Sustainable Progress & Equality Collective


The SPEC / CAREP research program was led by a diverse and distributed team of researchers, developers, and domain experts from across the United States. Through open collaboration senior contributors worked with SPEC Research Interns (RI) to share knowledge, develop job skills, and innovate toward systems change.

Zara Abdurahaman

Junior Researcher

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Zara Fatima Abdurahaman is a Ph.D. student in the Technology Applications and Implications Stream at Pardee RAND Graduate School and an assistant policy analyst at RAND. She has a B.Eng. in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus, Asia Pacific. Her research interests include emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, machine learning, energy, labor and workforce management, and ethics.Prior to joining Pardee RAND, she was an engineer in the oil and gas sector, including at Halliburton Energy Services in Nigeria, where she designed and coordinated cementing operations. She was responsible for 2D/3D hydraulics design and software simulation, technical advising, logistics, strategic planning, and performance optimization for oil and gas wells in the Niger Delta. She was also a member of Halliburton’s Female Diversity Ambassador Team, which supports women in STEM fields.

Yoline Banerjee

Research Intern / Software Engineer

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Yoline Banerjee is a research intern for SPEC. With a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Education from UC Berkeley, Yoline has worked in various educational roles. She then went into Health Services by managing COVID testing sites. After experiencing different programs and web applications that had her thinking, “there has to be a better way,” she pivoted into the tech industry and graduated from Hackbright’s software engineering program. She is excited to combine her passion for working with the community and developing her coding skills to build systems that will help people learn, grow, and thrive.

Alicia Bong

Project Manager

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Alicia is a project manager focusing on team building and open communication. Her experience comes from multiple software adjacent roles in customer success and project management. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in English from SUNY Oneonta. Alicia presented at the first New Critics Undergraduate Literature and Composition Conference and was the Vice President of their chapter of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society. Her interest in sustainability and social justice has led her to join the team at SPEC.

Menoukha Robin Case

Ph.D. Content Advisor

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Dr. Menoukha Robin Case is a SUNY Professor Emerita who holds an MA in Women’s & Gender Studies, an MA in Creative Writing, and a Ph.D. in English from SUNY University at Albany. Her dissertation addresses African Diaspora literature via Yoruba philosophy; her post-graduate work emphasizes Indigenous Studies. Academic publications include Introduction to Feminist Thought and Action (Routledge) and Weaving the Legacy: Remembering Paula Gunn Allen (West End Press). Creative publications include “Bead by Bead” in Talking Stick Native Arts Quarterly and “Burying Grandma” in Tidal Basin Review, awarded the Editors’ Prize for Best Prose in 2011. She serves on the boards of the Hamilton Hill Arts Center and the Ndakinna Education Center and on the Steering Committee of SPEC.

Lu Daley

Research Intern / Software Engineer

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Lu Daley is a research intern/software developer at SPEC. Lu’s research involves researching, creating, and testing full-stack solutions with accessibility in mind. His team is currently building a front-end design system, a full-stack learning management system, and contributing to other open source social justice, economic growth, and environmental sustainability projects.

Lu has worked on:

Joe Golden

Research Intern / Curator

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Joseph Golden is a Research Intern at SPEC and the organizations Arts & Equity virtual gallery curator. His research concentrates on the benefits of artmaking as a valuable means of self-representation and self-exploration, providing opportunities to discover and interpret ones identity. Joseph earned a masters degree in adult learning from SUNY Empire State College. He was awarded the Deans Medal for Excellence, recognizing his endeavors for leadership, service, knowledge, and practice in the field. Joseph is the co-editor of the Journal of Engaged Research, a SPEC publication featuring the work from marginalized voices.

Megan Kim

Research Intern

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Megan is a MA student in the Instructional Technology and Media program at Columbia University. She previously graduated with a BA in Psychology from Amherst College. Prior to Columbia, Megan worked in implementation and product management at Philips and launched a startup that used behavioral psychology to help individuals prioritize their personal relationships. Her research interests include merging her experience working in public interest law and civil rights with ethical technology design and behavioral psychology.

Megan has worked on:

Ilia de Leon

Research Intern / Design Lead

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Ilia started off as a research intern with a focus in user experience design. She has since moved into the Design Lead role. She has a bachelor’s degree in Information Science and Policy from the University at Albany. Ilia has spent many years working with companies overseas collaborating on various sourcing, production, and logistics projects. More recently, Ilia has been focused on researching, understanding, and empathizing with users on their journey through digital products to create better experiences with usability, accessibility, and inclusiveness in mind.

Zoey Liu

Research Intern

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Zoey Yichen Liu is a M.Ed. Candidate for Instructional Technology focusing on Social Emotional Learning, Environmental Relationships, and Artistic Development. Zoey has a strong background in curriculum development for K-12 girls as well as classroom and online education. Her journey with education began as a music teacher and surf instructor.

Zoey has worked on:

Victoria Lo

Research Intern / Software Engineer

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Victoria Lo graduated from San Jose State University with a B.S. in Health Science Administration. She has spent six years in Operations for health start-ups. She is curious by nature and fueled by the need to help others. Using websites, applications, and other technologies, she went from helping thousands of people in one clinic to millions across the nation. With that scale of impact, she knew coding would be her next journey. Victoria then completed a full-stack software engineering program to havedirect experience in building products that scale. With grit and armed with new skills, she is ready for a new challenge.

Sharleen Loh

Research Intern

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Sharleen is an educational game design MS student at Columbia University Teachers College. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard University. She is passionate about making lifelong learning playful and accessible.

