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White House Appoints 2013-2014 Class of White House Fellows

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships announced the appointment of the 2013-2014 Class of White House Fellows. The Fellows come from diverse backgrounds, varied professions, and have all shown a strong commitment to public service and leadership. The 2013-2014 Class of Fellows and their biographies are included in the following pages.

The White House Fellows Program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to give promising American leaders “first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.”  This unique opportunity to work within our nation’s government is designed to encourage active citizenship and a lifelong commitment to service. The Fellows also take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation, and current affairs. Community service is another essential element of the program, and Fellows participate in service projects throughout the year in the Washington, DC area.

Selection as a White House Fellow is highly competitive and based on a record of professional achievement, evidence of leadership potential, and a proven commitment to public service. Each Fellow must possess the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute meaningfully at senior levels in the Federal government. Throughout its history, the program has fostered leaders in many fields, including leaders in government, business, law, media, medicine, education, diplomacy and the military. Additional information about the White House Fellows program is available at

2013-2014 Class of White House Fellows:

Charina Choi, San Francisco, CA, is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Chemistry at Stanford University. Her work focuses on the design of nanomaterials with unique optical and electronic properties and their development for biomedical, electronics, and energy applications. Charina’s research has produced several peer-reviewed publications, a patent, and presentations at national and international conferences. Her contributions have been further recognized through the UC Berkeley Dauben Fellowship, Benjamin Boussert Memorial Award, Materials Research Society Graduate Student Gold Award, and National Science Foundation American Competitiveness in Chemistry Postdoctoral Fellowship. Charina is the founder of Sciimpact, an annual conference for students and teachers from underserved Bay Area high schools, focused on the power of science to effect global change. She served on the founding committee for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies. Her community involvement includes volunteer work for numerous Bay Area organizations including Children’s Hospital Oakland, Camp Okizu, Chemistry in the Classroom, and the Youth Emergency Assistance Hostel. Charina received a B.S. in Chemistry with Honors from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.

Brent J. Cohen, New York, NY, is the Director of Legislative and Government Affairs for the New York City Department of Probation, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at New York University where his courses focus on juvenile justice reform.  In his role as Director, Brent successfully developed relationships with state and local elected officials to implement the department’s ambitious reform agenda, including the passage of the landmark “Close to Home” legislation, which realigned the juvenile justice system. Previously, Brent was the Special Assistant to the Commissioner for the New York City Departments of Correction and Probation where he conducted high-level policy analysis related to correction, probation, community development and effective city governance. Brent began his career in education, working for five years with a charter management organization where he spent two years as a teacher in South Los Angeles, and served as a founding staff member for three separate schools.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master of Public Administration from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. 

Daniel Feehan, Chicago, IL, is a recent graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School where he studied urban poverty as well as education and veterans policy. Previously, he worked as a public school teacher, teaching 5th and 6th grade math in Gary, Indiana through Teach For America. Dan became a teacher after serving for four years as an Active Duty Army Officer and two years in the Illinois National Guard. He completed two deployments to Iraq where he served as an Engineer and Scout Platoon Leader responsible for finding roadside bombs and capturing insurgents that posed an imminent threat to the Iraqi people. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, and the Ranger Tab. He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and a Bachelor’s in the Science of Foreign Service from Georgetown University. He is a Dubin Fellow through the Harvard Center for Public Leadership, a Tillman Military Scholar, and a Chicago Mayoral Fellow. His athletic interests include long distance running, Ultimate Frisbee, and golf. Dan and his wife Amy are the proud parents of a two-year old son named Conor.

Justin Finnegan, Darien, CT, is Managing Director and Co-Founder of the Mountain Hazelnuts Group (MHG).  As Bhutan’s first 100% foreign direct investment, MHG takes a systemic approach to creating reliable income generation opportunities for Bhutan’s poorest families while restoring ecosystem health and maintaining community cohesion.  Justin oversees the operations of the social venture, which is planting 10 million hazelnut trees on degraded and fallow mountain slopes and connecting subsistence farmers to valuable international markets.  With nearly ten years of operations experience in Asia, he previously helped open and manage WestPoint Home’s Asia head office in Shanghai.  WestPoint Home was the world’s second largest home textile company with extensive manufacturing operations throughout Asia.  Justin was both a Fulbright and Trustman Scholar and spent two years conducting research in rural villages near China’s border with Tibet and Myanmar, focusing on the effects of agricultural policy on subsistence farmers.  He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.  He received a BA from Harvard College in East Asian Studies, where he was named a Harvard-Yenching scholar, and an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.  Justin is fluent in written and spoken Chinese and proficient in French, Spanish, and Yunnanese.

