2020 MPP Alumni Fellowship Recipient Jason Ballou, MPP '21

Jason Ballou is a Master of Public Policy candidate at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs where he is an advocate for long term solutions for homelessness.  Prior to graduate school, Jason was a case manager with Lutheran Social Services helping individuals who were chronically homeless and disabled. In this role he helped people re-engage in physical and mental health care and gain a steady income, with the ultimate goal of securing good permanent housing. For his work with some of the community’s most challenging cases, the City of Long Beach Prosecutor’s Office recognized him with its annual Impact Award in 2019.

Believing that kindness and compassion are the best guides for policy making and social change, Jason is very active in volunteering and service.  Through his church, he has coordinated several Habitat for Humanity projects building housing for the working poor. He has assisted with the LA LGBT Center’s Community Action Network and was elected president of the Association of Master of Public Policy Students.  Jason recently completed the Los Angeles Marathon, his first marathon ever.  He also enjoys playing dodgeball, great LA hikes and trips to see his family in Ohio.

2020 MPP Alumni Fellowship Recipient Courtney B. Taylor, MPP '21

Courtney B. Taylor is a proud Californian from Rialto (Go IE!). Courtney believes in the power of public service and public policy because she benefited from government programs, such as the
Department of Education’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), which is designed to increase the number of low-income students who attend and graduate from college. Experiencing first-hand the social and economic barriers that exist for black and brown communities, Courtney is committed to breaking down barriers in the pursuit of equity.

Prior to pursuing her master’s in public policy, Courtney worked in D.C. at the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Courtney earned her bachelor of arts in law and society from American University in Washington, DC. In the spirit of being a life-long learner, Courtney has participated in the WeLead program at the Women in Politics Institute and the Leadership Institute at the Center for American Progress.

Please visit Courtney’s LinkedIn to learn more about their professional experience.

2003 MPP Alumnus of the Year Dylan Presman, MPP 1998

Dylan Presman is Budget Director for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In this role, Dylan oversees NPPD’s $2 billion budget.

Dylan joined the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in May 2009, working initially in the Budget Division of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer before moving over to CISA in 2017.  Dylan served in a number of positions at DHS before joining CISA including as Assistant Director of Budget, overseeing the budgets of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as a congressional liaison for the Budget Division overseeing relations with the appropriations committees, and as the Budget Division Desk Officer for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Previously, Dylan worked for the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. At the U.S. Department of Education, Dylan worked in Budget Service on a variety of accounts in the Office of Postsecondary Education, with a particular focus on the issues of improving teacher quality and minority-serving institutions. Prior to that, Dylan served at the U.S. Department of Justice as national program director for a program designed to improve after-school programs in high-crime neighborhoods. While at the U.S. Department of Justice, Dylan also served as a grant manager, a financial analyst and a congressional liaison specialist. Dylan was also detailed to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.

Prior to joining the federal government, Dylan served as Executive Director of the United Nations Association-USA, a nonprofit organization focused on education and advocacy on international issues. In that position, he led delegations to the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and the 2nd World Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul in 1996.

In June 2016, Dylan earned a Masters of Science in Government Leadership from the National Defense University. Dylan previously earned a Masters in Public Policy from UCLA and a B.A. in Middle Eastern Affairs from the University of Durham in England. Dylan also studied at Alexandria University in Egypt and Jerusalem University in Israel. Mr. Presman is married and has two children, Sarai, 23, and Henry, 20. Mr. Presman recently added DHS Chief Financial Officer “2019 Awards for Excellence”  and cancer survivor to his list of achievements.

2004 MPP Alumna of the Year Mary Kohav, MPP 1998

Mary Kohav is VP of Community Engagement Programs at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and oversees communications and programming of the department’s civic engagement portfolio. An experienced team leader providing strategic communications, community relations and public affairs services to clients in the private, public and nonprofit sectors, Mary has been at the forefront of leading change across numerous institutions.

Before joining the Federation, as BSC’s Director of PR and Marketing, Mary led and managed consumer-focused patient engagement, digital marketing and earned media campaigns for leading global health organizations. She ran branding and marketing campaigns on emerging and cutting-edge health trends working daily with world-renowned surgeons, medical industry innovators and other healthcare influencers.

Before joining BSC, Mary branched out on her own to run Mary Kohav PR, helping creative agencies compete for, win and implement public sector RFPs while also leading social media and digital marketing campaigns for social justice nonprofits including Breathe LA, First 5 LA and the Legal Aid Foundation of LA.

