Student Leadership

Executive Leadership

Mari Jones

My name is Mari Jones, and I am a junior in Currier House studying Government and African-American Studies. It is an honor, a privilege, and I am filled with the utmost excitement to serve as President of the Institute of Politics for the 2020 year. Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, my interest in politics and public service began with a spirit of activism and an inspired heart to push for change. Back home, I saw how community organizing and grassroots activism affected my home community and how these efforts were playing out of the national stage. These home relationships and experiences have guided me over the course of my college career and have instilled within me a life of purpose to live in service to others. Over the course of the next year, I am excited to root the IOP as an active place of public service, to cultivate a foundational environment of diversity and belonging, and to institutionalize a culture of learning and skill-building that all Harvard undergraduates can benefit from and utilize as we enter the world as the next generation of public servants. Outside of the IOP, I am involved with PBHA's prison tutoring program and Harvard Model Congress. In my free time, I can be found wandering around a local bookstore, binge-watching Netflix, or heavily engaged with college football.

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Jasmine Hyppolite

My name is Jasmine Hyppolite and I am a junior living in Dunster House! I study Government and am pursuing the TechScience program as I love learning about the intersection of technology and public service as well as finding innovative ways to more effectively govern. I previously served as the first Director of Diversity and Outreach and now stand as the Vice President of the Institute of Politics. I hold public service close to my heart because I believe it is the most impactful and important ways to way to initiate change and equity on a large scale. As we stand in an imperfect nation, I believe we all have a civic duty to ourselves and our nation to advocate, speak up, and walk the talk of change and a better tomorrow. Public Service and representative politics can get us there. I look forward to incorporating diversity and inclusion into the mission of the Institute of Politics and bringing new initiatives to allow students to define politics, work for organizations they care about, and create more opportunities for students to craft events at the IOP so we are always bringing new perspectives to the table and discussing what matters to the student body and our generation. I have previously served as the Political Action Chair of the Black Students Association and a student representative for the Harvard College Women's Center.

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Sahar Mohammadzadeh
Communications Director

My name is Sahar Mohammadzadeh, and I am a sophomore in Mather House studying Government and Economics. I was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, where my appreciation for public service started as early as middle school. As a child, listening to NPR’s morning report on my drives to school was the highlight of my day, but it wasn’t until I heard stories about Iran, the country from which my parents emigrated from, that I began to invest deeply in increasing diverse perspectives in mainstream media. I found such outlets in education policy, working relentlessly to increase the power of young, disenfranchised student voices to improve the state of public education in Kentucky. Through such nonprofit work, I quickly came to understand the immediate impact political advocacy and organization had on local communities, and the success of such movements was largely dependent on the people and relationships cultivated through the experience. Over the upcoming year, I am greatly looking forward to making the IOP a collaborative and welcoming environment for every single Harvard Undergraduate, ensuring incredible experiences and live-long friendships. Outside the IOP, I work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the Postsecondary Value Commission and conduct research as a Student Explorer for the National Geographic Society. I am also involved with the Harvard College Consulting Group and the Harvard College Iranaian Association. In my free time, I can be found exploring coffee shops, used book stores, or the new releases section on Netflix.

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DJ Lacy

My name is DJ Lacy, and I am a sophomore in Cabot House studying Government from West Virginia, I have seen firsthand the importance of local government and personal relationships in building community. My love for public service grew out of an appreciation for the personal connections I was able to form, and I hope my work as Treasurer has this same feeling. I love being able to see the direct impact of my work, especially within a local community, and I hope to prioritize state and local politics in a year that will be sure to be filled with national headlines. This year on SAC I am looking forward to working alongside other student leaders to make the IOP feel like home for more students.  Outside of the IOP , I serve on Harvard’s Undergraduate Council on financial aid and affordability issues. I also work for the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative to help recruit high school students to Harvard from rural parts of Appalachia in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, biking, and skiing.

