S. Shankar Sastry
Faculty Director

S. Shankar Sastry is the NEC Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. He also holds faculty appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering. He was formerly the Director of CITRIS (Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society) and the Banatao Institute @ CITRIS Berkeley. In 2000, he served as Director of the Information Technology Office at DARPA. From 1996-1999, he was the Director of the Electronics Research Laboratory at Berkeley, an organized research unit on the Berkeley campus conducting research in computer sciences and all aspects of electrical engineering. Prior to joining the EECS faculty in 1983 he was a professor at MIT.

(510) 642-5771 |

Alice M. Agogino
Education Director

Alice M. Agogino is the Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering and serves as the Chair of the Graduate Group in Development Engineering and Education Director of the Blum Center for Developing Regions.  Agogino has served in a number of other administrative positions including Chair of the UC Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate, Associate Dean of Engineering and Director of the Instructional Technology Program. She also served as Director for the Synthesis Engineering Education Coalition and continues as PI for theDesignExchange educational portal. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and has served on a number of committees of the National Academies, including the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine.  With over 280 peer-reviewed publications, Agogino has supervised 157 MS projects/theses, 50 doctoral dissertations and numerous undergraduate researchers. She has won numerous teaching, best paper and research awards, including 2017 ASME Design Theory and Methodology Award, 2015 ASME Ruth and Joel Spira Outstanding Design Educator Award “, AAAS Lifetime Mentoring Award, 2013; Pi Tau Sigma Professor of the Year, 2011; Chancellor’s Community Service Award, 2010; Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring, 2007.

(510) 642-6450 |

Maryanne McCormick
Executive Director

Maryanne McCormick is the Executive Director of the Blum Center and the Executive Director of the Big Ideas@Berkeley initiative. In that capacity, she is responsible for the strategic vision and overall operation of these multidisciplinary, multi-campus research and education efforts. In addition, she is Special Advisor at the Development Impact Lab, a global consortium of research institutes, non-governmental organizations, and industry partners, headquartered at UC Berkeley, committed to advancing international development through science and technology innovations. She holds an academic appointment at Berkeley Law School. Prior to joining UC Berkeley, she spent a decade in Washington, DC, serving on the staff of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, as advisor at the Federal Communications Commission, and as public policy manager for Corning Incorporated. McCormick has a JD from Catholic University, graduating first in the class, an MBA from George Washington University, and a BA from the College of the Holy Cross. She is a member of the California Bar.

(510) 847-6851 |

Gladys Khoury
Director of Finance

Gladys Khoury directs all financial aspects of the Blum Center including accounting practices, budgeting, financial planning, financial analysis, and monitoring of financial performance. From 2006 through 2009, Khoury was a Senior Research Administrator and Program Manager for the TRUST Center in UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering. From 2001 through 2006, she was Senior Contracts and Grants Officer, at UC Berkeley’s Controller’s Office, and from 1989 through 2001 she was Controller and Office Manager for California Engineering in San Francisco. Gladys holds an MBA in Finance, with a BA in Accounting and Finance from the University of California, Berkeley. She is also an active member with the California Association of Realtors as a Real Estate Broker licensed by the state of California.

(510) 664-4880 |

Tamara Straus
Communications Director

Tamara Straus is Communications Director at the Blum Center. She has over a decade of experience covering development and innovation, having previously served as senior editor of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and a consultant for The Bridgespan Group, D-Rev, California Emerging Technology Fund, No Means No Worldwide, FUSE Corps and other nonprofits. Tamara’s first career was in newspaper and literary editing at the San Francisco Chronicle, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Farrar, Straus & Giroux. She has written for Quartz, Mother Jones, the New Republic, The Nation and California Magazine, and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international studies and literature from Columbia University.

Chetan Chowdhry
Director of Student Programs

Chetan Chowdhry manages and serves as the Lead Academic Advisor for the Global Poverty & Practice Minor. Prior to joining the Blum Center team, Chetan served as a Graduate Coordinator with the University of Maryland Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy Office. He holds a Master’s degree in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Environmental Analysis & Design from UC Irvine.

