Bush School student quicklinks

Student Spotlights


Heba Baig

Heba BaigMajor: MPSA, Nonprofit Management Track, Concentration in Education Policy
Year Expected to Graduate: 2018
Hometown: Houston, Texas

Why do diversity and inclusion matter to you?
Diversity and inclusion creates a more effective learning environment. I attended schools where I was always one of a few Muslim students. Although those environments were not diverse, I believe that both schools had a great sense of inclusion. I never felt insecure in my beliefs because of the people around me. I believe this positively impacted my confidence as a person. My peers were able to learn more about the world through me, and I learned through them. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee strives to build a culture of practicing inclusion. Being a part of that culture is important to me. It has had such an impact on me that I believe it can make a big impact on someone else at the Bush School.

Before coming to the Bush School, what were you doing?
Before coming to the Bush School I was serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at CollegeCommunityCareer (CCC). CCC is a Houston area nonprofit that fosters a college-going culture with low-income, first-generation high school students and families. At CCC I was the Financial Aid and College Success Coordinator, where I worked with students to help them financially afford to reach their full potential and attend college. Changing their lives and the lives of their family.

When not studying or reading for school, what do you do for fun or relaxation?
I love to read and bake in my spare time. I find a good novel or biography can transport you into the life of a character and relax. I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd, and the last book I read was I am Malala. Baking cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and pies is another way I like to relax. I like to use cake decorating as a creative outlet, and the results are usually pretty sweet too.


Morgan Gray

Morgan GrayMajor: MPSA, Public Management track, with concentrations in State and Local Government, and Environment, Energy and Technology Policy and Management.
Year Expected to Graduate: 2018
Hometown: San Antonio, TX

Why do diversity and inclusion matter to you?
As a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, I spent the majority of my formative years living within a community disconnected from my tribe and indigenous culture. I noticed that within the public school system I attended, there was little in place that provided support for minorities and students representing diverse populations. Cultural understanding and mutual respect were not actively encouraged in the classroom or within social settings, and I became quite discouraged about the future of diversity and inclusion within the school system. I soon developed a passion for promoting and working towards establishing inclusivity of all cultures within both educational and social settings. I firmly believe that when issues arise in either setting, diversity aids in establishing the most effective solution for all involved. The opportunity to draw upon the wisdom and learning experiences of all cultures results in a collaboration of the most effective solutions.

Before coming to the Bush School, what were you doing?
Prior to my time at the Bush School, I attended Texas A&M University as a political science major and graduated in the spring of 2016. I spent two consecutive summers working and studying in Washington D.C. I worked for Senator Feinstein as a researcher on issues regarding Indian Affairs and Intelligence, while studying self-determination within tribal communities at George Washington University. I later worked at the Department of Energy as a research intern for the Office of NEPA Policy Compliance while also studying at American University.

When not studying or reading for school, what do you do for fun or relaxation?
In my free time I enjoy practicing yoga, learning to cook Italian dishes, and quoting my favorite “The Office” episodes.


Lia Epps

Lia EppsMajor: SA
Year Expected to Graduate: 2018
Hometown: Orlando, FL

Why do diversity and inclusion matter to you?
Diversity and inclusion matters to me because I believe everyone should have the opportunity to be comfortable in the skin they’re in. People deserve to be exactly who are they and not be judged. Furthermore, it’s important for everyone to know how to engage in difficult conversations and speak/act respectful towards people of different backgrounds.

Before coming to the Bush School, what were you doing?
I was serving in an AmeriCorps program called FEMA Corps where I was a team leader for seven people, ages 18-24. We traveled across the country responding to disasters and helped people recover from disasters in a number of ways such as rebuilding homes and helping communities come up with preparedness plans.

When not studying or reading for school, what do you do for fun or relaxation?
My faith is very important to me; I’m heavily involved in church. I also enjoy the arts, particularly writing poetry, singing, and playing the piano. When I have the time, I also enjoy reading a good book, I’m currently reading The New Jim Crow.


