Gaining Real-World Experience

Each day, we build upon a base of knowledge for good policy and practice in South Jersey, and we work to address issues that impact residents and local organizations through applied research, community engagement and organizational development. Through this work, we connect scores of talented students from diverse backgrounds with opportunities to connect with stakeholders in local communities and tackle real-world challenges.


Student Research Assistants


Amanda Ekelburg

Amanda Ekelburg is a graduate student in the Criminal Justice program here at Rutgers University-Camden. Amanda previously worked as an independent study student during the 2020 Spring Semester to collect Criminal History, Commitment Offense, and Recidivism Data as part of the CORP evaluation. Amanda is returning to WRI to help collect data for the COAP Evaluation. Amanda is also working to complete analysis for the NJYSA Community Conversations project.



Kelvin Fong

Kelvin Fong is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in Political Science. Further, Kelvin is a research assistant intern at New Jersey Courts (Atlantic County Criminal Court) doing research for a project in criminal justice reform with the ultimate end goal to help address racial disparity in defendants’ expungement application. Kelvin wants to use his time at WRI to learn as much as I can about how properly conducted research can foster meaningful policy changes, thus ultimately translate to the improvement of the community. Kelvin wants to work to improve his data analysis skills as he wishes to pursue a career in area of data analytic/data science. Kelvin wants to attend graduate school at the Georgia Institute of Technology.


Joseph Johnson

Joe Johnson is pursuing a master’s degree in Psychology. He is currently working in a psychology research lab focusing on attention and has also worked in a lab focusing on social relationships and health. Joseph is a lifelong resident of South Jersey and hopes that the projects he works on can have a positive impact on the communities around him.




Stacia Klymova

Stacia Klymova is currently pursuing a Masters in Psychology at Rutgers-Camden. Stacia’s research interests center around understanding the risk and protective factors for developing substance use and psychiatric disorders. Currently, as a part of her thesis project, Stacia is conducting a study aimed at exploring the role of cultural variables in the association between PTSD and nicotine dependence among Hispanic female survivors of intimate partner violence. At WRI, Stacia will be assisting with the IHN CHNA, FAMCO Evaluation, and the WFCRA project.



Joseph Mendoza

Joseph Mendoza is a research intern supporting various projects, including but not limited to the Pascale Sykes Foundation’s Strengthening Families Initiative, New Jersey YMCA State Alliance’s Community Conversations, and Inspira Health Network’s Community Health Needs Assessment. Joseph is pursuing his undergraduate degree in the Health Sciences program at Rutgers-Camden and was recently accepted into the BA/MPH program at Jefferson University.



Ryan Pletcher

Ryan is a student researcher currently engaged in ongoing work with the Cumberland County and Burlington County Overdose Fatality Review Teams to assist in their data collection, management, analysis, and reporting. He is also involved with a domestic violence and gun violence research project. Ryan received his Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Stockton University in 2018 and his Master’s degree in Psychology from Rutgers University-Camden in 2020, and he is currently pursuing his Juris Doctor from Rutgers Law School.



Polina Poliakova

Polina Poliakova is a recent Rutgers – New Brunswick Graduate and is currently pursuing a Masters in Psychology at Rutgers – Camden. Her research interests include mental health and psychopathology intervention methods in childhood populations. At WRI, Polina will be assisting in the Clayton Model Evaluation.




Waliyah Rahman

Waliya is pursuing her undergraduate degree at Rutgers University-Camden, Faculty of Arts and Sciences with a major in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Spanish for Health Professions. Waliya is also a member of the Honors College. Waliya’s research interests include population health, access to healthcare, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted families. Waliya is also interested in researching how young children are affected in our communities, and hopes to work in the Pediatric field of study in the future. At WRI, Waliya is working on a project gathering secondary data for the Center for Family Services’ needs assessment and wage study, which focuses on identifying the changing needs in the community, health information, and population trends crime data to assess the needs of early childhood-age children in Burlington and Camden Counties in New Jersey.



Samuel Ross

Samuel Ross is interested in researching sustainable community development practices and methods of poverty alleviation in addition to policy analysis for local and state government. Samuel is working as a research assistant while at WRI and will primarily focus on conducting and analyzing research performed by WRI staff as well as providing translation services when needed. Sam is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration with a Community Development focus. Areas of interest include sustainable development, poverty alleviation, immigrant community assistance, and election procedures. He has worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala as well as a Behavioral Health Navigator for a Philadelphia Non-Profit. After, graduation he hopes to continue to advocate within local government.



Ummulkhayer Sameha

Sameha is an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology and Political Science at Rutgers University-Camden. Sameha is working to assist with the County COVID tracking work. Sameha is also working to complete analysis for the NJYSA Community Conversations project.




Priyal Shah

Priyal is pursuing her undergraduate degree here at Rutgers-Camden with a double major in Biology and Psychology. Priyal is assisting with tracking COVID-19 by county in New Jersey. Priyal also has a background in population health and will be working on the forthcoming Inspira Health Network Community Health Needs Assessment and the NJYSA Community Conversations project.



Kelsey Woodard

Kelsey Woodard is currently a first-year master’s student studying psychology and received my bachelor’s degree in 2021 from Loyola University Maryland. Kelsey hopes to continue working with psychology doing both research and clinical work, eventually earning a PhD, and have a special interest in sleep health including sleep patterns and behaviors. Kelsey is currently working with Dr. Lauren Daniel in her sleep lab that works with HSCT patients at CHOP. Kelsey is also currently a teacher assistant for Dr. Rufan Luo in her undergraduate statistics course(s). At WRI, Kelsey is thrilled to work on such a variety of projects with different groups and organizations.


Graduate Assistants

Lili Razi, M.A.

Lili is working on community development, spatial changes, and strategic planning. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Public Affairs with a focus on Community Development. Currently, Lili is involved with qualitative and quantitative research design, analysis, and reporting. She was in “A New View” – a Bloomberg public art installation that transforms vacant lots into artistic spaces. Given her background in urban and community engagement practices, she hopes to participate in capacity development and shape effective urban public policies in areas of need.



Shibin Yan, M.A.

Shibin is supporting several projects as an analyst and researcher. He is analyzing secondary data of the community health needs assessment and assisting faculty fellow Dr. Melanie Bowers with research on housing services for those experiencing homelessness. Shibin is pursuing his doctorate in Public Affairs at Rutgers University-Camden. His research interest includes elderly care, public health, policy evaluation, and anti-corruption. He worked for a think tank in China for two years to secure professional training in policy analysis. After graduation, he intends to work as a research consultant.

Interested in joining WRI’s team of student researchers? Learn more.