Student Advisory Committee Leadership

Menat Bahnasy
Director of Special Projects

My name is Menat, and I am a sophomore residing in Eliot House studying Economics, Government, and Arabic. I am originally from North Plainfield, New Jersey. My passion for public service began when I became a Girl Scout at a very young age. Ever since, I have worked hard to embrace service in all that I do. I am a firm believer in the power of politics and public service to effect change for all people, and that belief is what drives my engagement. This year, I am serving as the Director of Special Projects at the IOP, and I am excited to identify spaces to grow the organization, and help to create a more welcoming space for all Harvard community members. Apart from serving as the Director of Special Projects, I formerly chaired Community Action Committee (CAC), and am a member of Fellows and Study Groups (FSG) and Forum Committee. Beyond the IOP, I serve as the President of the Harvard College Democrats and am a Peer Advising Fellow (PAF) for first-year students. A lover of learning about the world, I have spent much time finding new ways to expand my worldview and to meet new people. On any given day, I can be found sipping on jasmine tea, running or biking along the Charles River, and laughing at anything and everything!

E-mail address:​

Kevin Ballen
Harvard Votes Challenge

My name is Kevin Ballen, and I'm a Sophomore originally from Boston living in Currier House and studying Sociology. This year, I'll be serving as one of the Co-Chairs of the Harvard Votes Challenge, working towards 100% voter registration, engagement, and turnout across Harvard and beyond. If every single Harvard student engaged in voting and challenged every other student across the country to do the same, our Campus, the state higher-ed, and our local and national communities would be drastically strengthened. Voting is not only an essential component of our democracy but serves as an incredible pathway into a life of engagement. Before coming to Harvard, I worked for two years running youth civic and social-emotional learning programming, and still continue to do so now. On Campus, I plan events for the College Events Board, teach laughter yoga, and eat a lot of Chinese food!

E-mail address:​

Busola Banjoh
Politics of Race and Ethnicity

My name is Busola Banjoh and I am a sophomore living in Adams house studying a joint in History of Science & African and African American Studies with a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy. Growing up in Snellville, Georgia and being raised by Nigerian parents, I became interested in the intersection of race and ethnicity. From a very early age I realized that I want to involve myself in service— more specifically where service meets health and medicine. Soon enough, my interest in science, society, and race began showing itself in all aspects of what I do on and off campus. Within the IOP, I am co-chair for the Politics of Race and Ethnicity where I look forward to cultivating a more inclusive space where every member feels more encouraged to use the opportunity to discuss how they view this intersection to enrich the breadth of conversations we have as a program. Outside of the IOP, I continue broadening my understanding of health and society as an Mongan Institute Disparities Research Unit intern at Massachusetts General Hospital. On campus I am involved with Greener Scott Scholars as a founding member of the mentorship program, a member of Harvard’s Black Student Association, and the leader of diversity and inclusion initiatives as Community Chair for the Crimson Key Society. In my free time, I can always be found talking about music, listening to music, or broadcasting music on air as a DJ with WHRB, Harvard Radio Broadcasting.

E-mail address:​

Grace Bannister
Director of Membership

My name is Grace, and I am a member of the Class of 2021 and resident of Quincy House. At the College, I study Government with a secondary in Archaeology. Originally from the small town of Logan, West Virginia, I joined the IOP my freshman fall as a member of the Harvard Political Union. While remaining a dedicated member of the HPU, I also served as the Director of Online Communications for the Fellows and Study Groups Program, an IOP Organizer for Freshman Engagement, liaison for S'18 Fellow Scott Jennings, and most recently, IOP Communications Director and 2019 Executive Team member. I have also been a member of the Campaigns and Advocacy Program and the Women's Initiative in Leadership. Outside of the IOP, I have served as the Vice President of both Harvard Republican Club and Network of Enlightened Women. I am also a senior staffer for both of Harvard’s Boston-based Model UN Conferences and HMUN India. In my free time, I can often be found in the IOP student office or around Quincy House. My hobbies include eating Felipe’s nachos at odd hours of the night and explaining the Second Wheeling Convention to people who probably wish I would stop talking.

