2016 AILA International Fellowship

Michael Alpern works in the U.S. Department of State, serving as head of public affairs/public diplomacy for the Department bureau that covers crime, justice, and drugs-related issues. In this capacity he acts as the bureau spokesperson and leads all efforts related to press, social media, and public outreach. Alpern also focuses on public messaging for the Department pertaining to overseas law enforcement, transnational crime, and drug policy issues. He has also worked in the Europe/Eurasia bureau of the Department of State, where he covered press and public diplomacy with a focus on NATO, the OSCE, and regional defense/security issues.

Alpern joined the State Department after three years at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, during which he worked on immigrant integration, U.S. citizenship/naturalization policy, and the U.S. visa waiver program. Prior to joining the federal government, Alpern worked as Communications Director for a Washington-based public advocacy organization. He has an M.A. in international affairs from George Washington University’s Elliott School, a B.A. in political science from Duke University, and lives in the northern Virginia suburbs with his wife, three children, and dog.


Makrita Avjyan leads a USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) project in Armenia as program director. The F2F connects farmers, cooperatives and associations, and small- and medium-sized businesses in developing countries to volunteer experts from the U.S. in order to fight hunger and poverty. Before joining F2F, Avjyan spent two years as a freelancer, providing expert services in project cycle management; monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL), and capacity building/training to various organizations and enterprises in Armenia. Earlier she worked with a number of national and international companies, with the latest being the Millennium Challenge Corporation from 2007 to 2011. Prior to this, Avjyan worked as senior program officer for International Research and Education Board under the U.S. State Department, managing a number of educational exchange programs and alumni small grants programs, as well as working intensively with the alumni network. She also managed the Computer-Based Testing Office.

Her earlier career includes teaching at university and working as a freelance translator/interpreter for various international projects, including the World Bank, United Nations, IESC, etc. Avjyan obtained her M.A. in political science and international relations with a major in public administration from the American University of Armenia in 2000. Prior to that she obtained a diploma with honor from A. Shirakatsi University of Armenia, majoring in English language and literature and area studies. Avjyan is also a part of the Central Eurasia Leadership Alliance, a professional leadership network where she is the board of director’s member representing Armenia from 2010 to 2016 and served as the chair of the board of directors from 2012 to 2014. Her hobbies include cooking, dancing, music, swimming, hiking, reading, and (recently) fiction translation, as well as simply spending relaxed time with her friends. Plans: to go real zipping in a canyon in Armenia or elsewhere, to go sky diving, and to hear Sting live in concert.


Maj. Dongyoun Cho is currently a major in the army under the South Korean Ministry of National Defense. She also served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a project manager of the NAPCI (The Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative) Task Force. NAPCI engages in meaningful work building trust and initiating cooperation among participating nations in Northeast Asia that are fraught with tension, shedding light on the multifaceted dimensions of national security policies, including small but important non-traditional security issues, such as nuclear safety, energy security, environmental protection, climate change, disaster relief, and drug trafficking. While the South Korean army is still mainly focused on war and weapons-based security, Cho's own experience during peacekeeping operations in Iraq has taught her that the traditional concept of security is not enough to ensure peace and stability.

Cho recently earned an M.P.A. degree at the Harvard Kennedy School. It was an invaluable opportunity for her to gain a breadth of knowledge in security issues in a broad international context, thus enabling her to further study and contribute to tackling the world’s most challenging security and humanitarian problems on the Korean peninsula including North Korean issues. She looks forward to more opportunities to practice these skills and communicate with like-minded, emerging leaders to address challenges in today’s world.

Through her 16 years of military experience collaborating with governmental, national, and regional entities, Cho hopes to contribute to promoting sustainable peace by addressing the root causes of violent conflict in the Korean peninsula in the foreseeable future.