As Associate VP at the Lee Andrews Group, Mary managed strategic public affairs services for clients in the environmental, real estate, transportation and health-related industries and led one of the nation’s foremost clean energy campaigns as project manager for the Green LA programs of the LADWP.

Mary is a Board Member at the Speak Up Foundation and CivicCare and is an alum of The Jewish Federation’s Rautenberg New Leaders Project. Mary holds a BA in philosophy from the University of Michigan and a Master in Public Policy degree from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and has been awarded with the Luskin Public Policy program’s Alumna of the Year Award for excellence in community service, professional achievement, public service and university service.

Employer: Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
Profile: linkedin.com/in/marykohav
Twitter: @goodstuffpr
Media: HuffPost, Jewish Journal

2005 MPP Alumna of the Year Emily C. Williams, MPP 1998

Emily C. Williams works as a senior policy deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the Second District. In her role, she shapes his policy agenda in the areas of Aging, Child Welfare, Early Childhood Development, Education, Fire & Emergency Response, Gender Equity, Intimate Partner & Domestic Violence, Public Social Services, Veteran & Military Affairs, and Workforce Development. One of her primary responsibilities is to articulate and implement the Supervisor’s multi-faceted approach to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).

Prior to joining the County, Emily worked for The Princeton Review, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and the City of Los Angeles. During her 14-year career with the City, she worked first as a policy advisor with the Human Relations Commission, then as a civilian commander overseeing non-tactical training for the Los Angeles Fire Department, and finally as deputy chief of staff to former City Councilmember (now U.S. Representative) Tony Cárdenas (CA-29).

Emily earned a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA and an M.P.P. from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, where she was recognized as Alumna of the Year in 2005 and currently serves as a Senior Fellow. She was also a 2017-18 Fellow with the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. She is entering her 17th year as an adjunct instructor at the Los Angeles Police Academy and is a former board member of the American Association of University Women – Beach Cities branch.

Employer: Hon. Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
Profile: linkedin.com/in/emilypresents
Twitter: @emilypresents
Media: CityWatchLA, UCLA Luskin, UCLA Luskin, Los Angeles Sentinel

2005 MPP Alumna of the Year Emily Williams, MPP 1998

Veronica Melvin serves as the president and chief executive officer of the LA Promise Fund, a Los Angeles based not-for-profit ensuring students graduate prepared for college, career and life. The LA Promise Fund is a reform–minded education organization with a mission to raise private funds to improve public education opportunities across LA County while simultaneously leading a network of 5 schools in South Los Angeles.

Last year, LA Promise Fund programs benefited more than 15,000 individuals. They served 5,000 students at their three Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) partner schools and two charter schools, ensuring a strong college and career program with wrap-around services and enrichment. In addition, they worked with 10,000 students countywide in programs like girl empowerment, arts education and internships.

Previously, Veronica served as the executive director for the Alliance for a Better Community (ABC), an organization improving the quality of life for Latinos in Los Angeles through community based policy advocacy. Veronica earned a Master’s of Public Policy from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs and a Bachelor of Arts in political economies of industrial societies from UC Berkeley.

Profile: linkedin.com/in/veronica-melvin-876b6854
Twitter: @LAPromiseFund
Media: Los Angeles Standard Newspaper, Annenberg Foundation, Fox6

2006 MPP Alumna of the Year Veronica Melvin, MPP 2001

Veronica Melvin joined the LA Promise Fund as its CEO & President in November 2011. Passion, activism, empowerment, and learning are four key qualities that are present throughout Veronica Melvin’s dedicated work in the fields of education and health for children and families. These attributes, that have defined her life and career, are the reason why she received a Presidential appointment to a White House commission on educational excellence.

As President and Chief Executive Officer of LA Promise Fund, Melvin guides a dedicated, reform–minded education organization with a mission to raise private funds to improve public education opportunities across LA County, while simultaneously leading a network of schools in South Los Angeles.

Known for her organizational leadership and unwavering passion to uplift and empower communities, Veronica Melvin is a champion of children and families. Melvin envisions building a kindergarten-to-college pathway for our students and constructing a career pipeline laid upon a foundation of access to excellent academic, health, and enrichment opportunities for the LA Promise Fund youth in South Los Angeles.  She also understands the needs of schools to be provided additional opportunities for students to access enrichment opportunities to ensure every child’s success.

Melvin has a solid track record of building effective coalitions comprising educators, students, parents, and community stakeholders who make a firm commitment to work collaboratively to constantly improve education opportunities for struggling populations of students.

