Fall 2019 AILA International Fellowship

Fellow Biographies

Dr. David Abramson is a senior analyst covering Russia’s relations with Asia for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He previously worked for many years as a Central Asia analyst, focusing primarily on Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Islamic trends in Eurasia. From 2001-2005, David spent four years in the Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, monitoring and promoting religious freedom in the Middle East as an element of U.S. foreign policy, advising on outreach to the Muslim world, and engaging with Muslim-American communities. David has also taught at Georgetown University and published on Islam, foreign assistance in Central Asia, and on anthropologists working in national security. His most recent publication is a chapter on Islam and state policies in Uzbekistan in Islam, Society, and Politics in Central Asia. He received his doctorate in cultural anthropology from Indiana University.  

Kamal Ahmad founded the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh in 2008. The university is dedicated to the education and leadership development of women from throughout the region and has students from 17 countries. At age 14 in Bangladesh, Kamal founded a series of internationally-funded alternative schools for underprivileged children. As a freshman at Harvard College, Kamal started and ran the Overseas Development Network, a national network of 70 student groups dedicated to the promotion of international development. He served at the World Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, and UNICEF prior to entering law school. While practicing law at Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, he also conceived and co-directed the World Bank/UNESCO Task Force on Higher Education and Society. He practiced in London with the U.S. law firm of Mayer Brown. He received the United Nations Gold Peace Medal & Citation Scroll for “outstandingly significant work in national and international development;” Time magazine’s College Achievement Award, which cited him as “one of 20 most outstanding undergraduates in the nation;” the Global Leader for Tomorrow Award from the World Economic Forum; and the John Phillips Award from his alma mater, the Phillips Exeter Academy. He holds a B.A. from Harvard College and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. He is admitted to practice law in the State of New York.


Fawaz Aliu is an assistant secretary, foreign relations, in the Office of the President of the Republic of Ghana. He liaises with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, diplomatic missions, and international organizations to facilitate the president’s international agenda and programs. Prior to this, he served in Ghana’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations as a delegate to the Committee on Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian issues (Third Committee). Fawaz has experience and expertise in intergovernmental negotiations, public policy formulation, advocacy, leadership, management, and administration. He worked in the Cabinet Secretariat of the Office of the President of the Republic of Ghana and was Officer-in-Charge of the Northern Regional Biometric Passport Application Center. He also served in various bureaus within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana. Fawaz holds an M.A. in international affairs from the University of Ghana and a B.A. in biological sciences from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. He also attended the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Austria. He is interested in issues of public policy management, international political relations, sustainable international development, conflict resolution and humanitarian crisis management.  
Koichi Ando has worked as an economic and political journalist in a Japanese news agency for 25 years, covering Toyota Motor Corporation, the Federation of Economic Organizations, the Bank of Japan, the Financial Services Agency, the Ministry of Finance, and the stock market in the Japan Exchange Group. He describes the structure of power in Japan as the triangular relationship of politics, bureaucracy, and finance. Koichi is interested in China’s increasing military and economic power in the Asia-Pacific and how that may increase the geopolitical importance of Japan. He is also interested in how to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, for example by Japan deepening its cooperative relationship to reduce the burden on the U.S. in the military and intelligence fields.  
Patricia Baranda Carmona is professor of international relations at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She also serves as an advisor and researcher in international affairs in the public sector, particularly focusing on strategic international issues, foreign policy, and relations between Mexico and the U.S. Paty has published works for the Mexican Navy, Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, and Senate, among others. She holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in international relations from UNAM. While earning her master’s, she conducted research at the Perry Center at the National Defense University. In her free time, she enjoys speaking French, playing basketball, and making friends from different cultures to generate innovative knowledge and ideas.  
Michael Ceres is an intelligence and counterterrorism professional who leads intelligence analysis teams answering complex questions on the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. Mike has led intelligence operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, both as an active duty Marine officer and as a contractor. HE also taught intelligence analysis tradecraft to both Iraqi and Afghan intelligence officers. Mike successfully developed the “Surveillance Cost Per Hour” concept to more effectively allocate intelligence collection resources, while also bringing legal counsel into the intelligence cycle in order to ensure that proper legal precedents were included into intelligence practices. He has also worked as a US Marine Corps officer recruiter and as a commercial salesman in the surface mining industry.

From 2018-present, Mike has worked as an associate for Booz Allen Hamilton supporting various contract functions at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Mike served in combat during Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2005 and 2008). He is a 1996 graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with a B.A. in international comparative politics. Mike is married with three boys (18, 12, and 11) and currently resides in historic Fredericksburg, Virginia. Mike’s hobbies include reading, especially on the Napoleonic Wars, writing historical fiction, and war-gaming.


