You are here: American University School of Public Affairs PhD Programs Current Doctoral Students

SPA's PhD curriculum is designed to provide doctoral students with the skills to effect immediate impact.

With expertise spanning public management, global health governance, regulatory policy and more, our PhD candidates bring the research tools and academic rigor to advance scholarship in their respective fields and educate the next generation of public affairs leaders.

Public Administration PhD Students

Michele Aquino

Michele is a PhD student in the Department of Public Administration & Policy. He focuses on policy analysis, especially related to the natural environment. Primary research interests include the polit

  ma6936a@american.edu

Christopher Burks Adjunct Instructor

Christopher Tyler Burks (he/him) is on the job market as a PhD candidate and Charles Levine Doctoral Research Fellow in public administration and policy at American University. Chris serves as an Adju

  cb0533a@american.edu

Michelle Castleberry

Neko Michelle Castleberry is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University. Her research interests include policies regarding sexual and reproductiv

  mc0837a@american.edu

Tianyu Chen Adjunct Instructor

Tianyu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Public Administration & Policy and a fellow at the Center for Data Science of the School of Public Affairs. His research interests include public and non

  tc4634a@american.edu

Sarah Chung

Sarah Chung is a PhD student in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University. Her research interests lie at the intersection of environmental, health, and education policy

  sc9558a@american.edu

James Ellis Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education Provost, Office of the

Jimmy Ellis (he/him/his) is the Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education. He joined AU in 2011 and leads programmatic, administrative, and curricular assessment for the department, including the livi

  jellis@american.edu

  (202) 885-2240

Katherine Engel

Katie is a PhD student in the Department of Public Administration & Policy. Her research interests include health equity and food policy. Prior to her doctoral studies, Katie worked as Director of Pro

  ke7802a@american.edu

Kathryn Grossman

Kathryn is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Administration and Policy. Her research interests include public and nonprofit management and education policy. She is a qualitative research

  kg0238a@american.edu

Jessica Horst Adjunct Instructor

Jessica is a PhD student in the Department of Public Administration and Policy. Her research interests include early childhood education (ECE), ECE labor markets, and education policy. Prior to her do

  jh3608a@american.edu

Kathryn Johnson

Kathryn is a PhD student in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University. Her research interests include environmental, health, and technology policy.

  kj5677a@american.edu

Minjung Kim Adjunct Instructor

Minjung Kim is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University. Her research interests include public and nonprofit management, civic engagement, phil

  mk5083a@american.edu

Laura McMahon Fulford

Laura is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Administration and Policy. Her research interests include how agencies are impacted by external influences, bureaucratic discretion, state & loc

  lm5142a@american.edu

Sarah Nielsen

Sarah is a PhD student in the Department of Public Administration and Policy and a Charles Levine Doctoral Research Fellow. Her research interests include cross-sector collaboration, refugee and immig

  sn3602a@american.edu

Joohyung Park Adjunct Instructor

Joohyung Park is a PhD candidate in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University. His research interests include bureaucracy and democracy, public management, bureaucratic

  jp6878a@american.edu

William Prince

Will is a PhD student and Charles Levine Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Public Administration and Policy in the School of Public Affairs. His research interests revolve around public ma

  wp7117a@american.edu

Alexandra Rakus Adjunct Instructor

Alexandra Rakus is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Administration and Policy with a concentration in public policy. Her research interests are within health policy broadly and include o

  ar2951a@american.edu

Lilli Shaffer Adjunct Instructor

Lilliandra's primary area of study is in nonprofit organizations, specifically foundations. She is also interested in public administration theory and philosophy. Prior to attending American Universit

  js4358a@american.edu

Samantha Strong

Samantha is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Administration and Policy with a concentration in public policy. Her research interests include gender equity, health policy, and the use of

  ss8375a@american.edu

Carley Weted Adjunct Instructor

Carley Weted is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University. Her research interests include investigations of environmental factors with effects on

  cw3677a@american.edu

Xiaoyang Xu Adjunct Instructor

Xiaoyang Xu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University. Her research interests include representative bureaucracy, public management, and gend

  xx0266a@american.edu

Political Science PhD Students

Ali Amini

Ali is a Ph.D. student concentrating in political methodology and the comparative politics of the Middle East. Methodologically, he is interested in causal inference, political data science, and the e

