Introducing our new class of Research Fellows and interns

graduation-cap-10Oklahoma Policy Institute is very pleased to announce the selection of four Oklahoma graduate students as our second class of OK Policy Research Fellows.

The 2014-15 Research Fellows are all distinguished by a combination of strong research interests and an active personal commitment to improving the well-being of disadvantaged Oklahomans:

  • Brandon L. Crawford is currently a 3rd year Ph.D. student in Sociology at the University of Oklahoma’s Norman Campus. He is also a research assistant at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ Office of Planning Research and Statistics, where he is working on a federal Youth at-Risk of Homelessness grant. His research interests include the role of gender in child maltreatment case outcomes, risks of homelessness for youth formerly in foster care in Oklahoma, history of the death penalty, and abortion opinions. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from McMurry University in Abilene, Texas and a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
  • Ryan Gentzler is a Master of Public Administration student at the University of Oklahoma’s Tulsa campus. He also works as a Family Support Specialist at Rosa Parks Early Childhood Education Center, providing case management services for the families of three- and four-year-old students  Ryan is currently studying trends in state and local education funding and has interests in drug and criminal justice policy, especially examining the diversity of state approaches to these problems. He graduated from William Jewell College with a BA in Institutions and Policy in 2009.
  • Cassidy Hamilton is pursuing a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma, concentrating on public policy. She is also an AmeriCorps member working alongside the Community After School Program, a non-profit after school program in Norman. Cassidy is particularly interested in health and housing policy, economic development, community lending in low-income areas, and the interconnectedness of fiscal and monetary policy. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics while minoring in History and Latin American Studies.
  • Michael Thomas is a Master’s student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program at Oklahoma State University. He works as a Graduate Research Assistant for the department of Graduate Studies, Outreach, and Research, serves as president of OSU’s Black Graduate Student Association, and mentors first-generation college students. His interests include the policy making process across public higher education; the impact of performance based funding on minority-serving institutions; the role of service-learning in community-university engagement, and culturally relevant teaching. In 2013, he graduated Cum Laude from the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration/Management.

For longer bios and pictures of our Research Fellows, click here.

The Fellowship program is intended to recognize and support top-performing graduate students who are conducting promising research on public policy issues. Research Fellows are each expected to contribute two blog posts for publication on the OK Policy blog on policy issues related to their research and experience. They will participate in a group research seminar and assist with organizing an OK Policy event over the course of the year.  OK Policy provides each fellow a $500 stipend. To see our 2013-14 class of Research Fellows, click here.

We’re also excited to announce three new interns are joining OK Policy for the fall semester:

  • Forrest Farjadian is a senior at the University of Tulsa studying political science and Spanish. He is a National Merit Scholar, a volunteer Spanish interpreter for a Tulsa elementary school, and a previous attendee at OK Policy’s Summer Policy Institute. He’s a long-time follower of Oklahoma politics and policy. In fact, Oklahoma Policy Institute was the sixth page he ever liked on Facebook, all the way back in 2010!
  • Shaheen Sheikh is a Masters of Public Administration student at OU-Tulsa. She earned her bachelors degree in International Relations from Michigan State University, before coming to Tulsa to teach public school for two years as a member of Teach for America. She has previously interned with the Tulsa City Council and works as a project manager for the Tulsa Area Clean Cities non-profit.
  • Dakota States is an Oklahoma native and recent graduate of Oklahoma State University, where he studied political science, environmental sociology, and screen studies. He previously earned an Associates Degree in IT and Web Development from Northern Oklahoma College.

The Fellows program and internships are part of OK Policy’s deepening commitment to develop productive connections between our work and that of the state’s higher education and scholarly community.  OK Policy also organizes the annual Summer Policy Institute, an intensive four-day policy training for undergraduate and graduate students across the state, and helps coordinate the Oklahoma chapter of the  Scholars’ Strategy Network, which encourages collaboration between scholars at universities and state-level policy groups to benefit the public good.

We congratulate this outstanding group of Research Fellows and interns on their selection and look forward to working closely with them over the coming months.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

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