Michal Chabros is a career diplomat serving in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of the Republic of Poland for 12 years. He currently works as a counselor at the Foreign Policy Strategy Department. He was previously posted in Belarus and Kazakhstan. Michal speaks English, Russian, Belarusian, French, and Turkish, and is advancing his command of Persian. His professional interests focus on strategic studies, Russia, Eurasia, and the growing role of the Arctic in international relations. He also focuses on South Asia and the Middle East, particularly Turkey and Iran, and wishes he had time to adequately explore his interests in history, geography, and cultural studies. Michal graduated with honors from the Faculty of International and Political Studies at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. He also studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and at the Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  

Gabriel Espana is a seasoned development banker with extensive experience in emerging markets and a solid network across private and public sector companies, world-class investors, and multilateral organizations. He focuses on transaction origination and structuring of international investment transactions, mezzanine lending, and equity deals with private sector deal sponsors, with particular skills in developing strategic business plans, conducting high-level contract negotiations, and building key alliances and partnerships. Gabriel is a civil engineer, obtaining his degree magna cum laude from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. He also holds an MBA in corporate finance from the IPADE Business School. He has published on real estate, affordable housing, and private sector development in emerging markets.


Dr. Phoumin Han has 18 years of experience working with international and inter-governmental organizations and multi-disciplinary research consortia related to energy markets and technologies, the environment, integrated water resource management, governance, and economic development in East Asia. He specializes in economic development and policy and applied econometrics. He has spent most of the past 12 years focusing on power sectors, especially on sustainable hydropower development, renewable energy policy research (i.e., biomass power generation competitiveness studies, solar and wind), energy efficiency and conservation, clean coal technology, energy security, and energy supply and demand forecasting. Phoumin has served as an expert for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation on energy security for oil and gas emergency responses since 2013. He was also one of the peer review experts for Peru’s energy subsidy removal commissioned by USAID in 2015. He has led numerous projects in the East Asia Summit region related to energy policy and planning and contributes numerous articles and special issues for journals.


Tomoaki Hirano has 19 years of experience working for Kyocera in various roles. Tomoaki started in 2000 in sales and marketing in Japan, and then moved to Germany and the U.S. to serve in various other roles before ultimately relocating to San Paulo, Brazil, to serve in his current role as the president of Kyocera Brazil.

Since his first international experience studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, in 1998, Tomoaki has been fascinated with international communication and business.


Sayaka Hiroki is an administrative coordinator at the Inamori Foundation, a public interest incorporated foundation based in Kyoto, Japan. She serves as the main point of contact for the Foundation’s partner organizations outside Japan and for the laureates of the Kyoto Prize, which is an international award presented to individual researchers and artists for their contributions to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of humankind. She is currently working on a new project that brings together past laureates from various fields in a digital exhibit at a public museum to share the idea of the Kyoto Prize.

Prior to joining the Inamori Foundation in 2015, Sayaka worked for eight years at the municipal government of Kyoto, where she took part in the planning and management of cultural programs and subsidy schemes, as well as publicity activities and internal and external coordination. Sayaka has a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Massey University in New Zealand and a bachelor’s of economics degree from Kyoto University. In her free time, she enjoys travelling and learning about and from different cultures and lifestyles.


Estefania Isava is a Venezuelan architect. She graduated from the Central University of Venezuela, where she was vice president of the Architecture Student Council from 2012-2014. She has also worked on a variety of electoral campaigns in Venezuela, serving on the fundraising team in the presidential elections of 2012 and 2013 and as coordinator of youth volunteer plans in 2015. She was also the coordinator and created a system for the situation room in 2015.

In 2014 Estefania co-founded “Operación Venezuela,” an NGO which fights for the defense of human rights and the recovery of democracy through a variety of programs aimed at young people and women. She is currently on the board of the organization. She recently participated in seminars on electoral campaign strategies at George Washington University, including "Designing in Modern Times" and "Management of Successful Political Change: Top Tools.” She is currently studying in the master's program in political communication and strategic governance at the same university. Her passion is to work to achieve freedom and democracy in Venezuela.


Dr. Ajit Jillavenkatesa is the senior policy adviser for standards and digitalization at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the US Department of Commerce. Ajit’s focus is on standards, technology, and digital economy-related issues and specifically on standardization for emerging technologies. He provides standards policy and technical expertise to staff and leadership at NIST, the U.S. Department of Commerce, other U.S. government agencies, and the private sector.

