Introducing our 2015-16 Research Fellows and Fall Interns

Top left to bottom right: Alexandra Bohannon, Candace Smith, John Lepine, Matt Hecox

Oklahoma Policy Institute is very pleased to announce that Alexandra Bohannon, Matt Hecox, John Lepine and Candace Smith have been selected as our third class of Research Fellows for 2015-16.

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 at least one post for publication on the OK Policy Blog and conduct a bill analysis of legislation introduced next session. OK Policy provides each fellow a $500 stipend.

OK Policy Research Fellows are current graduate students who are distinguished by strong research interests on policy issues affecting Oklahomans. This year’s Fellows were selected from a strong field of over a dozen applicants.

  • Alexandra Bohannon is currently a second-year student in the Master of Public Administration program with a concentration in public policy at the University of Oklahoma. She works as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Carl Albert Congressional Studies and Research Center, which aims to empower women to consider opportunities in public service. Alexandra’s policy research interests include representative bureaucracy and democracy, health disparities across income levels, policy implementation, and all levels of education policy.
  • Matt Hecox is in the Master of Public Administration program at the University of Oklahoma.  He is currently working as an academic tutor in the University of Oklahoma athletic department. Matt graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Arts in History. His research interests include health care, tax policy, voting reform, and common/higher education.
  • John Lepine is pursuing a M.Ed. in Educational Administration, Curriculum, and Supervision at the University of Oklahoma. A graduate of the University of Tulsa, John serves as a reading specialist and English department chair at Tulsa’s McLain Magnet High School for Science & Technology. After completing his M.Ed. in May of 2016, John will begin a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. As a research associate with the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy, John is involved with ongoing revisions to Oklahoma’s school accountability program and research into teacher turnover and school climate.
  • Candace L. Smith is a 4th year Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Oklahoma, where she teaches a course in Introduction to Sociology. She is also a research assistant at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Office of Planning, Research and Statistics. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a Master of Arts degree in Sociology, both from OU. Her research interests include corrections, victimology, fear of crime, and the impact of chronic conditions in Oklahoma. Concluding the completion of her Ph.D., Candace intends to continue working as a researcher at the state or federal level.

For longer bios of our Research Fellows, click here.

In its first two years, the Fellowship program has proven to be a valuable experience for both the students and OK Policy.  One of last year’s Fellows, Cassidy Hamilton, stated that, “After years of writing exclusively academically, I appreciated the opportunity to weigh in on current issues with real, observable implications for the community in which I live.” According to another Fellow, Ryan Gentzler, “The singular benefit of the Fellowship is the opportunity to learn from and be challenged by the OK Policy staff, both to better understand the Oklahoma context and to more effectively communicate policy research to the public.” You can learn more about our 2014-15 Fellows here and our 2013-14 Fellows here

We look forward to working with this year’s Fellows, and we encourage students and faculty to keep the Fellowship program in mind for future years.

We’re also happy to announce our fall interns:

  • Elizabeth Armstrong is pursuing a Master’s degree in Geography at Oklahoma State University, where she is researching political representation and debates surrounding the Affordable Care Act. She is strongly interested in policy development surrounding human rights and health and environmental management, and she is an alumnus of OK Policy’s Summer Policy Institute.
  • Andrew Cummings is a third-year political science student with minors in economics and creative writing at the University of Tulsa. He is the President and co-founder of the TU chapter of Common Sense Action, a bipartisan, grass-roots group devoted to increasing political awareness and participation among the millennial generation.
  • Also continuing with OK Policy is summer intern Chan Aaron. He is pursuing an environmental policy degree at The University of Tulsa. He is also a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a degree in philosophy and a veteran of the United States Navy.


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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