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The 2024 Hogans Fellows — Get to Know These Rising Leaders

June 2024

The 2024 Hogans Fellows — Get to Know These Rising Leaders

by Madalyn Flood
Marketing & Communications Associate
Public Affairs Council

In April, the cohort year for 12 new Hogans Fellows began. As this group of rising leaders from diverse backgrounds and identities enter the program, they’re grappling with the challenges they see ahead for the profession and the opportunities that inspire them to help shape an exciting future.

And it is precisely this desire to drive the future of the profession with intentional steps toward progress and inclusion that binds them. In this spotlight, the Fellows share their thoughts on the current state of public affairs as well as the changes they hope will come and how they intend to be part of those changes.

The 2024 Hogans Fellowship cohort met in D.C. in May to kick-off their year-long journey as Fellows.

Michael Aguilar
Manager, State Government Affairs
Inspire Brands

“The opportunity to contribute to positive change for society is what drew me toward a career in public affairs. Sharing ideas and advocating for them to be included in the discussion, and ultimately enacted in policy, helps drive the change we all want to see in society. Public affairs professionals help make positive impacts in these areas every day by helping business owners and members of the community make their voices heard by those in positions of power. Without an effective public affairs strategy, it’s difficult to imagine how positive change would occur.”

Aaron Benavides
Senior Account Executive

“I have long held an interest in public affairs and communications, even though I didn’t identify it until the latter half of my undergrad work. I enjoy the challenge of finding the best ways to make a message resonate with my audience. In a world where we are constantly being bombarded across mediums, that challenge changes every day — making the work even more exciting.  Moreover, there isn’t a single area that isn’t impacted by this profession. Powerful and effective public affairs strategies have the power to drive positive change and achieve organizational objectives. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of issues, including corporate social responsibility, climate, paid family and medical leave, and voter education. It is very rewarding to play a role in efforts that seek to have real and lasting impact.”

Uzoma Ekenna
Political Programs Manager
Pacific Life

“My dad, who worked in international development, inspired me to pursue a career in public affairs. Through his work, I witnessed the impact sound policy has on the lives of marginalized communities and learned that one can champion positive societal change. And in my career, I’ve helped implement policies that have made a tangible difference in people’s lives. Knowing that I’m part of something greater than myself, and the opportunity to continuously learn and grow, has kept me committed to making a difference. Public affairs professionals can address a wide range of challenges in business and society, ultimately driving positive change and creating a more equitable and sustainable world.”

Tajah Franklin
State Affairs Manager
American Physical Therapy Association

“As a native Washingtonian, I was immersed in the complexities of politics at every level from a young age. I was filled with a passion for creating positive societal change, which motivated me to actively pursue opportunities to engage with and influence public policy. Public affairs professionals are uniquely positioned to make this impact by utilizing their expertise in policy, communication and collaborative community involvement. In my current role, I live out my passion to help build a community that advances the profession of physical therapy to improve the health of society. Each day, I am honored to advocate for favorable legislation and regulation that benefit both the physical therapy profession and the health of our society.”

Emmi Navarro
Senior Education Advocacy Advisor
Third Way

“I’ve always been service- and mission-oriented, but I knew my skills and natural inclinations weren’t quite a match for research or practitioner roles. Nonprofit public affairs allows me to do impact-driven work that makes a difference while making the most of what I’m good at. At a nonprofit, there are tons of opportunities to make a positive impact. One of the skills I’m most proud of is being able to take wonky policy information and turn it into accessible messaging that brings awareness to an issue and its solutions. Higher education — the policy issue I work in — gets a lot of attention for hot button issues like DEI and student debt. While those issues deserve the time they get, what many don’t realize is that most fixes are band aids that don’t get to the root of the matter.”

Valeria Sabate
Senior Media and Public Affairs Manager
American Association for the Advancement of Science

“I was born and raised under a dictatorship, which asphyxiated freedom of speech and press.  I witnessed this government use political discourse to reject opposing policy proposals regardless of their potential to improve living conditions. This experience sparked a conviction in me to serve as a conduit for social good, but I needed an ecosystem that could guide me through the possible avenues within the communications umbrella. Thanks to the network I have built throughout my time in the U.S., I found public affairs. Practitioners are uniquely positioned to help move the needle to help people. I am lucky to serve at an association with a mission to advance science and serve humanity — something I believe in and am proud to advance.”

Dominic Sanchez
Federal Affairs Manager

“Growing up in a working-class family, I saw many challenges that millions of Americans face every day. And so, from a young age, I knew I wanted to pursue a profession that could make an impact on people’s lives. My career in public affairs has given me the chance to do just that. While great progress has been made in recent years to increase diversity in the profession, I think much more can be done. In this era of hyper interconnectivity, there is tremendous opportunity to not only bring more diverse faces, voices and viewpoints to the table, but also to give them the opportunities to be involved in leadership and decision-making roles.”

Samira Schreiber
Manager, State Legislative Analysis
National Alliance on Mental Illness

“I started my career in social work, but after realizing my love for policy and advocacy, I decided to get my master’s in social work with a macro practice concentration. I am passionate about improving systems through comprehensive research and policy analysis, and I am constantly learning in this field. I am most proud of the work I have done with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mental health is the bipartisan issue of our time, and I hope to help advance policies and practices that allow people to get the help they need. I hope to continue pursuing this passion, become a subject matter expert and mentor other macro social workers.”

The 2024 Hogans Fellows with their mentors

Nicholas Scoufaras
Deputy Director of Government Relations
U.S. Tire Manufacturers

“Public affairs is about education. We educate ourselves on the issues we advocate for, and we educate others on solutions that can be implemented. Given the divisive state of our politics and politicians, it is an opportunity and responsibility to be the convenors of spaces to educate others and shed light on problems facing our communities. I was drawn to a career in public affairs because I recognized the impact this work can have on improving people’s lives. Rather than be relegated to one jurisdiction and one constituency, I can have a positive effect on public policy at every level of government and address the priorities not only of the members of a trade association but also of our community.”

Justin Strength
Senior Consultant
APCO Worldwide

“After almost six years in the political campaign space, I saw how impactful creative storytelling and strategic communications were in developing a narrative that connected candidates to voters. As I was considering a career shift, I wanted to apply those same skills to help others achieve their goals and connect with their audiences, that’s when I found public affairs. I am excited to continue learning and stretching my skills to be a better strategic partner to my clients and colleagues. Seeing my clients score a win and achieve their goals is the best reward for the work I do.”

Uyen Vong
Public Affairs Associate Director
National Conference of State Legislatures

“My career in public affairs stems from a deep commitment to community service and effecting positive change. From early experiences in local and state government, I’ve seen the impact of meaningful conversations between government, organizations and the communities they serve. I continue to work in this field because I believe we can empower individuals to engage actively in the democratic process, ensuring that voices are heard and diverse perspectives are considered in decision-making processes.”

Kandi Walker
Manager of Political Programs
College of American Pathologists

“Curiosity and confidence that my professional skills would transfer to public affairs roles initially drew me to the profession. The dynamic nature of the profession as well as the plentiful opportunities to carve out a specific service-oriented focus based on my interests and strengths have kept me here. But I think diversity, specifically in the most senior roles, is both a challenge and growth opportunity moving forward. As a black woman, representation and a sense of belonging in professional spaces is deeply personal to me, and I’m so happy that programs like the Hogans Fellowship exist to strengthen the pipeline of diverse talent.”

Find more information on the Hogans Fellowship at

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