Our Leadership

Isaiah Milbauer

A second year in the College, Isaiah spent a year before college doing policy work and photography. He’s worked for the New York Immigration Coalition, National Low Income Housing Coalition, City of Boston, City of Chicago, Assemblyman Harvey Epstein, and the Town Hall Project. Prior to beng Policy Director, he led two projects on housing inequality issues for the Paul Douglas Institute. Outside of the Paul Douglas Institute, he is involved with the literary magazine Working Document and his Yiddish Americana Band, Boiberik un di Zamlers.

Co-Director of Policy

Benjamin Guzman

Micael Guzman, who prefers to go by his middle name, Ben, is a current third year Political Science and Public Policy double major. He is the current Co-Director of Policy at PDI. Ben has been involved in PDI since his first year at UChicago and has been a part of 3 different projects, one as a researcher and 2 others in the role of project leader. This past summer, Ben interned at the China US Exchange Foundation in Hong Kong.

Co-Director of Policy

Maya Krasovsky

Maya Krasovsky is a second year in the College double majoring in Economics and Sociology. Last year she worked with the Paul Douglas Institute on a public banking proposal in the spring and conducted research on the Green New Deal over the summer. Aside from research, over the summer she worked in the Investment Department of Advocate Aurora Health - one of the largest not-for-profit healthcare providers in the US. She is passionate about a variety of issues that can be addressed through well-planned, economically sound policy including healthcare, vocational education, and climate change. This year Maya is serving as the University Coordinator and aims to connect the Paul Douglas Institute to a plethora of organizations on campus interested in supporting our work.

University Coordinator

Russell Legate-Yang

Russell is a second-year Math spec Econ and Poli Sci double major from Swarthmore, PA. This year, he’s taking over as PDI’s Director of Operations after two PDI projects: researching procurement contract design for the City of Chicago, and leading the Green New Deal research team for the think tank Data for Progress. What Russell loves about PDI even more than the research, however, are the incredible and fascinating people who make up the Institute. When away from PDI, he analyzes data on suicide terrorism at CPOST, and researches the political economy of redistribution policies in the political science department. A fun fact: he eats 3-4 cups of raw, plain spinach every day.

Director of Operations

Aparna Jayashankar

Aparna Jayashankar is a Public Policy and Economics Major in the College from Brookfield, Wisconsin. She is the Financial Coordinator and a Research Analyst for PDI. In the past, she has collaborated with Cambridge University students to analyze the US and UK's recycling industries and has also worked to provide recommendations for how Chicago can prevent lead water poisoning. Last summer, she interned in Bangalore with Shakti, a nonprofit improving access to legal justice for women facing domestic violence. She is passionate about discovering policies that empower women and improve access to education.

Financial Coordinator

Michael Bushnell

Michael is a second year undergraduate studying Economics and Political Science with a minor in Human Rights. As Development Coordinator, Michael oversees internal operations such as financial planning, big-picture goals, and student recruitment. With PDI, Michael has co-authored and presented a policy research paper on police arbitration to the Chicago Office of Police Accountability, who expressed interest in utilizing PDI research to inform and correct their status quo operations. This summer, Michael co-led a team of student researchers from PDI and The Wilberforce Society of Cambridge University to produce a policy paper advising specific reforms to international plastic waste trading practices in the U.S., the U.K., and China. In addition to leading a project for PDI this summer, Michael interned with New Heights Communications, a progressive political consulting firm in Washington, D.C., where he contributed to dynamic communications and digital media strategies for several robust clients.

Development Coordinator

Jack Votava

Jack is a third year majoring in Economics and Law, Letters, and Society, with diverse primary research interests including mass media, tax and financial policy, and demography. Jack has previously lead PDI projects including a partnership with the Chicago Center for Democracy on referenda in Illinois, and with the Cook County Bureau of Technology on government procurement contracts. This summer, Jack had a great time doing data analytics at the Wisconsin Counties Association, a government lobbying and political consulting firm. Now, he looks forward to working with a new crop of PDI research analysts to help make a real impact on our community's policy landscape!

Director of Research

Sara Graziano

Sara Graziano is a second year Law, Letters, and Society major from Brooklyn, New York. She is an editor for PDI. Previously, Sara served as a researcher on the Campaign Finance Reform project and a project leader for the Referendums and Policy Outcomes project. Over the summer she worked at the Andrew Goodman Foundation. Sara is interested in voting rights reform as well as civil rights and women’s rights issues.


Deven Mukkamala

Deven, a second year from Michigan, spent his summer studying French at the university’s Summer Language Institute. He's worked on some exciting projects with PDI, including researching the accountability mechanisms of the Chicago Office of Police Accountability (COPA). His team found significant disparities in the proportion of mediated, sustained complaints across complainant race. During last year’s Spring cycle, Deven led a project that researched urban planning in India’s major cities. His team used commute times to diagram metropolitan areas for municipal policymakers. What attracted Deven to PDI was the opportunity to research—and help implement—policy that mattered to him most. Outside PDI, Deven enjoys participating in IM sports and getting involved with his fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi. Outside of school, he most enjoys reading classical literature and has recently finished Anna Karenina and started Plutarch’s Twelve Lives.


Alex Shura

Alex is a third year political science and economics major with a minor in history. He’s from Naperville, Illinois, and spent last summer working as a Law Clerk in the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney. Alex’s first project studied the Arizona Clean Elections Act’s influence and evolution. Most recently, Alex led a team in gathering data and writing a report on autonomous vehicle testing and state policy. While Alex enjoys learning about new policy areas, he is particularly passionate about judicial topics.


Joana Lepuri

Joana is a third year political science and public policy major from Michigan, and spent the last summer in the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at the State Department working on gender-based violence and women’s economic empowerment. Joana has participated largely education-based projects with the Institute, including a report on Out of School Time in Montgomery County, MD, a project on dual language education in Capistrano Unified School District, and researching accountability mechanisms of the Chicago Office of Police Accountability. As Director of Media, Joana publicizes research from the Institute and forms relationships with media organizations while also holding an interest in international policy and human rights.

Director of Media

Ruby Rorty

Ruby Rorty is a second year and events coordinator for PDI. She’s worked on the Chicago Energy Project, Green New Deal Project, and Local Environmental Policy Project, and her favorite part of PDI is the community. Beyond PDI, Ruby writes and edits for the Viewpoints section of The Chicago Maroon and is the U.S. National Coordinator for @thinkoceanglobal, an international, youth-led nonprofit devoted to ocean advocacy and policy action. She spent the past summer researching microplastic abundance in coastal ecosystems through the Marine Biological Laboratory Metcalf in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Events Coordinator

Miranda Zhang

Miranda is a second-year Fundamentals (and tentative Public Policy double) major from Hong Kong. Her involvement with PDI began last year, when she worked on the Green New Deal and Local Environmental Policy research teams. This summer, she was a Potters Fellow at MAPSCorps, a data science non-profit with the dual missions of providing accessible community health information and youth development. Her latest social impact fascination is with community-based research in Chicago and improving communication between citizens and policymakers. As PDI's Design Editor this year, she is working towards her aim of intersecting communications and policy. Outside of PDI, Miranda can often be found talking about environmentalism, existentialism and eudaemonia.

Design Editor

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