Traci Dixon is a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) expert, survey methodologist, trainer/educator, and advisor with over 12 years of experience developing and implementing and/or auditing complex qualitative and quantitative research methodologies and M&E frameworks. She is currently a director of M&E in the crisis, conflict, and governance practice at International Business & Technical Consultants, Inc., where she leads and manages the technical implementation of U.S. government M&E projects in Somalia and, before that, Yemen. She has conducted this work most recently with USAID from 2014 to present and the U.S. Department of State from 2013 to 2014.

Prior to that, Dixon was a federal civilian with the U.S. Army from 2009 to 2013. As a GS-14 social scientist and later chief of training and education with the Department of Defense, Dixon’s work in Iraq for the USF-I J2 and her leadership in the technical redesign of the Human Terrain System’s training program earned her two Department of Defense Superior Civilian Service Medals and a U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Award for Excellence. Dixon has conducted fieldwork in Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Indonesia.

She started her career working as a law clerk at the U.S. Department of Justice where she supported legal analysis and case work in the Criminal Division, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering, and, prior to that, in the U.S. Marshals Service General Counsel’s Office. Dixon holds a JD from The American University Washington College of Law, a master’s degree in political science from the University of Pittsburgh where she is also A.B.D., a graduate certificate in survey methodology from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University. Her current and prior work speaks to her interests in the rule of law, political science, international relations, and methodological approaches to data collection in high-threat environments.


Juan Luis Garcia Soria is a corporate communications and public affairs consultant with more than ten years of experience working with multinational companies and both public and private institutions in Spain and Latin America. His main areas of expertise include: corporate & strategic communications, public affairs, lobbying, and issues and crisis management. He has worked in both the public and private sectors in several industries: energy, telecoms, finance, environment, NGOs, etc. He is currently working as a public policy manager for the pharmaceutical industry, planning and executing government relations and external affairs strategies.

Gracia Soria was born in Spain 33 years ago, in a beautiful little city: Granada, the jewel of southern Spain (Andalusia) and a place you fall in love with easily. He studied communications in Madrid, majoring in corporate communications, politics and international relations. He started his career as a journalist in different cities and media in Spain, then realized that he wanted to better understand the other side of the news and business and became a corporate and public affairs consultant for a multinational firm. After some years working for different companies and causes, he felt he needed a change in his life and applied for an ex-pat position overseas (in this case, in Latin America). He crossed the Atlantic Ocean five years ago and landed in Ecuador and Colombia, then moved to Mexico City with the same firm and after one year joined the MSD Mexico team to help them with government relations and public policy strategy. In short, he exchanged his pretty hometown of 300,000 inhabitants for one of the most populous (20 million people), chaotic, but also stimulating and welcoming cities on the planet, where he happily works to make substantial changes and have meaningful impact in many people's health and lives.

Traveling to encounter people and places around the world is his off-job passion. Books, music, and films are close friends and he enjoys playing (and watching) sports, especially basketball, football, and tennis.


Satoshi Hayase graduated from Hitotsubashi University with a bachelor's degree in law in 1993 and started his business career at KDD corporation, a dominant international telecom company in Japan (now KDDI corporation after its merger with DDI and IDO in October 2000). His first responsibility was as account manager for major European-based MNPs, such as Mercedes, Siemens, Peugeot Citroen Group, etc. After five years of experience in sales, he moved to the network planning section and joined a team for planning and negotiation with international submarine cables/satellites arrangements among carriers all over the world. He worked a lot with U.S. carriers including AT&T, Worldcom, and other fixed-line carriers from 1998 to 2005.

In March 2005, Hayase moved to the mobile business sector within the company and became a service manager for mobile international roaming service. In that position, he led the business development of international service expansion. In April 2012, he took up the position of group manager for mobile communication services, e.g., voice (telephony), email, SMS, and data communications, and led service expansion of voice over LTE and 4G.

Hayase became general manager of product and service development for cable business in October 2015. Now he is engaged in new service implementation and support for 150 cable companies who are alliance members of KDDI in Japan. He has a total of 22 years of experience in fixed, mobile, and cable in the telecom field.


