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Meet the Researchers

Cathy J. Cohen

Principal Investigator/Founder

Jonathan Lykes

Partnerships Lead

Vlad Enrique Medenica

Associate Director

Jenn Jackson

Research Consultant

Diane Wong

Research Consultant

Kumar Ramanathan

Research Fellow

Tai Davidson Bajandas

Website Manager and Administrative Assistant

Former Affiliates

Matthew Fowler

Postdoctoral Scholar

During his time of employment with GenForward, Matthew Fowler was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University in August 2017. His research examines the politics of race and ethnicity, political polarization, and ideology in American politics. He has published articles in PS: Political Science & Politics, American Review of Politics, and Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies.

Jon Rogowski

Research Consultant

During his time of employment with GenForward, Jon Rogowski was an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. His research interests are in American politics, where he studies representation and accountability, political institutions, and American political history. Jon has written two books on the American presidency and published articles in journals including the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, British Journal of Political Science, and Presidential Studies Quarterly. Jon’s more recent research projects have studied the growth of bureaucratic institutions and the use of presidential power in the contemporary and historical periods. He has regularly taught undergraduate and graduate courses on presidential and congressional elections, the American presidency, executive branch politics, and research methods.
Jon received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago in 2012. Before returning to Chicago, he held faculty positions in the Department of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis and the Department of Government at Harvard University.

Paola Del Toro

Research Assistant/Web Coordinator

Paola Del Toro graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in English Language and Literature, focusing on contemporary US literature and culture. She graduated as a Mellon Mays Fellow and previously provided consultant work for the Fellowship at UChicago. Her academic interests have included critical theory, media related to financial crises, and diaspora & race studies.

During her time of employment with GenForward, Paola managed GenForward’s website and social media, and assisted with other writing, communication, and administrative duties.

Jordie Davies

Graduate Research Assistant

During her time of employment with GenForward, Jordie Davies was a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, studying American political behavior. She was a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the GenForward Survey of Millennials.

Jordie’s research interests have included Black politics, social movements, political participation, and political communication. Specifically, she has focused on the influence of social movements and new media on political attitudes and participation. For GenForward, Davies did work on the Movement for Black Lives and on the politics of racial redress (with Jenn Jackson and David Knight), considering millennial understandings of structural racism and potential forms of justice.

Davies received a BA in Political Science from Emory University, in Atlanta, GA, with a minor in Educational Studies.

Margaret Brower

Graduate Research Assistant

During her time of employment with GenForward, Margaret Brower was a PhD student studying American and Comparative politics at the University of Chicago. She was also a UChicago Urban fellow. She has a Master of Arts degree in higher education and public policy from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and education from Colgate University. Prior to joining the program at the University of Chicago, she led a series of qualitative and qualitative research projects at the the National Forum for Higher Education and the Public Good and the Institute for Higher Education and Democracy (IDHE) focused on urban challenges, participatory action, policy feedback, immigration, college student voting, and youth political development. At the University of Chicago, as a student and as a researcher for GenForward, she focused on the political socialization of young people, especially youth of color, and the ways in which urban settings contextualize and shape this experience.

David J. Knight

Graduate Research Assistant

During his time of employment with GenForward, David J. Knight was a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. Before coming to Chicago, David was a certified high school teacher in San Francisco and Boston. This experience teaching and working in urban communities profoundly informs his research. David is particularly interested in demographic change, urban politics, intergroup coalition building, and the political lives of urban young people. A native of the New Orleans area, David received his AB in history from Dartmouth, trained as a teacher at Stanford, and began his research career as a master’s student at Harvard.

