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Meet the 2012-2014 Empire State Fellows

The following outstanding professionals form the inaugural class of Empire State Fellows:

Michael Baer

Michael BaerMichael Baer is an Empire State Fellow placed at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC).  At NYS DEC, Michael is responsible for evaluating new opportunities to expand finance and funding available for investments in wastewater infrastructure and green infrastructure for stormwater management. He is also assessing the opportunity to expand wetland mitigation banking instruments in the State.  Previously he was the Chief Financial Officer for JP Morgan Asset Management’s US Equity, Global Multi-Asset Group, Private Equity, and Hedge Fund of Funds investment platforms where he was responsible for financial planning and strategy for more than $180 billion in client assets and financial oversight of an operating budget of over $275 million. Michael’s writings include policy papers about the use of social impact bonds as a new outcomes-based social finance investment vehicle in financing water supply and sanitation services in developing countries. Michael earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Babson College and a Masters of Science of Global Affairs at New York University. Michael is also a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Placement: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Tamara Dews

Tamara DewsTamara works in the Executive Chamber with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. Tamara began her fellowship with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) where she managed the MWBE Program Unit. Prior to the fellowship, Tamara managed the Business & Legal Affairs division of Sony Music Entertainment where she led the team responsible for identifying ancillary markets to promote and distribute Sony’s music. Tamara earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and Politics from Mount Holyoke College and an Intellectual Property Law Certification from the New York University School of Professional & Continuing Studies. Tamara serves on the Board of Directors for the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association and the Board of Directors of Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow. In addition, Tamara speaks Italian, Spanish, Latin and some Japanese.

Placement: Executive Chamber, formerly at New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities

Alejandra Diaz

Alejandra DiazSince joining the Empire State Fellowship, Alejandra has worked on a range of healthcare policy areas and contributed to the 2013-2014 budget process. Prior to the Empire State Fellowship, Alejandra was a Lead Experience Architect at NTT DATA, INC. where she led a team in developing qualitative research approaches and used the resulting audience insights to inform and design services, system interfaces, business processes, and communication strategies for healthcare clients. Alejandra earned a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Science, History of Medicine from Yale University, and a Business Certificate from the Columbia University School of Continuing Education. Alejandra has served on the New York Community Advisory Board for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and HIV Prevention Trials Network.  

Placement: Executive Chamber, Healthcare

Samuel Filler

Sam FillerSamuel Filler currently leads Governor Cuomo’s Craft Beverage Initiative at Empire State Development. Samuel served as the Director of Programs for the Transportation and Land Use Collaborative (TLUC), an urban planning consulting firm in Southern California that specialized in stakeholder engagement in Latino communities. He was also selected to be a Coro Fellow in Southern California and an Americorps member with City Year. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Vassar College, and a Master of Urban Planning from the
NYU Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.  

Placement: Empire State Development


Jennifer M. Gómez

Jennifer GomezHaving spent her first year of the Empire State Fellowship at the Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance, Jennifer M. Gómez is now at the Executive Chamber applying her legal and policy expertise to improve the lives of low-income children and families. Previously, Jennifer served as Legislative Counsel at the New York City Council, where she advised council members on a wide array of issues, including the impact of policies instituted by the Administration for Children’s Services, the Department of Homeless Services, and the Human Resources Administration. Formerly a litigation associate at Simpson Thacher and Bartlett LLP and a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, Jennifer is currently a director on the board of the Dominican Bar Association and was recently appointed to serve on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Homelessness & Poverty. Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Latin American Studies, cum laude, from Mount Holyoke College and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the California Law Review. Jennifer speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian.

Placement: Executive Chamber

Dylan J. Hayden

Dylan HaydenDylan’s work at the Department of Labor and the Division of Criminal Justice Services over the past year have positioned him to help shape policy in areas such as workforce development, economic growth, disaster preparedness, and performance management for State agencies. As an Afghanistan veteran, his insight into the challenges faced by transitioning service members helped structure veteran employment programs and his logistical understanding helped him to coordinate Department of Labor staffing of 20 Disaster Assistance Centers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Additionally, Dylan has been responsible for assisting the State’s public safety agencies improve their performance management to help make their operations more transparent to New Yorkers. Prior to becoming a Fellow, Dylan worked as an Arabic/ Pashto-Afghan Language Analyst for the United States Navy. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a B.A. in Political Science from SUNY New Paltz, and an Associate’s Degree in Arabic from the Defense Language Institute.

Placement: Division of Criminal Justice Services

Kisha Santiago

Kisha SantiagoKisha Santiago joined HCR as a member of the first class of New York State Empire Fellows. Kisha is an urban and regional planner and has a range of experience in the private and nonprofit sector. Prior to the fellowship, Kisha was the Vice President and Senior Project Manager of the Rosenberg Housing Group, a private affordable housing development company that specializes in working with public housing authorities on mixed-finance projects. Since joining HCR, Kisha worked on several of the agency’s major initiatives including the 2013 Executive Budget development and implementation planning, New York Works, NY Performs, Homeownership Repair and Rebuild Fund, and a wide range of disaster recovery programs. In August 2013, Kisha received a permanent appointment with HCR as Assistant Commissioner. Kisha will continue to lead agency initiatives and strategic planning in her oversight of the Budget Services Unit (BSU) and the new Project Management Office (PMO). She holds a Masters in Regional and Urban Planning degree and a B.A. in Psychology from SUNY Albany.

Placement: Homes and Community Renewal 

Nora Yates

Nora YatesNora is currently involved in agency operations projects for the Executive Chamber, including the statewide performance management initiative. Before the Fellowship, Nora Yates was the Executive Director of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, where she has revitalized and expanded the 42 year old organization. She previously worked at the Empire State Pride Agenda directing statewide field campaigns. Nora developed and taught various courses as an adjunct professor at the State University of New York at Albany for six years, and served as a project manager at Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group. Nora earned a Bachelor of Arts in French and Women’s Studies, and a Master of Arts in Women’s Studies at the State University of New York at Albany. Nora also earned a Master in Public Administration from the Sage Graduate School.

Placement: Executive Chamber State of New York