Current Democracy Fellows

Democracy Fellowships provide professional development through practical experience working with democracy and governance programs. Fellows work in such activities as:

  • Providing policy analysis and expert advice
  • Developing democracy strategies, evaluation methodologies, and indicators
  • Providing technical comment on USAID plans or activities
  • Helping USAID contractors to provide electoral planning assistance; work with civil society organizations; or strengthen legislatures, local governments, and the rule of law.

Laura Adams - Learning Utilization
Jessica Anderson - Conflict, Fragility, and Peacebuilding
Michelle Barsa - Countering Violent Extremism
Marc Cassidy - Political Economy Analysis
Jennifer Hawkins - Women, Peace, and Security
Anjali Kumar - Biodiversity Research
Vy Lam - Human Rights
Daniel N. Posner - Research and Policy
Alina Rocha Menocal - Political Economy Analysis
Tyler Thompson - Atrocity Prevention
Zack Zimbalist - Research and Evaluation


Laura Adams

Learning Utilization Fellow
USAID/DCHA/DRG | Learning Division
Washington, DC | July 2016 – Present

Laura Adams serves as the Democracy Fellow for Learning Utilization in the Learning Division of USAID's DRG Center. Her job involves promoting the use of evidence from the DRG sector in the formulation of USAID strategies, programs, and trainings, and providing technical support on qualitative and interpretive research, the development of learning agendas, and the utilization of research.

From 2014 - 2016 Laura was a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the DRG Center’s Learning Division and in the office of the LGBTI Senior Coordinator at USAID. Prior to that, she was Director of the Program on Central Asia and the Caucasus; Academic Advisor to the MA program in Russian, East European, and Eurasian area studies; and a Lecturer in Sociology at Harvard University. She has more than 15 years of experience as a lecturer, researcher, and author on topics related to political sociology, sociology of culture, qualitative research design, academic writing, and international higher education development. She has country expertise in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Laura received her MA and PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and her BA in Sociology and Russian Area Studies from Macalester College.


Jessica Anderson

Conflict, Fragility, and Peacebuilding Fellow
USAID/DCHA/CMM
Washington, DC | January 2018 – Present

Jessica Anderson serves as the Conflict, Fragility, and Peacebuilding Democracy Fellow in the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at USAID. In this role, Jessica provides technical expertise and recommendations on the formulation of USAID policy and strategic and programmatic approaches for the effective integration of conflict-sensitive theory and practice.

Prior to her fellowship, Jessica was an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University and George Washington University, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on issues of stabilization, conflict, peacebuilding, and humanitarian aid. In addition to teaching, she has consultant experience working for the International Organization for Migration, Oxfam Great Britain, and the South African Human Rights Commission. She also founded a start-up to support local peacebuilding efforts and worked as a Scoville Fellow with the Stimson Center's Future of Peace Operations program.

Jessica has a PhD and MA in Political Science from George Washington University. In addition, she has an MA in Forced Migration Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand and a BA in International Relations from Tufts University.


Michelle Barsa

Countering Violent Extremism Fellow
USAID/DCHA/CMM
Washington, DC | January 2018 – Present

Michelle Barsa serves as the Democracy Fellow for Countering Violent Extremism in the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at USAID. She conducts research on how to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of programs or activities intended to provide a development response to violent extremism.

Previously, as a director at DC-based Inclusive Security, she advised on US foreign policy related to women, peace, and security, in addition to leading initiatives in Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, and Syria. More recently, she has worked as an independent consultant for a variety of organizations, including Counterpart International, Creative Associates, and the Human Rights Campaign.

Michelle has an MA in Law and Diplomacy from Tufts University and a BS in Finance from Boston College.


Marc Cassidy

Senior Applied Political Economy Analysis and Thinking and Working Politically Fellow
USAID/DCHA/DRG | Cross-Sectoral Division
Washington, DC | September 2016 – Present

Marc Cassidy is a Senior Democracy Fellow for Applied Political Economy Analysis (PEA) and Thinking and Working Politically (TWP) on the Cross Sectoral Programs (CSP) Division within USAID’s DRG Center. Marc provides technical assistance to USAID Bureaus and Missions on utilizing PEA to improve programming outcomes.

