Johns Hopkins University’s Advanced Academic Programs division recently recognized an accomplished group of students, chosen by faculty to receive awards for their high-quality capstone projects, theses, and other work during the 2022-2023 academic year.

2023 Advanced Academic Programs Student AwardsEach year, AAP faculty recognize a select group of students with Outstanding Capstone, Outstanding Thesis, and Outstanding Student awards. This year, one former student received an Outstanding Alumni award. The awards reflect exceptional work on topics that ranged from creating safer online communities to a proposal for the passage of a domestic workers Bill of Rights.

The award winners for 2023, by center or program, were:

Center for Data Analytics, Policy, and Government

Erica Mindel received the Seidman Award for Outstanding Capstone in Public Management, which each year is given to a student whose capstone presents a superior policy or management solution to a significant public policy or administrative problem. Mindel’s capstone proposed new legislation to require social media sites to comply with their own terms of use agreements, thereby creating safer online communities and reducing the rate of online radicalization and extremism.

David Cox won the William F. Clinger Jr. Award for his thesis, “Congressional Support for the Instruments of Foreign Policy: Examining Differing Authorization and Appropriation Outcomes for the Departments of State and Defense.” Cox examined the political contexts that affect congressional support for key agencies of the national government, using bipartisan scores from the Lugar Center, spending figures from the Office of Management and Budget, and other important sources. The thesis offered refreshing and novel insights to better understand the factors that drive varying levels of congressional support for executive branch departments.

Allison MacArthur won the award for Outstanding Thesis in the Area of Democracy Studies, Governance, and Leadership for “One Nation, Divided: The Complicated Underpinnings and Expressions of Partisanship within the Increasingly Hostile American Electorate.” MacArthur’s thesis focused on the different understandings of what partisanship is and how it manifests itself in politics today. MacArthur used a series of interdisciplinary examinations and tests that considered not only the relevant policy and political issues impacted by polarization but also how concepts of bounded rationality, varying types of nationalism, race, and social identity theories impact political dispositions to better interpret the data documenting our increasingly polarized politics.

Two students won awards for Outstanding Thesis in the Area of Democracy and National Security. Matthew Witkin’s thesis, “Tactical Analysis of the American Radical Far Right: Recruitment, Lethality, and How Domestic Policy Emboldens Them to Grow,” focused on the growth of right-wing violence and radicalization in the United States. The thesis examined the effects of recruitment and the ideological framing of right-wing recruitment efforts. Witkin drew data and evidence from a variety of disciplines to raise thoughtful and critical awareness of this growing problem.

Joshua Wrady’s thesis, “America’s New Major Power Competition: Covert Action to Counter the Chinese Communist Party,” focused on the United States’ pivot from the global war on terror to the threat of a revisionist Chinese Communist Party and its ability to destabilize America and its allies. Wrady offered a foundational examination of the legal and ethical considerations of covert action and evaluated how the United States has sought to counteract the growing threat of China, with a special focus on how messaging and propaganda could be better used to promote the pro-democracy appeal of U.S. politics and culture in the face of China’s authoritarian rule.

Kathryn Schiller won an award for Outstanding Thesis in the Area of Government. Schiller’s thesis, “Evidence-based Policymaking: Using Behavioral Science to Improve Decisions,” drew on the political science literature and applied cognitive models of information processing to policymaking to better evaluate the effectiveness of evidence-based policymaking. Schiller looked at how decisions are made through the lenses of confirmation bias, prior-belief bias, and overconfidence bias. By delving into these frameworks, her thesis presented a firmer understanding of how evidence-based policymaking can be implemented and better used.

Joe Croce, who graduated from the MS in Government Analytics program in 2016, received the Outstanding Alumni award for his contributions to JHU’s Center for Data Analytics, Policy, and Government. Croce worked closely with faculty to arrange site visits for students participating in this spring’s residency course, D.C. Lab: Politics, Policy, and Analytics, including a visit to the Office of the National Cyber Director at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In addition, Croce connected with other students to give them the opportunity to tour the White House’s West Wing and bowling alley.

Energy Policy and Climate

The MS in Energy Policy and Climate program recognized Harris Eisenhardt with an Outstanding Capstone Project award. Eisenhardt’s thesis on climate change vulnerability assessment focused on unhoused populations and, more specifically, on methodological frameworks to leverage modeling, survey, and evaluation-based data. Eisenhardt also created original qualitative research indicators and displayed superior mixed-method research prowess while effectively proposing logic modeling to derive exposure-based indices for unhoused populations.

Samuel Mitterhoff also won an Outstanding Capstone Project award for his capstone, “The Reduction of Depreciation Tax Incentives to Expedite United States Decarbonization.” The paper described tax incentives and disincentives, along with appropriate policies. The method of the paper involves using the Cobb-Douglass production function in a perfectly competitive market, with two substitute goods available for investment, an excellent application from pure economics to the energy field.

