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Harris Fellows 2023

Six female college student standing in front of a UH banner

female student in front of UH banner Aryana Azizi
 Senior, Political Science
 Harris County Pct. 4, Commissioner Lesley Briones

Aryana Azizi is a senior pursuing a political science degree with a minor in  marketing. Her past experience as a Hobby School Civic Houston Intern  for the district office of Texas State Representative Armando Walle  exposed her to constituent concerns and community outreach. On campus,  Azizi served in a leadership role for Alpha Chi Omega as the Vice President of  Diversity and Inclusion. In this capacity, she emphasized the importance of  understanding implicit biases during sorority recruitment and worked to  mitigate bias throughout the process. In the spring of 2022, Azizi was elected to the UH Student Government Association as an undergraduate-at-large senator and later was elected speaker of the senate. While representing the student body, she worked to provide fellow Cougars with access to affordable contraceptives. She has also worked on a local political campaign for the 14th District Court of Appeals, where she aided the judicial candidate Cheri Thomas with fundraising efforts.
Blog: Pioneering Public Safety - Police Response and Community Trust

“My daily tasks as a policy intern include background research for innovative ideas, writing memos for Commissioners Court items and attending tours and meetings. I create running memos on prevalent issues such as domestic violence and minority-owned businesses for my office. I also had the honor of being recognized at Commissioners Court for my work alongside the other students in my cohort. I have learned so much and am excited to continue doing this meaningful work.”


female student in front of UH banner

 Alexis Boehmer
 Junior, Psychology
 Harris County Dept. Of Economic Equity and Opportunity

Alexis Boehmer is a junior at the Honors College pursuing a degree in  psychology. During the spring 2023 semester, she participated in the Hobby  School Civic Houston Internship Program, where she worked for Vice  Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Castex Tatum on constituent services,  communications and event research. On campus, Boehmer works as a  coordinator for student workers in the UH Office of Admissions. In addition,  she serves as the president of UH’s Mock Trial Association, which focuses  on teaching students real-world trial advocacy skills such as public speaking and different argumentation styles. For the past year, she has worked with Deeds Not Words, an on-campus organization focused on galvanizing young voters through art, advocacy, and legislation.
Blog: Harris County’s Need for More Affordable Housing in High Opportunity Areas

“I've worked on various projects, including identifying the vulnerability of precincts and researching loan assistance programs throughout the U.S. to compare them to Harris County's projects. My focus is researching the best ways to apply the project's methods within Harris County or finding the most accurate data on Harris County demographics. Working on my latest project has been my favorite experience so far. I've taken the lead on developing community profiles for each precinct by organizing census tract data on equity metrics I've selected. These profiles will provide an in-depth breakdown of each precinct's successes and opportunities to help determine the best ways to help in many projects to come.”


female student in front of UH banner

 Daniela Castillo
 Senior, Philosophy
 Harris County Pct. 2, Commissioner Adrian Garcia  

Daniela Castillo is a senior pursuing a degree in philosophy. She is part of  the UH Cross Country team specializing in long distance running. The UH student-athlete placed first in the 2019 and 2020 Mexican Nationals and 13th in the 2022 World Championship in Montreal, representing her home country of Mexico. As a captain for the UH Mock Trial Association, Castillo led her team to the 2022-2023 season regionals. Her passion for oral advocacy helped  qualify her for public speaking nationals in 2018 and positioned her as  president of her high school’s Model United Nations. In the summer of 2022, Castillo participated in the HERE Research Program, where she learned about the Houston community and how social pressure incentivizes policymaking towards environmentally friendly forms of energy. As an international student and experienced in studying abroad, Castillo brings a global perspective to the table. She intends to use her awareness to give back to the Houston community. Castillo plans to attend law school in 2024.
Blog: Heat Wave in Harris County - Actions Needed to Protect Vulnerable Groups

“I’m tasked with writing ceremonial documents for community events and engaging with the community. A project I’ve been working on is helping a family struggling to pay rent get stable housing. I am also working on creating a partnership with EXATEC Houston, an alumni network of a private university in Mexico who live in Houston. As an alumna, I engage with and lead conversations with the group. My best experience so far has been presenting a proclamation I wrote at the Mexican Consulate with Commissioner Adrian Garcia and Consul General Maria Elena Orantes Lopez. This experience allows me to work towards generating new partnerships for Precinct 2.”