Previously, Marc served as Pact's Governance Director, where he was a thought leader on applying PEA to enhance the design and implementation of health, artisanal mining, environment, and community development programs. Prior to Pact, Marc served as Senior Manager for Democracy and Governance programming at International Resources Group; Director of the Governance and Rights Technical Unit at the International Rescue Committee; and Chief of Party on USAID democracy and governance projects in East Africa (Kenya and Uganda), Eastern Europe (Bulgaria), Middle East (Jordan), and Asia (Thailand). He also served as a Field Officer for The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sri Lanka and for the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Kenya. In the US, Marc served on numerous local government boards in his home town of Rosendale, New York.

Marc holds two Master’s degrees from the State University of New York at Albany in Regional Planning and in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and a BA in Political Science and Spanish from LeMoyne College.


Jennifer Hawkins

Women, Peace, and Security Fellow
USAID/DCHA/PPM
Washington, DC | October 2014 – Present

Jennifer Hawkins serves as the Democracy Fellow for Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) in the Office of Program, Policy, and Management (PPM) within the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA). She is a member of the Gender Integration Team and the USAID WPS Core Team, supporting implementation of the U.S. National Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP).

Prior to her fellowship, Jennifer was a Policy Officer with the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) in the U.S. Department of State. She led the implementation of CSO Gender Policy and Gender Guidelines and also represented CSO as the NAP Conflict Prevention Pillar Lead in the department.

Jennifer has an MA in Social Work from Howard University and a BA in Social Work from Syracuse University.


Anjali Kumar

Biodiversity Research Fellow
USAID/Lab/
Washington, DC | September 2017 – Present

Anjali Kumar serves as the Democracy Fellow for Biodiversity Research in the Center for Development Research in the Global Development Lab. She provides expert policy support on DRG issues as they relate to biodiversity conservation in the context of the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) portfolio and analyzing PEER biodiversity projects for issues critical to the development and support of DRG related policy.

Anjali has over 15 years as an experienced research scientist in ecological, environmental, and conservation work. Prior to her fellowship, Anjali served as an AAAS Science & Technology Fellow in the Center for Development Research in the Global Development Lab at USAID. Her postdoctoral research focused on how dangerous levels of mercury in Peruvian Amazon rivers affect both humans and wildlife.

Anjali received her PhD in Behavioral Ecology and Conservation Biology Policy from the University of Washington and her BS in Biology: Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution from the University of California, San Diego.


Vy Lam

Human Fellow
USAID/DCHA/DRG | Human Rights Division
Washington, DC | August 2014 – Present

Vy serves as the Human Rights Fellow in the DRG Center’s Human Rights Division, which seeks to elevate attention to human rights in all aspects of USAID’s operations and programs. As a core member of the Human Rights Division, Vy contributes to technical leadership and research related to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as supports program design and implementation to ensure that human rights issues are being addressed and incorporated into USAID’s work worldwide.

Previously, Vy served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow at USAID.

Vy has a PhD in Chemical and Biological Engineering from the University of Wisconsin and a BS in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University.


Daniel N. Posner

Research and Policy Fellow
USAID/DCHA/DRG | Learning Division
Washington, DC | February 2018 – Present

Daniel Posner serves as a part-time Democracy Fellow for Research and Policy in the Learning Division within the Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG Center) in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at USAID. He advises USAID on how to measure democratic change and the effects of DRG assistance in their research projects, co-leads the development of the 2018-19 DRG learning agenda for future research and literature reviews, and advocates for DRG Learning to senior officials at USAID, the Department of State, and various stakeholder organizations.

Dan is the James S. Coleman Professor of International Development in the Department of Political Science at University of California Los Angeles. His research focuses on ethnic politics, research design, distributive politics, and the political economy of development in Africa. His most recent co-authored book, Coethnicity: Diversity and the Dilemmas of Collective Action (Russell Sage, 2009), employs experimental games to probe the sources of poor public goods provision in ethnically diverse communities. His first book, Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa (Cambridge, 2005), explains the conditions under which politics revolves around one dimension of ethnic cleavage rather than another. Dan is a former part-time Democracy Fellow, when he served as co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) for an impact evaluation of a USAID-funded program in Zambia focused on service delivery and accountability. He was a Harvard Academy Scholar (1995-98), a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution (2001-02), a Carnegie Scholar (2003-05), and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (2010-11).

