The following statement was issued by the President’s Commission on White House Fellows, announcing the 15 new members of the Class of 2022-2023. Founded in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the White House Fellows program employs a competitive selection process that allows young leaders from diverse fields to gain hands-on experience working at the highest levels of the Federal government. Lav Varshney, currently a joint appointee with Brookhaven Lab Computational Science Initiative’s Computing for National Security group, was named as one of this year’s White House Fellows. His research often focuses on artificial intelligence, computational creativity, and the science and engineering of informational systems involving humans and machines. Varshney, also an associate professor in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Coordinated Science Laboratory (among many other affiliations), will spend a year working with the National Security Council, Deputy Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology.
White House Appoints 2022-2023 Class of White House Fellows
September 20, 2022
The President’s Commission on White House Fellows is pleased to announce the appointment of the 2022-2023 class of White House Fellows. Founded in 1964, the White House Fellows program offers exceptional young leaders first-hand experience working at the highest levels of the Federal government. Fellows spend a year working with senior White House Staff, Cabinet Secretaries, and other top-ranking Administration officials, and leave the Administration equipped to serve as better leaders in their communities. Fellowships are awarded on a non-partisan basis.
This year’s Fellows advanced through a highly competitive selection process, and they are a remarkably gifted, passionate, and accomplished group. These Fellows bring experience from across the country and from a broad cross-section of professions, including from the private sector, local government, academia, the non-profit sector, medicine, law, and the armed forces.
Applications for the 2023-2024 Fellowship year will be accepted starting November 1, 2022.
2022-2023 Class of White House Fellows:
Samuel Ayres is from Denver, Colorado, and is placed at the White House Domestic Policy Council. Sam earned a J.D. from Yale Law School, where he published scholarship on environmental law and was a member of the law journal. Prior to law school, Sam served as a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. He deployed multiple times to Afghanistan, where he led a fire team and rifle squad of Rangers. Before enlisting in the Army, Sam was a foreign policy researcher and writer. Sam earned a B.A. in English and Political Science from Yale College, where he was a Truman Scholar. Following the Fellowship, he will clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Jacqueline Burgette is from Issaquah, Washington, and is placed at the Office of the National Cyber Director. Jacqueline is a pediatric dentist, educator, and community-engaged researcher working at the forefront of advancing dental health equity for all Americans. Jacqueline earned her DMD from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine as a Presidential Scholar and Ph.D. in Health Policy and Management from the University of North Carolina. She served on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh where she mentored trainees in research and clinical practice. Jacqueline led multi-site studies that amplified the voices of vulnerable families to improve child dental health in Appalachia. She developed a dental education “video box” for communities with high rates of tooth decay and founded a dental clinic that serves children living with HIV/AIDS in Haiti. Jacqueline spearheaded academic-community partnerships, established novel interprofessional health curricula, and published prominent research in dental public health and health policy.
Makini Chisolm-Straker is from New York City, New York, and is placed at the Social Security Administration. Makini is an emergency medicine physician and a public health expert focused on centering invisible populations and reframing social policies as determinants of wellbeing. She led multiple research teams, including those that produced the first validated, comprehensive trafficking screening tools for undomiciled young adults and emergency department patients; she co-founded the advocacy organization HEAL Trafficking; and she helped expand the anti-trafficking paradigm to one that employs public health principles. She has served in Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, and the Middle East in low-resource, disaster, and conflict settings. Makini co-edited two public health textbooks and has written multiple chapters and academic articles on labor and sex trafficking, genderqueer emergency care, and unaccompanied/separated minors. Makini earned an A.B. in Religious Studies and an M.D. from Brown University, and an M.P.H. from Columbia University.
Vanessa Cobarrubias is from Harlingen, Texas, and is placed at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the First Lady focusing on the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. After receiving a Bachelor of Communication Arts from St. Mary’s University and prior to transitioning into healthcare, Vanessa was an accomplished educator and speech language pathology assistant. Since obtaining a Master of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, she has worked tirelessly to serve the Rio Grande community (an area in which COVID-related deaths were twice that of the rest of the state of Texas) throughout the pandemic. In addition to overseeing antibody infusions for over 10,000 patients, she founded and worked diligently on a door-to-door vaccine awareness program serving the region’s indigent population. A community-recognized “Texas Healthcare Hero,” this daughter of educators and granddaughter of immigrant farmworkers is driven to empower those who cannot speak for themselves.
