S. Shankar Sastry
Faculty Director

S. Shankar Sastry is Faculty Director of the Blum Center for Developing Economies and 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 Education Director of the Blum Center, Chair of its Graduate Group in Development Engineering, and the Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering. She 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 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, 2013 AAAS Lifetime Mentoring Award, 2011 Pi Tau Sigma Professor of the Year, 2010 Chancellor’s Community Service Award, and the 2007 Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring.

(510) 642-6450 |

Dan Fletcher
Chief Technologist

Daniel Fletcher is Chief Technologist of the Blum Center and Faculty Director of the Big Ideas competition. He is Chair of UC Berkeley’s Bioengineering Department, where he serves as Purnendu Chatterjee Chair in Engineering Biological Systems and a Faculty Scientist. He is additionally a Faculty Scientist and Deputy Division Director of the Physical Biosciences Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. His research focuses on the biophysics of cell movements and the cytoskeleton and development of biomedical devices, specifically for developing regions. He received a DPhil from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. His research has received an NSF CAREER Award, a National Inventors Hall of Fame Collegiate Award, and was designated “Best of What’s New” by Popular Science magazine. In 2010, he won the Bioengineering Teaching Award for Outstanding Instructor in the Bioengineering Honor Society. 

Brad DeLong
Chief Economist

Bradford DeLong is Chief Economist of the Blum Center, a Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, and as a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He served in the U.S. government as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy from 1993 to 1995. Before joining the Treasury Department, he was Danziger Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. He is a prolific writer of academic papers, books, and blogs on economic history, macroeconomics, economic growth, and finance. He earned his PhD in Economics from Harvard University.

Maryanne McCormick
Executive Director

Maryanne McCormick is the Executive Director of the Blum Center and the Executive Director of the Big Ideas student innovation competition. 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
Director of Partnerships & Communications

Tamara Straus directs partnerships and communications at the Blum Center. She has over a decade of experience in development and social 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 and social enterprises. Tamara’s first career was in newspaper and literary publishing 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.

510-664-4447 |

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 2,500 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 1,500 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 |

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).

Siddarth Kara
Research Fellow

Siddharth Kara is a research fellow at the Blum Center and the author of three books on modern slavery: Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery (co-winner of the 2010 Frederick Douglass Award); Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia; and Modern Slavery: A Global Perspective. He advises the United Nations, International Labour Organisation, several governments, and charitable foundations on anti-slavery efforts. He holds a UK law degree, a MBA from Columbia University, and a BA from Duke University. 


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

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

Karina Nguyen
Web Developer & Design Manager

Karina is a first-generation sophomore at UC Berkeley, majoring in Data Science, English, and Computer Science (minor). She is interested in creative and ethical applications of emerging technologies for a positive impact on society. Growing up in Ukraine with her Vietnamese family empowered her to constantly advocate for diversity and inclusion. Her approach for advocacy is passionately expressed through her writing and design work. On campus, she is the Director of Operations for Blueprint and Graphic Designer at the Daily Californian. In her free time, she loves collaborating with others on cool initiatives, practicing latte art, and exploring local shops. 

Connie Mi
Design Assistant

Connie is currently a sophomore studying Engineering Math and Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley. 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. Connie currently serves as the Internal Vice President of the Engineering Student Council, and she is dedicated to improving the lives of the engineering student body. When she’s not involved in a design project, Connie enjoys going to art museums, hiking, and exploring new cuisines.

Kiana Aryan
Design Assistant

Kiana is a senior double majoring in Linguistics and Cognitive Science, and works with the Blum Center as a Design Assistant for Big Ideas. Kiana has been involved in the design community since her freshman year of college, and also serves as a student instructor for one of the design decals offered by Innovative Design. Beyond design, Kiana is also passionate about social good and is excited to work with the Blum Center to help contribute to its mission. In her free time, Kiana loves reading, baking (cakes, cookies, you name it), and exploring Berkeley coffee shops!