  aa6718a@american.edu

Abdullah Atalan

Abdullah is a PhD student at American University. He studies comparative politics, political methodology with concentrations in civil-military relations and regime-types in the Middle East. Abdullah w

  aa7174a@american.edu

Ryan Detamble Adjunct Instructor

Ryan M. DeTamble is a Ph.D. student in American Politics. His research focuses on questions of American political behavior, especially those related to public opinion, voting, partisanship, and polari

  rd2788a@american.edu

Danielle Higgins Adjunct Instructor

Danielle Higgins is a doctoral student in Political Science at American University's School of Public Affairs. She specializes in Comparative Politics, with a secondary field in American Politics. Her

  dh6087a@american.edu

Marcus Johnson

Marcus is a 4th year PhD student at American University. His research focuses on racial competition, political behavior, and social identity in American politics. Some of Marcus' current research proj

  mj8154a@american.edu

Ellen Kamalyan

Ellen Kamalyan is a 1st year Ph.D. student at American University. She studies Comparative Politics and American Politics with research focuses on religious and ethnic violence and conflict, and regio

  ek5837a@american.edu

Megan Kurten Adjunct Instructor

Megan Kurten is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Government and a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Politics. Her research domain is political violence, particularly the relationships and intera

  mk6179a@american.edu

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer is a PhD student at American University. She studies American politics with a concentration in racial and ethnic politics, specifically the political behavior of Latinos in the United States.

  jl0049a@american.edu

Daniel Steiman Adjunct Instructor

Daniel Steiman is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Government, with concentrations in Comparative Politics and International Relations.  His interests include political violence and civil wars, wi

  ds5121a@american.edu

Dakota Strode

Dakota is a PhD student at American University. He studies American and comparative politics with concentrations in LGBTQ politics, political behavior, public opinion, and campaigns and elections.Dako

  ds4090a@american.edu

Mark Tenenbaum

Mark is a third year PhD student at American University. He studies American politics, with interests in religion and politics, racial and ethnic politics, and political behavior. Some of Mark’s curre

  mt2082a@american.edu

Karl Vonzabern

Karl VonZabern is a Ph.D. student in the political science department with a specialty in comparative politics and methods. His research focuses on the politics of climate change adaptation and mitiga

  kv2717a@american.edu

Xinyuan Yang

Xinyuan is a PhD student in Political Science. She studies political methodology and comparative politics. Her research interests include using Bayesian method to study public opinion and political be

  xy4066a@american.edu

Justice, Law & Criminology PhD Students

Michael Becker

Michael H. Becker is a doctoral student in the Department of Justice, Law, and Criminology in the School of Public Affairs. His research interests include the individual and group correlates of suppor

  mb2236b@american.edu

Natalie Chwalisz Adjunct Instructor

Natalie Chwalisz is a PhD candidate at the School of Public Affairs, in the Justice, Law and Criminology Department. She focuses in on human smuggling, mixed migration and forced displacement.In her f

  chwalisz@american.edu

Sara Harmouch

Sara Harmouch is a third-year Ph.D. student at the School of Public Affairs. Her research interests are asymmetric warfare, alliances, political violence, violent extremism, armed non-state actors, al

  sh5958a@american.edu

Melissa Kilmer

Melissa is a Ph.D. student in American University’s Department of Justice, Law, and Criminology. She received her B.A. in psychology and criminal justice from the University of Delaware in 2022. Her p

  mk2815a@american.edu

Bethany Leap

Bethany Leap is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Justice, Law, and Criminology, focusing on her research interests of radicalization, extremist behavior, and quantitative methodology. Her current

  bl9593a@american.edu

Alyssa Purdy Adjunct Instructor

Alyssa Purdy is currently pursuing a PhD in Justice, Law & Criminology with a secondary focus in Public Policy. She received her Master of Science degree in Justice, Law & Criminology from American Un

  ap9576a@american.edu

Candace Strickland

Candace M. Strickland is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina. She is a doctoral student in the Department of Justice, Law, and Criminology in the School of Public Affairs.Her research interests includ

  cs2037a@american.edu