The SDLA posts profiles of our Fellows at the time they are admitted to the SDLA Institute. After graduation, many Fellows change advance in their careers or have other accomplishments, which are not reflected here. Accomplishments of SDLA Institute alumni can be found here.
Community Engagement and Advocacy Coordinator, The San Diego LGBT Community Center
Samantha Schwimmer is an LGBTQ+ activist and artist with roots in the Reproductive Justice movement. She is currently the Community Engagement and Advocacy Coordinator at The San Diego LGBT Community Center, one of the largest LGBTQ+ centers in the nation. In this role, she supports The Center’s public policy and advocacy work, serves as a liaison to community advisory committees, and represents The Center at coalition tables and community events. They also serve on the Board of the San Diego Coalition for Reproductive Justice and as a volunteer crisis counselor. In 2021, they graduated from Bowdoin College where they studied Religion, Anthropology, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, and Theater. While in college, Samantha interned with Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund and served as the President of Bowdoin Hillel and the Bowdoin Reproductive Justice Coalition. She is also an abortion doula, writer, and performer.
Rachel Lozano Castro
Senior Officer, San Diego Regional Policy Innovation Center
Rachel Lozano Castro is a San Diego business owner, speaker, consultant and a senior officer at the San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center. Her work includes equitable green transitions, cross-sectoral work and bi-national/regional inclusive economy building. Formerly, Rachel directed the Brink Small Business Development Center at the University of San Diego where she led an effort to be named one of 10 “Inclusive Innovation Hubs” nationwide. Prior to this, she ran a global social entrepreneurship program at USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce and lived and worked in Latin America. Recently, she was honored as the 2022 Citizen Diplomat of the Year by the San Diego Diplomacy Council, a “40 Under 40” leader by America’s Small Business Development Center and as a TedX speaker.
Program Coordinator, County of San Diego
Nic Zinter has worked in government since 2019, and is currently serving as a Program Coordinator with the Public Safety Group of the County of San Diego, where he is working to help the County identify alternatives to incarceration and reduce recidivism for justice-involved individuals. Prior to joining PSG, Nic worked with USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, where he contributed to the Bureau's international humanitarian reporting efforts as a Senior Information Officer in Washington, D.C., and various parts of sub-Saharan Africa. He also worked with Supervisor Nathan Fletcher as a Community Representative and Communications Manager from late 2019 to 2020, in addition to supporting the San Diego County Democratic Party's organizing efforts during the 2016, 2018, and 2020 elections. Nic holds a bachelor's degree in Politics from UC Santa Cruz (go slugs!) and a master's degree in International Affairs from UC San Diego's School of Global Policy and Strategy, where he served as president of the school's graduate organization. A third-generation San Diego native, Nic enjoys meandering around Balboa Park, attempting to cook, learning new languages, reading Tolstoy, and petting cats.
Lead Mechanical Engineer, NIWC-Pacific
Nam Nguyen is a Lead Mechanical Engineer at the Naval Information Warfare Center, Pacific division with interests and goals that extend beyond technological solutions for America's fleet. His deep passion for the arts, culture, and history bears out his goal of building a thriving future for all.
As a long-time member, and current Vice-President, of Hillcrest Indivisible, he has supported and led the ongoing efforts of the organization to galvanize Progressive members of the Hillcrest and Uptown communities, by way of education and actions, to protest and actively contact their elected officials as advocates on Progressive issues. Among the collaborative actions taken have been marches for reproductive rights, immigration and justice reform, lobbying elected officials, and public endorsements for elected offices in 2022.
Currently, as the Vice-President of Viet Vote, he bolsters the efforts of the organization in engaging with the under-served Vietnamese community of San Diego, with the goal of empowering them to use their voices to command their government to answer their needs. Considering the plethora of said needs, Nam Nguyen advocates for improving every aspect of life for the Vietnamese people, from access to housing, transportation, representation in public policy, economic opportunities, and climate resilience.
Nam’s goals for joining the SDLA Cohort of 2023 is to connect with current and future leaders of the community, and, together, solve the myriad of issues and problems they face in the long journey of serving society at large.
Field Representative, California State Assembly - Assemblymember Chris Ward
Miki grew up in Lemon Grove with a love for music and performed in her first professional production at Lyric Opera San Diego at 14 years old. She graduated from UCLA with a BA in theater and performed in several professional musical productions in LA. Miki has always been passionate about increasing youth access to the arts, and while at UCLA, she served on the executive board of YOUTHphonics a Capella, which provides music lessons to underfunded high schools. After her family became a resource family for children in foster care, she witnessed the catastrophic consequences of a broken child welfare system and she became determined to improve the system to empower families and prioritize children’s well-being. She started volunteering on political campaigns in 2020 with the hopes of someday advocating for children in the system. Last March, she accepted a position in the Office of Assemblymember Chris Ward. As a District Representative, Miki serves as a liaison between her communities and the Assemblymember and performs constituent services. Her policy areas include education, childcare, foster care and youth services, arts and culture, and animal rights. Miki is a Court Appointed Special Advocate for a child in foster care, mentoring the child as well as serving as oversight on the entire case. Miki is studying child development at Grossmont College and plans to pursue a Master's in CD. Miki was born in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese. She enjoys singing, practicing yoga, and spending time with her silly rescue pup Shachi.
