Meet Our Graduate Students

This page features brief bios of the students in the PhD program and MA program in global inclusion and social development here at the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development (SGISD).

For more extensive profiles and photos of our students, faculty, and alums, check out Faces of SGISD.

PhD Students, Global Inclusion and Social Development


Shahrzad Sajadi

PhD student Shahrzad Sajadi

Started program in: 2017

Country of origin: Iran

Degrees held:
MA, Journalism
Emerson College

BA, Law
Allameh Tabatabai University, Iran

Research interests: Disability rights, advocating for disability rights in Iran, women's rights, human rights

SGISD in a nutshell: I have enjoyed meeting people from around the world in the program and I am open to finding my interest and concentration as the school year progresses.

Ideal job after graduation: Working/running a nonprofit advocating for disability rights in developing countries like Iran, or doing research in a university.

Fun fact: I have made a few super short films in Iran and in the UK and I have been a juror for several international film festivals in Iran and in Italy in my teen years.


Melinda D. Asiamah

PhD student Melinda D. Asiamah

Started program in: 2017

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MA, Criminal Justice
Boston University

BA, Sociology
UMass Boston

Research interests: Mental health illnesses in immigrant populations, human rights

SGISD in a nutshell: I really enjoy the supportiveness of the SGISD program. As a new student, I've already learned so much from other students and faculty while we engage in conversation. It's refreshing to have so many different perspectives and feel fully supported.

Ideal job after graduation: I would like to become a program director or program manager for a government agency/nonprofit that will allow me to provide effective mental health services to immigrant populations.

Fun fact: I love buffalo wings.


Courtney Mulligan

PhD student Courtney Mulligan

Started program in: 2017

Country of origin: USA

Research interests: Disability studies, intersection of disability and higher education, disability rights in the developing world.

SGISD in a nutshell: This program seems to share my world view, and I'm so excited to expand my knowledge of inclusion and social development. My focus has been disability for a very long time, and while that's my passion, I look forward to learning about other excluded populations.

Ideal job after graduation: Possibly teaching at the university level, while consulting for colleges and universities on how to make their campuses and programs more inclusive.

Fun fact: I am a little person and am presently very involved with Little People of America, but I did not meet another little person until I was 19 years old!


Prisca Tarimo

UMass Boston PhD student Prisca Tarimo

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: Tanzania

Degrees held:
MA, Human Development
Washington State University

BA, Sociology
University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Research interests: Global health inequalities, women’s and gender issues, the rights of people with disabilities, poverty and social inequalities

SGISD in a nutshell: The program prepares us to be leaders, to stand as voices for those who are socially excluded in our communities, and to make the world a better place. Being a graduate assistant, I also appreciate the hands-on experience that prepares me practically for my future career. The faculty and staff are awesome people to work with, too.

Ideal job after graduation: Research/policy-making with either governmental or international organizations, especially those focused on health, gender, and development

Fun fact: I used to stumble trying to pronounce the word “Massachusetts.” Now that I’m here, I can say it better.


Kevin McCormack

PhD student Kevin McCormack

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
BS/MS, Accounting
University of Houston-Clear Lake

Certificate in orientation and mobility
Stephen F. Austin State University

Research interests: Blindness / visual impairment; orientation and mobility

SGISD in a nutshell: I am interested in how orientation and mobility skills for blind and visually impaired people are applied and used in non-Western contexts. I felt that the SGISD’s unique perspective would give me the best tools possible to pursue those interests.

Ideal job after graduation: I'd like to work for an organization that seeks to understand and support the desires and needs of blind and visually impaired people in regions such as Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Fun fact: I LOVE playing the drums!


Caro Narby

Caro Narby, PhD student

Started program in: 2015
Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
Master of Public Policy
Brandeis University

MA, Gender/Cultural Studies
Simmons College

BA, Women's and Gender Studies
Wellesley College

Research interests: I am interested in the experiences of transgender youth with developmental disabilities.

