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Jennifer R. Daniels, Dianna A. Ruberto, Cara M. Clase and Calaia S. Jackson
Jennifer R. Daniels, Dianna A. Ruberto, Cara M. Clase and Calaia S. Jackson (left to right) collectively represent a four-year streak for the UD Biden School’s doctorate in public policy and administration program with their respective designations as Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) equity and inclusion graduate student fellows.

Equity and inclusion graduate student fellows

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Daniels, Dianna Ruberto, Cara Clase and Calaia Jackson

UD Biden School doctoral students reflect on four consecutive years of prestigious fellowship designation from nationally recognized public policy organization

In mid-November, Calaia S. Jackson, a third-year doctoral student in the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Delaware, will attend the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) annual research conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The 2023 conference on Nov. 9-11 — one of many opportunities available to members of the organization for public policy researchers — will follow the theme “Policy that Matters: Making Public Services Work for All.”

What’s already an exciting opportunity for any aspiring scholar is made more special by Jackson’s designation as a recipient of a 2023 Equity and Inclusion Graduate Student Fellowship. This APPAM-awarded fellowship supports the participation and travel of 40 graduate students, five young professionals and five undergraduate students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. 

Jackson’s designation for 2023-24 holds a special distinction, marking the fourth consecutive year a student from the Biden School’s public policy and administration doctoral program has received a place in the cohort, resulting in UD representation for half of the fellowship’s eight-year tenure thus far.

What’s more, all students selected to this four-year streak are women of color. Joining Jackson in this distinguished and unprecedented lineup are 2023 alumna Cara M. Clase, 2022 alumna Jennifer R. Daniels and 2023 alumna Dianna A. Ruberto. 

The Biden School’s doctorate in public policy and administration is an interdisciplinary research degree that prepares students to engage in rigorous scholarship that addresses the critical policy and administrative challenges of our times. 

While in the program, doctoral students not only receive five years of guaranteed funding and have various opportunities to conduct research alongside esteemed faculty and staff, but also receive assistantship placements in a Biden School research center and support for conference attendance and dissertation work.

Clase, Daniels, Jackson and Ruberto shared the unique impact of the APPAM fellowship experience and reflected on how their time at the Biden School helped shape their development as scholars.

Jennifer Daniels
Jennifer Daniels, who graduated with her doctorate from the Biden School in 2022, presented her research at the APPAM annual research conference that same year. She received the APPAM-awarded equity and inclusion graduate student fellowship in 2020.

Jennifer R. Daniels

Daniels, who graduated with her doctorate from the Biden School in 2022, now works as a National Poverty Fellow (NPF). The NPF Program, a federal government-university partnership administered by the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, aims to build the capacity of postdoctoral researchers conducting high-quality policy-relevant research on poverty and inequality in the U.S. 

Daniels works in-residence with the Administration for Children and Families in the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C., where she engages in research related to advancing social equity in federal policies and programs geared toward families and children experiencing poverty. 

In reflecting on her time as a doctoral student, Daniels stressed the importance of recognizing the holistic commitment one takes in pursuing a doctorate degree. It’s equal parts emotional and intellectual, she said.

“As a Ph.D. student, particularly if you are a student of color, building community and finding people who support, encourage and seek to understand you are integral to maintaining your well-being during your academic journey,” she said. “Continually self-affirming your identity, value and worth in a way that extends beyond your environmental experiences is foundational for not only obtaining your Ph.D. degree but also venturing forward as a scholar.”

Dianna Ruberto
Dianna Ruberto received her doctorate in 2023 after her equity and inclusion fellowship designation in 2021. In 2018-19, she served as a Publicly Active Graduate Education fellow for Imagining America, a national network of universities, colleges and community collaborators that seek to advance publicly engaged scholarship in the arts, humanities and design.

Dianna A. Ruberto

Ruberto, who received the fellowship in 2021, graduated from the program in 2023. Her research interests include racial politics, citizen participation, urban development, and arts and cultural policy. Like Daniels, she currently serves in the NPF program. 

As an NPF, Ruberto works in-residence for the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS). On the Equity Technical Assistance Center team, she helps support HHS offices and programs in meeting external equity goals and objectives by providing technical assistance in partnership with experts who have lived experience. Currently, she co-leads center engagements with lived experience partners.

