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.
Marc Cassidy - Political Economy Analysis
Jennifer Hawkins - Women, Peace, and Security
Sofia Javed - Digital Technology, Civil Society, and Media
Linda Kirschke - Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning
Janice Lam - Counter-Trafficking in Persons
Mieka Polanco - Research for Development
Daniel N. Posner - Research and Policy
Alina Rocha Menocal - Political Economy Analysis


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.


Sofia Javed

Digital Technology, Civil Society, and Media Fellow
USAID/DCHA/DRG | Civil, Society, and Media Division
Washington, DC | June 2018 – Present

Sofia Javed serves as the Digital Technology, Civil Society, and Media Democracy Fellow with the Civil Society and Media Division in USAID’s DRG Center. Sofia provides technical expertise and recommendations for civil society strengthening and civic advocacy, with a focus on linkages among new media, technology, and civic advocacy.

Previously, Sofia was a Program Officer at the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) where she managed foreign assistance for human rights and democracy programs in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Prior to DRL, Sofia worked in the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) as Editor and Production Manager of the Department’s Annual Global Report on TIP.

Sofia has an MA in International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame and a BS in Journalism from Northwestern University.


Linda Kirschke

Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Fellow
USAID/DCHA/DRG | Learning Division
Washington, DC | September 2019 – Present

Linda Kirschke is the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Democracy Fellow in the Learning Division of USAID’s DRG Center. She works the with the division to promote and ensure learning and evidence-based programming in USAID’s DRG Sector.

Linda had over 10 years of experience working on monitoring and evaluation, research methodology, human rights, and governance. Prior to her fellowship, Linda was an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Linda has a PhD in Politics from Princeton University, a MA in Political Science from John Hopkins University, and a BA in History from Columbia University.


Janice Lam

Counter-Trafficking in Persons Fellow
USAID/DCHA/DRG | Human Rights Division
Washington, DC | September 2019 – Present

Janice Lam is a Democracy Fellow for Counter-Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) working with the Human Rights Division in USAID’s DRG Center. As a fellow, Janice provides technical advice, support, and leadership to advance the USAID’s C-TIP agenda.

For most of her professional career, Janice has worked as a human rights advocate in the private, government, and non-profit sectors. From 2007 to 2009, she worked as a legal consultant to Anti-Slavery International and authored several reports on legal remedies to trafficking victims under British law. From 2009 – 2015, she was a researcher for two Members of British Parliament and worked on the issues of human trafficking and extraordinary rendition, advocating for legal changes to support trafficking victims and provide greater oversight of the intelligence community. She has also worked for a grassroots non-profit organization that works with the Central American immigrant community and as a research fellow studying community engagement initiatives across the United States.

In addition to her years of experience as a human rights advocate, Janice has a JD from George Washington University Law School, and a BA in History from Yale University.


Mieka Polanco

Research for Development Fellow
USAID/Lab
Washington, DC | August 2019 – Present

Mieka Polanco is a Democracy Fellow on Research for Development in the Center for Development Research and the Global Development Lab at USAID. As a fellow, Mieka backstops the Central Asia portfolio, and provides overall support for the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program.

Prior to her fellowship, Mieka served as a Gender, Youth, and Social Dynamics advisor at USAID's Office of Food for Peace, offering technical guidance and support for both development and emergency food programs. Before that, she spent 11 years as a professor of anthropology at James Madison University where, in addition to teaching courses on gender, race, and class across cultures, she helped found the Transforming Youth Justice initiative, a collaboration between James Madison University and the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice.

Mieka has a PhD and MA in Anthropology from the University of Virginia, and a BA in Anthropology and Africana Studies from New York 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.