SGISD in a nutshell: As a research assistant, I have found that the research staff are supportive of and invested in my development as an academic.

Ideal job after graduation: Right now I am generally aiming for a high-level administrative position with a university or a research hospital. 

Fun fact: I love horror movies.


Uchenna Nwangwu

UMass Boston PhD student Uchenna Nwangwu

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: Nigeria

Degrees held:
MSc, Environmental Management
University of Hertfordshire, UK

BSc, Microbiology
University of Calabar, Nigeria

Research interests: Poverty and development (the rights of excluded populations, such as people living with disability in developing countries)

SGISD in a nutshell: As an international student, settling down for school in a new country can be stressful. Here at SGISD, everyone was helpful and gave support in every way that I needed. I have gained a better understanding of how to approach issues that have to do with marginalized populations and human rights. What I find interesting about the program is the diverse mix of talents, and the multidisciplinary approach to solving today’s complex social issues.

Ideal job after graduation: To work in an international institution focusing on development work for excluded populations

Fun fact: I love to travel and see the world, though I haven’t travelled much.


Tracy P. Beard

PhD student Tracy P. Beard

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
BS, Mass Communication
Middle Tennessee State University

Research interests:

SGISD in a nutshell: I enjoy the transdisciplinary nature of the program. I have the opportunity to learn from so many unique perspectives, which challenges me to think about issues and solutions in a different way.

Ideal job after graduation: My ideal job is to build an NGO / nonprofit organization that uses the arts as a vehicle to build inclusive communities.

Fun fact: I hiked Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang, China.  


Rayna Verbeck

PhD student Rayna Verbeck

Started program in: 2014
Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
Master of Business Administration
Babson College

BA, Political Science
University of Oregon

Research interests: Economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for marginalized populations

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD is a unique learning environment. It brings together smart, passionate people from around the world who are  motivated to improve the systems marginalized populations interact with in different ways.

Ideal job after graduation: Consulting with businesses and future entrepreneurs to improve economic opportunities for marginalized populations.

Fun fact: The first business I owned was an ice cream parlor.


Odgerel Dashzeveg

PhD student Odgerel Dashzeveg

Started program in: 2015
Country of origin: Mongolia

Degrees held:
MA, Sustainable International Development
Brandeis University

Bachelor of Economics in Accounting
Institute of International Business and Economics, Mongolia

Research interests: Women’s studies, human rights, international development, social and cultural issues in community development

SGISD in a nutshell: I am really enjoying my time at SGISD. The program courses expand my knowledge of global social and development issues, including human rights, cultural competency, inclusive development, etc.   

Ideal job after graduation: Joining international development organizations, or becoming a researcher in academic or social fields

Fun fact: In the medical office, a nurse tries to pronounce my name, then asks where I'm from. I say: Mongolia. Nurse: Where is Mongolia? Me: In Asia. Nurse: Hmm, I didn’t know that. How did you come here to the US? Me: By horse. Nurse: Really!? Me: Yep.


Elena K. Taborda

PhD student Elena Taborda

Started program in: 2015
Country of origin: Russia (RSFSR, USSR)

Degrees held:
MEd, Administration of Higher Education
Suffolk University

MS, Management
Lasell College

BA, Romance and Germanic Philology
Ural State University, Russia

Research interests: International migration studies, international students, international education, globalization

SGISD in a nutshell: The program has changed my life. I am surrounded by so many like-minded people who come from such diverse backgrounds, and who all share the same very powerful dream: to make this world a better place! I feel so included, appreciated, and respected here. Our faculty is outstanding, and my peers are profoundly talented. I am lucky to be a part of this community!

Ideal job after graduation: Dean of international education, or director of university relations and workforce diversity

Fun fact: I used to be the lead singer in a rock band!