Alec Regitsky also was given an Outstanding Capstone Project award. Regitsky’s paper “Extreme Heat Adaptation in Local Government: A Comparative Case Study of New York City and New Orleans” reviewed the problem of extreme heat in urban centers. The paper explored vulnerable populations under extreme heat conditions, reviewed priorities and back-up energy generation following blackouts, and compared the cities’ codes, regulations, and policies, reviewing their emergency management communication strategies on social media platforms, and performing GIS analysis on cooling center locations against vulnerability criteria.

Environmental Sciences and Policy

The MS in Environmental Sciences and Policy program recognized Annie Britton with an Outstanding Capstone Thesis award. Britton interned with the NASA DEVELOP program as their research team leader, focusing on using Earth observations to improve current methods available for the estimation of extreme weather event health effects. Britton’s work focused on the acquisition, processing, and analysis of Earth observation data in Python, R, and Google Earth Engine.

Geographic Information Systems

Marko Zlatic was given the MS in Geographic Information Systems program’s Outstanding Student award. Zlatic shared his program work during the GIS After Dark speaker series and used his GIS skills for Open Street Map Humanitarian mapping efforts after earthquakes in Turkey and Syria to help digitize damaged structures and roads.

Nonprofit Management

The MA in Nonprofit Management program recognized two students for outstanding capstones this year.

Kathie Lee received an Outstanding Capstone Project award for her “Proposal for Passage of Domestic Workers Bill of Rights” research paper, which demonstrated exceptional policy analysis in examining the historical basis for the exclusion of domestic workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the Occupational Safety and Health Care Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Lee’s research provided an in-depth analysis of the 2021 Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and recommended a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction approach to passing DWBOR due to the unlikely possibility of having a federal law passed with a divided Congress. The paper advanced the study of nonprofit management by highlighting how coalitions of organizations have collaborated to successfully pass DWBOR in various cities and states.

Ellys Abrams received an Outstanding Capstone Project award for “Getting the Board on Board: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training for Nonprofit Board of Directors,” a project that demonstrated how to deliver DEI board member training that is sophisticated, targeted, and customized to the board’s strategic and fiduciary responsibilities. The research advances the field of nonprofit management by creating three training modules that engage board members in meaningful DEI-based conversations to understand how they can, and why they should, effect robust DEI practices and policies throughout their organization and incorporate DEI principles in carrying out their governance duties.

Science Writing

The MA in Science Writing program honored four students with special awards.

Rachel Lense was one of two students to win the program’s Outstanding Student Award, given to students who excel as writers and are active members of the greater literary community. Lense is a new editorial board member of the program’s alumni-produced science magazine, The Science Writer, and a member of the D.C. Science Writers Association Board of Directors.

Kellie Schmitt was also awarded the Outstanding Student Award. Schmitt played an essential role as a section editor for the first issue of the magazine and gave generously of her time as an editorial coach to fellow students.

Romila Santra was one of two students to win the David Everett Outstanding Thesis Award, which is given annually to a graduating student or students recognized by the faculty as having outstanding theses with promising prospects for publication. The award was created in 2020 to honor the memory of David Everett, who championed the work of aspiring writers during his time directing JHU’s graduate writing program.

Santra’s thesis, “The Gap Between Diagnosis and Cure: Perspectives of Family, Patients and a Hopeful Future Physician,” blends science and medicine with personal experience. Faculty commended Santra for the quality of her writing and its deep immersion in its subjects.

Jack Tamisiea also won the David Everett Outstanding Thesis Award for the thesis “Pickled in Jars and Crammed into Drawers: Uncovering New Stories from Old Museum Collections.” Tamisiea explored the research occurring in the “labyrinth of hallways, cabinets, and drawers” at natural history museums; his stories take readers with him as he explores the hidden treasures locked away in science’s storerooms. Tamisiea’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, Scientific American, National Geographic, and many other publications.


Two MA in Writing students are recipients of the David Everett Outstanding Thesis Award.

Amanda Nail received the Outstanding Thesis Award for Nonfiction for her work and in recognition of her creative risk-taking in fiction and nonfiction. Her thesis collection demonstrated skill and confidence as she applied her learnings to her craft in a distinctive voice

Zac Krause also received an Outstanding Thesis Award for Fiction. His thesis included two excepts from a novel and four short stories, dramatizing and examining the desire to be remembered.

Torrence Boone was one of two students to receive the Outstanding Student Award for demonstrating profound engagement with learning.

Victoria Wells also won an Outstanding Student Award. Both were recognized by faculty as highly skilled writers and literary critics who understand the importance of building a literary community.

Liberal Arts Students Earn AGLSP Honors

Seven graduates of the Master of Liberal Arts program were inducted into the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs’ National Honor Society for 2023. They are: Deirdre Jones-Shook, Herbert L. Shook Jr., Marla Shaivitz, Dina Coppes, Alejandra Valera de Barrett, Karyn Noelle Dest Harrington, and Cheryl Sadowski.

AAP also recognized faculty members who earned Excellence in Teaching Awards for the 2022-2023 academic year.

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