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Department of Political Science
University of California, San Diego
Distinguished Alumni


Lisa Baldez. Ph.D. ‘97 is Associate Professor of Government and Chair of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies at Dartmouth College. She holds a B.A. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of Why Women Protest: Women’s Movements in Chile (Cambridge University Press, 2002) and co-editor of Political Women and American Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2008). Her articles have appeared in American Journal of Political Science, Latin American Politics and Society, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and Journal of Legal Studies. She has done research on politics and gender in a range of countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Mexico and the United States. She is married to John Carey, her current husband whom she met at UCSD.


Jeffrey Barton, J.D., '78, is currently serving as an assistant presiding judge at the San Diego County Superior Court. Prior to his current position, he was a medical malpractice defense lawyer for 20 years, and worked as a lawyer representing UCSD Medical Center during that time. He takes pride on being a UCSD graduate and credits his experience at UCSD for sharpening his communication skills and instilling in him an analytical approach in dealing and interpreting conflicting data and opinions. He advises UCSD students to get an early start in world politics as a "great opportunity to spend widening your horizons that you will never have again once you enter a profession."


Matthew Baum, Ph.D. '00, is the Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. In addition to teaching courses, he also researches, writes books and articles, and advises graduate students. He credits the rigorous graduate program that UC San Diego offered in addition to the intimate mentoring relationship between faculty and doctoral students, as his reasoning behind choosing UCSD. He also noted the number of well-trained and well- placed graduates. Despite the difficulty of the studying for comprehensive exams, he remembers it fondly as "the most intellectually rewarding time [he] can remember."

Samantha Begovich, J.D. ’91 is the current deputy district attorney in San Diego. She has been a public servant since graduating from UC San Diego, and now works with and equally enforces the rights of victims and defendants without regard to sex, age, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, religion, or political opinions. She credits the comparative analysis and critical thinking training she received in her political science classes as training her to quickly identify — in the eyes of the public, the victims, defense counsel, and judges — what the costs and benefits are of any given solution. Samantha also appreciated how her professors taught her to be professional, prepared, analytical, focused, and able to work well under pressure.

Debby Buchholz, B.A. ’84, is the General Manger of the La Jolla Playhouse. Prior to working at the La Jolla Playhouse, she was a lawyer in private practice in New York and Washington D.C. and the in-house counsel for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. for almost 12 years. She received her J.D. from Harvard in 1987. She credits her political science degree as the “first step in what has been an amazingly rewarding career” in developing her analytical thinking and writing skills as well as connecting her with one of the most rewarding relationships of her life —Professor Sam Popkin. She chose UC San Diego for its great political science program and thoroughly enjoyed being able to study on the beach in February.


John Carey, Ph.D. ’94 is currently a professor and chair of the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. Since receiving his Ph.D. from UC San Diego, he has been teaching and researching at prestigious universities. He describes his UCSD academic experience, noting that he “did not think there was anywhere in the world where I could have got better training in comparative and American politics.” John’s best memories at the University included meeting his current wife and fellow Triton, Lisa Baldez, ’97, and having his first son at UCSD Medical Center.

Mike Daniels, ’93, is currently the Commissioner of the Golden State Athletic Conference who is responsible for all the functions of the collegiate conference as well as developing sponsorship strategies. He has worked at Big West Conference for more than 15 years as an assistant commissioner and as an associate commissioner before his current position. Despite the fact that he is not technically in a political science profession, he says that having a political science background has assisted him in his professional life. He chose political science because he was drawn to the classes as well as the strategic aspect of international politics occurring at the time.

Paolo Davanzo

Paolo Davanzo, ‘93 is Executive Director and co-founder of Echo Park Film Center, a non-profit media arts organization committed to providing equal and affordable community access to film/video resources for members of marginalized and underserved communities. He believes that telling stories through narrative film is a powerful way to reflect the many voices and visions of contemporary American life. Through cultivating a dedicated staff and partnerships with filmmakers, educators, and activists, his organization empowers communities throughout LA to share their stories and experiences to create meaningful work and build powerful and lasting change.


Serge Dedina, Ph.D ’87 is is currently the director of WiLDCOAST/COSTASALVAjE, a conservation organization that works to conserve coastal and marine ecosystems such as coral reefs estuaries, gray whale birthing lagoons and sea turtle nesting beaches. Earning his political science degree taught him to understand political systems as well as border policies, more specifically, the U.S.-Mexico border. It also prepared him to receive political support from agencies, elected officials and the community. To UC San Diego political science students he says, “Your education in Political Science should be a tool to advance your career and make the world a better place. You are getting an education in how the world really works—and that is priceless.”

William Eggers, ’89 is the Global Research Director for Deloitte’s Public Sector industry practice as well as the author of eight books. A former manager of the Texas Performance Review and appointee to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s Performance Assessment Rating Tool (PART) Advisory Board, Eggers has advised governments around the world. From learning about presidential power in Samuel Kernell’s class, to getting the inside scoop on polling and elections from Samuel Popkin, to gaining a deeper understanding of urban policy from Steve Erie, he uses what he learned from UC San Diego every day in his career. He credits how the particular political orientation of most professors never impacted how they presented the subjects or the grades they handed out, and taught him to stay open to very different points of view.