Callie Brusegaard

PhD student Callie Brusegaard

Started program in: 2014
Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MS, Special Education
MA, Teaching English as a Second Language
St. Cloud State University

Bachelor of Elective Science, Special Education
St. Cloud State University

Research interests: Improving access to inclusive education for children who are blind and visually impaired

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD has brought global issues to my doorstep, and has encouraged me to search for innovative solutions to those often complex and multifaceted problems.

Ideal job after graduation: Working with developing countries to help improve inclusive education through teacher preparation and international development.

Fun fact: In 8th grade, I participated in Odyssey of the Mind. Our team made it all the way to the World Finals. We won an award given to the teams with the most exceptionally creative solutions that embody risk-taking and out-of-the-box thinking.


April Jakubec

PhD student April Jakubec

Started program in: 2015
Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MS, Social Equality Studies
University College Dublin, Ireland

BA, Sociology
Arkansas Tech University

Research interests: Right to mental health; human rights-based approach to improve dignity in long-term mental health care for adults

SGISD in a nutshell: Being surrounded by others who have dedicated their lives to the inclusion of marginalized populations is a beautiful thing. SGISD is a unique space full of support and opportunities to explore your interests and create solutions—all under the umbrella of inclusion.

Ideal job after graduation: Consulting with NGOs serving adults with mental illnesses to implement a human rights approach to care, and someday to help develop national mental health policy.

Fun fact: I love to travel solo! My first backpacking trip changed my life as I explored 8 countries in 6 weeks all on my own. Now I’m hooked and try to travel solo at least once a year.


Kostas Koutsioumpas

UMass Boston PhD student Kostas Koutsioumpas

Started program in: 2014
Country of origin: Greece

Degrees held:
MS, Sports Therapy
Teesside University, UK

BS, Physical Education and Sports Science
Democritus University of Thrace, Greece

Research interests: Human rights-based approaches to sport and physical activity

SGISD in a nutshell: I’ve greatly valued learning from and interacting with students, not only from all over the world but from all walks of life. This interaction, in connection with the unique and diverse curriculum, has made me aware of the important knowledge that our communities hold towards issues of exclusion/inclusion and our responsibilities (as academics/scholars) towards them.

Ideal job after graduation: Running a nonprofit that provides a space for youth empowerment and social change through sports.

Fun fact: I make a great, very healthy Greek salad.


Lydia Landim

PhD student Lydia Landim

Started program in: 2015
Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MS, Global Studies and International Affairs
Northeastern University

BA, Cultural Anthropology
Bridgewater State University

Research interests: Rights of indigenous women; state implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); gender-based violence among indigenous populations; inclusion of women in peace-building processes and post-conflict reconstruction

SGISD in a nutshell: As part of both an interdisciplinary program and a diverse cohort, the opportunity to look at issues from various angles has been endless. Sussing out the complexities that enshroud every topic we cover continuously leads to robust and lengthy discussions.

Ideal job after graduation: Continued research that uses the CEDAW framework to look at how states are working towards substantive equality and protecting the rights of women. I also plan to start an NGO that monitors the implementation of the CEDAW in Cape Verde and hopefully, one day, the U.S.


Susan Telingator

PhD student Susan Telingator

Started program in: 2016
Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MA/MS, International Public Services Administration
DePaul University

BA, English
Barnard College, Columbia University

Research interests: Gender issues, specifically in Africa

SGISD in a nutshell: I was looking for a PhD program that would allow me to study gender issues in more depth. I came across the program from my connection to the Peace Corps. When I asked about professors with a gender specialty, I was given Professor Mnisi Weeks’ name and found out her specialty was the subject of my master’s thesis! It seemed like destiny.

Ideal job after graduation: I have a strong communications background and I want to pivot to full-time gender issues so anything in that area would be great!

Fun fact: I love all things African (I spent six years in Senegal and two in Namibia), and my African name is Aisha Sow.


