Team

S. Shankar Sastry
Faculty Director

S. Shankar Sastry is Faculty Director of the Blum Center for Developing Economies, the Thomas Siebel Professor of Computer Science, and Co-Director of the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute. He is also the Faculty Director of the FHL Vive Center for Enhanced Reality. He has faculty appointments in UC Berkeley’s Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, Bioengineering, and Mechanical Engineering. From 2007 to 2018, he was the Dean and Roy W. Carlson Professor of the College of Engineering. From 2004 to 2007, he was Director of CITRIS (Center for Information Technology in the Interests of Society), an interdisciplinary center spanning UC Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz. From 2001 to 2o04, he served as Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. From 1999 to 2001, he was Director of the Information Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). His areas of research are AI and machine learning, resilient cyber physical systems, mechanism design and incentive theory for the digital transformation system of complex societal systems networks, cybersecurity, autonomous robotic vehicles and robots, computer vision, nonlinear and adaptive control, and control of hybrid and embedded systems. From 2006 to 2017,  he led the 10-year NSF Science and Technology Center (with multi-university partners) TRUST (Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technologies), and its successor center, FORCES (Foundations of Resilient Cyber Physical Systems).

(510) 642-5771 | sastry@coe.berkele

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 is an Affiliated Faculty member of  the Haas School of Business, the Energy Resources Group, Women and Gender Studies, and Studies in Science, Engineering and Mathematics Education (SESAME). She has served in a number of 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 | agogino@berkeley.edu

Daniel Fletcher
Chief Technologist

Daniel Fletcher is Chief Technologist of the Blum Center,  Faculty Director of the Big Ideas Contest, Purnendu Chatterjee Chair in Engineering Biological Systems, and a Faculty Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Between 2015 and 2019, he served as Chair of the Bioengineering Department. 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. He is currently serving as Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator. 

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 | mmccormick@berkeley.edu

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 | gkhoury@berkeley.edu

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 | tstraus@berkeley.edu

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 | cchowdhry@berkeley.edu

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 | pdenny@berkeley.edu

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.

dzombak@berkeley.edu

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). pyael@berkeley.edu
Syreen Ponferrada
Program Support Manager

Syreen Ponferrada is a Program Support Manager for the Blum Center, the Big Ideas Contest, and the AMENA Center. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 2017 with a BS in Nutritional Sciences: Physiology and Metabolism. Previously, she worked as a Financial Analyst Assistant at the Institute for Business Innovation at the Haas School of Business and, following graduation, as the Institute’s Program Coordinator. At Cal, she was an active member of multiple Pilipinx-American organizations, helping to spread awareness of Filipino culture, and supported first-generation immigrant students like herself. Growing up in the Philippines and having attended college in the United States, she is a student of the differences between underdeveloped and developed countries and hopes to give back to her Philippine community through economic development. 

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. 

Students

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 Chess.com 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

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
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.

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.


Judah Marsden
Judah Marsden
Videographer
Judah Marsden is a junior at UC Berkeley in the College of Letters and Sciences. He grew up in Madrid, Spain and later Silicon Valley, where he completed an extensive array of video 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 and action about climate change.
 
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.

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.

Nathan Muldrow
Web Developer

Nathan is a senior completing a custom major in UC Berkeley’s Interdisciplinary Studies Field, focusing broadly on technology’s role in personalized healthcare. He grew up with nine siblings in Houston, Texas, and made the move to the Bay Area after acceptance to Cal. Outside of school he enjoys watching music production tutorials on YouTube, and finding cheap international flights.

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.

Sara Siddiqui
Web Design & Content Manager

Sara is a second-year studying Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. She is passionate about web development and has garnered technical experience through her involvement in several student organizations here at UC Berkeley. Currently, she assists Dr. Yael Perez in developing the InFEWS website and is excited to learn more about the phenomenal programs hosted by the Blum Center.  

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.

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Design by Joseph Kim