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Alexandra Meis '08 and NYU team

Kinvolved co-founders (L-R) Barrie Charney-Golden, Alexandra Meis, and Miriam Altman, New York University graduate students, at the awards ceremony

A team comprised of Alex Meis ’08, Miriam Altman, and Barrie Charney Golden won the inaugural National Invitational Public Policy Challenge April 22 at the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia.

The $15,000 award, sponsored by the Fels Institute of Government, University of Pennsylvania, was presented to this team from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service for its proposal, called Kinvolved.

The proposal details a mobile app to empower caregivers of students in the New York City Department of Education with timely student attendance information to ensure that all children are present in school all day, every day. Meis, who is completing her first year studying health policy in the master of public administration program at New York University, explained that Kinvolved’s mission is to engage at least one family member or role model in the education of every child by facilitating basic communication and information sharing.

Kinvolved earlier in the year won the BeMyApp Global Mobile App Competition.

“Our first product is a system that aims to increase school attendance, particularly in low-income, urban communities, by both streamlining the attendance-taking process for teachers and engaging parents through simple, routine attendance notifications,” says Meis, who is also parent coordinator for Bronx Lebanon Hospital.

Watch Meis describe the project

A prototype for Kinvolved will be implemented and tested in five schools in the New York City Department of Education during summer school 2012.

A psychology graduate, Meis credits her experience at Lafayette as the foundation for her current success.

“Taking courses in psychology, American studies, anthropology and sociology, Spanish, and more gave me exposure to many areas of academics that all prove useful today. I learned how to embrace curiosity by taking courses out of my comfort zone; I learned how to push my limits by researching and writing an independent study on psychoneuroimmunology under the guidance of Professor Alan Childs, who also helped me obtain a research internship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center,” she says.

Meis particularly noted that a course taught by Caroline Lee, assistant professor of anthropology and sociology, expanded her view of poverty in American society, which led to her “current efforts to engage the low-income community in the New York City Department of Education by using technology to promote academic outcomes.” She noted other faculty and staff who were influential, including Jamila Bookwala, Robert Allan, and John Shaw of the psychology department; Debbie Byrd, associate professor of English, with whom she took Women’s studies courses and who wrote her graduate school recommendation letter; and Nanette Cooley, associate director, career services, who provided “much guidance and support.”

The Public Policy Challenge is a student-led, public policy competition for undergraduate and graduate students from invited universities across the country. Each team presents a policy proposal or civic campaign to address an issue specific to its university’s community, with topics including education, environment, and health care.

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