E-mail address:​

Blake Barclay
JFK Jr. Forum

My name is Blake Barclay and I am a Sophomore studying Economics and Philosophy with a Citation in Spanish. I’m from a small island town in Florida called Pensacola Beach. At Harvard, I serve as Chairman of the JFK Jr. Forum where I hope to expand our presence on campus and diversify the conversations we have. I also lead new Teacher Training for CIVICS, where I teach a fifth grade class in Roxbury every week.  Outside of the IOP, I serve on the Undergraduate Council and the Dean’s Student Advisory Board. At home, you’d find me surfing. Here in Cambridge, you’ll find me frequenting Sweetgreen and JP Licks far too often.

Otto Barenberg

My name is Otto Barenberg, and I am a sophomore in Mather House concentrating in Social Studies, originally from New York City. My interest in politics and service was kindled during a high school internship involving health care and labor rights advocacy. Wanting to stay politically engaged in college, and inspired by my Visitas host, I joined CIVICS in the fall of my first year and quickly fell in love with the program. Now, more than ever, it’s critical that the next generation of American citizens have a foundational understanding of democratic processes and are equipped with the tools to engage politically. As IOP Chair of CIVICS, I hope to expand our program into new classrooms around Boston and Cambridge, and promote our mission of civic education throughout the IOP and broader Harvard community. In addition to CIVICS, I’m also a dedicated member of the Policy Program, the Harvard Political Review, and the Campaigns and Advocacy Program. Outside of the IOP, I can be found rooting for the New York Yankees, talking politics with friends, and drooling over stroopwafel.

E-mail address:​

Jacob Blair
Politics of Race and Ethnicity

My name is Jacob Blair and I am a sophomore in Currier studying neuroscience and philosophy. I am one of the Chairs for the Politics of Race and Ethnicity. My interest in this topic goes back to my upbringing in St. Louis, Missouri where, with the Michael Brown shooting, I witnessed how deeply ingrained politics and race are. In my role as Co-Chair I hope to continue the courageous and intellectually nourishing conversations that we have while expanding the community of the organization. I also want to increase our reach to other organizations in the IOP work to make the IOP as collaborative a space as possible. Outside of my role as chair, I am an editor for the Harvard Political Review and I volunteer with the Small Claims Advisory Service. In my free time you can find me listening to the newest music or trying to find some good food.

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JD Deal
National Campaign

My name JD Deal and I am a first-year living in Weld with too many interests to even guess my concentration. I'm from Des Moines, Iowa, so it was really hard not to get involved with politics as every campaign cycle brought new opportunities for involvement. I quickly became involved in the student voice movement, advocating to put students on school boards across Iowa and pushing forward the conversation that young people should have some control over their education. In the upcoming year, I will serve as the program chair for the National Campaign in the IOP and look forward to building a broader and more diverse national network to push civic engagement around the nation. I hope to utilize the national network as a resource for other IOP programs, as well as to share our own initiatives across the country. Outside of NAC, I'm the Associate Campus Editor for the Harvard Political Review, I play trumpet in the Harvard Wind Ensemble, and I'm a Junior Staffer for Harvard Model Congress. When I'm not working on classes or extracurriculars, I'm usually napping, listening to audio horror stories, or binge-watching a show on Netflix.

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Samantha Frenkel-Popell
Internships and Career Services

My name is Samantha Frenkel-Popell, and I am a junior in Leverett House studying History & Literature with a secondary in Government. I’m originally from a small town outside of San Francisco, and have always been fascinated by politics. In high school, I found myself particularly drawn to the complexities of California politics and our crazy referendum system. I got involved with the IOP my freshman fall, and haven’t looked back! This year, I am the chair of Internships and Career Services. I’m so excited to get more people involved in public service and politics, and especially excited to be serving for the 25th anniversary of our amazing Director’s Internship program! This year we’re rolling out a Hometown Director’s Internship program, and I can’t wait to see the amazing things students are going to do with that. When I’m not at 79 JFK Street, I love to binge watch trashy reality TV shows, hang out with friends, find the cheapest travel deals, and scope out the best sushi and shabu-shabu restaurants around Boston.