Esther Kamau

PhD student Esther Kamau

Started program in: 2016
Country of origin: Kenya

Degrees held:
MA, Sustainable International Development
Brandeis University

Honors in Development Studies
University of South Africa

Research interests: Governance, human rights, and inclusion

SGISD in a nutshell: I’m enjoying learning with people with such different backgrounds, experience, expertise, and perspective from mine, which is helping me to look at things from different points of view. I love that the faculty are international/have international experience and have such a wealth of experience.

Ideal job after graduation: The first 5 to 7 years after graduation, I would like to work in an inter-governmental organization like the African Union, or a multilateral (World Bank or United Nations Development Programme). I would later like to bring this experience home and work for my government.

Fun fact: I participate in half marathons (21 kilometers) every year to raise funds for maternal and child health in Kenya.


Katherine Aronson-Ensign

PhD student Katherine Aronson-Ensign

Started program in: 2016
Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MA, Development, Management and Policy
Georgetown University and UNSAM (Argentina)

BA, International Affairs
Lewis and Clark College

Research interests: Refugee/internally displaced people issues, sport for peacebuilding

SGISD in a nutshell: The diverse student body and professors enrich all classes that teach us theory and practice on how to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

Ideal job after graduation: Working for an international organization focused on Sub-Saharan Africa and sport for peacebuilding.

Fun fact: I teach yoga and am a member of the November Project.


Marian Taylor Brown

PhD student Marian Taylor Brown

Started program in: 2016
Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
EdM, Arts in Education
Harvard University

BA, Studio Art
Colorado College

Research interests: Arts leadership in global education and health equity

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD’s trans-disciplinary approach to studying and building global inclusion allows students to investigate questions at a multitude of nexus points. This approach, along with the community here, made it a perfect home for the next iteration of this work!

Ideal job after graduation: Social entrepreneurship, teaching, and research, with a focus on arts-based practices for community mobilization, community-contextualized solutions, and community-innovation in the global inclusion movement. 

Fun fact: I am a former competitive skier and coach, having spent a decade of my life in Colorado (my jam was mogul skiing and aerials – aka I am a bit of an adrenaline seeker).


Barbara Knabe

PhD Student Barbara Knabe

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: Germany

Degrees held:
MS, Rehabilitation Counseling
University of Massachusetts Boston

MSc, Public Health Promotion
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Research interests: Global health promotion with a focus on mental health and inclusion, migrant and refugee health

SGISD in a nutshell: I was looking for a PhD program that allowed me draw on my background in public health and rehabilitation counseling. The program has been very flexible to cater to my needs, and the focus on inclusion and exclusion gave a perfect angle to my holistic public health approach.

Ideal job after graduation: Working part time as a mental health counselor and part time as a consultant designing public health/mental health programs that are holistic in approach.

Fun fact: To reduce stress, I like to listen and dance to Turkish/Arabic music.

MA Students, Global Inclusion and Social Development


Kristina Ayieko

MA student Kristina Ayieko

Started program in: 2017

Country of origin: Kenya

Research interests: Disability rights and access to employment in developing countries; nonprofit management.

SGISD in a nutshell: After graduating high school in 1991, I illustrated and designed book covers for AMECEA's (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa) Gaba Publications at their Eldoret, Kenya location. Interacting with people from different parts of the world and reading some of the issues they addressed in the books got me interested in global human rights issues. It was just a matter of time, and I believe SGISD is the right place for me to get involved in global human rights issues. 

Ideal job after graduation: I hope to be involved in policy and research with inter-governmental or private organizations working to champion human rights, especially rights of people with disabilities.

Fun fact: I like to listen to music and try out dances from all over the world.


Ashley B. Romero

MA student Ashley B. Romero

Started program in: 2017

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
BS, Geography
Southern Connecticut State University

Research interests: Applied sociology, development, economic mobility, health, policy

SGISD in a nutshell: The global, interdisciplinary approach to inclusivity and social development drew me to the SGISD program. Having a background in multiple disciplines, this program is the perfect match to combine my skills and experiences and gain new perspectives into working towards a career in research.

