June 20, 2023

Alumni Spotlight: Isaac “Izzy” Sederbaum, MPA ‘14, Ph.D. Candidate

Izzy Sederbaum’s research has been getting a lot of attention lately. In the past few months, he has received funding awards from the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP), the Russell Sage Foundation, and the University of Washington’s Population Health Initiative to study how administrative burdens affect transgender people in the United States. It’s enough support to fund two full quarters. But more importantly, the funding means that there are other people who are excited about his research.

After completing his MPA at the Evans School in 2014, Izzy spent five years as a researcher working with jurisdictions around the country to rethink their approaches to youth incarceration, both at the Center for Court Innovation and the Vera Institute of Justice. While working with these institutions, he often tried to get a sense of how queer kids were moving through the justice system only to be told repeatedly that there simply weren’t any.

Interested in asking his own research questions, Izzy decided to pursue a Ph.D. and started back at the Evans School in Fall 2019. In his second year, he took a course on organizational theory with faculty member Benjamin M. Brunjes, who introduced him to academic literature on administration burden. Izzy noticed that literature failed to mention trans communities and people, despite their often precarious living situations and need for safety net programs.

As Izzy dug deeper, he noticed that many common technical fixes to administrative processes weren’t solving problems for trans people trying to navigate government systems. He noticed that no one was asking trans communities about the challenges they were facing or how administrative processes might be improved.

His dissertation is just the first step into making more accessible policies.