Dan serves on the editorial boards of World Politics, the Journal of Politics, World Development, and the Journal of Experimental Political Science. He is the co-founder of the Working Group in African Political Economy (WGAPE). He received his BA from Dartmouth College and his PhD from Harvard University.


Alina Rocha Menocal

Senior Applied Political Economy Analysis and Thinking and Working Politically Fellow
USAID/DCHA/DRG | Cross-Sectoral Division
Washington, DC | October 2016 – Present

Alina Rocha Menocal is a Senior Democracy Fellow for Applied Political Economy Analysis (PEA) and Thinking and Working Politically (TWP) in the Cross Sectoral Programs (CSP) Division within USAID’s DRG Center. Alina provides technical assistance to USAID Bureaus and Missions on utilizing PEA to improve programming outcomes.

Currently a Research Fellow in Politics and Governance at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Alina specializes on issues related to democratization, state-society linkages, and peace- and state-building. Over the past ten years, she has been involved in a series of projects and assignments that seek to bridge the gap between research and policy in thinking about governance. Through the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Alina led an innovative action research project that tested the linkages among service delivery, social cohesion, and state legitimacy in Lebanon and Jordan in the context of the Syrian refugee crisis. Most recently, she finished a two-year secondment at the Development Leadership Program (DLP) at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, where she led a stream of work on Political Settlements and the Politics of Inclusion. She also has done extensive work on political economy and has been a pioneer thinker on how donors can work in more politically aware ways, through the TWP Community of Practice and other fora. Some of her recent publications include a DLP State of the Art Paper on “Political Settlements and the Politics of Inclusion”; a set of Infographics and reflections on “What is political voice, why does it matter, and how can it bring about change?”; and a DFID Evidence Paper on Corruption (co-author).

Originally from Mexico, Alina has a BA from Yale University and an MPhil from Columbia University, both in Political Science.


Tyler Thompson

Atrocity Prevention Fellow
USAID/DCHA/DRG | Human Rights Division
Washington, DC | April 2016 – Present

Tyler Jess Thompson serves as Democracy Fellow for Atrocity Prevention in the Human Rights Division of USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG Center). He supports inter-agency efforts to prevent large-scale and deliberate attacks on civilians and the institutionalization of atrocity prevention within USAID.

Tyler is an attorney and former Policy Director for United for a Free Syria, a Syrian American organization advocating for civilian protection and a democratic transition. For five years, Tyler served as legal counsel at the Public International Law & Policy Group, where he directed their practice area on ceasefires. Tyler served as a legal and strategic advisor to the Syrian Coalition at peace negotiations in Geneva. In 2012, Tyler was based in Tripoli, Libya, where he designed and implemented transitional justice studies and trainings with the Libyan Lawyers Association and Libyan Ministry of Justice. He also ran training programs and provided legal and policy guidance on atrocity prevention, ceasefires, peace negotiations and post-conflict governance to governments and non-state entities in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Kosovo, Burma, and South Sudan, among others.

Tyler has a JD/MA in International Affairs from American University's Washington College of Law and School of International Service, and a BA in English and Gender Studies from Boston College.


Zack Zimbalist

Research and Evaluation Fellow
USAID/DCHA/DRG | Learning Division
Washington, DC | December 2017 – Present

Zack Zimbalist is a Democracy Fellow for Research and Evaluation in the Learning Division of USAID’s DRG Center. In this role, Zack contributes to impact evaluation design and analysis, research methodology quality control, research methodology training, and quantitative data analysis.

Zack recently defended his PhD dissertation on local governance and public service delivery in Mozambique and South Africa, which he completed at Johns Hopkins University, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He also holds a Master’s degree in Development Studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and a BA in International Studies-Economics from the University of California, San Diego. He is interested in the political economy of development and democratization in Sub-Saharan Africa.