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Congressional Fellowships

on Women and Public Policy

Class of 2012

These remarkable women are mastering public policymaking as WREI Fellows on Capitol Hill.

Elina Alterman will be working on health and women’s issues for Congresswoman Lois Capps of California. She is a 2011 graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she earned dual master’s degrees in Public Health and Social Work, with a focus on Maternal and Child Health.  Elina’s policy focus is health care access and equality, with a special interest in reproductive health rights.  At UNC, Elina was a Fellow of the UNC Maternal and Child Health Public Health-Social Work Leadership Program and completed three field practica: first, working with children in foster care as a Child Protective Services social worker at a county department of social services; next, as a pregnancy test counselor and maternity care coordinator at a county health department; and finally, at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, spearheading a research project concerning reproductive health rights.


Previously, Elina earned her BA from Brandeis University, where she double-majored in sociology and Latin American studies and double-minored in legal studies and women’s and gender studies.  While at Brandeis, she was a teaching assistant for a health sociology course, was a judicial intern at the Boston and Dorchester Juvenile Courts, and interned at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, working on grassroots organizing, college student outreach, and volunteering for Governor Deval Patrick’s first gubernatorial campaign.  Although Elina grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, she originates from Moscow, Russia, having emigrated with her parents to the U.S. when she was five years old.  Elina remains fluent in Russian, enjoys hiking and all manner of outdoor activities, and is a proud Jayhawk to whom the start of basketball season is an annual holiday.

Monica Barrera works as a legislative fellow in the office of Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34). Prior to coming to Washington, Monica was a policy analyst at the Women of Color Policy Network,where  she advanced the policy institute’s legislative priorities in the areas of economic security, social equity, and immigration reform. A graduate of Dartmouth College in sociology, Monica holds a master’s from Columbia University’s School of Social Work with a specialization in policy practice and a minor at Columbia Law School. During her social work practica, Monica worked with the Legal Aid Society to divert defendants in Queens Mental Health Recovery Court to alternative to incarceration programs. She also evaluated the effectiveness of New York State prison-based substance abuse treatment programs and lobbied with the Correctional Association of New York for state-wide prison reform, including the full repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.


Prior to graduate school, Monica worked in the San Diego County child welfare system and served as a Community Development Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic, where she partnered extensively with the local government to design and implement outreach programs that benefited disadvantaged youth and families. She has also contributed to the municipal government policymaking process in the U.S. as a Mayoral Fellow with the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office, and was recently selected to participate in the National Women’s Law Center’s Progressive Leadership and Advocacy Network. Monica's policy experience and advocacy efforts are infused with her passion for social justice and deep commitment to combating pervasive social, economic, and political inequalities that disproportionately impact women and communities of color. She is married to Francisco Contreras, who works in HIV/AIDS prevention, education, and treatment for a community-based organization in New York.


Meredith Beers is a PhD student at Tulane University in the Department of Global Environmental Health Sciences, specializing in disaster management.  

In May 2011, Meredith received her Master of Public Healthfrom the same department at Tulane on her way to earning her doctorate. Her master’s thesis focused on social media and disasters. During her undergraduate years, also at Tulane, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Instead of transferring to another university to complete her English degree, Meredith volunteered with Tulane's administration, which sparked her interest in disaster management. When the BP Deepwater Oil Spill hit the Gulf in 2010, she interned with industrial hygienists in Houma, LA, conducting 600 on-and off-shore respirator fittests.  This past summer found Meredith in Washington, DC working at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park to update the Zoo's emergency response guide.  On the Hill, Meredith works in the office of Senator Frank Lautenberg (New Jersey) doing a project on chemical facility security policy.  

Karla Dhungana will be working on judiciary and women’s issues for Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. She is a Ph.D. candidate in Criminology at Florida State University. A proud Nepali-Filipino woman, her passion for criminology and public policy in relation to women’s rights was instilled early on through childhood experiences in Nepal. Karla’s areas of interest include crime and social institutions, women and crime, bullying, urban gangs and policing. As a graduate research assistant at the FSU Center for Criminology and Public Policy, she worked on an NIJ sponsored study assessing the effectiveness of electronic monitoring on supervision and post-supervision outcomes as well as on a Department of Education funded project that provided quality assurance reviews for Florida juvenile justice education programs. Additionally, Karla has taught undergraduate courses on gender, crime and justice, and criminal justice administration. During graduate school, she volunteered as an abuse intervention facilitator at a Florida woman’s prison, teaching a program designed to improve the mental health of female offenders who have been victims of abuse.


Karla received her BA in Psychology with a minor in Art History from Loyola Marymount University. She has been a recipient of a LMU Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates award, and the Eugene Escallier Foreign Study grant which taught her the importance and intersection of research and policy. During her time at LMU, she participated in a service trip to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico as part of a delegation designed to learn about and bear witness to the tragedy of the Juarez femicides, globalization, human rights and immigration along the U.S/ Mexico border. She also completed internships with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Gang Unit and Girls Incorporated. 

Fluent in Nepali, Tagalog and Hindi, she delights in live music, trying new cuisines, dancing and a good adventure. 

Meenal Khajuria works as a legislative fellow in the office of Representative Carolyn Maloney (NY-14). She works on a variety of issues including human trafficking, reproductive health choice, access to contraception, global women’s health, etc.

From North Carolina, Meenal holds a master’s in political management from George Washington University and a master’s in social work from North Carolina State University, with an emphasis on administration and community partnerships.

Her previous positions include legislative work for a lobbying firm in DC, working in the Winston-Salem  Mayor's Office and serving as Interim Director and policy analyst for a group of urban Mayors across the state. Most recently, Meenal headed the only organization that serves South Asian victims of domestic violence throughout  North Carolina.

She has served by appointment to the Wake County Commission for Women and the North Carolina Council for Women. A graduate of Leadership Raleigh, Meenal is the recipient of various awards, including the Young Alumnae award from her alma mater, Salem College, the Meredith Miller award from George Washington University, (given to the graduate who demonstrates extraordinary leadership and commitment to public service) and the 'Got Caught' award for providing excellent service to citizens of Winston-Salem.