Our Alumni Advisory Board

Zarek Drozda

Zarek is currently an Analyst as the Center for RISC, and previously studied Economics at the University of Chicago. Zarek served as PDI's Director of Policy from 2018-2019, and built relationships with nonprofits, legislators, government agencies, and other partners to identify opportunities for research and initiate the Institute’s projects. Zarek previously worked at the U.S. Department of State, the Office of the Mayor of San Francisco, and on campus as a research assistant for the Political Science Department.


Teddy Knox

Teddy is a fourth-year undergraduate studying Economics and Public Policy. As Director of Research, he advised PDI’s active research teams, edited papers before publication, and guided the Institute’s research agenda. He has previously worked at the Urban Education Institute and the Aspen Institute, in each role supporting the translation of research into federal and local policy change.


Vanessa Ma

Vanessa Ma is a fourth-year undergraduate studying Economics and Neuroscience. Vanessa served as PDI's Director of Operations for 2018-2019, and lead the effort to establish PDI as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Vanessa has also worked as a research assistant for the Center for Economics of Human Development (CEHD) and as a Data Analytics Intern at Chicago Booth, in addition to interning with several financial sector firms.


Rimsha Nazeer

Rimsha is a fourth-year undergraduate studying Economics and Public Policy. Rimsha served as the Institute's Director of Media for 2018-2019. She has previously worked with "The Axe Files," the Office of U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, and the McCormick Foundation. She is currently a research assistant at the Center for Decision Research and Co-Director for this year's SASA Show.


Pablo Balsinde, Class of 2018

Pablo founded the Paul Douglas Institute in 2017. He recruited the Institute's first researchers, forged its first partnerships, and conceived and led many of its first projects. He has worked in research at the Elcano Royal Institute in Madrid and the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, and as an economic advisor to Spain's Ciudadanos party. He is currently a policy advisor in the European Parliament.


Julian Duggan, Class of 2018

Julian served as one of PDI's first project leaders and spearheaded the Institute's interest in campaign finance policy. His projects included examining nonprofit political spending in Illinois and evaluating the effects of the Arizona Clean Elections Fund. Julian has worked for the Brookings Institution, J-PAL, and Harvard University, and currently serves as a Research Assistant at the Center for Global Development.  


Lily Li, Class of 2019

Lily studied Economics with a minor in Computer Science at the University of Chicago, and now works at Facebook. Lily's prior projects have included an analysis of Small Donor Matching Programs with Senator Daniel Biss, and she is working this quarter with the Food & Water Watch to develop a demographic breakdown of each ward in Chicago to be used for a Water-For-All Ordinance and for future projects. She is passionate about using quantitative methods and predictive analytics to inform and improve policy decisions, particularly on issues related to urban policy.


David Whyman, Class of 2020

David helped found the Paul Douglas Institute and led its first two completed projects, and has served as UCDI's Citizen Bulletin. In the class of 2020, David is majoring in public policy and economics. In his spare time, David enjoys drawing and magical realist literature. David comes from the Washington, DC suburbs, and has interned for the Brookings Institution, the Urban Institute, Public Citizen, and the Montgomery County Executive's Office. He has led the following projects: 

  • "Lessons Learned from the Cook County Soda Tax" (2018)

  • "Out of School Time Programs in Montgomery County, MD" (2018)

  • A National Map of State Preemption Policies (2019)

  • Evaluating Bias in Police Complaints in Chicago (2019)