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Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Class of 2020

Phoebe Ambrose

Syracuse University

Hometown: Syracuse, New York

Major: Food Studies & Citizenship and Civic Engagement

Activities: Volunteering at local community farms and nonprofits, mentor for first-year students, and a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta Fraternity.

Capstone: Help develop, refine, and implement Syracuse University’s new community garden’s expansion and engagement


Hannah Bruns

Vanderbilt University

Hometown: Arden Hills, Minnesota

Major: History

Activities: I serve as a student senator in the Vanderbilt Student Government and as the chair of the Political Activism Committee for the Vanderbilt NAACP. When not on campus, I volunteer at Book’em, a Nashville non-profit that gives free books to children.

Capstone: I plan to create a program through my local parks and recreation department that takes middle and elementary school children on field trips where they learn about climate change.


Sam Caplan

Brown University

Hometown: Ambler, Pennsylvania

Major: Concentrations in Math and English

Activities: Appointments Coordinator for the Undergraduate Council of Students; Member of the Meiklejohn Peer-Advising Leadership Team; Social Innovation Fellow; Class of 2022 Treasurer; Executive Board Member of Brown Mock Trial

Capstone: I would like to use my capstone to address food insecurity and food waste in my community. I hope to build a network of after school programs that teach students to cook with ugly (bruised, or otherwise damaged, but completely edible) foods.


Michael Cheng

Harvard University

Hometown: Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

Major: Mathematics and History 

Activities: Researching more efficient organic-flow batteries to improve renewable energy, tutoring immigrants in United States History for the U.S. citizenship exam, serving as Treasurer of Quincy House social committee, and folding origami dragons.

Capstone: Improving access and awareness of the transformative potential of community colleges. 

Grace Chialiva

Rice University

Hometown: Brookfield, Wisconsin

Major: Sport Management (Leadership Concentration) & Kinesiology (Health Sciences Concentration); Minors: Anthropology & Museums and Cultural Heritage Studies

Activities: At Rice University I serve as Class Representative for my residential college, Baker, where I plan inclusive events and represent the class in college government. I am also the Head of Professional development and Operations for Rice Business Society, where I provide career guidance to Rice undergraduates. I also act as a Peer Academic Advisor for Baker College, where I help mentor students on their academic journey.

Capstone: My capstone is focused on designing and implementing a first-generation mentorship program between high school students and undergraduate mentors fixating on secondary education.

Carlee Goldberg

Duke University

Hometown: Parkland, Florida

Major: Political Science and History, Certificate: Child Research Policy

ActivitiesTriangle Debate League, Director - Supervise and coordinate internal operations of a non-profit organization aimed at providing congressional debate opportunities to high schools; Juvenile Justice and Gun Violence Study, Researcher - Conducted coding, analysis, and literature reviews on the connection between juvenile justice and adult gun laws; Duke Student Government Judiciary, Associate Justice - Pioneered an education initiative aimed at bringing attention to the rights and resources available to college students

Capstone: My capstone idea is aimed at providing students an opportunity to learn and engage in pressing issues through debate. Through the creation of a debate curriculum, I hope to help provide students a means for approaching politics in a way they are both familiar with and can make progress in. 

Chloe Higgins

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Hometown: Nebraska City, Nebraska

Major: Economics
Minors: Political Science and Business Law 

Activities:  Financial Vice President for Gamma Phi Beta
Sorority, a member of the Nebraska Business Honors Academy, and a Strengths Coach within the Clifton Strengths Institute.

Capstone:  Creating a “Welcome Wagon” for small towns to welcome newcomers, connect them with important facets of the community, and create a sense of belonging by facilitating relationships with newcomers and volunteers.

Eli Horgan

Columbia University

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Major: Political Science

Activities: Columbia Native American Council, Playing Tennis, volunteering and sailing at Shake-A-Leg Miami

Capstone: My Capstone Project will work to recognize inaccessibilities on college campuses, strategize how to adapt and overcome the present barriers, and enact that strategy across campuses. The project will be focused on improving physical accessibility and raising awareness and empathy for underrepresented students to foster a more harmonious and engaged community.