Shirlethia V. Franklin, Shaw, MS, is a Senior Associate with the law firm Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta, Georgia.  She is responsible for managing and defending complex litigation matters and counseling clients in the areas of product liability, toxic tort, mass tort, and medical malpractice law.  She currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Defense Research Institute’s Young Women in the Law Subcommittee and was the recipient of the Outstanding Subcommittee of the Year award while serving as Chair of the organization’s Public Service Subcommittee.  She was also selected as a 2012 Volunteer of the Year Honoree by the Truancy Intervention Project in recognition of her commitment to pro bono legal service.  Prior to joining Alston & Bird, Shirlethia served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Alexander Williams, Jr., in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.  She received a J.D. from Howard University School of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Howard Law Journal and was the sole recipient of the school’s Student of the Year and Next Generation Leadership awards.  She received a B.A., summa cum laude, in English from Tougaloo College, where she graduated class valedictorian and served as student body president.      

Erica Gonzalez, Pico Rivera, CA, is the Director of Public Policy and Community Partnerships for Green Dot Public Schools. She is responsible for executing Green Dot’s reform agenda by advocating at the local, state and federal level for education reform, supporting existing schools with compliance and oversight, the development of new schools and overseeing the implementation of community school models at the new Locke Wellness Center.  Prior to working at Green Dot she was the Associate Director of Barrio Action Youth and Family Center overseeing the capital campaign and construction of a $3.6 million new youth and family center and also worked as a legislative analyst for the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission.  She is a proud alumni of the Public Policy and International Affairs program, and the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) Leadership Institute.  In 2012, she was awarded the Mujer Destacada/Exceptional Woman award in the education category by La Opinion, the largest international Spanish language print newspaper.  She earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California Berkeley and Master of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and had the opportunity to study abroad at the National Autonomous University in Mexico City, UNAM.

Cara LaPointe, Bethesda, MD, is a Commander in the United States Navy.  She serves as the Deputy Technical Director of the Littoral Combat Ship Program where she provides government technical oversight to $7 billion of shipbuilding contracts.  Previously, she served at the Naval Sea Systems Command working on surface force architecture and unmanned vehicle technology integration.  Cara is a patented engineer, and she has deployed to the Persian Gulf and the Pacific in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle. An avid volunteer and humanitarian, Cara has served as an advocate for victims of sexual assault, volunteered in rural communities internationally from Honduras to Fiji, and, most recently, founded the Engineering Duty Officer Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Outreach Initiative.  Cara earned her Ph.D. in Mechanical and Oceanographic Engineering jointly from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, as well as an M.S. in Ocean Systems Management and a Nav.Eng. from MIT.  As a Fitzgerald Scholar, she received an M.Phil. in Development Studies from the University of Oxford where she studied marine resource management in the South Pacific.  Cara graduated as valedictorian of the United States Naval Academy with a B.S. in Ocean Engineering.

Debra McCoy, San Francisco, CA, manages Emerging and Frontier Market Investment Initiatives for Stanford Management Company, the entity responsible for investing the Stanford University endowment. At Stanford she conceived, developed, and co-taught a course in the Graduate School of Business about investing in frontier markets. She was also a Director of the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies. Debbie’s professional background is global, with expertise in operating, investing, and advisory work. Debbie began her career at Bain & Company in San Francisco and Johannesburg. She subsequently was based in New York and New Delhi with Citigroup, and later worked on real asset projects and infrastructure related business expansion for investors and operating companies in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Her first job, building latrines in a rural Mexican town, inspired Debbie to dedicate her career efforts to advancing economic growth in developing economy countries through private enterprise and capital provision. Debbie graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, from Howard University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and received her MBA from Harvard Business School.