Insun Kang is a member of the editorial board at the The Chosun Ilbo, the largest circulation daily newspaper and media company in Korea. Before this role, she was the editor of international news and weekend news. She was a Washington, D.C., correspondent and embedded as a war reporter with a U.S. Army division during the war in Iraq in 2003. Kang has been covering foreign policy, international affairs, and Korean politics. She is now in Washington, D.C., to cover the U.S. presidential election. She also had her own TV interview show, "Kang Insun Live."

Kang is the author of several books including Desert Flowers, Leadership Code, Harvard Style, and Work Like Hillary, Win Like Condi. She received a bachelor’s degree and an M.A. from Seoul National University. She also holds an M.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She and her husband have one daughter.


Catherine Kihara is currently the Africa researcher at the United States Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). In her current role, she analyzes a wide range of issues including regional security, civil military relations, and migration among other topics of concern arising in Africa that would impact operational readiness for U.S. Marines.

Prior to this, she worked on legislative issues in East, Central, and West Africa, mainly in the areas of human rights and humanitarian law, the rule of law and access to justice, and HIV/AIDS and maternal health. She has also worked with jurists and legislators to draft gender legislation in Sierra Leone and communication and technology legislation in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia. Additionally, she also worked as part of a UNDP-American Bar Association team to draft amendments to the Sierra Leone Police Act in support of security sector reforms in that country.

Kihara holds an L.L.M. from the American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C., an L.L.B. (Honors) from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, and a B.A. in communication from Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya. She has authored several articles and is a recipient of a United States Marine Corps Commendation for Superior Performance. Last but not least, she is a tea enthusiast and when not working, enjoys travelling and spending time with family.


Christopher MacPherson is originally from Washington, D.C., and currently lives with his family in Stuttgart, Germany, assigned to the United States' European Command. Serving as a policy analyst supporting the director of policy, strategy, partnering, and capabilities, MacPherson advises USEUCOM’s senior leadership on a variety of issues ranging from force posture to political-military affairs to the resourcing of activities conducted. In this role, he has had the opportunity to witness firsthand the changing political and security environment across Europe, and has helped to shape the Unites States' position regarding these changes.

Prior to his current position, MacPherson spent more than five years assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations as a policy analyst, specializing in both naval and defense force posture. Additionally, MacPherson spent more than 10 years serving in the Unites States Navy, both as an enlisted sailor and commissioned officer. MacPherson earned his B.S. in oceanography from the Unites States Naval Academy. Additionally, he holds a M.S. in management as well as an MBA from the University of Maryland University College.


Eric Magnuson is a financial services executive with close to 20 years of professional experience across equities sales and trading, equity research, and public accounting. Currently, he is a private consultant, focusing on strategic and financial change management. Over the prior 10 years, Magnuson served as an executive director within the equities division of UBS Investment Bank. He held a number of senior management roles, including most recently, chief of staff and head of strategy, working directly for the global head of equities. From 2013 to 2015, Magnuson was a member of the firm’s global equities executive committee. Prior to UBS, Magnuson was an equity research associate at Cowen & Company for four years and an external financial statement auditor for both PricewaterhouseCoopers and Arthur Andersen. He is a chartered financial analyst and a certified public accountant.

Magnuson earned an M.B.A. from the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester and a masters in global management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. Currently, he is an international relations student in the global master of arts program at The Fletcher School; he expects to graduate in July 2017. Magnuson is a member of the American Enterprise Institute’s New York Council, Hudson Institute’s Chairman’s Advisory Board, and Manhattan Institute’s Young Leaders Circle Advisory Committee. In addition, he was selected for the Foreign Policy Initiative’s New York Leaders Program from 2015 to 2016 and the National Review Institute’s New York Fellows program in 2014. Magnuson volunteers with American Corporate Partners, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting veterans in their transition from the armed services to the civilian workforce. In addition, he volunteers with Anjellicle Cats Rescue, which rescues, cares for, and places New York City’s homeless cats and kittens into permanent homes. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, Lisette, along with their beloved rescue cats. Magnuson is both a U.S. and Italian citizen.