Ideal job after graduation: Working as a researcher for the UN or World Bank.

Fun fact: I love watching stand-up comedy.


Melissa Clouser

MA student Melissa Clouser

Started program in: 2017

Country of origin: USA

Research interests: Human rights, nonprofit management.

SGISD in a nutshell: I am attracted to the GISD program because I want to continue my work in global development and also expand my knowledge and experience in working with people with different life experiences.

Ideal job after graduation: Running a nonprofit art center where at-risk, underserved youth will create meaningful, powerful bodies of artwork and collaborate with professional artists to amplify their voices.

Fun fact: I served in the Peace Corps as an education volunteer in the Philippines from 2012 to 2014. I taught English at an elementary school, built a library, and ran trainings for my co-teachers.


Gabrielle Angevine

Started program in: 2017

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
BA, Government
Harvard University Extension School

Paralegal Certificate I and II
Westfield State University

Research interests: Human rights, restorative justice, criminal justice reform

SGISD in a nutshell: I have been interested in human rights since a series of trips to South Africa in the 1990s, and was drawn to the program to study the topic in greater depth and explore issues related to criminal justice reform and restorative justice within the greater context of human rights.

Ideal job after graduation: I think I would like to be involved in criminal justice reform at a nonprofit, and would love to teach.

Fun fact: In addition to running my own marketing consultancy company, I also am a freelance makeup artist, and enjoy helping brides look and feel their best on their wedding day.


Matt Annunziato

MA student Matt Annunziato

Started program in: 2016

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
BA, International Relations
University of Delaware

Research interests: Economic, social, and cultural rights; multidimensional inequality reduction; sustainable development; queer issues

SGISD in a nutshell: The program fits my needs exactly. I am able to specialize in my niche area of human rights while receiving interdisciplinary input from my colleagues and professors. You never lack support or holistic engagement of your interests at SGISD.

Ideal job after graduation: I would love to work for a human rights NGO or the UN, especially in economic and social rights advocacy and inequality reduction.

Fun fact: I have been a skier since I was 3 years old.


Ashley Stone

MA student Ashley Stone

Started program in: 2016
Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
BS, Recreation, Parks, and Leisure Administration
Central Michigan University

Research interests: Human rights, self-advocacy and public policy for transitional services for people with disabilities

SGISD in a nutshell: I was drawn to SGISD because of the diversity of the program and the transdisciplinary approach that is taken by staff and students to confront the leading causes of marginalization.

Ideal job after graduation: I have two different passions, both relating to public policy. One area is developing public policy that addresses human rights and access to transitional services for individuals with disabilities. The other regards access to clean drinking water, the impacts it has on an individual’s human rights and access to education, and related community health issues. I would love to work on putting practical solutions into place for either field.

Fun fact: I’ve walked across the Mackinac Bridge that connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan.


Nicole Ballou

MA student Nicole Ballou

Started program in: 2016
Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
Bachelor of Individualized Studies
University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Research interests: Human rights--genocide and crimes against humanity during conflict

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD has a commitment to values that are important to creating a more altruistic and authentic society. I believe the school will have a hand in making the world a more inclusive place.

Ideal job after graduation: I would like to work internationally as a behavioral health specialist providing social services to targeted and vulnerable populations--primarily those who have been victims of conflict and genocide and human trafficking.

Fun fact: I have extremely vivid dreams almost every night!


Abigail Green

MA student Abigail Green

Started program in: 2016
Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
BA, Writing, Literature, and Publishing
Emerson College

Research interests: Mental health, human rights, nonprofit work

SGISD in a nutshell: I have always been interested in nonprofit work as well as human rights, so I figured this program would be a great place to expand my knowledge and experience in those fields. I am excited to work with people from all over the world and learn as much as I can!

Ideal job after graduation: I would enjoy working for a nonprofit focused on mental health or human rights issues.

Fun fact: I played soccer for 15 years.