Robert McFarlin, Detroit, MI, is a Lieutenant Commander and Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy.  He has deployed to over 30 nations on six continents, most recently as Commanding Officer of USS TYPHOON in the Arabian Gulf supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.  While in command, his crew earned the Golden Anchor award for outstanding retention and the coveted Battle “E” award as the number one ship in the Squadron.  In 2008, he circumnavigated South America on a counternarcotics deployment leading to the publication of an article on Strategic Communications in the historic U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings.  He served as an Assistant Professor at the University of Rochester and is the Co-Founder of TurnKey CashFlow Properties, LLC, a startup dedicated to transforming dilapidated inner city property into safe, low-income housing. He volunteers as a Big Brother mentor, with Habitat for Humanity and globally through the Navy’s Community Relations program.  He is a national director of the Surface Navy Association and the recipient of the peer-nominated Navy/Marine Corps Association Leadership Award.  Mac holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business.

Kapil Parakh, Washington, DC, is a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins. He is the Director of Heart Failure at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Assistant Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Behavior & Society. He leads heart failure quality improvements in collaboration with the Joint Commission's Center for Transforming Healthcare, using entrepreneurial techniques to cost-effectively improve outcomes. Kapil's research focuses on understanding the increased mortality in patients with depression after a heart attack. Passionate about teaching, Kapil is a clinician-educator and has mentored trainees in award winning research. Kapil is the co-founder of Health for America, a non-profit that mobilizes youth to improve the health of communities through innovation while shaping the next generation of leaders. In recognition of his contributions to public health, Kapil was recently inducted into the Delta Omega Public Health honor society. He has 27 scientific publications and serves as a peer-reviewer for a number of journals. Kapil is board certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiology and Advanced Heart Failure and Transplantation. Kapil received a BS and MD from the University of Zambia with honors, as well as a MPH and PhD from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Maura Sullivan, Palo Alto, CA, is a Senior Director at RMS, a global risk modeling firm, where she leads the development of multidisciplinary structural models for managing complex systemic risks in life and health markets. She advises the financial and insurance industry on mortality-causing catastrophic events, such as infectious disease pandemics, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks, and was part of a taskforce charged with developing financial risk regulations in Europe. She creates medical models that assess the impacts of changes in society, policy, and medical technology on longevity, and assists financial institutions in offsetting their mortality and longevity risk internally and by transferring the risk to the capital markets. Maura is active in community activities related to emergency response, disasters, and technology entrepreneurship. Her search and rescue dog specializes in wilderness rescue for the California Rescue Dog Association and Yosemite National Park. Maura played collegiate rugby and lacrosse, holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and is an active kiteboarder, swimmer, and runner.  She earned a Ph.D. in epidemiology from Emory University as a recipient of the Woodruff Fellowship, and a B.S and M.S. in earth systems from Stanford University, focusing in energy engineering and climate modeling.

Victor Wu, Kingsport, TN, is a primary care physician, and most recently served as Chief Medical Resident at Grady Memorial Hospital for the Emory University Internal Medicine Residency program. He helped oversee daily training of resident physicians and coordinated medical student and resident education. Before this, Victor completed his clinical training at Emory working primarily with Atlanta’s underserved and vulnerable patients at Grady Hospital. He was recognized for excellence in clinical care (Most Outstanding Intern, Outstanding Primary Care Award), professionalism (HOPE award), and research (Helen Miller Research award).  Additionally, Victor has published several peer-reviewed manuscripts and collaborated with the Institute of Medicine developing a Health Insurance Literacy tool kit. He has also worked for McKinsey & Co in its healthcare practice. Victor is active in his community where he volunteers at the Open Door Community homeless medical clinic, captained an Ultimate Frisbee team that has competed at the USAU National Championships multiple years, served as a high school tutor for low-income students, and participated in local health advocacy through HealthSTAT. Victor earned his M.D. from Emory University, his M.P.H. in Health Policy and Management from  Rollins School of Public Health, and graduated summa cum laude and Tau Beta Pi from Vanderbilt University with a B.E. in Biomedical Engineering.

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