Policy Advocate, Climate Action Campaign
Madison Coleman was born and raised in Oakland, California. She has a B.A. in Political Science from UC Davis. Madison is a Policy Advocate with Climate Action Campaign (CAC), a non-profit watchdog organization that fights to stop the climate crisis through equitable policy action. Madison leads CAC’s affordable housing and land use advocacy. She works to ensure the region develops equitable policies that prioritize and incentivize sustainable, inclusive, and affordable communities. Madison is also currently a policy committee member of the San Francisco Women’s Political Committee (SFWPC) and a policy advocacy volunteer for California YIMBY. Prior to joining CAC, Madison advocated for social and environmental issues affecting college students with the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG). She also advocated for making global poverty and hunger legislation a top priority of U.S. foreign policy with the Borgen Project. As a native of Northern California, she interned for Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Attorney General Rob Bonta.
Konnor (he/him) is an educator focused on addressing the holistic needs of students. He has worked for multiple social emotional development organizations where he has had the opportunity to interact with a diverse range of young people across the United States, ages 8-22 years old. Through these positions, he has gained experience facilitating experiential learning, teaching “soft skills” to students, writing curriculum, training staff, and developing program policy and procedures. Konnor received his Master’s Degree in Education from the University of California, Santa Barbara where he served as Legislative Liaison for the Graduate Student Association while conducting research on education policy topics such as social emotional learning, behavioral health program implementation, and student wellness. After graduation, Konnor was selected to participate in the Urban Leaders Fellowship where he conducted policy research on school choice for Colorado State Assemblymember Jennifer Bacon, as well as presented findings and made policy recommendations to the House Education Committee. Konnor is deeply passionate about implementing progressive policy to create lasting change in the San Diego community. In his free time, Konnor enjoys camping and backpacking, going to the beach, taking his dog, Hermie, on adventures, and playing adult league softball.
Senior Arts and Culture Funding Manager, City of San Diego
Kip is the City of San Diego’s Senior Arts and Culture Funding Manager. He manages the City’s annual grant program for arts and culture community groups, nonprofits and festivals. Kip grew up in San Diego and is the fourth generation of his family to work here. He currently is the Secretary of the Point Loma/ Ocean Beach Democratic Club. He recently completed his MBA at the University of California San Diego’s Rady School of Management where he researched UBI programs for artists and helped to teach a course about the value of diversity in business. Kip first volunteered for Democratic political campaigns when he was 13 and eventually attended Vassar College in New York where he studied Art History and International Economics while acquiring work experience at the New York City Department of City Planning. Kip has worked for several years in the arts in New York, Spain and Los Angeles where he was a magazine contributor, a business analyst and a specialist in works on paper for a large Manhattan auction house. Kip is passionate about the arts as a vehicle for economic development, progressive policy, improved outcomes, equity and as a tool for solving municipal challenges. He is a proud union member and believes in the power of organizing and collectivity.
Researcher & Policy Advocate, Center on Policy Initiatives
Keara O'Laughlin is a Researcher & Policy Advocate at the Center on Policy Initiatives. She leads organizational research on economic justice, good governance, housing justice, public benefits, climate justice, transportation equity, worker rights, and local budgeting issues. Passionate about translating policy research into action, Keara provides research guidance to the Community Budget Alliance (CBA) and represents CPI in multiple progressive coalitions. She is also a San Diego County Social Services Advisory Board member. Keara's varied policy experience centers on the main themes of advocating for gender, racial, and economic equity, while ensuring those most impacted by policy changes are centered in decision-making. Before joining CPI, Keara provided program support for the Hope Street Margolis Family Center in Downtown Los Angeles, helping the center meet the needs of low-income families in the community. In addition, during her time in graduate school, Keara was the Legislative Director at the UCLA Graduate Student Association where she advocated for student housing and other basic needs on behalf of all UCLA graduate students in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. She also spent her early career working on expanding healthcare access at UnitedHealthcare. She earned her Master of Public Policy from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and holds a B.A. in Public Health from UC Berkeley. In her free time, Keara loves reading, spending time with friends and family, surfing, hiking, and planning new travel adventures.