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Congressional Fellowships
on Women and Public Policy

Class of 2002

This year's class of WREI Fellows range in age from 24 to 50 and hail from the Midwest, Southwest, and East Coast.


Diane Beedle is working on budget, taxes, labor, education research, and environmental issues for Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia. Specific issues that she is staffing include revising a pension plan crisis brought out by the Enron scandal and analyzing the effects of repealing the corporate alternative minimum tax. A Mitchell, South Dakota native, Diane is pursuing a Ph.D. in curriculum design at the University of Illinois's College of Education and hopes to receive her degree in December 2003. Her dissertation focuses on historical racism and sexism in federal education legislation and policy. Long committed to shaping public policy from the grassroots level, Diane worked as a program director for a community group in Chicago, which grew out of her VISTA volunteer position as a community organizer. Diane graduated magnum cum laude from Boston College with a bachelor's degree in philosophy.


Alicia Butler, a native of Waco, Texas, is working in the office of Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi of California. Rep. Pelosi was recently elected to the highest Congressional leadership position ever held by a woman. Prior to her WREI Fellowship, Alicia worked as a legislative correspondent for Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas. Currently pursuing a master's in public policy from Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute, Alicia earned her bachelor's degree in government from the University of Texas at Austin in 1999. In 1998, Alicia was named a Center for Politics and Commercial Diplomacy Fellow at the Ronald H. Brown Foundation. She has worked as an organizer and fundraiser for two state political campaigns. She also helped to build a University of Texas pro-choice organization and worked as a campus and grassroots organizer for Planned Parenthood in Austin. Alicia expects to receive her master's degree in May 2002.


Katie Delmore has legislative responsibility for health care and welfare reform in the office of Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota. A native of Sanborn, North Dakota, Katie has spent three summers working in the Fargo and Washington offices of Senator Byron Dorgan. Katie graduated with honors from North Dakota State University in Fargo with a bachelor's degree in mass communication. She went on to receive her master's degree in speech communication from the University of Minnesota and plans to complete her doctorate in that field in 2003. Katie taught speech communication classes at the University of Minnesota for three years. She has also volunteered in St. Paul as an ESL instructor. Katie spent last summer and fall working as a faculty advisor with the National Youth Leadership Council, a program that brings high school students to Washington, D.C. to learn about the federal government.


S. Suzan Jane Harkness is working on issues impacting women, children, and health in the office of Congresswoman Diane Watson of California. Originally from Wisconsin, where she earned her bachelor's degree in psychology, Suzan kept moving west: first, for a master's degree in international relations at the USIU in San Diego (which included work in Kenya and Japan) and then on to Hawaii for her doctorate in political science/public policy at UH-Manoa. While completing her dissertation "Women and Work: Dynamics of the Glass Ceiling and Public Policy Perspectives," Suzan juggled several academic jobs. She taught courses in political science, women's studies, and international studies; served as a program manager in university administration; worked as a research assistant; and was a faculty leader in a women's leadership program. Suzan also volunteered to assist women and children at risk for sexual exploitation, organized a film series on women in history, and planned activities for Equal Pay Day. A former marathon runner, Suzan has a high level of endurance which she needs to keep up with the demands of an infant son, working full-time, and teaching courses online.


Darlene Iskra has been placed in the office of Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, where she is helping with energy and welfare, as well as with other legislative issues. While Darlene grew up in south San Francisco, she has also been a resident of Washington state. A retired Navy commander, Darlene was one of the first women to become a Navy diver and was the first to command a Navy ship. Her 21-year career took her to assignments all over the globe, including humanitarian operations after Hurricane Andrew in Florida and Typhoon Fern in Micronesia. She is active in the Women Officers Professional Association and Women in International Security. Darlene expects to receive her master's degree in military sociology from the University of Maryland in May 2002. Additionally, Darlene holds a master's degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College. She earned her bachelor's degree at San Francisco State University.


Rachel Kraus of Cincinnatti, Ohio, has legislative responsibility for education, health care, and religious issues in the office of Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Rachel graduated cum laude from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor's degree in sociology. She then went on to earn a master's degree in public administration at the University of South Carolina. At the same time, she worked for the legislative liaison at the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services. After graduating, Rachel moved to the sociology program at Purdue, earning a second master's degree and focusing her doctoral dissertation on the religious and political motivation of religious lobbies. She will receive her degree in May 2004. As a graduate instructor at Purdue, Rachel designed and taught her own section of "Religion in America," an upper-level undergraduate course. Her volunteer experience includes assisting at Caracole House in Cincinnati, which offers assistance to low-income AIDS patients.


Julie Okoniewski has been assigned to the office of Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez of New York. Julie works on women's issues, as well as on the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act (CAPTA). A North Brunswick, New Jersey native, Julie will receive her master's in urban affairs from Hunter College in May 2002. She graduated cum laude from the New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration in social work and community development. Julie immediately put her education to work as a volunteer and then full-time staffer at Grand Street Settlement. In addition to starting a girl's group for 9–12-year-old girls and working with 13–18-year-old girls in the Girls' and Young Women's Initiative, Julie also raised approximately $475,000 for this non-profit organization serving the Lower East Side. While pursuing her master's degree, Julie also interned in the Brooklyn office of Rep. Velázquez.


Faye Payne works in the office of Congressman Charles B. Rangel of New York, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Faye's issues include education, science and technology, international affairs, social policy, and women's health issues. Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Faye is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in American government and public policy at Howard University. She earned her master's degree in political science from Howard in 1997. In 2000, Faye was awarded the Dana Mattison Memorial Fellowship at Howard. This fellowship afforded her the opportunity to work as a policy analyst for the National Black Caucus of State Legislators in Washington, D.C. Faye expects to receive her doctorate in May 2003.


Trenace Richardson of Chesapeake, Virginia, works on education, crime, environmental, and consumer issues in the office of Congresswoman Carolyn C. Kilpatrick of Michigan. She is also the liasion to the Urban Caucus. A former high school English teacher with local and national educator awards to her credit, Trenace will receive her Ed.D in higher education administration from the George Washington University in May 2003. Her dissertation focuses on how spirituality affects the leadership development of prominent African American women. Trenace received her bachelor's degree magna cum laude from Elizabeth City State University in 1996, and went on to earn a master's degree in divinity from Howard University in 1999. Her numerous volunteer efforts include chairing a Mentoring for Life program (1994–1996), an organization that promotes moral excellence in the lives of young women. Called to the music ministry at an early age, she is also a minister traveling extensively to preach the gospel.