(510) 664-4423 |

Phillip Denny
Phillip Denny
Director, Big Ideas Contest

Phillip Denny serves as the Senior Program Director of the Blum Center for Developing Economies, a position he assumed shortly after the Center was established in March 2006. He manages the Big Ideas Contest–one of the oldest and most respected student innovation competitions in California. In this capacity, he has encouraged and supported approximately 1,400 interdisciplinary teams to develop creative solutions to today’s most pressing social challenges. Under Phillip’s direction, the Big Ideas Contest has helped secure millions of dollars in seed funding for student start-ups, expanded the contest to 18 campuses, and recruited over 1,000 industry, government and non-profit experts to judge ideas and mentor participants. He has also been integral in developing key partnerships across academia, private sector organizations, and entrepreneurship networks to strengthen social innovation initiatives on campus. As recognition for his leadership of Big Ideas, he received UC Berkeley’s Chancellor’s Outstanding Staff Award in 2015. Prior to joining the Center, Denny held leadership roles in multiple successful grass-roots and political campaigns, specializing in research and communications strategies for both candidates and organizations.

(510) 666-9120 |

Dani Bicknell
Program Manager, Big Ideas Contest

Dani Bicknell joined Big Ideas in 2018, and currently serves as a program manager for the Big Ideas Contest. Overall, she has a decade of work experience in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. She obtained her Masters in International Development and Education from the University of Pennsylvania, where she focused on international development, social entrepreneurship, and gender mainstreaming. Prior to her current capacity at the Blum Center, Dani started her own consultancy, advising startups and organizations locally and internationally; in operations, project management, and informal education. In addition, she was a programme specialist in the Division for Gender Equality, at UNESCO, and prior to that she was a founding member of LendUp, where she created and scaled the financial education and social impact departments. Dani has consulted and collaborated in many different countries but has worked primarily in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and Europe. 

Francis Gonzales
Network Manager, Big Ideas Contest

Francis Gonzales is the Network Manager for the Big Ideas Contest at the Blum Center and is primarily responsible for building the network of judges and mentors. He graduated with Honors from Brown University’s International Development Studies program where he focused on global health. Prior to working at the Blum Center, Francis worked at the intersection of global health, mobile technology, and social impact at the United Nations Foundation, Vital Wave Consulting, and Population Services International.

Rachel Dzombak
Innovation Fellow

Dr. Rachel Dzombak is an Innovation Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. She researches methods for interdisciplinary collaboration in higher education and teaches classes and workshops on how to use design and systems thinking to address critical societal issues. Rachel holds a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation work in conjunction with the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability focused on the roles of product design, remanufacturing, and reverse logistics in enabling sustainable supply chain decisions. Rachel also holds a BS from Penn State University in Bioengineering. While at Penn State, Rachel co-founded a company in Nyeri, Kenya that introduced preventative health services in rural communities. She also led the editing team for a book Solving Problems that Matter (and Getting Paid for It!) that helps students navigate impact-driven career paths.

Yael Perez
Research Fellow

Yael Perez is a Research Fellow at the Blum Center and the InFEWS Program Coordinator. She holds a PhD in Architecture from the UC Berkeley. Her scholarship focuses on co-design methodologies and technologies to support and empower communities and design practitioners in fostering sustainable development. Currently, she leads the Blum Review on Development Impact, a repository of Development Engineering case studies. For over a decade, she has been collaboratively leading CARES—Community Assessment of Renewable Energy and Sustainability—a team of UC Berkeley faculty and students working with Native American Citizens in their pursuit of sustainable development. Before joining the Blum Center, she was a visiting scholar at IIT Mandi (India). 

Chloe Gregori
Innovation Program Coordinator

Chloe Gregori serves as the Innovation Program Coordinator where she supports The Blum Center’s  innovation support ecosystem through designing and implementing both new and existing student and faculty facing programs. She also serves as an advisor for the Global Poverty & Practice Minor. Chloe graduated from UC Berkeley in 2016 with a degree in Peace & Conflict Studies and minor in Global Poverty and Practice. During her undergrad, she focused on anti-trafficking advocacy and served as the Minh Dang Fellow for Human Rights at the UC Public Service Center. 