Bryce C. Barros

Bryce C. BarrosMajor: IA, National Security & Defense, Chinese Commodity Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa and China Studies
Year Expected to Graduate: 2017
Hometown: Norwalk, Connecticut

Why do diversity and inclusion matter to you?
Diversity and inclusion matter to me because these two intangible things have been the only constants in my life. I was born to a Cabo Verdean-American father and a mother of African-American and Jewish descent. Even though I was raised in my mother’s hometown with my African-American family, due to my light-skin I was not accepted by my African-American or Caucasian classmates. Ironically, not being included really shaped my worldview. I spent a lot of time with the various immigrant classmates I had in school. Norwalk is a very diverse place with plenty of old money WASPs, African-Americans, and immigrants from Latin America, the Caribbean and South Asia. Befriending classmates who were the children of immigrants and being included by them really showed me the importance of diversity and inclusion. I attended Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont for my undergraduate degree. Norwich was not as diverse as Norwalk, and when I arrived I realized how lucky I had it in Norwalk. To me, diversity and inclusion means embracing the “other”. I have been an “other” all my life.

Before coming to the Bush School, what were you doing?
Before coming to the Bush School I was living in Taipei City, Taiwan. I was a David L. Boren Scholar training with the Taiwan Army, and later worked as an English teacher. While in Taipei City I met several Aggies. One day in May of 2013, a Norwich University Regimental Drill Team underclassman introduced me to an Aggie buddy of his who connected me with one of his Bush School friends coming to Taiwan for his summer language immersion. I had mentioned to him that I wanted to go to the Bush School for a master’s degree. Together, they both convinced me over the next three months to attend the Bush School. I have not looked back since.

When not studying or reading for school, what do you do for fun or relaxation?
I enjoy reading, dancing, listening to music, traveling, and studying new languages and cultures. As of late I have thrown myself into Roman history. I really enjoy “world music”, especially Lusophone African music from Angola, Cabo Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, and Sao Tome and Principe. By listening to this music I feel more in touch with my ancestry from Cabo Verde. I enjoy backpacking a lot. I have traveled extensively the most Northern part of China near Russia all the way down to Singapore in East Asia.


Maribel McMillian

Maribel McMillianMajor: MIA, NS&D Track, Concentrations in American Homeland Security and Middle East
Year Expected to Graduate: 2017
Hometown: Stephenville, TX

Why do diversity and inclusion matter to you?
I believe that diversity and inclusion matters to me because it has allowed me to appreciate the world through different perspectives. I believe that everyone has a story and a unique set of life experiences. When people come together, diversity and inclusion provides increased opportunities for participation and engagement. Through open ears and an open mind, I have learned so much from our international students here at the Bush School and from peers visiting from other parts of the country. It has been truly amazing!

Before coming to the Bush School, what were you doing?
Before coming to the Bush School, I served in the Army (Texas) National Guard for a number of years, which included a tour in Iraq in 2009. During my undergraduate studies in the summer of 2013, I interned with USAID in Washington D.C. in the Office of Management Policy, Budget and Performance. That same year, I attended Insight Dubai, an International Student Leadership Conference held at the Dubai Women’s College in the UAE. The event included discussions on intercultural awareness, women’s leadership roles in government, and women’s empowerment in the Arab world. Upon completing my undergraduate studies in the Spring of 2014, I moved to the wonderful city of College Station where I worked as a bilingual associate for a literacy nonprofit.

When not studying or reading for school, what do you do for fun or relaxation?
During my spare time, I like to check out the local bookstores and grab a cup of coffee in the process. Currently, I’m also doing some research to trace my family ancestry. And let’s be honest…I also like to partake in the occasional Netflix binge-watching trend.


Shydaea Townes

Shydaea TownesMajor: IA, National Security & Diplomacy and Foreign Policy & Law
Year Expected to Graduate: 2017
Hometown: Wichita, Kansas

Why do diversity and inclusion matter to you?
I believe it is important to have a voice and feel like it is being heard. People should understand the importance of actually representing the diverse cultures and needs that exist in our society; we can only achieve this mission by starting internally and focusing on encouraging diversity and inclusion. My goal is to be able to contribute in any way that helps the Bush School grow and become better.

Before coming to the Bush School, what were you doing?
Before the Bush School, I was finishing up my degrees from Wichita State University and had recently returned from my yearlong study abroad trip in France.

When not studying or reading for school, what do you do for fun or relaxation?
I really enjoy hanging out with my three best friends in a quiet, chill venue appreciating each other’s company!


