Policy & Research Legislative Fellows Cohort

Meet the AY2024-2025 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 AY2024-2025 Policy and Research Legislative Fellows Program! The five fellows in this cohort represent four departments in four different colleges working on issues including rural transportation such as higher education funding. 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.

Oluwakemi Adeyemi is a second-year Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD) candidate in the College of Law interested in understanding how legal systems are and can be designed to attract debt financing secured by intellectual properties. A dual-qualified attorney (the state of New York and Nigeria) and a former Illini Science Policy Scholar with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation, Oluwakemi will be working with State Representative Carol Ammons of the 103rd Representative District to operationalize HR 453 which has the goal of helping descendants of enslaved African Americans reconnect with their extra-extended family relations in Africa through autosomal DNA genetic testing. 

Leela Bhairy is a graduate student in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Leela is collaborating with State Representative Brandun Schweizer on a rural transportation initiative for Illinois’ 104th District. This project aims to address the significant impacts of transportation deficiencies on wellness, mental health, education, training, and employment in rural communities. We are committed to enhancing transportation connectivity and accessibility, addressing these unique challenges through thoughtful strategic planning and innovative policy solutions.

Minjoo Chong is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership, currently placed with Senator Paul Faraci. Her research adopts a comparative and critical perspective on education policy. The primary goal of her project is to involve a thorough analysis of the educational institutions both within the U.S. and abroad, to formulate policy recommendations that promote innovation and improvement in higher education institutions across Illinois. By identifying effective strategies and potential pitfalls, she seeks to contribute to the enhancement of institutional effectiveness in the state.

Laura Gray is a fourth-year doctoral student in Environmental Engineering working with State Representative Brandun Schweizer. Her research focuses on modeling green stormwater infrastructure in urban areas to understand the climatic and human comfort benefits implementation can provide across a wide variety of locations. Her project for the PRLF program, in conjunction with Leela Bhairy, aims to address rural transportation needs in the 104th District of Illinois by taking advantage of possible renewable energy options or providing incentives for mass transit to offer rural routes. The overall goal of the project is to propose legislation with the ability to financially sustain rural transportation in the 104th District.

Thong M. Trinh is an Edwin J. O’Leary Fellow and PhD student in Higher Education. He is working with Senator Chapin Rose on a project focused on higher education funding and governance in Illinois. This project aims to explore innovative funding and governance models to reduce administrative barriers, enhance efficiency, and improve outcomes for students and institutions. His research focuses on Higher Education Policy, particularly in Finance. Thong has published extensively on topics such as student willingness to pay, university budgeting, and other areas related to higher education policy. Additionally, he serves as an Editorial Board member and peer reviewer for several Web of Science and Scopus-indexed journals in the field of Education. For more information about Thong, please visit here.

Meet the previous Policy & Research Legislative Fellows