female student in front of UH banner

 Lauren deFrance
 Senior, Liberal Studies
 County Commissioners Court’s Analyst’s Office

Lauren deFrance is a senior at the Honors College pursuing a degree in liberal studies with concentrations in political science, history, medicine and society. In the spring of 2023, deFrance served as a Hobby School Civic Houston Intern for the Center for Civic and Public Policy Improvement, where she developed her nonprofit research and policy writing skills. In the fall of 2022, the native Houstonian engaged in electoral politics working as a student fellow for the Beto O'Rourke gubernatorial campaign gaining a deeper understanding of campaign outreach. She looks forward to making a difference in her community and working with others who share her passion for a better Houston.
Blog: Rise of Generative AI Provides Opportunities for Local Governments

“I have had the opportunity to work alongside amazing people and help develop reports such as Harris County at a Glance. This report compares Harris County to other large counties in Texas and across the country on a variety of metrics and will be useful to see how well Harris County is performing in comparison. I split my time between several projects: data analysis, research and writing.” 


female student in front of UH banner

 Caitlyn Foret
 Post-baccalaureate, Strategic Communications
 Office of Harris County Attorney, Christian Menefee

Caitlyn Foret is a first-generation college graduate who obtained her  undergraduate degree in strategic communication with a minor in political  science with summa cum laude honors in May 2023. Foret is a former  communications officer and a National Leadership Team member for the Youth  Advocacy Team. She was also a mentor in the Honors College and is a proud  UH Law Center Pipeline program alumna. She previously served as the  director of public relations and chief justice for the UH Student Government  Association, where she advocated for student success and led the judicial branch. In addition, she has completed extensive research on LGBTQ+ advocacy in advertising and politics and received two congressional certificates for her involvement in the community. In the spring of 2023, she was a Hobby School Civic Houston Intern for Houston Crackdown, a division of the Mayor's Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security. Foret is a J.D. candidate at the University of Houston Law Center.
Blog: Harris County Sues Over Targeted Elections Bill

“As a part of the communications and outreach team, I have been integral in strengthening our social media presence, mentoring students in the Summer Legal Academy (SLA) and coordinating advertising campaigns. I have enjoyed mentoring SLA students. These high school students have an interest in law; many will be first-generation college and law students. Teaching them writing, networking and public speaking skills has been rewarding because I feel I am making a difference in their lives and careers as future lawyers and public servants. I have also loved learning more about the intersection between communication and law and enjoyed ensuring Harris County residents are informed.”


female student in front of UH banner

 Dima Ghazala
 Senior, Political Science
 Harris County Clerk’s Office, Teneshia Hudspeth

Dima Ghazala is a senior at the Honors College pursuing a degree in political  science with a double minor in business administration and phronesis. Her  Palestinian Muslim American upbringing channeled her into pursuing political  science to study politics at the global, national and local levels. Ghazala has  participated in research opportunities, including Houston Scholars and the  Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). With SURF, she  studied national voting patterns based on moral rhetoric with UH political  science associate professor Elizabeth Simas. She is also a head delegate of the university’s Model G20 organization, where she sharpens her discussion skills in global and financial politics. Ghazala discovered a passion for teaching with Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (PAIR), helping new international students navigate college and cultural immersion. She spent a semester in Granada, Spain, studying the country’s language and politics and working in the public school system teaching English. With the Harris Fellows program, Ghazala hopes to gain hands-on experience in local politics in preparation for law school.
Blog: Harris County Elections

“There's a new adventure every week because the job entails covering different events. When I'm not shadowing events, I'm in the office working on social media projects. The biggest project we're working on is the Back-to-School Birth Certificates Event which includes my original idea for the poster design. Being able to experience the behind-the-scenes of court cases in Harris County's Civic Department was such an exciting opportunity for someone interested in law and with no experience in the field. I studied different court documents, watched lawyers give closing arguments to jurors and experienced judges give verdicts on eviction cases.”