Nicolas Johnson

Spring Hill College

Hometown: Montgomery, Alabama

Major: Political Science; Minor: English

Activities: Diversity and Inclusion Action Team at Spring Hill College; Organized That's My Child's inaugural "Flipping the 334" Career Fair aimed at affording teens in Montgomery career job opportunities; Research Fellow through the Foley Community Service Center Fellowship in Civic Leadership Program, focusing on Prichard, Alabama  

Capstone: Establishing a youth mentorship initiative within the City of Montgomery, in partnership with the Montgomery City Council, Montgomery Public Schools, and Montgomery youth organizations aimed at creating several opportunities for youth in Montgomery to succeed academically and grow as peer leaders through one-on-one relationships. Through this initiative, mainly at-risk youth will be targeted. 

Erin Lowe

Dickinson College

Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri

Major: Philosophy and Political Science

Activities: Student Project Manager at the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues, President and Founder of Dickinson College Campus YMCA Congress program, Co-President of Dickinson College March for Our Lives

Capstone: My capstone project will focus on young adult exposure to and representation in politics in order to bridge the divide between youth-focused political programs and post-bachelor initiatives. It is my goal to create an organization on the Dickinson College Campus that educates students about political engagement, specifically focusing on legislation-creation and debate proceedings.

Denzel Mitchell

University of Virginia

Hometown: Northumberland County, Virginia

Major: Politics and Economics

Activities: Residential Advisor- Facilitate programming for and provide aid to 40 domestic and international residents; Outreach Chair for UVA Hearts for the Homeless- Work with local organizations to provide free health screenings and toiletries for homeless and low-income residents; UVA Running Club- Practice and compete with a group of over 100 serious and casual runners throughout the year. 

Capstone: Though there is a nearly unanimous understanding of the very unique challenges that my rural community of Northumberland County, Virginia faces and though there is also a wealth of engaging and equally unique stories within my community, many of my neighbors are disenchanted with the political processes necessary to address said challenges and said stories have yet to be fully uncovered. This is why I plan to start a podcast in my hometown with the purpose of increasing awareness of both the challenges and the past and developing stories within my community which will hopefully both inform and inspire listeners. 

Caroline Pitman

The Catholic University of America

Hometown: East Walpole, Massachusetts

Major: Politics

Activities: At Catholic University, I am the President and founder of Ignite CUA, an organization that aims to increase the number of women in elected offices. I am also the sophomore representative to the Student Philanthropy Council, which aims to cultivate a culture of giving on the campus of Catholic University and involved with the Student Treasury Board of the student government.

Capstone: I am passionate about increasing the number of women in elected offices and in government positions. My project aims to bring a love and knowledge of government to middle school-aged girls in Washington D.C and inspire a lifetime of civic engagement.

Ella Rauer

The George Washington University

Hometown: Huntsville, Alabama

Major: Political Science & History

Activities:  Vice President of Finance for Kappa Delta- Sigma Mu; former Legislative Intern for U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL); founder of the podcast “Historically Blonde”

Capstone: My capstone project is centered on designing a podcast that makes early American history more accessible and relatable for younger audiences. It is my goal to tell the story of our nation's past in a way that is engaging and light-hearted, rather than heavily academic and out of touch. By doing so, I hope to make listeners fall in love with the study and experience of history, just as I have.

Bennett Stillerman

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Major: Political Science, Public Policy (Statistics minor)

Activities: Daily Tar Heel Editorial Board (Written articles on a number of different topics, from affordable housing to vaping. Also helped coordinate the first DTH endorsements for local races);Deputy Director of the Institute of Politics’s Fellows Program (Organize and coordinate a educational seminar series with two former public officials, one Democrat and one Republican, per semester. Past and present Fellows include NC Attorney General Josh Stein, former Governor Pat McCrory, Congressman Mike McIntyre, and former Mayor of Charlotte Jennifer Roberts); Local Editor of the Carolina Political Review 

Capstone: Chapel Hill voter turnout has dropped precipitously in local elections. I would like to address this by removing logistical barriers to voting, especially for students on campus.