Kevin Flores is from Springdale, Arkansas, and is placed at the Small Business Administration. Kevin is an attorney and former city councilman. Born in El Salvador, he and his family came to the U.S. upon fleeing the Salvadoran civil war. At seventeen, Kevin enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he deployed to Iraq in 2007 and was then assigned to the State Department as an embassy security guard. Kevin later worked at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., before returning to Arkansas. In 2020, he became the first Hispanic and first immigrant elected to the Springdale City Council. Kevin has served on numerous non-profit boards and is an active Rotarian. He has founded various mentoring programs and bilingual professional programs in Springdale Public Schools, the largest school district in Arkansas. Kevin earned a B.A. in International Political Economics from Fordham University and a J.D. from the University of Arkansas, School of Law.
Maria Gilbert is from New York City, New York, and is placed at the Department of Homeland Security. Maria is a Lieutenant for the New York City Police Department (NYPD). As a Lieutenant, she is responsible for evaluating programs and policies that govern over 50,000 staff members and for all organizational changes. She also volunteers as a peer support member for the NYPD, providing critical mental health resources to employees in need. Outside of the NYPD, Maria is the founder of Beads of Hope Inc., a non-profit organization focused on cancer awareness, prevention, and finding a cure while emphasizing the mental well-being of those affected by cancer. She has a Bachelor of Computer Engineering Degree and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, and she uses this skillset to merge technology with policy.
Adan Gonzalez, is from Dallas, Texas, and is placed at the Department of Education. As the son of immigrants, Adan values the power of education. He graduated from Georgetown University, majoring in Government with a minor in Education, Inquiry and Justice. He earned a Master’s in Education Leadership at Columbia University and a Master’s in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University. Adan has engaged with students and parents globally to advocate for the importance of higher education, parental support, and community involvement. He has served his local community as a teacher and Director of School & Family Partnerships. He is the Founder of Puede Network, a family empowerment organization that provides underserved minority students—many from Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood where Adan grew up and continues to live—with transformative programming encompassing; academics, health and nutrition, community stewardship, recreational athletics, and socio-emotional support. Adan enjoys being a youth soccer and boxing coach in his spare time, and he aspires to make his family proud.
Harrison Hines is from Carmel, Indiana, and is placed at the White House Domestic Policy Council. Harrison is a neurologist who leverages his background in theology and policy to address healthcare disparities burdening vulnerable populations. As a legislative aide to California State Assemblymember Shirley Weber, he championed initiatives expanding insurance coverage for developmentally disabled Californians and improving representation for incarcerated individuals. During residency training at University of California, San Francisco, Harrison served on the boards of trustees for local and state medical societies where he advocated for equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution and fair medical trainee employment practices. Harrison founded a volunteer networking organization, directed community outreach at a free clinic, and participated in international research on faith-based healthcare delivery. He earned his M.D. from Stanford University, Master of Theological Studies from Duke Divinity School as a Theology, Medicine, and Culture Fellow, and B.A. from Duke University as a Robertson Scholar.
William Jones is from Annapolis, Maryland, and is placed at the National Security Council. Will is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy and has served as a SEAL Officer for 12 years. During his career in Naval Special Warfare, he has deployed multiple times focused on combating terrorism in East and North Africa, and South America. Will’s most recent tour was as the Operations Officer for the Intelligence and Targeting organization within the SEAL Teams, managing the operational and logistic requirements for a 400-person command conducting sensitive operations. Will is a volunteer for the Naval Special Warfare diversity outreach program, focused on expanding diversity within maritime Special Operations through education and engagement across the civilian sector. Will is a graduate of Penn State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Institutional Management and was captain of his NCAA Division-1 lacrosse program. He earned his Master of Arts in International Business and Policy from Georgetown University.
