Student Staff and Scholars

Student Engagement at the Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs 

As a teaching, training, and experiential learning lab for community-facing research, engaging students at Rutgers-Camden is at the very foundation of WRI’s work. WRI works directly with students on research projects, supports the research interests of students through scholarships and fellowships, and provides exciting opportunities for students to produce impactful written materials for public audiences across the region and State. WRI exemplifies and reinforces the Rutgers-Camden’s student engagement goals.

Student Research Assistants

Oguz Kaan Ozlap 

Oguz Kaan Ozalp is a graduate student in the Public Affairs and Community Development program at Rutgers University Camden. Oguz’s research interests center around local and regional development strategies, as well as implementing such approaches within migration and minority populations. Oguz previously worked on certain projects as an assistant and coordinator at local and international NGOs in Turkey. Oguz will be supporting the AtlantiCare CHNA as well as other projects at WRI.

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.

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.

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.

Marlo Rossi

Marlo Rossi is a graduate student in the Public Affairs and Community Development Program at Rutgers University, Camden. Prior to coming to Rutgers University, Camden,  Marlo graduated with her bachelors degree in Political Science and her masters degree in Criminal Justice from Rowan University. Marlo’s research interest center around gender and race based issues, as well as the effect that state and local policies have on minority communities. Marlo is currently working on the Camden Food Collective Project and the Clayton Model at Walter Rand.  

Penny Telesford

Penny Telesford is a second-year Ph.D. student in Prevention Science at Rutgers University, with a passion for addressing racial inequity and reducing disparities in the community. Her research interests center around mental health stigma and maternal mortality rates within the Black/African/Caribbean community. Penny holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Mercy College. During her academic journey, she gained valuable experience as a Resident Assistant, Resident Director, and co-creator of the Wellness Program. She also interned as a therapist at a Substance Abuse Clinic and worked with at-risk youth and foster children post-graduation. In addition to her academic pursuits, Penny enjoys attending concerts, traveling, collecting vinyl records and pop funkos, and engaging in various hobbies.

Simran Pillarisetty

I am Simran, a passionate and driven Master’s student in Psychology with a deep-rooted interest in understanding the complexities of human behavior and societal dynamics. Currently, I serve as a Research Assistant at the esteemed Water Rand Institute, where I am actively involved in conducting vital public-facing studies.

My role at the Water Rand Institute involves a diverse range of responsibilities, including data collection, analysis, and report writing. Through these endeavors, I strive to contribute meaningfully to the understanding of community needs and challenges. This hands-on experience has allowed me to grasp the intricate connections between psychology and group dynamics, as well as the profound influence of one’s environment on psychosocial outcomes.

My journey in psychology has been driven by a genuine curiosity about the human mind and a desire to make a positive impact on individuals and communities alike. As I continue to expand my knowledge and expertise in the field, my ultimate goal is to pursue a doctoral program, where I can further explore the intersection of psychology and community well-being.

Fawaz Al Juaid

I am Fawaz graduate student at Rutgers University-Camden in criminal justice. I have a bachelor’s degree in law from Saudi Arabia which provided me with a solid foundation of legal principles. Moreover, I am a member of the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in the Social Sciences which reveals my commitment to the field of Social and criminal studies. Proudly, I am a research assistant at the Senator Walter Rand Institution and I will participate in research projects to address critical issues in the region. My tasks include data collection, analysis, interpretation, and spatial visualization. 

Xuanzhou Du

Xuanzhou, a Master’s student in Psychology at Rutgers University – Camden, possesses a profound passion for social and existential psychology, alongside a strong background in statistics. She is working on Clayton Model at WRI.

Her ambition extends to pursuing a PhD in social psychology. With an MSEd in Statistics, Measurement, Assessment, and Research Technology from the University of Pennsylvania, she leverages three years of practical experience in data analytics and consulting within the publishing sector.

Shaghayegh Poursabbagh

Shaghayegh is a recent graduate from the psychology program at Rutgers-Camden. Her research interests lie in consciousness, controlled attention, working memory, EEG, risk perception, and olfaction awareness. With experience as a research assistant along with involvement in projects related to risk perception and intuition (gut feelings), she is dedicated to scientific inquiry and exploring various aspects of the human brain. Beyond psychology, Shaghayegh has been studying philosophy, religious studies, and ancient studies. She has joined us at WRI as a research assistant for the Camden County Transportation project, eager to contribute her expertise and passion for research to the team.

Student Assistants

Christyn Cullen

Christyn is currently a senior at Rutgers University-Camden pursuing a bachelor’s degree in marketing with a minor in graphic design. At the Senator Walter Rand Institute, she supports the communication needs of the institution in social media, email, website development, and graphic design. Outside of school and WRI, Christyn volunteers for the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford, New Jersey and assists in nonprofit development and marketing for the organization.

Scholars and Fellows

Yachun Wen

Yachun Wen, BA, a current 2nd year Ph.D. student at Prevention Science program.  My research interests cover health policy evaluation and health equity. I obtained my BA in Philosophy and Psychology from New York University. 

Chengcheng Yue

Chengcheng (Zach) Yue is a dedicated Ph.D. candidate in the Public Affairs program here at Rutgers. His research interests revolve around public finance and community development. He has earned two master’s degrees from University College London and Rutgers University. Currently, he is collaborating with the researchers at the Walter Rand Institute to conduct community-focused research about Southern New Jersey.

Morenike Alugo

Morenike Alugo is a graduate student in the Prevention Science program at Rutgers University. She obtained her BSc in Psychology from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. Morenike’s research interests are in investigating the role of technology in addressing social and health challenges among youth. She is currently collaborating with the Walter Rand Research Institute, to conduct research about Southern New Jersey using United States Census Data.