Ajit is an active participant and leader in international standards development activities in numerous standards organizations and inter-governmental activities such as the G20 and G7 digital economy/ICT activities. His work bridges the worlds of standards, technology, innovation, trade, and regulatory policy. He is particularly interested in the changing dynamics of technology standards development and their geopolitical, economic, and technological competitiveness impacts. Ajit is a materials scientist by training, having joined NIST in 1997 as a post-doctoral fellow, with a Ph.D. in ceramics from Alfred University in New York. He has authored and co-authored books and peer-reviewed publications related to physical and chemical characterization of materials and issues in standards. He is a recipient of the Department of Commerce silver and bronze medals.


Keida Kostreci is a seasoned Albanian Service reporter and host who has covered a broad array of topics ranging from Balkan politics, justice reform, and radical extremism, to U.S. politics, gender equality, and culture. She has covered political conventions, inaugurations, and hearings and has interviewed senior officials from the Balkans, including presidents and prime ministers, as well as senior U.S. officials and international affairs experts. Coming of age in the early years of regime change in her native Albania gave Keida a front row seat not only to the country’s political transformation from communism to democracy but also to social unrest and the human drama of fellow Albanians leaving the country in droves. Keida started her career as a newswoman for the only news agency at the time in Albania, and later joined one of the most prominent dailies, first as a politics reporter and later as the first female editor in charge of politics, shaping coverage at a time of political turmoil in the country. She holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign languages from the University of Tirana (1996) and a master’s degree in international relations from American University in Washington, D.C. (2010).


Huw Lester is a UK qualified chartered accountant (Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales) and Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), based in the San Francisco Bay area. He specializes in auditing private and public companies in the technology sector. Huw has over twenty years' experience at PwC, including seven years in the USA, seven years in the UK, four years in Laos and four years in Australia. He is interested in the intersection of business, auditing, accounting, international relations, history, politics, and culture—with a Southeast Asian and "Western" focus. Huw holds a B.Sc. with first-class honors in accounting and law from the University of Southampton, UK, and is a fellow of the Asialink Leadership Program in Australia.​


Jesse Levin is the founder of Tactivate, a social impact venture that meshes principles from disaster response, Special Operations veteran, and entrepreneurial ecosystems to create new ventures and to carry out disaster readiness and response efforts. Jesse has served as an executive and co-founder of venture-backed businesses including Brooklyn Boulders climbing gyms and has co-created and launched internationally acclaimed concepts from Active Collaborative Workspaces to the country’s first pop-up outdoor survival training bar. Jesse has served in a voluntary capacity to help NGOs scale up, including Team Rubicon in its formative years as the first corporate development and partnerships lead. Jesse currently serves on the leadership team of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. He has carried out expeditionary entrepreneurial disaster readiness and response deployments from Haiti to the Philippines and throughout Latin America. Jesse’s work with Tactivate has been featured in media outlets including CNN, Bloomberg,Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes, The New York Times and FastCo. Jesse continues to invest in and launch startups, support NGOs, and frequently speaks and teaches on the topic of entrepreneurial approaches to community capacity building in both disaster response and the private sector.


Heather Lopez Velarde is a senior manager of global military sales and strategy at Bell. In this role, she supports a globally deployed team of business development capture leads to grow multi-million-dollar opportunities for Bell’s military business. Heather has over 15 years of experience in aerospace including quality management, continuous improvement, military programs, and business development. She is passionate about providing aircraft and solutions that save lives, preserve freedom, and unlock the potential of flight. Heather is an active member of Leadership Women, Inc., and is a graduate of Leadership Texas. She serves as president of the Bell Leadership Association for Developing Excellence, is a certified Six Sigma Green Belt, and completed Textron’s Developing Growth Through Innovation course at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University. Heather holds a B.A. in political science and Spanish and Latin American studies from Texas Christian University and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas at Arlington.  

Rachel Mbaria has 12 years of experience in advisory support of policy, strategy, and partnerships to execute programs and projects impacting national, regional, and cross-border development in Africa. She is currently a strategic planning and programming expert with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Secretariat, a regional economic agency in the Horn of Africa. In this role, Rachel leads efforts to integrate strategic cross-functions and serves as a point person in the institutional strengthening initiative, a joint action plan between the Secretariat, member countries, and various international development agencies including the European Union and the United States Agency for International Development.

Prior to her current position, Rachel worked for years supporting policy, strategy, and partnerships to encourage cross-border development projects in the region. Specifically, she served as a lead specialist in monitoring and evaluation, change management, and capacity building with the United Nations Development Program in the Kenyan governance unit and in various other roles with IDEA International, Palladium, and the Kenya National Cohesion and Integration Commission. She has extensive experience in shaping the delivery of policy decisions and actions particularly on governance, climate change, health, resilience, and regional integration. Rachel holds a B.A. in commerce and an M.B.A. in strategic management from the University of Nairobi. When not researching her interests in global trends, strategic foresight, and anticipatory democracy, she is involved in excursions to support local nature and ocean conservation.