“I’ve gotten to meet senior scholars whose work I deeply admire and aspire to, and rising scholars who are making incredible shifts in the way we think about [diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging] in public policy and administration,” she said in regard to the meaningful connections she made through APPAM. “I feel grateful to be in community with people who are making significant strides in promoting justice through their research, teaching and service.”

In her dissertation — already partially published in a top urban affairs journal — Ruberto investigated the multi-dimensional experience of Black stakeholders and their agency in a creative placemaking initiative in Wilmington, Delaware.

Ruberto said aspiring scholars and students from marginalized and historically underrepresented backgrounds should consider the Biden School’s program.

“Your perspectives are so critically important to producing policy research that is relevant and impactful,” she said. “Your curiosity about the world as it is, and vision for the world as it should be, are so valued and needed.”

Cara Clase
Cara Clase, a 2022 recipient of the equity and inclusion fellowship, received her doctorate from the Biden School in 2023. In the summer of 2019, Clase participated in Yale University’s Environmental Fellowship Program. She was placed with the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis in Cleveland, Ohio, and engaged in research on the Puerto Rican energy crisis and Midwestern coal pricing.

Cara M. Clase

Clase, who also completed her doctorate in 2023, participated as an equity and inclusion fellowship cohort member during the 2022-23 academic year. 

Now working as a professional specialist at Princeton University’s Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment (CPREE), she leads the center’s research communications and outreach initiatives. Clase also mentors and oversees MPA student research in her role.

“The APPAM equity and inclusion fellowship was an experience that made me realize the breadth and diversity of equity and inclusion work,” she said. “Not only was I able to exchange ideas with people in my research niche, but I was also exposed to the dialogues of other policy areas that engage in DEI discourse.”

Clase, who spent time as a doctoral student working at the Biden School’s Center for Community Research and Service (CCRS), credits the hands-on experience with not only shaping her academic curiosity but also preparing her for her current placement at Princeton.

“Not only did it contribute to my growth as a researcher, but CCRS also exposed me to how research and policy expertise can be impactful and drive community initiatives,” she said.

Calaia Jackson
Calaia Jackson, a third-year Biden School doctoral student and 2023 E&I fellowship awardee, is conducting two research studies on long-term outcomes of exposure to exclusionary discipline policies and practices in K-12 public schools and ways to inform more just and equitable policies. The studies, based in Wilmington, Delaware, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, respectively, take place alongside Sarah Bruch, program director for the doctorate in public policy and administration.

Calaia S. Jackson

Jackson will attend the APPAM conference this month to take her place in the 2023-24 cohort.

“I applied for the APPAM E&I fellowship because, as a first-generation scholar, I appreciate the Association’s diverse and interdisciplinary network of scholars and practitioners who value community-engaged approaches to research and focus on advancing social equity,” she said.

Jackson also works as a Health Policy Research Scholar, a national leadership program from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In her dissertation, she will examine long-term outcomes of education, specifically the civic, political and health consequences of exposure to exclusionary discipline policies and practices in K-12 public schools and ways to inform more just and equitable policies.

“I think it’s important as a prospective student to consider how your research interests and career goals align with the work of the faculty and how you will be supported in making contributions to the field,” she said, noting her research work alongside Sarah Bruch, her advisor and director of the public policy and administration doctorate program at the Biden School.

Bruch said the APPAM Equity and Inclusion Fellowship Program is a great complement to the education, training and experience that doctoral students receive at the Biden School.

“The professional development, community building, mentorship and research support that the program provides are great opportunities for aspiring policy and administration scholars,” she said. “We have been extremely fortunate to have such outstanding young scholars in our program. It is remarkable what they have each already accomplished. I look forward to continuing to support their success in their research careers.” 

APPAM Equity and Inclusion Fellowship Program cohorts are selected each year through an application process beginning in the spring and announced in the summer.

Biden School doctoral program applications are accepted for fall terms. Friday, Dec. 15, is the priority deadline to apply. To start your application, visit udel.edu/grad

About the UD Biden School

Established in 1961 and named in 2018 for the University of Delaware’s most distinguished alumnus, the 46th President of the United States, the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration prepares students with the knowledge and skills necessary to engage in research and public service to improve the quality of life in communities around the world. Biden School faculty, staff, students, and alumni create and use interdisciplinary, nonpartisan research and empirically based analysis to inform effective decision-making and policy and to improve leadership and administration. The Biden School partners with organizations from all sectors to discover innovative and equitable solutions to the critical challenges of our time.

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