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Sabrina Goldfischer
Campaigns and Advocacy Program

My name is Sabrina, and I am thrilled to be the chair of the Campaigns and Advocacy Program at the IOP. Originally from just outside of Poughkeepsie, New York, I am a member of the Class of 2023 and plan on studying Government. I am also a research assistant in the Government Department, Co-Vice President of Harvard Democracy Matters, and on the Reform Leadership Team at Harvard Hillel. In addition to CAP, I have also participated in CAC and WIL. I am passionate about exploring the intersections of campaign and advocacy work, and learning how to create a more equitable platform for political participation in these realms. I eventually hope to enter a career in public service. In my free time, I love to travel, paint, play tennis, or can just be found enjoying coffee in Cambridge with friends.

E-mail address:

Alex Grayson
Policy Program

My name is Alex, and I am a resident in Lowell House and a member of the Class of 2022. I am studying Molecular & Cellular Biology with a secondary in Global Health & Health Policy, and I am originally from Northern Kentucky. I began my involvement with the IOP when I joined the Health Policy Committee during the fall of my first year. After serving as Co-Chair of the Health Policy Committee for a year, I’m now excited to serve as the Co-Chair of the Policy Program. When not in class, you can find me working in Widener Library, playing club lacrosse with my teammates, baking cookies with friends, or watching the newest season of American Horror Story on Netflix.

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Carine Hajjar
Fellows and Study Groups

My name is Carine and I am a junior in Eliot studying Government and Economics and I am from Milton, MA. I am passionate about politics because I love my country and want to make it a better place for all of its inhabitants. My specific political passion is national security and I hope to pursue a career in the military or defense in general. I will be performing as the FSG Co-Chair for the next two semesters after filling the position of Fellows Search Chair. I am looking forward to facilitating more thought-provoking conversations that force Harvard students to think beyond the ideological norms of the Harvard bubble. Outside of the IOP, I am a member of the Crimson’s editorial board and on the Women’s Rugby Team! I am also an avid skier— so avid, in fact, that one of my biggest skiing mishaps doing a jump earned me 20,000+ views on a ski website... and a torn ACL.

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Eric Jjemba
Fellows and Study Groups Program

My name is Eric, and I am a member of the Class of 2021, Quincy House resident, and proud South Jersey native. I concentrate in Environmental Science & Engineering with a Government secondary, and my interests lie at the juncture of technology, society, and policy. Prior to my time as Co-Chair of FSG, I worked alongside Mayor Andrew Gillum and LaTosha Brown as a student liaison while also serving on the Fellows Search Committee. I view the Institute of Politics as the hub of political discourse on campus—one increasingly successful in embodying the diversity of ethnicities, ideologies, and experiences of the Harvard community. Outside of the IOP, I also serve as President of the Black Pre-Law Association and Advocacy Director of Habitat for Humanity with a desire to uplift both dreams and communities like my own. Not to be overlooked, I define myself as an escape room enthusiast, an amateur outdoorsman, and an avid Philly sports fan.

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Ethan Johnstone
Community Action Committee

My name is Ethan Johnstone, and I am a First-Year in Canaday. My love for community action and politics stems from the lessons I learned from my home – I’m from a very big family, and I attended a large public high school in Southern California, so I’ve always been surrounded by diverse range of voices and ideas. At a young age, I saw firsthand how truly powerful diversity is, whether it was organizing a school-wide walkout against gun violence or holding a city-wide voter registration drive. Here at Harvard, I plan on concentrating in government and eventually studying law in the hopes of helping change the U.S.’s broken criminal justice system and give a voice to those without one. Outside of class, I am the Vice Chairman of the Academic Life Committee on the Undergraduate Council, on the Club Tennis Team, and a leadership position in the Constitutional Law Society. Ultimately, I hope to bring the many lessons I have learned and my excitement to leave a positive impact on the community to the chairship of the CAC.