Ruby Chen
Design Associate
Spencer Hamilton
Web Designer, Big Ideas

Spencer joined the Blum Center to help redesign the Big Ideas website. Initially from Southern California, Spencer came to UC Berkeley to study Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. He has a passion for the collaborative process involved in working on projects and believes technology is best used as a tool of empowerment. His interests beyond his major include reading, swimming, and rock climbing.

Pranavi Javangula
Research Associate

Pranavi is currently a junior studying Cognitive Science and pursuing the Berkeley Certificate in Design Innovation. She assists Innovation Fellow Rachel Dzombak in research methods for interdisciplinary collaboration in higher education using design thinking. She is currently working on a project to build an instructor toolkit to help teachers in project-based classes seamlessly implement design-thinking principles into their practice. Pranavi is interested in the intersection between design, education, and business. In her free time, she enjoys eating Asian food, reading books about behavioral economics, and making Youtube videos with her friends!

Jason Liu
Research Associate

Jason is a sophomore majoring in Political Science and Economics at UC Berkeley and currently assists Dr. Yael Perez with developing case studies surrounding development engineering projects in rural India. He sees his time at the Blum Center as the perfect opportunity to learn more about how policies surrounding developmental aid need to be situated within the local socio-economic landscape. He hopes to use this knowledge in the future to direct policy around issues such as climate refugees, international governance, and economic development. Beyond the Blum Center, Jason is very active within the Model UN, tennis, and study abroad community.

Paris Leann Viloria
Administrative Associate

Paris is a sophomore from Los Angeles intending on majoring in Political Economy. She is interested in philosophy, international relations, development, and political science. In her spare time, she enjoys picking up new hobbies, going on road trips and concerts, exploring museums and the outdoors, and finding new music to listen to.

Ally Mintzer
Administrative Associate

Ally is a current freshman and hopes to study economics & political science. She is passionate about economic and social equality, and hopes to pursue a career that addresses these disciplines. She previously interned for a judge, and would love to join various law and economic groups here on campus. In her free time, Ally loves to play beach volleyball, listen to economic & political podcasts, and go thrift shopping with friends.

Veena Narashiman
Communications Assistant

Veena is a senior Mechanical Engineering student minoring in the GPP program. Once discouraged by the lack of humanities classes in her technical curriculum, she joined the Blum Center writing staff to apply her technical knowledge to several development startups, as well as to learn more about the ingenuity of Blum projects. Veena is extremely optimistic about engineering’s scope to better lives, and the inter-disciplinary teams required to rise up to the task.

Emily Denny
Communications Associate

Emily is a senior pursuing a dual degree in English and Society & Environment. She is passionate about the intersection of journalism and social justice, and she enjoys writing about the Big Ideas teams in order to best portray how their ideas instigate social good. She has experience with various environmental non-profits and is currently the Fall Blog Editor for The Daily Californian. In her free time, she loves to run and spends as much time as possible outdoors.

Dalia Elkhalifa
Communications Assistant

Dalia is a rising senior majoring in Political Economy with a concentration in International Development and Global Inequality. She is particularly interested in studying developing economies and was drawn to this major because of its multidisciplinary approach to complex global affairs. Growing up in a diaspora community, Dalia has always been acutely aware of power dynamics and power struggles between and within countries. As a communications associate at the Blum Center, she is able to engage with her passions surrounding world issues in a new and exciting way!

Nawal Seedat
Program Assistant, Global Poverty & Practice Minor

Nawal is a junior, pursuing a double major in Political Science with a focus on International Relations and South and Southeast Asian Studies. She is the Editor-in-Chief of threads, a student-produced magazine which aims to provide a creative outlet for the Cal Muslim Community. She previously worked as a Digital Content Editor for the 1947 Partition Archive, documenting stories from the Partition of India. 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.

© 2020 Blum Center for Developing Economies

Design by Joseph Kim