Matt Nelsen

Postdoctoral Researcher

During his time of employment with GenForward, Matt Nelsen was a Postdoctoral Scholar affiliated with the Department of Political Science and the GenForward Survey at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Northwestern University in June 2020. Matt’s research examined how local-level institutions, especially schools and neighborhoods, act as microcosms of democracy and has been featured within Perspectives on Politics, Political Behavior, The Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, Psychological Inquiry, and the Washington Post. His forthcoming book explores the ways in which civic education courses shape the political attitudes and behaviors of high schoolers along the lines of race and ethnicity. More specifically, he finds that content and teaching practices that center the local knowledge and grassroots political action of marginalized groups have the ability to forge more empowering civic learning experiences for young people.
A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Matt received dual bachelor’s degrees in political science and Asian Studies as a first-generation college student at St. Olaf College and holds a M.A. in social sciences from the University of Chicago. He was also a lecturer in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University and taught American Politics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Samhitha Krishnan

Samhitha Krishnan

Researcher/Website Coordinator

During her time of employment with GenForward, Samhitha Krishnan was a researcher and writer based in Chicago, IL. She received an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Chicago, where her research focused on burnout and relational care frameworks for organizers of color involved in racial justice work. Samhitha is interested in the intersection of race, education and community-based organizing and previously worked as the project manager of Crown School Beyond Schools Lab directed by Dr. Eve Ewing. She managed the website for the GenForward survey and worked on various research projects including Reimagining Public Safety. Along with her research, Samhitha has been involved in food justice and mutual aid projects across the city of Chicago.

Urvi Kumbhat

Website Coordinator

Urvi Kumbhat holds a BA from the University of Chicago and was, during her time of employment with GenForward, an MFA candidate in fiction at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Lit Hub, The Margins, Poet Lore, Protean Magazine, and elsewhere. She previously worked on a collection of short stories set in Calcutta, where she grew up.

Patricia Posey

Research Consultant

Patricia Posey received her PhD in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 and a double BA in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Florida in 2013. Prior to joining the Political Science Department at the University of Chicago, Posey was a pre-doctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research has examined the relationship between American political economy and race, with a focus on the links among capitalism, urban space, technology, and political behavior. She is developing a manuscript that examines the effects of different banking and loan institutions on the political attitudes and political participation of marginalized communities. Posey is particularly interested in the effects of check cashing institutions, pay-day loan companies, pawn shops, and the like on the attitudes of poor, black, and brown communities toward the state.

Laura Chen

During her time of employment with GenForward, Laura Chen was a second year at the University of Chicago. She is a former Milgrom Education Impact Fellow planning to major in Public Policy and Biology. Before coming to Chicago, she went to school in Taipei, Taiwan. Laura assisted with data visualization, memos, and more for GenForward.
Bianca DiGiovanni

Bianca DiGiovanni

Graduate Research Assistant

During her time of employment with GenForward, Bianca DiGiovanni was a PhD student of Political Science at the University of Chicago. Bianca’s interests include Race and Ethnic Politics, topics of incarceration, and game theoretic models. She has focused on models of plea-bargaining incorporating race and bail reform. Bianca received her BSE in Environmental Engineering from Princeton University.

For the GenForward Survey, Bianca worked with the team on the production and analysis of our bimonthly surveys.

Terri Smith

Pre-doctoral Scholar

During her time of employment with GenForward, Terri Smith was a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. She was also an APSA Minority Fellow. Terri received a BA in Political Science from Louisiana State University where she was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar.
Her research interests have included Black politics, gender and sexuality, and social movements. Terri has studied Black Queer Feminism — a political praxis within radical Black-led social movements — and the dynamics of power that exist within movement work and community organizing. In particular, she has been interested in how Black Queer Feminist politics of care and accountability shape activist’s interaction with the state.
Prior to attending the University of Chicago, Terri was a scholar-activist who conducted research and community-based activism surrounding racial attitudes and state-sanctioned violence against Black and Brown communities. For GenForward, Terri was a pre-doctoral scholar for public-facing data and served as the director of the Data Liberation project. Here, she bridged connections between the academy and activist communities by managing and conducting webinars, panel discussions, and seminars that think with community organizers about how they might operationalize GenForward data. The Data Liberation project seeks to prevent the use of data from being siloed within the academy and also to promote the use of data as a tool within liberation-focused movement work.