Paul Eykamp, Ph.D., '95 is a modeler for membership and insurance marketing for AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah, the third largest AAA club. He creates models for whom AAA should directly and indirectly market, answers questions about the behavior of members, and provides key insights to strategic planning. His political science degree and UC San Diego education has thoroughly prepared him for his career —from learning about research and game theory, to applied political management and journalism, his jobs have required him to be good at these skills. His fondest memory of UCSD is watching the sunset at the cliffs.


Brian Frank, ’91 currently runs global operations for LinkedIn. Having spent most of his career in the technology and Internet space, he was previously an associate general as well as a CFO. Although he has many wonderful memories of UC San Diego, his favorite was eating scones and drinking coffee at the Grove Caffe.


Jenny Gilmore, ’96 is a banking professional who started her banking and taxation career as a bank teller in college. She has also earned a Master’s in Finance. Her political science degree has not only taught her to write and think critically, but to also understand and analyze everyday conflicts. He Irish background and family sparked her interest in political conflict.


Melinda Haag, J.D. ’83 is serving as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California after being nominated for the position by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate. She is an experienced trial lawyer with 26 years of prosecutorial and private sector experience and has been included on many lists of top lawyers. She credits classroom debates and researching and writing papers in her UC San Diego classes as strong grounding in skills she now uses as a lawyer. Her fondest UCSD memory is graduating in front of Sun God, which was installed just in time for the ceremony.


Ethan Hollander         Ethan Hollander

Ethan J. Hollander is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where he was recently appointed tenure that will be granted effective July 1, 2014. Dr. Hollander teaches a wide variety of courses at Wabash, including Politics of the Middle East, Politics of the European Union, Research Methods and Statistics, and, most recently, Cuban Politics and Culture. His research interests include nationalism, imperialism, military occupations and authoritarian regimes. Dr. Hollander is currently writing a book, Swords or Shields? Implementing and Subverting the Final Solution in German-Occupied Europe. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego in 2006.


Susan Hyde, Ph.D., '06, is an Associate Professor of Political Science & International Affairs and the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Global Affairs at Yale University. She has been a part of the Yale faculty since receiving her Ph.D. from UCSD in 2006 when she received the Juan Linz Award for the best dissertation in the comparative study of democracy. She praises UCSD's graduate program, especially the ability to forge relationships with members of the faculty who she describes as "[serving] as excellent role models in the profession" and who she still enjoys "wonderful relationships" with. 


Loren Kaye, ’78 is currently running a think tank on issues related to the California economy and business climate in addition to counseling the California Chamber of Commerce on public policy issues. Loren has worked on several statewide political campaigns as well as in the Governor’s Office. He declares that his political science degree “is an avatar of the profound influence that the Political Science faculty had on [him].” Professor Sam Popkin “demanded a high degree of inquiry and substance in his work” while “[his] thinking was never the same after encountering Professor Martin Shapiro.”


Robert Koenigsberger, '87, is founder, CIO, and Managing Partner of Gramercy, a global emerging markets investment manager. His job entails managing diversified portfolios of emerging market debt and equity investments. His job requires a good understanding of countries, the people, and their political systems, and credits the political science department at UCSD for the foundation of his success. He discovered political science as his calling after taking Latin American Political Science courses with Prof. Paul Drake and never looked back since.  He advises students to “leverage political science into anything you want to do or be. Everything in life starts with a good understanding of people and their political systems and behavior."


Jaime Lizarraga,’88 is Senior Adviser and Director of Member Services to House Democratic  Leader, Nancy Pelosi. He has served in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and was involved in crafting and strategy on major legislative efforts such as the DREAM Act and the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform. He believes that his education at UCSD has prepared him to tackle the challenges he faces in his career in politics. He advises “be resourceful in arriving at innovative solutions, use good judgment, always have a well thought-out strategy for building consensus with all stakeholders, and be flexible enough to accomplish all of this under time pressure.”


Henrietta Movsessian, ’12 is currently the staff assistant/internship coordinator in the office of Senator Barbara Boxer. Shehas interned in the office of the Mayor of San Diego as well as in the office of the San Diego Alternate Public Defender. She chose to major in political science because she always had a desire to help people and was interested in the political process. Of her experience, she says, “I have seen firsthand the impact the decisions of our lawmakers can have and how much of a positive impact they can make.”


Chris Ottinger, ’90, is President of International Television Distribution and Acquisitions, MGM. His busy schedule includes overseeing MGM’s TV distribution and acquisition activities, working with teams around the world such as London, LA, and Sydney, and attending International film festivals.  His supervision of MGM's TV production activities was responsible for shows like Teen Wolf on MTV and Vikings on The History Channel. He also manages licensing of film properties such as the James Bond Franchise, The Hobbit, and other popular TV series. He feels that the quantitative and research aspects at UCSD have prepared him for law school, and later, success in the entertainment business. He is a big fan of the Dialectic, a work by German philosopher, Hegel, and applies it to his daily life and conversation.


