SPA Welcomes 2016 Ph.D. Cohort

The incoming cohort of 7 Ph.D. students was welcomed at a luncheon and orientation session at SPA on Aug. 17, 2016. A brief bio of each student appears below.

Welcome to SPA, and we look forward to your amazing achievements!

Photo of 2016 PhD students

Pictured (L to R): Youn Suk Jung, Alan Kennedy-Shaffer,
Emily Brixey, Joel Benson, Sara Jenkins,  Jim Becklenberg 

Jim Becklenberg
Jim is originally from the Chicago area, and has made his way to the west coast and back to Colorado pursuing education and career. Since obtaining a Bachelors degree in public affairs from Indiana University and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Kansas, he has helped manage cities in Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, California, and Colorado over a 22-year period. He currently serves as the Assistant City and County Manager for Broomfield. He looks forward to the PhD program as an opportunity to connect the dots of policy themes and trends observed from his varied experiences and enhance his skills for broader policy research. Jim is married and has two teenage children. Hobbies include a variety of sports, choral music, and musical theater.

Joel Benson
Following the assumption that when someone retires they do the things they’ve always craved, I declared retirement in 1997. After finishing a Master’s in Community and Regional Planning and one in Latin American Studies, I did things that were intriguing and appropriately important to me at the time. I moved to Oregon, Kentucky, and finally Colorado involved in various activities, many related to policy development, natural resource management, and education. Most recently, I took up coffee roasting and running a cafe in downtown Buena Vista, CO. I also serve as Mayor for the town, and will teach Spanish in an expeditionary high school this fall. My wife, Laurie, and my daughter, Grace, are good people and help keep me grounded. We have a few dogs, some laying hens, a couple of goats, and a developing hive of honey bees. (Cross your fingers they make it through the winter.)

Emily Brixey
Emily graduated from Willamette University, a liberal arts college in Oregon, with a Bachelor’s in Economics and a minor in Politics. While in school, she interned for Oregon State Representative Val Hoyle and the Legislative Revenue Office. As an intern at the Legislative Revenue Office she researched the effectiveness of expiring tax credits. This research was used in reports published prior to the Legislative Session. Her undergraduate thesis is titled “Evaluating the Benefits of Worker-Owned Cooperatives Using the Labor Theory of Value”. After graduating, Emily worked as a Budget Analyst for Senator Richard Devlin, the Co-Chair of the Ways and Means Committee in the Oregon State Legislature. When session adjourned, she continued to work for Senator Devlin as his Director of Campaign Operations as he ran to become the Secretary of State Democratic Nominee. To stay sane during a political process that can be both timely and unfruitful, Emily runs marathons. Her accomplishments include competing in the 2016 Boston Marathon and running two marathons in 16 days to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs running club. At UC Denver she plans to pursue her interest in state tax and spending policies while training like the elite runner she is expecting to become.

Alan Kennedy-Shaffer
Alan is an attorney and graduate of Yale University and William and Mary Law School. He is author of “The Obama Revolution,” which became an audiobook narrated by “Boy Meets World” co-star Rider Strong. Alan moonlights as a captain in the Colorado Army National Guard. Specializing in criminal justice, he previously worked as senior policy advisor for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and researcher for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He enjoys reading, writing, running, bicycling, skiing, ping-pong, board games, riding the light rail, and assisting with presidential campaigns.

Jenna Knobloch
Jenna is a recent graduate from Oregon State University who will be joining the 2016 PhD cohort in January of 2017.

Sara Jenkins
Sara is the Senior Manager, Research and Advocacy at KnowledgeWorks where she researches state and federal education policies and works with states to create systems that allow school districts more flexibility to try innovative practices. Prior to KnowledgeWorks, Sarah spent a year as the Policy Fellow with the Donnell-Kay Foundation in Denver. She started her career as an early elementary school teacher in Denver. Sarah graduated from University of Michigan with a B.A. in French and Arabic. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys soaking in all that Colorado has to offer, cooking, reading, and fostering animals for a local shelter.

Youn Suk Jung
Youn Suk is both Senior Manager and Researcher at K-water (a Water & Renewable energy-Specialized Public Corporation in Korea) and obtained Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Economics. As a Researcher, he involved several projects associated with Environmental policy. As a Senior Manager, he was in charge of budgeting two large-scale governmental policy projects: The Four-River Restoration and The Gyeong-In Waterway Projects (USD 8.8 billion). Youn Suk also directed the National Assembly Forum for Smart Water Management in Korea and managed the Parliamentarian process of the 7th World Water Forum in 2014. He arrived in Denver with his family on July 24.


Categories: Students

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