Alexa Aragonez

Alexa AragonezMajor: MPSA, Public Management, State & Local Government
Year Expected to Graduate: 2018
Hometown: Arlington, TX

Why do diversity and inclusion matter to you?
Creating a respectful environment that allows the free communication of experiences and ideas better equips us as future public servants to answer and face the problems we encounter. Though the instrumentality of diversity and inclusion is undeniable, my answer to why diversity and inclusion matter is much simpler: every person is worthy of being included. I can only hope to communicate that concept during my time at the Bush School and after.

Before coming to the Bush School, what were you doing?
In May 2016, I graduated from Texas Christian University (TCU) with a BS in political science and a BS in communication studies. During my time at TCU, I worked with the Blue Zones Project, a nonprofit that works with city officials and community members to create healthier communities by making healthy choices the easy choices, and hosted community events highlighting the Blue Zone lifestyle.

When not studying or reading for school, what do you do for fun or relaxation?
I spent the last summer DIY-ing and crafting to my heart’s content. I like to weightlift to get my mind off school. Socially, I like to host family dinners and cook for friends. I make a mean salsa!


Stefania Hristov

Stefania HristovMajor: MPSA, Public Management, Human Resource Management
Year Expected to Graduate: 2018
Hometown: Iasi, Romania

Why do diversity and inclusion matter to you?
I think that diversity and inclusion are the necessary ingredients of the recipe of success. Growing up in Romania and moving to the United States at the age of fifteen, I learned how important it is to value diversity and inclusion. My mother always used to tell me that everyone has a different story and perspective that I should embrace and learn from every person I interact with. Being an international student at the Bush school and Texas A&M helps me better understand the importance of diversity and inclusion. I consider myself fortunate to be part of such an amazing program where I can interact and learn from everyone around me.

Before coming to the Bush School, what were you doing?
Before coming to the Bush School, I graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in human resource and business. I am originally from Romania but moved to the United States to graduate high school and attend college. During my time at Texas A&M University, I served as a team captain of the TAMU Women’s Tennis Team from my sophomore to senior year, and I also was a representative of the SEC Student Athlete Advisory Committee. During my senior year in college, I worked with a local nonprofit organization in Bryan, Voices for Children, helping them improve their recruiting and training process for volunteers. I also traveled all around Europe, North America, and South America to compete in international tennis pro events.

When not studying or reading for school, what do you do for fun or relaxation?
In my free time I enjoy reading books, going to coffee shops, and spending time with my friends.


JP Perales

JP PeralesMajor: Public Policy Analysis Track and State and Local Government Concentration
Year Expected to Graduate: 2017
Hometown: Beaumont, TX

Why do diversity and inclusion matter to you?
Diversity and inclusion are important because they fosters an environment where different perspectives can be shared. I believe that the ability to comprehend someone’s background and viewpoints is an imperative skill to possess in order to be an effective public servant.

Prior to coming to the Bush School, what were you doing?
Prior to coming to the Bush School I worked for United We Dream, one of the largest immigrant rights organization in the country. There I served on the National Coordinating Committee. I primarily worked on defeating national and state anti-immigrant legislation. I also had the opportunity to work on the national campaign for executive action on immigration, which was announced by President Obama in 2012.

When not studying or reading for school, what do you do for fun or relaxation?
I enjoy craft beers, tailgating, and watching Aggie Football. #BTHOLSU


Stefany Cornejo

Stefany CornejoMajor: Public Management Track and Security Concentration
Year Expected to Graduate: 2017
Hometown: Huntsville, TX

Why do diversity and inclusion matter to you?
They matters to me because they're part of my everyday routine but also more importantly because they are the world we live in. They connects everyone, through this connection we begin to have mutual understanding that leads to a brighter and better future. Growing up as a female minority, I could see the difference clearly and it made me determined to set a better example.

Prior to coming to the Bush School, what were you doing?
Prior to the Bush School I was interning with the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, Austria, under the United Nation Affairs Section. Upon my return to my beloved Texas, I resumed my job responsibilities with State Farm Insurance with whom I had worked for four years before resigning to move to College Station to begin my journey at the Bush School.

When not studying or reading for school, what do you do for fun or relaxation?
I have the most fun and relaxing time when I go on a road trip either by myself or with friends. Exploring and discovering new locations, food stops, friends, etc. are simply the best. In addition, I love to read Greek mythology and have movie nights with friends.

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