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Fall 2022 CONNECT Fellows

karen-bandaKaren Banda is a second-year graduate student at the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs pursuing a Master of Public Policy. She is the first in her family to obtain an Bachelor’s degree in the United States, and she is a first-generation graduate student.

Karen received her Bachelor of Arts in 2018 from Smith College, double majoring in Government and Latin American Studies. Growing up in a lower-income neighborhood and experiencing many inequities and obstacles firsthand, she is interested in solving social issues through public policy, with an aim to help currently-disadvantaged communities thrive. Currently, she is a Research Assistant with the Center for Public Policy in the Hobby School and is excited to be part of the CONNECT Program.

Karen is working with Cy-Hope for her fellowship project.


melissaMelissa Perrone is currently a second-year graduate student at the University of Houston, pursuing a master's degree in clinical social work. She is also part of the mental health in advanced practice program and plans on specializing in trauma-informed practices.                         

Melissa finished her Bachelor of Arts in communications in 2016 at the University of Montana. Prior to pursuing her MSW, she worked in sales/retail management for over ten years. Her previous nonprofit experience includes Forward Montana, Memorial Assistance Ministries, and the Houston Food Bank. She currently works as a medical social worker and is passionate about understanding how intersectionality impacts a person’s mental and physical health.

Melissa is working for Capital IDEA for her fellowship project.


juhyeon-songJuhyeon Song is a first-year graduate student at the University of Houston pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Policy. His specialty is healthcare policy with focus on pharmaceutical business.

Juhyeon graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Prior to pursuing his MPP, he served in the Korean military as an Intelligence Officer for three years. Afterwards, Juhyeon went to work for Bayer Korea where he managed various ETC and OTC brand portfolios as a product manager for four years. And most recently, Juhyeon led a team of consultants as a Manager at a local consultancy, specializing in healthcare industry projects involving multinational clientele of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and precision diagnostics.

Juhyeon is working with Baker Ripley for his fellowship project.


drew-tonjes-headshotDrew Tonjes is a first-year graduate student at the University of Houston. She is pursuing a dual master's degree in Social Work and Public Policy. Drew graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2020.

After graduation, she worked as a clinical assistant administering psychological assessments to children, adolescents, and adults. During this time, she also volunteered with the Aum Foundation to empower socially and economically under-resourced youth. Drew is passionate about social justice and civic engagement. She is excited to be part of the CONNECT program.

Drew is working with the East Harris County Empowerment Council for her fellowship project.


hannahurie_headshotHannah Urie is a second-year graduate student at the University of Houston’s Hobby School, pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Policy. Her areas of interest are food insecurity and understanding the intricacies of the global food system. Hannah currently works in development and communications for Target Hunger, a Houston based non-profit focused on supporting Houston’s food insecure population. Prior to Target Hunger, she served as an AmeriCorps Member with United Way of Greater Houston’s Education Initiative - working with students struggling in math and reading to help them improve their skills and keep up in class.

Hannah holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Georgia College & State University and is also a Certified Non-Profit Professional. Beyond her professional endeavors, her experience includes serving her Georgia and Houston community through several community outreach volunteer roles. Most notably, she assisted a refugee assistance organization that empowered refugee women by providing job opportunities and life skills classes.

Hannah is working with the Center for Civic and Public Policy Improvement for her fellowship project.