Stan Oklobdzija is fluent in — or at least has a good working knowledge of — English, Spanish, Portuguese and Serbian, not to mention Ruby, Python and R.
He may get a chance to use all of those languages this summer as a Google Fellow at the Sunlight Foundation. A 31-year-old former newspaper reporter now pursuing his Ph.D. in political science, Oklobdzija (pronounced Oh-CLUB-gee-uh) will spend 10 weeks working at Sunlight courtesy of a Google-funded program that’s designed to promote a more data-driven, technically-savvy news media. He’s one of 11 Google Fellows who will be posted to news organizations across the country.
Sunlight selected Oklobdzija from a field of more than 60 candidates who applied to work with us because he personifies much of the foundation’s eclectic but interconnected portfolio.
Like Sunlight, which was founded out of a desire to empower reporters covering money in politics and maintains an active reporting group, he has his roots in journalism.
After graduating from UC Davis (where he worked for the California Aggie), Oklobdzija covered ethnic affairs for the Santa Maria Times, helped open a state house bureau for the Spanish language Vida en el Valle, then spent three years covering the police beat at the Sacramento Bee.
Like Sunlight, whose Labs team helps voters find their way through thickets of government data with user-friendly tools, Oklobdzija is passionate about technology and statistics: After getting bit by the data bug at the SacBee, he headed off to the University of Southern California for a master’s in public policy.
Like Sunlight, whose policy team has extended the foundation’s transparency work from the Peach State of Georgia to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Oklobdzija’s interests run the gamut from the hyperlocal to the global. He has walked the beat with cops, served as an intern for a member of the Los Angeles city council and researched briefing papers on state policies. He’s also spent time in Brazil as well as in Serbia, where he has family.
And, like Sunlight, Oklobdzija is more interested in policy than partisanship. While a student at USC, he worked on medical marijuana legislation in the office of Councilman Jose Huizar, a Democrat. Later, he helped craft budget policy for the failed Senate campaign of former Rep. Tom Campbell, a Republican. He researched transportation policy for the Reason Foundation, and has blogged on campaign finance and lobbying reform for United Republic.
We look forward to welcoming Oklobdzija to our offices in Washington. He, for his part, hopes to bring home a souvenir from his summer at Sunlight. “I hope to find my dissertation topic,” he said.