2019 Scholars and Interns
CAPAL Public Service Interns
CAPAL Public Service Interns are typically placed in internships within the organizations in Washington, DC. Interns may also be placed in regional offices throughout the country. These internship positions provide students with real-world public service experience in a range of topics and areas. CAPAL has partnerships with Federal Agencies including Forest Service, Rural Housing Service, and the National Credit Union Administration.
CAPAL Public Service Scholars
CAPAL Public Service Scholars are undergraduate and graduate students who serve in unpaid public service internships (non-profit or government) in the Washington DC area for the summer. The scholarships are intended to enable outstanding Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) students with leadership potential to work full-time and learn about ways to influence public policy in their local communities.
CAPAL Public Service Interns
Zoie is a rising senior at the University of Michigan, studying International Studies and Sociology, with minors in Translation and Environment. On campus, she is actively involved with Asian American interest groups, such as the Taiwanese American Student Association (TASA) and United Asian American Organizations (UAAO). Hearing the stories of peers within the AAPI community, as well as having been raised for most of her life in an American school and English-speaking environment in Taipei, Taiwan, has given her a deep respect for the diversity within the AAPI community. Outside of purely academic pursuits, she enjoys training in Taekwondo and Karate, and learning new languages. This summer, she will be interning with the Truman Research Center as an intern with the Politics and Policy department, and is eager to learn more about shaping policy.
David Kim is a rising second year at Case Western Reserve University, exploring economics,
marketing, theater, and computer science. He is searching to find careers that will combine his
academic interests with his passion for community service. David especially loves teaching and
engaging youth communities which stems from his past mission trips to Native American
reservations. At CWRU, David is a Pi Kappa Phi, focusing his time to its philanthropy, centered
around people with special needs. Also, David is interested in entrepreneurship. He has worked
as a student consultant for several local Cleveland startups, in the tech, health, nonprofit, and
food industries. His CAPAL internship is with the United States Department of Agriculture,
Foreign Agricultural Service. In his free time, David loves participating in theater, playing board games, volunteering at his church, and eating spicy foods.
Jessica Li is a rising sophomore at Northwestern University studying Environmental Sciences
and Statistics. At NU, she assists in science research on environmental microbes and is a junior
executive of the Chinese Students Association. She also serves on the executive board of
Students for Ecological and Environmental Development (SEED), the oldest and one of the
largest environmental groups on campus. In the past she has done research on anesthesiology,
tropical rainforest health in Costa Rica, and sea turtle behavior. In the future, she hopes to gain
experience in environmental policy and data analysis. In her free time, Jessica likes to create
artwork and cook for her friends. This summer, she will be working at the USDA Natural
Resources Conservation Service.
Rachel Oda is a junior at Pomona College in Claremont, CA. She is a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) major on the pre-law track. Rachel is the Captain of the Pomona College Mock Trial team and competes for both the plaintiff/prosecution and the defense as an attorney. She has won 1st place ranks for both the plaintiff/prosecution and the defense. During the summer after her freshman year, Rachel interned at the American Civil Liberties Union in Los Angeles and worked with their 1st Amendment rights legal team. Through these experiences, Ms. Oda has developed a passion for advocacy and is eager to connect with the CAPAL family this summer.
Helena is a rising sophomore at Pomona College in Claremont, CA, pursuing a major in
Economics. On campus, Helena competes in intercollegiate British Parliamentary debate on
national and international circuits. She is passionate about advocacy and serves as a volunteer
tutor for a program called Jumpstart, that teaches in low-income neighborhoods to help break
cycles of poverty starting at preschool. Helena is a member of the Academic Affairs Committee
of the Associated Students of Pomona College, a panelist for the Judicial Council, and a mentor
of the Asian American Mentorship Program at Pomona. Helena has worked with local
governments in the past, and she is so excited to work this summer at the USDA Foreign
As a first-generation, Hmong American college student, Mary Thao is an incoming senior at Marquette University majoring in Cognitive Science. In her college career, she has worked as a student laboratory research assistant in the Department for Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS) and now currently as a program assistant for Marquette’s Center for Community Center (CCS). Through the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program, she has conducted and presented CLS research in regards to molecular diagnostics and prevalence determination in parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis and malaria. As a CCS program assistant, she has created programming to highlight the purpose of service and its alignment with structural/social violence. With a wide range of interests from her past experiences, she strives to become more holistic and well-rounded with professional aspirations in Public/Global Health, bioethics, and social justice. In her free time, she loves eating with her family, hanging out with her sorority, Delta Xi Phi, Multicultural Sorority, Inc., and obsessing over random hobbies.
Emily Tran is a rising junior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she plans to major in Environmental Science. Some of Tran’s favorite memories include working for the German department and Transitions program at Vassar College, where she began her undergraduate career. Outside of school, she enjoys PowerPoint parties, hiking, blacksmithing, and jewelry making. Her ideal Friday night includes free-style baking followed by a silent disco. One of Tran’s dreams is to open a vegan cafe, where she would recreate traditional Vietnamese dishes such as heo quay (crispy roast pork). In the summer Tran will be studying plant physiology and plant responses to stressors in Fort Collins, Colorado.
CAPAL Public Service Scholars
Jeremiah is a student most of the time but traveler all of the time, and comes to CAPAL from human rights and security, overseas backpacking, and long-distance cycling. Prior to college, he conducted field research in Southeast Asia and South Korea for three gap years, and subsequently returned to college as a non-traditional distance student. Jeremiah now lives out of his backpack and spends each semester traveling abroad, most recently to the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, France, and the Vatican. Originally from Washington, DC, he’s interning at the Office of eDiplomacy at the US Department of State and will graduate from Harvard next year.
I’m Cassie (she/her/hers) and I am very excited to be joining the CAPAL community! I am from College Station, Texas. I am a current freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. I intended on concentrating in Finance and minoring in International Relations. On campus I am involved with a consulting club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and research. I am very passionate in international development and sustainable development. I got to spend last summer working with farmers in the Philippines and it was that moment when I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to serving others. This summer I will be interning at the US Agency for International Development’s Africa Bureau of Sustainable Development. I also love spending time outside, traveling, and trying new foods!
Sarah Kamakawiwo‘ole is pursuing a Master in Public Health (MPH) at the University of Hawai‘i and previously attended the University of Miami. She is interested in a variety of broad health policy topics, especially regarding active intersections with Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities as well as data governance and management. This summer, she looks forward to a Special Projects Internship with the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and is grateful to the Committee, CAPAL, and Papa Ola Lokahi for the opportunity.
Kristina Smelser is a rising junior at the University of California Berkeley studying Public Health and pursuing a minor in Geospatial Information Systems Technology. During the school year, she teaches health education to students of low-income high schools through the organization Peer Health Exchange and serves as a member of Berkeley’s Anti-Trafficking Coalition. This summer, Kristina is interning in the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking in Persons, where she will work to combat local and global human trafficking violations. While interning, she plans to focus specifically on the vulnerabilities of Southeast Asian migrants to labor and sex trafficking within the U.S.
Courtney Tran is a Master of International Affairs candidate at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, concentrating in International Security Policy. She holds a B.A. in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with high honors. Courtney recently worked as a Project Associate at the International Innovation Corps in New Delhi, where she led a vision development and strategic planning initiative for the Self-Employed Women’s Association. She also completed a John Gardner Fellowship at Human Rights Watch, where she co-authored a book chapter on access to essential medicines and investigated attacks on medical facilities in conflict zones. An avid traveler, she loves exploring new places and cultures: she has taught English in China, lived in Europe and India, and traveled through the Middle East and Southeast Asia. This summer, Courtney will intern with the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.