UMass Boston

Center Staff

Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy Staff

Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson Director 617.287.5554
Christa Kelleher Research and Policy Director 617.287.5530
Muna Killingback Assistant Program Director 617.287.5530




Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson, Director

Education: PhD, Brandeis University; MPH, Yale University; MA and BA, Brandeis University

Areas of Expertise: Intersectionality • Social and Health Policy • Diversity • Equity and Inclusion

Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson is the director for the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston, and graduate program director for the Gender, Leadership and Public Policy graduate certificate program. In 2018 she was a Visiting Professor in the same program. She has held faculty and senior scientist positions at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, where she was affiliated with the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy, the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, and the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy.

In prior academic roles, Nsiah-Jefferson has headed efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Heller School, and was the concentration head for women, gender, and sexuality studies for the Master's in Public Policy Program. Nsiah-Jefferson has served as affiliate faculty with the Health, Science, Society and Policy Program, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Program, and the African and Afro-American Studies Department at Brandeis University. She is also an affiliate of the Intersectionality Institute for Policy and Research, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia. She was recently appointed associate research professor at the University of North Carolina, College of Health and Human Services.

Nsiah-Jefferson earned a PhD in social policy with a concentration in Health Policy/ Health Services from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, and a master’s in women and gender studies from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Brandeis University. She also received a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) degree in Health Services Administration from Yale University School of Medicine, Dept. of Epidemiology and Public Health. In addition, she holds a BA in African and Afro-American studies and politics from Brandeis University.

Read Professor Nsiah-Jefferson's complete biography here.

Christa Kelleher


Christa Kelleher, Research and Policy Director

Education: PhD, Sociology, Brandeis University MA, Sociology and Women’s Studies, Brandeis University

Areas of Expertise: Public policy development and analysis; women’s political representation and leadership; women’s health and reproductive rights, state government, Massachusetts politics.

Christa conducts research on public leadership, with an emphasis on women of color, and policy issues related to women’s economic security. Among other projects, she has directed studies on women’s economic status, the midwifery workforce, and women in construction. Recent projects have examined gender parity in higher education leadership, the early care, and education workforce, and pay equity. In 2002, Kelleher began teaching in the center’s graduate certificate program in Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy. Her positions in academic, nonprofit, and government settings include teaching at Brandeis, Pine Manor College, and Tufts; work on political campaigns; public service in the Massachusetts State Senate; and board roles in nonprofit advocacy organizations. Christa earned her BA in Political Science from Union College, and an MA in Sociology/Women’s Studies and PhD in Sociology from Brandeis University.


Muna Killingback

Education: MPA, International Relations, University of Massachusetts Boston; Graduate Certificate in Human Rights, UMass Boston; BA, English and Journalism, Douglass College of Rutgers University

Areas of Expertise: Women's rights, human rights, non-governmental and nonprofit organizations, feminist peacebuilding, faith-based and NGO advocacy'

Muna Killingback joined the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy with many years of experience advocating for and writing about women's and human rights, peace, and social and economic justice issues. At CWPPP, she works with the Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy graduate programs, oversees communications, and assists with fund development. Formerly at the Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters at UMass Boston, she had previously served as Executive Director of the Cambridge-based nonprofit organization, WomenExplore (formerly Theological Opportunities Program). She is a former director of communications for the World YWCA, headquarters of the global women's movement in Geneva, where she had been one of its first-ever Young Women Interns. As a freelance writer and editor, she specialized in the work and communications needs of nonprofit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including grant writing. She continues to be active in the World YWCA network and serves on YW Boston's Advocacy Committee, UMass Boston's Restorative Justice Commission (RJC), and the Professional Staff Union's Committee on Racial Equity (CORE). Muna completed the Human Rights Graduate Certificate in the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development at UMass Boston in 2019. She is currently a third-year doctoral student in the Global Governance and Human Security PhD program, based at UMass Boston's McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies where her research is focused on the feminist peacebuilding work of women's NGOs and faith-based organizations.