Jeannene Przyblyski, Ph.D. '81, is the Provost and Faculty in the School of Art at CalArts. She oversees all academic programs at the institute that is consistently amongst the top-ranked art schools in the country. Even though she chose UC San Diego almost by accident, she credits her studies in both Political Science and Visual Art at the University to be "transformational." She advises UCSD students to conceive of their studies as broadly preparing them for the world. In her words, "a Political Science degree teaches you critical thinking, diverse historical and cultural perspectives, and the ability to creatively analyze complex systems. All of those skills are relevant to negotiating the world today and hopefully to working to make it a better place."


Dileep Rao, '95, is an actor who works in theater, film, and television. His political science degree has helped him navigate the complex world of Hollywood, in terms of understanding the people of Hollywood in addition to analyzing scripts and character development. He remembers many professors in the department such as Paul Drake, Sam Kernell, and Gary Jacobsen as being great minds and learning much from them. His advice to a UC San Diego student? "Remember, when you are young, you suffer from knowledge and experience deficits but have energy and empty time surpluses: use the latter to achieve the dissolution of the former."


Rajendra Roy, ’94 has been the Chief Curator of Film at The Museum of Modern Art since July 2007. Since starting his work in independent film programming in 1992 as an undergrad, he has now been the Executive Director of the Mix Festival in New York, one of the most respected experimental film events in the world, as well as working at the Guggenheim and The Hamptons International Film Festival. Of his degree, he says, “Politics is not lacking in the curatorial process. You've got to have somebody who can navigate those egos and expectations with a nuanced, diplomatic approach, convincing the powers-that-be that there is a right way to get the story across [as opposed to] a way that would be a total embarrassment and train wreck."


David Shirk, Ph.D. '03, is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at UC San Diego. He conducts research on Mexican politics, U.S.-Mexican relations, and law enforcement and security along the U.S.-Mexican border. Since receiving his Ph.D., he has written for major publications as well as given multiple presentations to both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. 


Hendrik Spruyt, ’92 is currently Norman Dwight Harris Professor of International Relations at Northwestern University and has published numerous books on global politics and international relations. He transferred from Ohio State after hearing about UCSD’s prestige and knowing some of the faculty, such as Professor Lijphart, whom he worked with previously. He believes the training he received at UCSD was “remarkable,” and prepared him for the positions in his later field in academia. Born in Hong Kong and coming from a diverse, worldly background, it was only natural for him to choose political science as his focus. He enjoyed playing soccer at UCSD and his favorite professor was Peter Cowhey, his dissertation advisor and “a great mentor in every aspect.” He advises building a strong support group of friends and colleagues while at UCSD, as he still stays in touch with his friends to this day. 


Jennifer Thomas, '92, is currently a stock administration manager at Google, Inc. handling all things related to equity awards that they grant to their employees. Until joining Google about two and a half years ago, she had been in the financial services industry in various capacities since graduating from UC San Diego. She credits her degree with helping to develop her writing skills as well as her public speaking skills, both critical to her role. 


Kevin Watt, '07 owns and operates a mixed-species livestock farm south of San Francisco. He was drawn to the farming profession due to the mental challenges. In addition to marketing and financial planning, there is the need to keep up with the advances of ecological agricultural practices and doing research to see how best to use that knowledge. He says that his political science degree has been an asset for him when planning and evaluating a new or existing enterprise on the farm in addition to understanding state and county regulations. His piece of advice to UCSD students? "Find and take classes from the most passionate and competent teachers you can find. A professor's enthusiasm is the greatest indicator that you will enjoy and learn and retain something from the course."


Evelyn Hsieh Wong, ’05 is the senior writer/editor at DC Public Schools. A former speechwriter at the White House, Evelyn now writes stories about happenings in the district. She credits both her political science and communication degrees as giving her a strong background in public policy, sociology, political theory, and history to understand current events with a more nuanced lens as well as a way to organize her thoughts and put them into writing.


Christopher Yanov, '99 is the founder and president of Reality Changers. After working with gang members for five years, Yanov found Reality Changers with the hope of building more first-generation college students. Reality Changers offers mentoring programs and scholarship opportunities to hundreds of students in San Diego per year and has raised approximately $40 million in scholarship funds. He credits his political science degree to helping him become a better communicator of ideas and teaching him the importance of building new cultures and society. His advice to a UC San Diego student would be to prepare "to understand every issue from a variety of perspectives. There's probably never a single right answer."


Rena Zuabi, ’11 is currently coordinating program development for the Orange County-based technology accelerator, K5Launch. Working in a Palestinian non-governmental organization, MA'AN Development Center, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, prompted her to fill the gap between sustainable development and innovation by building investment and partnerships around locally grown social enterprises. Her political science degree prepared her professional life by exposing her to a range of world views and international study opportunities which equipped her to interpret the broad intersections of politics and socioeconomic development that have influenced her growing career in the Middle East.