Rachel Meyer is Director of Policy and Government Affairs at the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), overseeing the society’s federal legislative and regulatory advocacy portfolio. She works with Congress and federal agencies including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health to influence policies that affect kidney health, research, and innovation. Most recently, she worked with senior leadership in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and at the White House to shape the Presidential Executive Order on Advancing American Kidney Health and related policy framework.
Working with the FDA in 2012, Meyer helped form the Kidney Health Initiative, a public-private partnership focused on development of safe and effective patient-centered therapies for people living with kidney diseases, working in the pre-competitive space. Collaborating with DHHS, she developed a public-private partnership to catalyze product development and investment in kidney therapeutics through KidneyX, a series of prize competitions. Prior to joining ASN, she conducted healthcare research at the Advisory Board Company and worked for U.S. Senator Ken Salazar. Meyer has a B.A. in global health and development from the Colorado College.
Tomoko Nakayama is in charge of the planning of telecommunication services to consumers in Japan for KDDI, the second-largest telecommunications company in Japan. She also manages its subsidiaries. Tomoko majored in economics in college, focusing on industrial organization theory. After joining KDDI, she studied the technical aspects and the legal system of the telecommunications industry. She has focused in particular on the interconnections with a different company’s network and the development of a new business in a new technology. Through these experiences, Tomoko has learned that it is difficult but critical to come to a common understanding even in the technical field. She has few chances in her day-to-day job to work with people from other countries, so she is honored to have the opportunity to connect with other participants during this program.  

Dr. Judith Obiero serves as an associate director and lecturer for the Archer Center for Student Leadership Development at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. She teaches curricular and co-curricular leadership courses and facilitates custom-designed workshops to provide students with the leadership skills they need in order to be successful in their academic, professional, and personal pursuits.

Judith graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with an Ed.D. in education policy and leadership with a concentration in international development education. While at the University of Massachusetts, Judith also earned a graduate certificate in advanced feminist studies. She earned an M.A. in sustainable development from the SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont and a B.A. in sociology and linguistics from Egerton University, Kenya. She is passionate about human rights and a global justice perspective. Her major research interests focus on the dynamics of educational policies and practices in sub-Saharan Africa. She believes that everyone has leadership potential and continually challenges understandings of leadership to be more inclusive in terms of gender, age, roles, and skills.

Judith employs feminist intersectional perspectives in understanding and addressing how social policy and practice impact marginalized communities’ access to resources.


Aramis Penland is the deputy chief of party–programs for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), the world’s leading provider of early warning and analysis on acute food insecurity. Contracted through Chemonics International, Aramis oversees 420 staff in 25 country offices and leads implementation of all programmatic aspects of FEWS NET’s field work.

As a conflict and stabilization specialist by trade, Aramis has served on some of the largest and most complex projects funded by USAID and the Office of Transition Initiatives in the world. He has conducted field assignments for projects in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria, and has traveled to 74 countries in total. Through his work, Aramis has designed and implemented project-wide technical strategies, led project negotiations with U.S. and foreign government officials, and liaised with hundreds of local NGOs in the Middle East and Africa to craft and manage sustainable peace-building and countering violent extremism (CVE) grant activities.

Aramis holds an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science, a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and continuing education certificates from Harvard Business School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).


Jorge Alejandro Rojas Torres has worked in México´s federal government in sensitive areas like the State Department, Customs, and the Senate, providing reliable information and solutions for decision makers. While collaborating with governments from different political wings, he had the chance to plan scenarios in fields including security, governance, threats to stability, and health. Jorge’s background in organizational psychology drove his professional interest in scenario planning, with particular attention to methodology and research applied to complex political problems with support from game theory algorithms. In 2012 Jorge joined Wikistrat to collaborate with highly specialized peers; since then, he has worked on a continuous path of development to adapt more tools to understand complex problems and how to think about solutions. He has participated in wargaming exercises about crises in Asia and the Middle East and has lectured at The George Washington University. He has also conducted several research projects on security, governance, and health threats over the last ten years for private corporations and governments as well as additional research on China´s expansion policies since 2000. In his spare time, Jorge loves to play golf and write about it.  

José Gabriel Salazar-Guerrero is an international civil servant with more than 25 years of professional experience, including 10 as an officer in the Venezuelan Navy and 17 at the Organization of American States, where he currently serves as the secretary for the Committee on Hemispheric Security. He is passionate about geopolitics, as well as the politics and culture of Venezuela, among other things. One of his medium-term goals is to prepare himself to contribute to the reconciliation of his compatriots and the rebuilding of his country.

José Gabriel is a mechanical engineer with a master’s in leadership from Georgetown University and a master’s in global policy from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.