E-mail address:​

Amisha Kambath
Policy Program

My name is Amisha Kambath and I’m a sophomore in Dunster studying either Social Studies or Sociology with a secondary in Economics. I’m from San Ramon, CA, a small suburb in the Bay Area and although I have always had an interest in policy and public service, I knew that was the field I was meant to be in after reading Bryan Stevenson’s memoir Just Mercy in sophomore year of high school. I am committed to advancing justice in all its manifestations, including economic justice, racial justice and transformative justice, and am particularly focused on transforming the criminal justice system. I am so excited to be the Co-Chair of the Policy Program and I hope to improve accessibility to the program to ensure that students from a diverse array of backgrounds have access to the truly unique and collaborative research and policy experience that the program creates. Outside of the IOP, I pursue my passion in criminal justice through the Harvard College Project for Justice and Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Advocacy, and through my research assistant roles. I also love playing basketball on the club team and exploring my South Asian culture as Academic-Political Chair of the South Asian Association. In my free time, I love hanging out with my blockmates and catching up with friends over meals.

E-mail address:​​

Zizi Kendall
Citizenship Tutoring

My name is Zizi Kendall, and I am a Junior in Currier House from Weston, Massachusetts. I am pursuing a joint concentration in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Government, and I am the current Citizenship Tutoring Program Chair. I joined the IOP to be more connected to policy and service at Harvard and am excited to step into a leadership role with Cit Tut. Outside of the IOP I row for the Lightweight Rowing team and am a member of the Harvard Undergraduate Brazilian Association.

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Sandy Koenig
Harvard Political Union

I’m Sandy Koenig, a Junior in Winthrop House studying History. Hailing from Washington, DC, I suppose it’s natural that I developed an interest in politics, particularly one that I’ve followed all the way to the IOP. Given my knack for engaging any and all the people I meet in a political conversation, I’m happy I found the HPU my freshman year here. Over the upcoming two semesters, I am looking forward to extending that feeling of belonging to a new group of HPU members, as well as delivering quality debates, guests, and large-format events for our organization and the student body. It’s going to be a great year. Outside the IOP’s walls, I’m also part of Winthrop House Committee, the College Dems, and the Harvard Satellite Team. In my free time, you’d probably find me enjoying sci-fi, watching football, or reading the news, but always playing a few too many IM sports.

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Lexi Mealey
Harvard Political Review

My name is Lexi, and I am a Junior in Leverett House studying Philosophy with a secondary in Government. Originally from Cleveland, I was moved to public service by my first encounter with injustice in the legal system in the summer after my senior year of high school working with a civil rights attorney. I quickly realized that equality under the law is a dream which is not yet a reality, and I hope to work in civil rights advocacy after graduation. At the Institute of Politics, I am the President of the Harvard Political Review, the nation’s oldest undergraduate political journal. This year, I am extremely excited to be leading our first ever majority-woman leadership team, and to be planning the celebration of our magazine’s 50th Anniversary (along with empowering our writers to produce amazing content, of course)! On campus, I am also involved with the Harvard College Open Campus Initiative and the Harvard Undergraduate Centrist Society. I also work for a public interest lobby back in Ohio remotely during the school year. Outside of academics, I love to travel, binge watch dry comedies, and explore the food in and around Cambridge.