Research Associates and Assistants

Violet Acumo, Research Assistant

Violet Acumo is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She earned a Master of Public Policy degree and a specialization in Gender, Justice, and Environmental Change from Michigan State University. She also holds a first-class honors degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Makerere University Kampala. Violet is a member of the Michigan State University Research Consortium on Gender-Based Violence and has worked in Uganda, Nigeria, and the United States on gender and policy-related projects. She is passionate about gender-centered, policy-oriented research and international development.

Ciyana Smith, Research Assistant

Ciyana Smith is an alumna of and research assistant at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She holds her B.S. in Biology and plans to continue her education in a doctoral program that focuses on maternal and child health. As a certified pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care Doula supporting families across Boston, Ciyana passionately hopes to empower women through knowledge of self, promote healthy birth outcomes, positive birth experiences, and birth equity.

Angesom Teklu, Research Assistant

Angesom Teklu is a graduate student in the Department of Public Policy at UMass Boston. Angesom also holds an M.A. in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University. He is passionate about the research, design, and strengthening of evidence-based policy solutions that impact public policy through collaborations with local, national, and global communities. Prior to graduate school, Angesom worked as a practitioner, helping community organizations design and implement programs that add value to community members, specifically in capacity building, civic engagement, workforce, and organizational development. His current research interests are in immigration policy and local communities’ engagement to improve policy and action.

Emma Tynan, Research Assistant

Emma Tynan is a PhD student in the public policy doctoral program. Before coming to UMass Boston, Emma earned her BA in public policy from Hamilton College in 2020. Her primary research interest is education policy, with a focus on equity of both opportunity and funding for disadvantaged students. She is particularly interested in the transition period between high school and college. Her research assistantships at UMass Boston have given her the opportunity to study several topics within the field of education policy such as student/parent activism and unequal access to high-level math courses in public schools. As a graduate assistant at the center, she is currently working on a project studying representation and diversity in the highest levels of the healthcare sector. 


Research Associates and Graduate Assistants

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Beimnet Kebede

Beimnet Kebede is a dedicated and passionate Ph.D. student pursuing his doctoral studies in public policy at the prestigious University of Massachusetts Boston. Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Beimnet’s early exposure to socio-economic disparities and community challenges ignited his interest in public policy as a tool for positive change. Beimnet earned his bachelor's degree from St. John’s College and his master's from Lehigh University, where he demonstrated exceptional academic prowess and a keen interest in understanding the intricate dynamics of policy formulation and implementation. 


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Danny Munoz

Proudly hailing from the vibrant city of Boston, Massachusetts, Danny Munoz is a compassionate and community-driven individual dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of others.

Born in Boston, MA, and raised in the city's heart, Danny's journey has been deeply rooted in Boston's culture and diversity. Growing up in the Boston Public School (BPS) system, he developed a solid connection to his community and an unwavering commitment to giving back. He is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in English (BA) at the University of Massachusetts – Boston.


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Jada Knight

Jada Knight (she/her) is the Communications and Programs Assistant at the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, and a sophomore undergraduate student at UMass Boston. Originally from Michigan, Jada was heavily involved in local and statewide student-power, education justice and gun violence prevention work. She currently serves as Digital Director and Research Team Lead of No Future Without Today, a student-led gun violence prevention organization out of Oxford, Michigan. In addition, Jada is an intern with MASSPIRG, a student activism group at UMass Boston, with her work primarily focused on protecting the environment and registering students to vote. Jada is passionate about empowering young people and those with marginalized identities to get involved in governmental and societal processes to ensure their decisions and experiences are central in policymaking.


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Fatima Akter

Fatima Akter (she/her) is a Communications and Program Assistant at the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, and a junior undergraduate student at UMass Boston studying International Relations. She was born in Bangladesh but grew up in Cambridge where she was involved in community outreach for the City of Cambridge. She was formerly a Program Assistant working at Harvard University’s Science and Engineering School where she oversaw communications as well as managing their social media pages. Fatima is passionate about increasing resources for immigrants and low-income families.


Opportunities at CWPPP for Students

Download the flyer about CWPPP opportunities for undergraduate students.