Sharleen has worked on:

Nan Eileen Mead

Research Lead

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Research Lead at Sustainable Progress & Equality Collective (SPEC) and Co-Editor of JoER. A longtime education advocate, Ms. Mead was twice elected by the NYS Legislature to serve as the Manhattan member of the Board of Regents, which oversees the State Education Department. Ms. Meads research focus is on diversity, equity, and inclusion in educational settings and in public policy.

Karishma Mehta

Junior Researcher

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Ms. Karishma Mehta (she/her) is a technical analyst at the RAND Corporation who works on projects related to terrorism, intelligence, national security, and homeland security implementing the lens of process mapping. She started her career at RAND as a research assistant working on projects that related to Air Force acquisition, Air Force force modernization and employment, war games, and other national security related topics. She comes back to RAND working as government contractor for DHS ICE HSI. Ms. Mehta was also Co-Chair for Enrichment for Asian American and Pacific Islander Culture and Heritage (EACH) from December 2020 to March 2023, which is one of the inaugural Employee Resource Groups (ERG) at RAND. During her tenure as Co-Chair, she has worked across RAND’s research departments and divisions and RAND’s operations to highlight the culture and issues of the AAPI community. Ms. Mehta has a M.S. in Terrorism and Homeland Security from American University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Discrete Mathematics from the University of Essex, and B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Loyola Marymount University.

Dennis Morgan

Lead Game Designer

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Dennis is a game designer with over 20 years of design, production, and development experience in education/serious games and games for entertainment. He is also the founder of Harlem CoLab, a digital workforce augmentation agency and social-impact organization that aims to bridge the digital divide in underserved communities. The organization builds a pipeline of talent for technology companies and drives a culture of innovation in New York City’s underserved communities. Mr. Morgan is an A’leilia Bundles Community Scholar at Columbia University.

Dennis has worked on:

Najwana Nashmin

Research Intern / Software Engineer

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Najwana serves as a software engineer for SPEC, a non-profit learning organization and as Director of Programs for Program Equity, the OSS teaching organization behind Amplify. Amplify is a web application that supports advocacy groups and climate change policies.In previous cycles of her career, she has served in program and product management splitting time between non- profit healthcare systems and larger tech companies(i.e.Microsoft and Amazon)

Ollie Oliver

Research Intern / Curator

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Ollie Oliver (they/them) is also a Research Intern and Art Curator with the Sustainable Progress and Equality Collective (SPEC). Their background is in communes/intentional communities, eco-villages, sustainable building, human rights/ LGBTQ activism, non-profits, performance, and architectural and visual arts. They aim to blend these topics in an accessible way that gets people excited about sustainability. Ollie is passionate about their research on LGBTQ experiences, healing education and therapy for incarcerated LGBTQ+ people.

Ollie has worked on:

Zaire Overton

Administrative Assistant IV for Special Projects

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Currently of RAND Corporation, serves as Administrative Assistant IV for Special Projects in the President's Office, and for the Center to Advance Racial Equity Policy (CAREP). Previously a Policy Staff Assistant for the County of Los Angeles’ Board of Supervisors, she served Supervisor Kuehl’s constituency for three years aiding policy implementation within the following sectors: Homelessness and Housing, Children and Family Welfare, Education, Budget, Sanitation, Parks and Recreations, Public Social Services, and Workforce Development. She is the co-founder of Career Opportunities for International Relations (COIR), an annual Human Resources recruiting event for young professionals hosted by the U.S. Department of State. Overton is an active member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, and a former executive board member for the West Coast Chapter of Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS). Overton also volunteers as coordinator to Consul General of Senegal Mame Mbaye, President, of the LA Consular Corps Spouses Association, and independently contracts as a graphic designer for social media content and campaigns. Formerly having served on the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic Bid Committee, Overton strives to promote international peace through sports, community, policy, and cultural exposure in daily life. She earned a degree in International Relations, with concentrations in International War & Conflict Studies and Global Cultural & Gender Studies, from the University of Southern California in 2017. Overton also initiated the creation of a minor in Brazilian Cultural Studies, becoming the first student at the university to ever obtain the accolade. She is a native English speaker, fluent in Portuguese and conversational in Spanish.

Crystal Shamsi

Research Intern / Software Engineer

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Crystal lives in Steamboat Springs, CO, and is a research intern at SPEC. She recently graduated from Hackbright Academy, learning full-stack web development and computer science fundamentals. Crystal earned her M.S. in occupational therapy from Nova Southeastern University in 2013. As an occupational therapist, she dedicated herself to helping individuals gain the skills and tools necessary to achieve their utmost functional potential. Passionate about equality, empowerment, and justice for all people and populations, she is excited to blend her therapeutic and technological skills to expand her agency for positive impact.

Jie (Jolin) Shen

Research Intern

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Jolin is a first-year master's student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she is majoring in Communication and Education. Jolin graduated from the University of Washington, Seattle in 2021 with a BA, double major in Communication and Cinema and Media Studies. She is interested in studying the role of communication technologies in education and has worked for various companies in the communication field.

Jolin has worked on:

Marcus Steiner

LMS Manager

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Marcus Steiner is the LMS Manager for SPEC. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Insurance and Risk Management and a Master’s degree in Global Comparative History. He has spent the entirety of his nonprofit career working with and leading human rights andequity-focused organizations as a Program Director, Operations/Development Director, and CEO. Marcus sits on the boards of the Sentinel Project and of Advocates Creating Change, organizations committed to creating peace and equality around the world. Currently, Marcus’ work examines how technology can be used both in human rights work and in DEI.