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Education & Workforce

Aligning Policy Goals: How States can Pair Continuing Education Requirements with Mentorship Programs
By Sandi Abdelshehed The Economic and Workforce Health Subcommittee of...
Oregon Seeks to Enhance Employment Outcomes for People with Disabilities Through Private-Sector Engagement
By Rachel Wright, Policy Analyst Over the past 10 years,...
Recap: Improving Mental Health Services Delivery for Youth and Young Adults with Marginalized Racial Identities
By Dai Nguyen The number of high school students experiencing...

Featured Work

States Address Mental Health Stigma and Employability

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on mental health. According to a 2021 survey by the American Psychological Association, psychologists reported significant increases in demand for treatment of anxiety, depression and trauma since 2020.

The State as a Model Employer of People with Disabilities

As state governments increasingly recognize
the advantages of proactively recruiting and

hiring people with disabilities, many are pursuing

“state as a model employer” (SAME) policies

and practices.

Expanding Apprenticeships as a Career Pathway for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities

In 1937, Congress passed the National Apprenticeship Act (also known as the Fitzgerald Act), which authorizes the establishment of labor standards for registered apprenticeship programs.

The Team

Dina Klimkina

Program Director
The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation
Dina Klimkina is the Program Director of the Education and Workforce Team at Center of Innovation at The Council of State Governments. Dina manages CSG’s programming with the State Exchange on Employment and Disability, The Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE Youth), KY’s Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN), the CSG East Education and Workforce Committee, and a variety of other projects. She also performs research and policy analysis, develops reports and presentations, and conducts outreach and engagement with stakeholders as needed. Prior to CSG, she worked at the University of Kentucky, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the One Earth Future Foundation, and the United Nations, among other organizations.

Sydney Blodgett

Project Manager
The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation
Sydney Blodgett is a Program Manager at The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation. She has experience engaging state leaders to discuss policy issues and solutions in a bipartisan and innovative way. Throughout her career, Sydney has researched state policy and disseminated her analyses through articles and online platforms. Sydney previously worked for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. She earned a B.A. from the University of Louisville and an M.P.A from the University of Kentucky.

Andrew Johnson

Policy Analyst
The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation
Andrew Johnson is a Policy Analyst at the Council of State Governments Center of Innovation. He works with the Education and Workforce Development Team. He attended the University of Kentucky, where he earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in both History and Political Science, as well as a Master of Arts in Education. Before coming to CSG, he taught middle school Social Studies and Reading & Writing and served on his school’s Site-Based Decision-Making Council.
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Elise Gurney

Senior Policy Analyst
The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation
Elise Gurney is a Senior Policy Analyst at The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation. She conducts research and analysis and provides technical assistance to guide state policymakers in developing and implementing workforce and education policies and programs. Much of her work focuses on enhancing opportunities for underserved populations, including individuals with disabilities. Elise earned a B.A. in Economics from Carleton College.

Rachel Wright

Policy Analyst
The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation
Rachel Wright provides support to the State Exchange on Employment and Disability. In this role, Rachel convenes state policymakers and subject matter experts; develops analyses of state disability employment and workforce development policies; and prepares research memos, policy briefs and reports for state officials and non-technical audiences. Rachel earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of Kentucky.

Abeer Sikder

Policy Analyst
The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation
Abeer Sikder is a Policy Analyst at The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation. He works on the Education and Workforce Development Team and conducts research and analysis on policies that support employment for youth and young adults with disabilities. Abeer served in Teach For America as a middle and high school math teacher in Memphis, Tennessee. He earned a J.D. from The George Washington University Law School and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Louisville.
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Enmanuel Gomez

Policy Analyst
The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation
Enmanuel Gomez is a Policy Analyst at the Council of State Governments Center of Innovation. Previously, he was a Political Affairs Consultant at the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, engaged in project management, strategic operations and research. In his career, he has advocated for youth empowerment in global issues. He earned his M.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University and his B.A. in Journalism from Universidad de Palermo in Argentina.

Mary Wurtz

Policy Associate
The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation
Mary Wurtz is a Policy Associate at The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation. As a Schwarzman Scholar, Mary earned her Master of Management Science degree in Global Affairs from Tsinghua University in Beijing in 2021. In 2020, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Languages and International Studies from Bellarmine University. Prior to coming to CSG, Mary worked at Catholic Charities of Louisville in education and community engagement.

Chip O’Connell

The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation
Chip O’Connell is a Research Data Scientist at The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation. He earned bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Economics from Marshall University and expects to earn his PhD in Political Science from the University of Kentucky in 2022. Prior to coming to The Council of State Governments, Chip instructed Political Science classes in topics such as political analysis. He loves playing with data and enjoys every step of the data analysis process.

Casandra Hockeberry

Project Manager
The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation
Casandra manages the Apprenticeship Data Alignment and Performance Technical Assistance Center, the Overseas Voting Initiative, and other research areas related to cybersecurity, data and privacy. As a part of her work at CSG, Casandra regularly convenes state policy makers to facilitate the exchange of innovative policies and practices. Her work focuses on improving the quality of data collection in the states to help states inform policy decisions.