Research Fellows and Interns Make Major Contributions to SPUR’s Work

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Image by Sydney Ng

During the last two academic years, SPUR has been fortunate to host a talented group of policy researchers through partnerships with graduate school fellowship and practicum programs. Their research has contributed to SPUR’s work, including policy changes and proposed legislation at the regional and state levels. Learn more about the work they’ve done with SPUR and what they’ve gone on to do after collaborating with us.


Food and Agriculture

Melissa Gordon

Melissa Gordon worked with Eli Zigas, SPUR’s food and agriculture policy director, and Katie Ettman, SPUR’s food and agriculture policy manager, in 2020 under the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Internship. Melissa completed an analysis of financing options to scale fruit and vegetable supplemental benefits statewide in California. Through this process, she identified 10 potential funding mechanisms and, with the support of a SPUR task force, narrowed the options to the three most equitable and politically feasible funding mechanisms. This internal analysis helped chart the course toward SPUR's 2022 legislation AB 2153, the California Fruit and Vegetable Supplemental Benefits Expansion Program. After working at SPUR, Melissa graduated with a dual Master's degree, an M.A. in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University and an M.S. in food and nutrition policy and programs from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. After graduation, she returned to the West Coast and now works as a research analyst at Jobs for the Future.


Economic Justice

Jerold Brito, Margaret Parker, Adrian Leong and Scott Miller

In 2021, these interns from the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy's Introduction to Policy Analysis course worked with Jacob Denney, SPUR’s economic justice policy director, to conduct original research on how bridge-toll fines and fees disproportionately impacted low-income communities and communities of color. The resulting report, Bridging the Gap, in conjunction with advocacy by other partners, resulted in the Metropolitan Transportation Commission reducing their fines and fees by more than 70% and beginning a program to forgive fines and fees accrued during the pandemic. Jerold Brito graduated with their M.P.P. degree and now works at the International Council on Clean Transportation. Margaret Parker went on to work as a policy fellow at SPUR and is now pursuing her J.D. at UC Berkeley.

Douglas Luo, Josh Cantong, Day Son and Kyle Hulburd

From 2021 to 2022, these interns from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy’s Policy Analysis Practicum worked with Jacob Denney to conduct original research on traffic stops across California by documenting their impact on low-income communities and communities of color. This work will appear in a forthcoming SPUR report. Josh Cantong graduated with their M.P.P. degree and now works for the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley as a data analyst in the Equity Metrics Program.

Maja Markovic

Maja Markovic worked with Jacob Denney in 2022 under the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program at the University of Minnesota Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Maja conducted original research on how San Francisco city agencies can collaborate to work on anti-poverty measures. After completing the Humphrey Fellowship, they returned home to Montenegro where they now work at JUVENTAS, a social justice research and advocacy organization.



Emily Jacobson

Emily Jacobson worked on housing policy with Sarah Karlinsky, SPUR’s senior advisor, in 2022 under a fellowship program at the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy. For a forthcoming SPUR report, Emily helped research and develop a series of housing governance case studies focused on four U.S. metropolitan areas that build more housing on a per capita and per job basis than the Bay Area. She will be starting her second year of her Master’s program this year.



Alex Singal

Alex Singal worked with Jonathon Kass, SPUR’s transportation policy manager, in 2021 under the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy MPP Student Advanced Policy Analysis Project. Alex published a SPUR article on California’s parking cash-out law, which led to a SPUR public forum on the topic featuring leading experts. Alex's work inspired SPUR to engage with Assemblymember Alex Lee, who introduced legislation to improve the parking cash-out law in 2022. He now works as a philanthropy associate at GiveWell.

Kenji Anzai

Kenji Anzai worked with Laura Tolkoff, SPUR’s transportation policy director, in 2020 under a fellowship program at UC Berkeley. Kenji researched global best practices on transit network planning and governance. They were a co-author of the SPUR brief Accelerating Sustainable Transportation in California. Kenji now works with the Funding, Policy and Programs group at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Maya Love

Maya Love worked with Laura Tolkoff in 2021 under an internship program at Coro Northern California. In their joint internship with SPUR and TransForm, Maya worked to make SPUR the Minetta Institute's Bay Area Parking Census more accessible to practitioners. They have completed their Claremont Graduate University program and are now working as a data scientist in the Denver, Colorado area.


Sustainability and Resilience

Laila Heid

Laila Heid worked with Laura Feinstein, SPUR’s sustainability and resilience policy director, from 2021 to 2022 under a fellowship program at UC Berkeley. Laila completed an assessment of the implementation of California's first-in-the-nation emergency water and wastewater low-income assistance program, which the state rolled out in the wake of COVID-19 and a rising tide of customer utility debt. They now work as a presidential management fellow placed as a program specialist at USDA Food and Nutrition Service.