the Army Research Lab and Bush Combat Development Complex, Mason developed an interest in the intersection of policy and science, particularly in understanding how federal government funding impacts technological development. Mason hopes to leverage his experience with PPIP to gain exposure to the political process, guiding his future work to maximize contributions to research for the benefit of the public. This spring Mason will be interning with the Bose Public Affairs Group.


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Maria Tellez

Global Cold Chain Alliance


Maria is a senior from Houston, Texas. She is majoring in International Studies with a concentration in politics and diplomacy at Texas A&M University. Her hobbies include reading and hiking. Maria loves spending time with friends and family as well as visiting the George Bush Library. Maria is also passionate about anti-corruption policy within the realm of diplomacy and addressing the crisis of human trafficking in Northern Africa. She spent her summer volunteering at Casa Juan Diego, a Catholic organization which provides shelter and resources to migrants in the Houston community. Her interest in policy began with a passion for learning about history and research, drawing inspiration from books detailing the lives of trail blazers such as Paul Farmer or Bill Browder. That inspiration led her to pursue an internship in Washington D.C. with the Public Policy Internship Program at A&M. Maria is interning with the Global Cold Chain Alliance and is looking forward to all that D.C. has to offer.


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Emma Thomas

Twenty-First Century Group


Emma Grace Thomas, a recent December 2023 graduate from El Dorado, Arkansas, achieved Summa Cum Laude honors with a Bachelor of Art in International Studies, Politics and Diplomacy Track, and a minor in Chinese from Texas A&M. During her time at Texas A&M, Emma had the opportunity to be involved in Alpha Omicron Pi, the Chinese Language and Culture Club, and peer mentoring for BUSH 285. She served as the President of both the Society for International Studies and the International Student Mentors Association, allowing her to connect with students in various areas of campus. Emma gained international experience primarily in Chiang Mai, Thailand, focusing on diplomatic relations between Southeast Asian nations and China. She also traveled to countries such as Singapore and Korea while abroad. Through her experiences, Emma has developed a passion for access to education, especially in an international context, as well as immigration policy, foreign affairs, and infrastructure. Her passion lies in making a more equitable society that will improve the quality of life for all citizens. Emma is looking forward to interning with the Twenty-First Century Group, as it will help solidify her interests in government and help her gain insight into daily governmental affairs. In the future, she plans to obtain a Master’s in Public Service Administration and then work at the state or federal level of government.   


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Tiffany Ufodiama

Office of Congressman Lloyd Doggett


Tiffany Ogonna Ufodiama, born and raised in Round Rock, Texas, is a recent graduate of Texas A&M University, holding a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in public health and a Pre-Law certificate. Throughout her time at Texas A&M, Tiffany actively participated in various organizations. As one of the longest-serving senators in the Student Senate, she advocated for an improved campus environment for all students. In her role as Vice President of the African Students Association, Tiffany promoted a diverse array of African cultures. Leading bible studies for The IMPACT Movement, she facilitated the growth of students' relationships with Jesus Christ. Additionally, Tiffany served as a research assistant through the Aggie Research Program, dedicating years to studying intercultural youth among diverse students in China. In recognition of her exceptional contributions to student life programs, Tiffany was honored with the 2023 Buck Weirus Spirit award. Motivated by her leadership experiences, Tiffany aspires to obtain her J.D. to pursue a legal career. Her goal is to bring distinct narratives and perspectives to the legal community, advocating for historically marginalized groups. This spring, Tiffany is interning with the Office of Congressman Lloyd Doggett, where she hopes to gain valuable experience in the policy field.


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Luke Villareal 

Office of Congressman John Carter


From Round Rock, Texas, Luke Villarreal is a recent graduate of Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and a minor in English. Luke consistently earned a place on the Bush School of Government and Public Service Dean's List over the last several years. Passionate about significant policy issues facing our country and allies, Luke fostered this interest through courses at Texas A&M. Luke is similarly passionate about grassroots advocacy and change, a passion nurtured through various internship opportunities. For seven months, Luke served as an intern in Government Affairs for The Austin Board of REALTORS®, where he played a role in advocating for Pro-REALTOR policy in Central Texas. Luke had the opportunity to contribute to policy discussions at both local and state levels, gaining a firm understanding of the complexities of the housing market. Further contributing to the community, Luke served as an intern in Planning and Development for The City of Round Rock. Collaborating across city departments, he served as a resource for constituents, emphasizing the importance of community engagement. In leadership roles at Texas A&M, Luke served as a Sexual Assault Awareness Month Director and member of Sophomore Leaders Impacting, Developing, and Educating (SLIDE).  As the Treasurer for the Student Government Association Diversity Commission, Luke oversaw the commission’s budget and led fundraising efforts for a scholarship. Additionally, Luke has worked at the Evans Library Starbucks for the last two years, where he served as a Unit Lead. In his spare time, Luke enjoys exercising, listening to music, and reading. He is excited to intern with the Office of Congressman John Carter this spring and continue his education post-graduation.