Jeffrey Nadel is from Centennial, Colorado, and is placed at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Jeff is a resident neurosurgeon at the University of Utah, committed to ensuring equitable access to surgery for all. In his work combatting health disparities across the globe, Jeff collaborated with the Costa Rican government to build a national literacy program for the elderly. He also worked to cultivate a global surgery research partnership in Uganda. Domestically, he co-directed a free clinic for the homeless and helped lead an effort to fund community health workers in Detroit. Jeff served as a researcher at The Brookings Institution and the National Institutes of Health. He has published more than three dozen peer-reviewed papers, book chapters, and press articles. Jeff earned an M.D. and M.S. (Clinical Research) from the University of Michigan as a Dean’s Scholar, and a B.A. from Colorado College as a Boettcher Scholar.
Elizabeth Ragan is from Beavercreek, Oregon, and is placed at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lizzy is a public health professional with expertise in infectious diseases and has managed a range of global and domestic research portfolios. In response to COVID-19, Lizzy worked with Boston Medical Center leadership to launch and sustain a novel biorepository to support critical pandemic response research. She also managed a Massachusetts-wide program addressing inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and care. Most recently, Lizzy served in a senior management role in research operations. Lizzy is a disability and DEI advocate and is a former member of Oregon Health Authority’s Health Equity Committee. Lizzy earned her B.S. from Oregon State University where she graduated summa cum laude and received both the Waldo-Cummings and Kalervo Oberg Outstanding Senior Awards. She earned her M.P.H. in Global Health and Epidemiology from the Boston University School of Public Health.
Graham Van Hook is from Alexandria, Virginia, and is placed at the Office of Cabinet Affairs. Graham is a fourth generation Naval Officer, lately serving as a liaison to the Congressional Appropriations Committees. He has deployed five times around the world, most recently as Commanding Officer of USS Tornado. While in command, his crew seized over 50 million dollars in narcotics, and earned the coveted Battle “E” award as the number one ship in her class. His leadership and policy articles have been featured in several professional publications. He served on the Board of the Surface Navy Association and is a Term Member on the Council on Foreign Relations. Graham dedicates his free time to United Through Reading, Service2School, and the Oyster Recovery Partnership. Graham holds a B.S. from the U.S. Naval Academy, a M.S. from the University of Arkansas and a M.B.A. from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Lav Varshney is from Champaign, Illinois, and is placed at the National Security Council, Deputy Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology. He is a professor of engineering, computer science, and neuroscience at the University of Illinois, where he conducts scholarly research, technological innovation, teaching, and broad public engagement. He works with Brookhaven National Laboratory on computing for national security. He has published widely in core areas of information theory and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as applications in climate, sustainability, food, public health, medicine, creativity, telecommunications, semiconductors, and infrastructure. As an entrepreneur, he has been chief scientist of startup companies: one using AI to optimize wastewater treatment, another using AI in social music co-creativity platforms, and a third making food systems more resilient and flavorful. He holds a B.S. degree in electrical and computer engineering from Cornell and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT.
Vanessa Velasquez is from Vero Beach, Florida, and is placed at the U.S. Navy. Vanessa has extensive project management experience, most recently at Apple as a Global Supply Manager where she helped manage sourcing components for the iPhone. In this role, she engaged with international suppliers for capital equipment. Previously at Amazon, Vanessa first started in a fulfillment center running operations, eventually working her way up to corporate headquarters where she focused on Amazon’s engagement with Hispanic businesses. In her portfolios, she generated over $20 million in revenue and led projects worth over $100 million. As a proud Latina raised by a single mom, Vanessa dedicates her time in and out of work to underserved communities. She mentors Hispanic Scholarship Fund scholars to cultivate future Hispanic leaders. She previously served as the inaugural Director of Fulfillment Center and Community Engagement at Glamazon (Amazon’s LGBTQ+ ERG). Vanessa earned her B.B.A. and B.A. from Mississippi State University.
Joshua Woehr is from Clearwater, Florida, and is placed at the Office of the First Lady Joining Forces Initiative. Josh is a Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army and has served over 20 years in Special Operations as a Green Beret and Ranger, having deployed over 15 times. He recently returned from Iraq, where he led the integration of next-generation technology onto the battlefield. A father of six children, Josh is passionate about serving military families. In 2014, he and his wife founded the Rick Herrema Foundation, establishing “Rick’s Place” at Fort Bragg, NC. Rick’s Place is a 50-acre campus that provides a place of community and activity to thousands of military family members every year. Josh is a first-generation college graduate, holding a B.A. in Arabic Studies from California University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. in Social-Organizational Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University.
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