E-mail address:

Ara Omotowa
Director of Diversity and Outreach

My name is Araoluwa Omotowa (but I go by Ara!) and I am a sophomore in Mather House concentrating in Government and Global Health, Healthy Policy. I hail from the city of Idaho Falls, Idaho and I love politics and public service because I feel that the ability to demonstrate why everyone deserves to have a voice and participate in our country’s affairs is crucial to the principles of American democracy. This year, I am serving as the second-ever Director of Diversity and Outreach for the IOP and I am so excited to create institutional reforms for all the amazing programs we host while working to enhance the new programming geared towards diversity that was created last year. Outside of the IOP, I also am the Political Action Chair for the Association of Black Harvard Women, I dance with the Harvard Expressions Dance Company and love to travel off campus either with Harvard Model Congress or just into the Greater Boston Area! Otherwise, you can usually catch me reading science fiction, listening to podcasts, or laughing with good friends in the dining hall. I can’t wait to get to know as many of you as possible this year.

Harvard Votes Challenge

My name is Amanda Powers and I am a junior studying Social Studies. I am originally from Newton, Massachusetts, but I am now a proud resident of Cabot House. I am one of the 2020 co-Chairs for the Harvard Votes Challenge and I am incredibly excited to bring voting and democracy all over campus this year. I am passionate about civic engagement because I know that politics has the power to transform people's lives, and I believe everyone should be empowered to be involved in our political process. Outside of HVC, I am a member of the Harvard College Democrats, HCD for Warren, and the Small Claims Advisory Service at PBHA. In my free time, you can probably find me petting dogs on the Quad Lawn or waiting in line at Bagelsaurus.

E-mail address:

Reade Rossman
Women’s Initiative in Leadership

My name is Reade Rossman, and I am a senior in Quincy House studying History & Literature. I was born and raised in New York City before moving to Southern California for boarding school. My passion for politics and public service was honed during my senior year of high school when I conducted a year-long capstone project on the barriers to women running for president. As the 2020 Chair of the Women's Initiative in Leadership, I look forward to expanding workshop programming and our speaker series to include women from the industries of journalism, tech, business, and academia in addition to politics. Beyond the IOP, I serve as the Treasurer of the Crimson Key Society as well as a member of the Phillips Brooks House Association.

E-mail address:

Lynne Sipprelle

My name is Lynne Sipprelle, and I am a freshman from New York City living in Weld Hall and concentrating in economics, likely with a secondary field in global health and health policy. This year, I am looking forward to serving as chair of the STEAM Program at the IOP. Last semester, I worked on a STEAM commission bringing the Pre-texts teaching methodology, which uses the arts to foster literacy, innovation, and citizenship, to Boston Public Schools. I sing, act, and dance tap, jazz, and hip hop, and worked on marketing for the Newport FILM Festival last summer, so I am excited to beneficially combine these interests with politics. Apart from the arts, I am looking forward to further integrating the scientific aspect of STEAM with policy as well, having worked in the Department of Orthopedics at Brown University developing a novel method for detecting infections of orthopedic implants and for the Hudson River Project conducting research on the health of the Hudson River Basin ecosystem. In high school, I served as editor-in-chief of the Horace Mann Record, where I managed a staff of 100 fellow students to produce weekly print, digital, and email newsletter versions of a school newspaper.

E-mail address:​

Cathy Sun
Harvard Public Opinion Project

My name is Cathy Sun, and I am a sophomore at Harvard University majoring in Social Studies and Philosophy, with a focus on social movements and human rights. I was born in Singapore but currently reside in Irvine, California. I fell into politics early on in high school as I discovered the magic of canvassing in opening doors to new perspectives, powerful stories, and the complexities of human identity. I am incredibly excited to serve as the next Chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project (HPOP), and look forward to expanding qualitative opportunities for students to engage with public opinion while further enlarging the student impact of the program on the national political discourse. Outside the IOP, I am involved with the International Relations Council, World Model United Nations conference, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. I also work as a Research Assistant at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. In my spare time, I dances with the Asian American Dance Troupe and watch sashimi preparation videos on YouTube to curb my seafood cravings.

E-mail address:​