Sphindile Magwaza is a deputy branch chief for the prevention branch of the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in South Africa, providing oversight on strategic and operational goals and monitoring and managing cooperative agreements and contracts. She has over 20 years of experience in public health.

Magwaza has developed, implemented, and managed sexual and reproductive health, HIV counseling and testing, and tuberculosis and HIV health programs and research in South Africa and the Southern African region. She has worked extensively with international, regional, and local civil society organizations; government departments; and academic institutions to improve quality of health and the capacity of health services to respond to health needs.

She is particularly concerned with health security, disparities in health status, access to health care, and the benefits of evidence-based intervention to the poor. Magwaza holds a master’s in business management from the Regent Business School in Durban, South Africa; a postgraduate diploma in business management from the University of Natal's School of Management; a master’s in public health with a focus on international community health education from the School of Education at New York University; and a B.Sc. in nursing-midwifery and community health and psychiatry from the University of Cape Town.


Sheri Meyerhoffer is a Canadian lawyer with technical expertise in the areas of law reform, governance, and capacity building developed over more than two decades through hands-on experience with writing, interpreting, and advocating for constitutional, legislative and regulatory law reform in Canada, Russia, Cuba, China, Jamaica, and Nepal. She is currently head of mission for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Nepal, a program which is focused on supporting that country’s process to draft and implement its new constitution. From 2007 to 2011 she held the position of project director for a Canadian government-funded partnership project between the Canadian Bar Association and the Nepal Bar Association titled Developing Democracy in Nepal.

In 2012 Meyerhoffer founded Women Lawyers Joining Hands (WLJH), a Canadian charitable organization with a mission to educate, train, coach, and mentor women lawyers in developing countries, starting with Nepal, and provide them with scholarships, bursaries, awards, and other forms of financial assistance. In her role as chair, she has leveraged the pro bono services of law firms, organizations, and individuals in Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Hungary, Nepal, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States to create the framework and programming for WLJH.

Meyerhoffer's experience includes managing processes involving a diverse range of stakeholders such as government, special interest groups, community organizations, indigenous populations, and the public. She has a B.A. in political science (Hon. ’82) and a J.D. (’85) from the University of Saskatchewan. Outside of work she is an avid yoga and meditation practitioner, distance swimmer, dancer (any kind), singer, and willing participant in anything joyful. She is dedicated to her Cuban side kick, Cooper, who at 98 (14 dog years) still manages to get the better of her in any situation.


Adaora Ndukwe-Ugwu leads the finance and accounts team at the Petroleum Equalization Fund Management Board, a Nigerian government agency under the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources responsible for ensuring effective distribution and uniform pricing of petroleum products across the country. She is a public financial manager and chartered forensic accountant with over 12 years of experience in financial accounting, wealth management, data analysis, public policy, strategy, and business development.

In her current role, Ugwu directly advises the Board on the implementation and correct application of financial regulations, government policies, and other strategic issues concerning the oil and gas industry. She currently represents the Board on key policy review committees such as the review of the Petroleum Industry Bill and the Nigeria gas policy. Serving on these committees set up by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the National Assembly, and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Ugwu has built and maintained a network of people that are in the exciting journey of liberalizing the downstream environment and kick-starting Nigeria’s lucrative gas sector.

Ugwu earned a master's degree in systems analysis and design from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a bachelor’s degree in accounting and financial management from the University of Buckingham. She is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants in the United Kingdom and was recently awarded a fellowship by the Institute of Certified Forensic Investigative Professionals. Her interests include women's empowerment, educating the girl child, human rights, tennis, and travelling. She currently resides in Abuja, Nigeria, with her husband and three children.


Kawtar Ouatiki is a Moroccan woman engineer working in what is often thought to be a man's field. She notes, "In a country like mine, girls are seen as fragile persons who need to be married at a young age to be protected and secured. But that was opposite to my personality, as I was always reading astronomy books and was fascinated by the universe. As I was growing up, I realized that my place shouldn’t be in the kitchen, but at the university, or in a school where I could study to achieve my dreams." Ouatiki studied hydro geotechnical engineering at L'École Mohammadia d'ingénieurs in Rabat. She then joined the Ministry of Interior in 2011 and was placed as head of service in Deroua, a municipality close to Casablanca. 