Lisa Bauer
Program Outreach and Development Manager

Lisa Bauer joined the Blum Center in 2018 and serves as Program ManagerShe recently received her MA in International Development Studies from The Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, where she focused on gender and program management. Lisa has conducted extensive international development work, with field experience in Myanmar, Vietnam, Nepal, India, Nicaragua and Mexico. Prior to joining the Blum Center, Lisa was a consultant at Winrock International for a USAID/Burma project, where she analyzed the efficacy of multiple rural agricultural extension models. Lisa has also conducted extensive research on food security, social inclusion and governance at The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the World Resources Institute.  Additionally, Lisa served in Peace Corps/Nepal as a food security volunteer under the Feed the Future initiative. Following her undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley, she spent 27 months working on rural agricultural development and health in the foothills of the Himalayas.


Each semester, the Blum Center is fortunate to work with many talented students at UC Berkeley. Since the Center began in 2006, we’ve supported over 250 graduate students and 90 undergraduate students — who’ve worked with us as researchers, instructors, designers, writers, peer advisors and office assistants. We are grateful to all the students who have chosen to work with us in Blum Hall.

Graduate Students

Nicole Rangel
Graduate Student Researcher

Nicole Rangel is an educator and Ph.D. candidate in Social and Cultural Studies of Education at UC Berkeley and is conducting research on project-based learning at the Blum Center. Nicole is an interdisciplinary scholar whose past research brought together theories of decolonization and play in order to generate more holistic approaches to education.  She holds a master’s in sociology from San Diego State University and is currently a David P. Gardner Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Center for Studies of Higher Education. Nicole’s dissertation explores how academic freedom is valued and practiced at two U.S. “public-ivy” schools. Using a comparative case study approach, her work draws on various data sources including in-depth interviews with public intellectuals and critical discourse analysis, and aims to elucidate ways of reinforcing the academy’s connection to, and responsibility for the public that it is tasked to serve.

Victor Korir
Graduate Student, Web Developer/Designer

Born and raised in Kenya, Victor has grown to develop a strong sense of community. While his background has trained him to interact with people from different backgrounds, he has also developed a sense of independence and learned to hold strong opinions about his beliefs and passions. He enjoys using software to make positive impact and develop new products. For this reason, ever since he wrote his first line of code in his freshman year at Cal, he’s developed a strong passion for programming and software development that pushes him to expand his knowledge in these fields. He is a champion of software development, from front to back-end, database and API design, performance and optimization, AI and machine learning. Victor is also a passionate chess player who would prefer to spend long hours on than watching movies.You could also find him running or bowling on the weekends.

Mimi Kaplan
Graduate Student

Mimi Kaplan is the Sustainable Design Research Fellow advising on circular economy and environmental responsibility metrics for the Big Ideas Contest. Mimi is 1st year student in the Goldman School of Public Policy where she is focusing on California water policy. She received her undergraduate degree from Columbia University where she studied Sustainable Development. She subsequently worked in Jerusalem as a Fellow at the Milken Innovation Center, and the Middle East Office of the Quartet’s project group, Shurook. In these positions, she utilized the tools of systems thinking and life-cycle assessment to develop and implement environmentally and financially sustainable small-scale water capture, treatment and reuse systems.

Undergraduate Students

Divya Nekkanti
Web Developer/Designer

Divya is a junior at Berkeley studying EECS with a minor in GPP. She’s incredibly passionate about leveraging computer science and product design in development to make technology more accessible around the world. Divya also serves as a Director of Design at SkyDeck, Berkeley’s startup accelerator, and as the VP of Development in Venture Strategy Solutions, Cal’s first startup consulting group. Last year, she was a 3rd place finalist in Blum’s Big Ideas competition, working on a product that simulates advising relationships and provides real time recommendations for food insecure students with varying levels of need. In her free time, she loves redesigning products, writing album reviews, and playing golf.

Joseph Kim
Web Developer/Designer

Joseph joined the Blum Center as a student Web Developer and Designer in May 2017 as a sophomore. Joseph was initially brought onto the team to maintain and regularly update the current Blum Center website, but has since completed a full site overhaul and redesign, and is currently centralizing the Blum Center’s satellite websites. Joseph is an Interdisciplinary Studies Field major with interests in ethical leadership, politics, and communications. Joseph is also currently working as a Teaching Assistant for UGBA 155: Leadership. He loves his church fellowship Passion Livingwater, playing guitar, and the Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition trilogy.

