Meet the AY2023-2024 Policy & Research Legislative Fellows

The Center for Social and Behavioral Science (CSBS), with support from the Office of the Chancellor-Public Engagement, is proud to introduce the participants of the AY2023-2024 Policy and Research Legislative Fellows Program! The six fellows in this cohort represent five departments from from 4 different colleges and 4 departments working on issues like renewable energy and medicaid policy. This cohort of scholars was selected from a competitive pool of applicants possessing the skills, the research expertise, and the passion to work on public policy and help make Illinois a better place to live. Both students and legislators are working to bridge the gap between theory and practice at the state level and connecting research to real-world implications.

Jailene Aguirre

Jailene Aguirre is a fifth-year doctoral student in Human Development and Family Studies and is working with State Representative Carol Ammons. As a Guatemalan-American, first-generation college student from a low-income background, Jailene has a unique perspective and genuine interest in understanding the lived experiences of historically marginalized and underrepresented individuals. Her research aims to use research-to-policy initiatives to explore various contexts with the goal of creating positive social change that will uplift families and their respective communities. Jailene’s projects will encompass leading a working group regarding the establishment of parole in the state of Illinois by engaging with stakeholders, examining policies, and drafting legislation.

Benjamin Campbell

Benjamin Campbell is currently a PhD student in Kinesiology and Community Health who will be working with State Representative Carol Ammons. Benjamin is studying youth substance use, nature access, and health policy. He brings many years of experience in criminal justice and substance use / mental health spaces and has a passion for developing effective policy for better serving residents of a community. Benjamin’s policy research focus will largely be on criminal justice policy reforms, specifically surrounding the re-establishment of parole in Illinois and higher education in prison programs. Tangentially, he will also help out on a project to understand expanded ADA Workplace protections for those with neurological disorders.

Ha Young Choi

Ha Young Choi
 is a graduate student in Human Development and Family Studies and placed with former State Representative Michael Marron. Ha Young’s project aims to determine why young individuals do not stay and find jobs in the state of Illinois (a growing trend that has intensified in the last few years). This project will collect survey data from three key population groups: young job seekers, young employees, and employers. Based on the collected data, Ha Young will work together with Marron and his staff to explore policy and legislative options that could address the gap between “the needs of young adults entering the labor force” and “the needs of the region’s industries.”

Mia Chudzik

Mia Chudzik is a doctoral student in the special education department and is working with State Senator Paul Faraci. Her research focuses on trauma-informed care in early childhood special education settings. This project addresses the various problems that individuals with disabilities and their families face by researching US legislation and policies that could be applied to Illinois. The overall goal of this project is to design policy that will provide further supports for individuals with disabilities and their families in Illinois.

Tessa Clarizio

Tessa Clarizio
 is a fourth-year doctoral student in Environmental Engineering and is working with former State Representative Mike Marron and State Representative Brandun Schweizer. Her research focus is on air quality modeling, and she has a broad interest in topics relating to air quality, climate change, and public health. Her project focuses on identifying and communicating renewable energy opportunities for residents and businesses in Illinois 104th district, specifically solar energy and electric vehicle charging stations. The overall goal is to promote accessibility to renewable energy and identify potential challenges that could alleviated through updates to legislation or policy.

Mia Leigh Renna

Mia Leigh Renna is a graduate student in civil engineering placed with former State Representative Michael Marron. Mia’s professional history includes more than eight years of military service in the US Army’s Engineering Regiment and Corps of Engineers before enrolling in graduate school. Her research focus is on equitable disaster management policy aimed to reduce social vulnerability and negative outcomes from disasters, and her project aims to expand accessibility to solar power development for Illinois 104th district’s residents and businesses.