Ouatiki gained experience managing teams and monitoring provincial projects and has been involved in many campaigns of people sensitization in the field of blood donation, selective waste sorting, water saving, and the use of renewable energies. She was determined to get results from these campaigns in order to demonstrate that women can achieve as much as men in every goal. In her work, she was the only woman taking posts with major responsibilities, attending meetings with high profile government officials who now assume her competency as an engineer and as a strong woman having the right to work. Ouatiki also volunteers with the Kenana Assocation, which works to empower women in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia. 


Ouatiki is preparing her Ph.D. in civil engineering, working specifically on the mapping of collapsible soils. This phenomenon is ignored by most people but causes the collapse of some construction, including housing for the poor. Since re-planning is expensive, she plans to study the risk zones and draw a hazard map that can help municipalities to authorize only projects in safer or corrected soil areas. 


Neva Sadikoglu-Novaky is based in Brussels and has been working for the European Union since 2010. She is the Secretary-General of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group in the Committee of the Regions (CoR), the EU's political assembly of local and regional representatives. She helped form the Group in 2013 and has been the Secretary-General since then. She is among the youngest to have held the title of Secretary-General within the EU. She provides strategic advice and support to the Group's presidency and manages the work of its secretariat. Previously, she worked in the European Parliament as a policy advisor. Her EU career began in the Enlargement Strategy Unit of the European Commission’s former Enlargement Directorate-General.

Sadikoglu-Novaky's professional experiences have included working at the United Nations Development Programme's office in Ankara and the CSIS Turkey Project. In the summer of 2011, she was also a visiting scholar at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, a think tank in Ankara.

Sadikoglu-Novaky holds an M.Sc. in politics and government in the European Union from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences. She holds a B.A. with honours in politics and international relations with French from the University of Kent in Canterbury and Sciences Po in Paris. During her studies, she held various leadership positions in student representation bodies. In addition to being bilingual in English and Turkish, Sadikoglu-Novaky is proficient in French and has intermediate knowledge of German. Her interests include local and regional development, European governance, and transatlantic relations. She has published articles on Turkey-EU relations.


Eric Sedlacek currently works as a senior specialist in growth and partnerships for IRG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Engility Corporation focused on USAID mission support. In his current position, he serves as the deputy project director, based in the home office, for the USAID-funded Somalia Growth, Enterprise, Employment, and Livelihoods Project. He is also a strategic capture manager, responsible for leading pursuit of and winning new opportunities valued at $50M or more as part of the IRG's internal organizational growth strategy. In this capacity, he leads the development of opportunity pursuit strategies and serves as a “solution architect” responsible for developing technical and managerial approaches for the successful implementation of large, complex projects.

Sedlacek's professional field experience includes work in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Tajikistan, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, the Republic of Georgia, and Moldova. Issues that are of primary interest and concern to him are the increase in armed conflicts and the rise of violent extremism and the resulting increase in food insecurity in fragile and conflict-affected states. Facilitating and supporting economic growth and private sector investment is, in his opinion, perhaps the most critical element to reducing instability and countering extremists and their ability to recruit from vulnerable groups. He has spent the last seven years of his career focusing on and steadily engaging with these issues directly. Specifically, he has been working on inclusive economic growth projects, primarily focused on agriculture, that are market-oriented and private sector-led in fragile states. Since 2014, he has led numerous new business initiatives resulting in the award of USAID contracts totaling $98M, all focused on agricultural competitiveness in unstable environments. Sedlacek has a bachelor's degree in history and Eastern European studies from Miami University.


Dr. Haruo Tanaka currently works as a deputy secretary general of the Inamori Foundation, a Japanese public interest incorporated foundation founded by Dr. Kazuo Inamori. He works mainly with a prominent international award referred to as the Kyoto Prize. Tanaka is also responsible for the external affairs of the foundation, such as making alliances with other organizations.