Melvin served as Chief Operating Officer of the national organization Communities for Teaching Excellence, and as Executive Director for the Alliance for a Better Community (ABC), an organization working to improve the quality of life for Latinos in Los Angeles through systemic policy reforms. In her management role, Melvin has also been instrumental in launching community–based campaigns to advance issues crucial to student academic achievement and success.

Melvin earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Economies of Industrial Societies from UC Berkeley. She earned her Masters of Public Policy from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Employer: LA Promise Fund
Profile: linkedin.com/in/veronica-melvin-876b6854
Twitter: @LAPromiseFund
Media: Los Angeles Standard Newspaper, Los Angeles Sentinel, Annenberg Foundation, Ed Source, Fox6

2007 MPP Alumnus of the Year Andrew Von Ah, MPP 2000

Andrew Von Ah is currently a Director in the Physical Infrastructure team at GAO, responsible for portfolios of work on telecommunications and the internet, and public transit investment. Andrew leads multi-disciplinary teams in conducting audits and program evaluations in these areas, and testifies before congressional committees on the findings of GAO’s work.

Andrew joined GAO in 2000 and prior to becoming a Director, he led a broad range of engagements across several portfolios of work; notably a body of work on the Next Generation Air Transportation System, several engagements on multimodal policy options, governance reviews of the Smithsonian and the Federal Communications Commission, and engagements and testimonies touching on high-speed rail, maritime transportation, and aviation workforce issues.

Andrew graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in cultural anthropology, and holds a Master’s of Public Policy from UCLA. He also completed American University’s Key Executive Leadership program.

Employer: U.S. Government Accountability Office
Profile: linkedin.com/in/andrew-von-ah-17474b5
Twitter:
Media: C-SPAN, Apex

2008 MPP Alumna of the Year Jennifer White, MPP 2004

 Jennifer White is a true global citizen whose passion for Africa inspires her to create safe spaces for African and African-American women to connect, heal, and do business. She organizes annual healing and investment trips to Africa to connect Africans annually, on both sides of the ocean. Starting with the healing act of “Sharing Our Stories”, connections are made and trust is built, opening the door to business collaborations, economic empowerment and community development around the world.

As a lifelong learner, Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and master’s degree in Public Policy from UCLA, as well as a master’s degree in Educational Psychology from Howard University. As a student leader and community activist, she remained passionate about Africa. Her first journey to the Motherland in 2004 was a graduate student at the University of Ghana, where she initiated study groups in Development Studies, Gender Studies, and Political Science. She organized study groups to share Ghanaian and African American perspectives and hold thought-provoking discussions about Africa’s evolution, establishing strong bonds of friendship maintained to this day.

Jennifer’s experience as an educator spans from kindergarten to college, where she has worked as an instructor, counselor and grant writer at the primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. For the last 10 years she has organized healing and investment trips for African American professionals to Africa, including Ghana, Egypt, Togo, Benin, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and Ethiopia. As founder and CEO of SISTERcircle, she is a staunch advocate for “Doing Business in Africa”, recently launching “SISTERcircle Fine Wines” a collective investment by African American women to import South African wine made by Black women, opening up the US market for Black winemakers.

Profile: linkedin.com/in/jennifer-white-1b976123
Media: GridAlternatives

2009 MPP Alumna of the Year Celeste Drake, MPP/JD 2002

Celeste Drake is the Directors Guild of America’s Executive in Charge of Government Affairs.

Drake is responsible for the Guild’s federal legislative and governmental work, serving as an advocate for the DGA and its members on key issues such as: intellectual property, copyright and anti-piracy protections; pension and health; and issues relating to the protection of DGA members’ creative and economic rights. Drake will also coordinate and manage the work of the DGA Political Action Committee (PAC) and DGA PAC Leadership Council.

Previously, Drake was the trade and globalization policy specialist at the AFL-CIO. In that role, she advocated for reforms to U.S. trade policy to create shared gains from trade on behalf of working families. Drake has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, various House subcommittees and the U.S. International Trade Commission, and made presentations before the European Union’s Economic and Social Committee. Prior to her work at the AFL-CIO, Drake served as legislative director for Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), legislative counsel for Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), and clerk for the Honorable David R. Thompson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Drake has a Juris Doctor, a Master of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Employer: Directors Guild of America
Profile: linkedin.com/in/celeste-drake-21a9083
Twitter: CDrakeFairTrade
Media: PodBean, YouTubeYouTube, YouTube, The Hill