Jemma Kwak
Design Assistant

Jemma Kwak is a current junior at UC Berkeley studying Psychology. She currently assists the Blum Center as a graphic design student assistant. On campus, she is largely involved in the design community and design roles. She serves as director of operations at Berkeley Innovation, UC Berkeley’s human-centered design consultancy, where she was previously a consultant. She also teaches CS 98/198, UC Berkeley’s frontend web design and development course and designs for BerkeleyTime, UC Berkeley’s online course catalog. Previously, she’s designed for EthiCAL Apparel, Innovative Design, and Asian American Association. She’s incredibly excited to use her skills at the Blum Center! Jemma is passionate about accessible design, eating good food, and listening to curated playlists on Spotfiy.

Paris Leann Viloria
Program Assistant, Global Poverty & Practice Minor

A Los Angeles native, Paris Viloria is a current freshman at UC Berkeley intending on majoring in economics. In addition to economics, she is interested in philosophy, international relations, development, and political science. In her free time, Paris enjoys exploring the outdoors, playing the flute and badminton, finding new music to listen to, spending time with friends and family, and finding the best burritos and tacos in Berkeley.

Veena Narashiman
Communications Assistant

Veena Narashiman is a junior Mechanical Engineering student also minoring in the GPP program. Once discouraged by the lack of humanities classes in her technical curriculum, writing articles for the Blum Center has allowed her to apply her technical knowledge to several development projects, as well as to learn more about the ingenuity of Blum projects. Serving as the current President of the Engineering Student Council, she is extremely passionate about engineering’s scope to better lives, and the inter-disciplinary teams required to do so. In her free time, you can find her watching The Office or enjoying a bowl of gelato.  

Judah Marsden

Judah Marsden is a freshman at UC Berkeley in the College of Letters and Science. He grew up in Madrid, Spain and later Silicon Valley where he completed an extensive array of video production work with entities such as NASA TV UHD. Judah is interested in studying how artistic visual representation can be applied to the sciences to improve education about outer space. 

Simone Matecna
Database Management Assistant

Simone is a rising 4th year from Sacramento pursuing a joint degree in Economics and Peace and Conflict studies. While interning at a research organization in Chile, she became interested in how power structures affect people’s ability to access legal defense in different countries, particularly in Latin America. After receiving her degree, she wants to continue to graduate school to further understand how to represent those that have been displaced from their countries due to violence and corruption. As part of her growing interest in research, Simone works with various data management tools both at the Blum Center and the I-House. She’s happy to be the Blum Center’s Salesforce Coordinator, where she can do her part to help streamline the Big Ideas data.

Ruby Chen
Design Assistant

Ruby studies Sustainable Environmental Design and Media Studies, and harbors a passion for visual communication and graphic design. Having grown up in five different countries throughout her lifetime, she loves the distinct character of each global city she travels to and seeks to create a more sustainable, culturally conscious, and visually rich future for the world. She is currently pursuing the Certificate in Design Innovation at the Jacobs Institute.

Nawal Seedat
Program Assistant, Global Poverty & Practice Minor

Nawal Seedat is a sophomore pursuing a double major in Political Science with a focus on International Relations and South and Southeast Asian Studies. She is currently an intern for the 1947 Partition Archive, where she collects stories from witnesses in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh –– translating and editing those stories for Stanford University’s Library collection. She is particularly interested in migration patterns and development projects that help uplift communities out of poverty in the subcontinent. In her free time, she loves swimming, painting Arabic calligraphy, and rereading Khaled Hosseini books.

Connie Mi
Design Assistant

Connie Mi is currently a freshman studying Engineering Math and Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley. Despite her passion for math and science, she also enjoys graphic design. She has previously worked as a marketing, graphic design, and social media intern for Various Views Research and CMO Axis, and she hopes to continue expanding her interests in this field. When she’s not involved in a design project, Connie enjoys going to art museums, hiking, and exploring restaurants. 

Elizabeth Zhou
Design Assistant, Big Ideas Contest

Elizabeth is a currently a senior studying Economics and assists the Blum Center as a Designer for the Big Ideas Contest. She initially picked up graphic design as a hobby, but has since grown to love how expressive and communicative design can be. As one of the current presidents of Innovative Design, Elizabeth is passionate about spreading design education on campus and providing those interested in the field the resources they need to succeed. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new places, listening to music, and finding the best cold brew out there.

© 2019 Blum Center for Developing Economies

Design by Joseph Kim