Tanaka's main interests are planning and evaluating activities for the cultural, scientific, and spiritual betterment of mankind. In particular, he explores ways of effectively sharing concepts with many people to make their activities more meaningful. Tanaka earned a Ph.D. in physics from Waseda University and then joined academic organizations including RIKEN and Tokai University as a postdoctoral researcher prior to joining the Inamori Foundation in 2005.


Kunihiko Ueki studied economics at Yamaguchi University, graduating in 1992 and joining Kyocera immediately afterward. From 1992 to 2001, he worked in the semiconductor components division at Kyocera headquarters as a sales engineer, supporting microprocessor product and sensor applications in the U.S. and European markets. From 2002 to 2008, he worked at Kyocera Fineceramics GmbH in Germany as a sales engineer, mainly supporting image sensor applications in the European market.

From 2008 to 2013, he returned to Kyocera headquarters in Kyoto, Japan, working in the semiconductor components division for three years as assistant section manager in the European section and for two years as Asian section manager in the Asian section. In 2013, he returned to Kyocera Fineceramics GmbH in Germany as deputy European product line manager for the semiconductor components division, then began a new role as product line manager of the semiconductor components division in April 2015.

During his years at Kyocera, he has participated in several seminars about the Kyocera philosophy. The Kyocera philosophy is not just decorative, but has daily application to real life and real business. Ueki wants to study more about it, and is also very interested in the philosophies of other people, companies, and nations. He is very excited to join the AIF program to further this conversation.


Dr. Christopher Watkins is the senior Africa analyst at the Office of National Assessments (ONA) in Australia, an all-source assessment agency which reports directly to the prime minister. It is charged with providing the Australian government with analysis of international developments affecting Australia and Australians. Watkins is responsible for Australia's strategic and political analysis of sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to ONA, he worked in the policy planning branch in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which develops strategic policy across Australia's diplomatic and trade interests. He has also worked on Australia's human rights policies and on Afghanistan.

Between 2012 and 2014, Watkins was the senior political officer in Australia's diplomatic mission in Abuja, Nigeria, where he had additional responsibility for the Republic of Congo, Niger, and Gabon. In 2014 to 2015 he was deployed to West Africa to support Australia's contribution to the global response to the Ebola crisis. He has written and lectured on pandemic preparedness in West Africa and the Asia Pacific. Watkins has taught British history, the history of democracy, U.S history, and economic history at the universities of Oxford and Melbourne, and holds a doctorate in modern history from the University of Oxford, where he studied citizenship and the evolution of democracy between the world wars. He has an abiding interest in the evolution of democracy in post-conflict and new states.


Fatou Wurie is a social activist, public speaker, and the founder of The Survivor Dream Project, a local nonprofit organization that offers holistic support to women and youth survivors of trauma in Sierra Leone. She has worked for the UN Mission for Emergency Ebola Response, UNICEF, Options UK, and other bilateral organizations, as well as private sector companies and governmental institutions as an advocacy and communications advisor.

Wurie is an Imperial NEXTe Award Recipient for "Young Professional of the Year 2015" and a 2016 Illumessence Community Builder National Women's Award Honoree. She is a participant in the African Women's Development Fund’s African Women’s Writers Workshop for Social Change in Kampala, Uganda. Her work has been featured in the Huffington Post, Forbes, MamaYe Campaign, the UNICEF Innovations Blog, Amnesty International's Digital Blog, The Journalist, and The Africa Report’s ‘Extraordinary Lives of Ordinary People’ section. Fatou speaks on platforms like The Moth, UNICEF's Innovation Summit, the Red Cross Humanitarian Conference, and the Oxford-Africa Conference and represents her nonprofit organization at diaspora workshops for humanitarian action and mobilization across Europe. She holds a B.A. from the University of British Columbia and will be a graduate student at the University of Oxford in the fall of 2016.