Class of 2018 Bios

Sylvia Aguilera GarcĂ­a photo

Sylvia Aguilera GarcĂ­a

Sylvia Aguilera García has more than two decades of experience working in human rights and peace-building in Mexico. During the past 14 years she has focused her work on developing new ways to approach public conflicts in Mexico, mainly those related to land and natural resource management, as well as those associated with the advancement of human rights, the justice system and victims’ rights. Part of her work has been focused on strengthening civil society coalitions and in developing collaborative and negotiation capabilities.

During the last several years she has been working with the national Movement of Relatives of Disappeared Persons in Mexico. She is a former Director of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, and from 2012-2018 was the Executive Director of the Center for Civic Collaboration, a Mexican organization focused on the design and development of multi stakeholder dialogues.

She has been consultant of the Inter American Commission of Human Rights since 2013, working to strengthen its Friendly Settlements Agreement process. She is also part of the roster of experts in mediation for the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (MICI) – Inter American Development Bank.

Sylvia holds a BA in Social Psychology from the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, a MA in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford, UK with a specialization on Working with Conflict.

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi photo

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is a United Arab Emirates-based columnist and researcher on social, political and cultural affairs in the Arab Gulf States. Sultan rose in prominence during the Arab Spring when his tweets became a major news source, rivaling news networks at the time, until TIME magazine listed him in the “140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011.” In 2018 Sultan ranked 19th on the "Arabic Thought Leader Index" by Swiss think tank Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute.

Sultan was an MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow from 2014-2016, and in the spring of 2017 he was a practitioner in residence at the Hagop Kevorkian Center of Near East Studies at New York University, where he offered a special course on Politics of Middle Eastern Art. Sultan is currently conducting research for a book that documents the modern architecture of the city of Sharjah in the UAE.

In 2010 Sultan established the Barjeel Art Foundation that aims to contribute to the intellectual development of the art scene in the Arab region by building an extensive and publicly accessible art collection. In 2018, 100 works from the collection were hosted on a long-term basis at the Sharjah Art Museum.

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Fauziya Ali

Fauziya Ali is the Founder and President of Women in International Security (WIIS) Horn of Africa (HoA). She is an expert in governance, gender and human security. She is currently serving as the steering committee member for the inaugural Paris Peace forum under the leadership of President Emanuel Macron of France and an evaluating Judge for the Larsen Lam Iconiq impact awards under MacArthur Foundation. She also chairs a regional network of women peace builders in the Horn of Africa. She is currently working on a e-photo book dubbed “faces of resilience” as part of the 20th commemoration of women peace and security agenda.

Prior to establishing WIIS-HoA, Fauziya served as the coordinator of the African Peer review mechanism, NEPAD heads of state and Governance implementation committee, an instrument for monitoring performance in governance among African Union Member states. After the APRM process, she continued to lead a number of initiatives in governance and peacebuilding. She was the deputy chief of party for Somalia’s largest Stabilization programme in Somalia, managing projects assisting in the rebuilding of Somalia. 

As a security expert, Fauziya has lead initiatives under UNDP Africa focusing on 18 countries in west and East Africa. She co-authored an acclaimed research “Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, incentives and recruitment tipping point” which had over 4 million downloads upon its launch. She also co-authored amongst others research related to social media and violent extremism, designing the first mobile application on the subject. Due to her work in prevention efforts focusing on women, she was named a “leading woman” in 2018 by News Deeply, and VOA 2019 “woman to watch." Fauziya has won a number of awards, including the SERAS award for Africa and a UN SDG Pioneer award.


Dongyoun "Dana" Cho

As Director of Starburst Aerospace Accelerator, Korea, Dongyoun "Dana" Cho is driving the Starburst innovation footprint in South Korea and beyond, uniting early-stage technology innovators with private and governmental investment to accelerate innovation in the Aerospace & Defense industry.

Before joining Starburst, Dana started her career as a military officer in the Republic of Korea Army where she was a researcher at the Korea Army Research Center for Future and Innovation under the Republic of Korea Army Headquarters. Having collaborated with congress, academia, and industries, Dana has over 16 years of experience in intelligence, military strategy, defense policy, and the A&D industry.

Dana graduated from the Korea Military Academy and commissioned as a second lieutenant officer in 2004. She holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School and is pursuing a Ph.D. Degree in Political Science and International Relations from Seoul National University.

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ElsaMarie D'Silva

ElsaMarie D’Silva is an Indian gender activist and is the Founder and CEO of Red Dot Foundation (Safecity) and is President of Red Dot Foundation Global. Safecity is a platform that crowdsources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. This data gets aggregated as hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level. Since Safecity started in December 2012, it has become the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon and Nepal.

ElsaMarie is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women and has won the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award, Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Niti Aayog’s #WomenTransformingIndia award and SheThePeople’s Digital Woman Award in Social Impact.

Prior to Safecity, ElsaMarie worked in the aviation industry for 20 years as Vice President of Network Planning and Charters for Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines.

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Ralph Emmanuel François

Ralph Emmanuel François is a disaster risk resilience management and climate resilience specialist with over 10 years of experience working with communities in Haiti. In 2015, Ralph founded Cocread, a social enterprise and community incubator that creates self-sustainable communities using art and technology. As CEO of Cocread, Ralph was first-runner up at the singularity Global Impact Challenge for the Caribbean.

During the course of his career in private, international, and government agencies, Ralph has contributed to key research studies and developed methodologies and toolkits in the DRR field, including the first evacuation guidelines, the disaster response experiences during the January 12, 2010 earthquake, and research on risk ecology.

Ralph studied sociology in Haiti and went to CATIE in Costa-Rica for an integrated risk management and technology program. He recently started a political consulting firm, Koraks, which empowers political leaders and improves an affirmative political presence and performance in communication.

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Julio GuzmĂĄn

Julio Guzman is a Peruvian politician, leader and founder of the Partido Morado (The Purple Party), a centrist-political national party. He ran for President in the 2016 Elections, climbing to second place with more than 20% of the voting intention, before he was excluded from the race because of “administrative issues” regarding the registration of his candidacy.

Previously, Julio was a Partner at Deloitte Peru. He served as Vice Minister of Industry and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and as Secretary General at the Office of the Prime Minister. In that role, he was President of the Council of Vice Ministers, responsible for the coordination of multi-sectorial policies.

Before joining the Government, Julio worked for a decade at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington, DC. He also participated in an International Banking Summer Program at Trinity College at the University of Oxford. During his tenure at the IDB, he was adjunct professor at both the University of Maryland and Georgetown University.

He holds a PhD in Public Policy from the University of Maryland, a Master’s in Public Policy from Georgetown University, and a Bachelor's degree in Economics from Universidad Catolica, Peru.

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Thynn Thynn Hlaing

Thynn Thynn Hlaing is a development professional who has been working in humanitarian and long-term development programs for more than 15 years. Her primary focus is on women’s rights and women’s empowerment issues.

Currently Thynn Thynn serves as Country Manager for Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) for their program in Papua New Guinea. She is leading the team and all the elements of CHAI's operations in Papua New Guinea for successful footprint to support PNG's government on their improvement of health financing and its outcomes for the most vulnerable.

She previously worked as the Country Director of Oxfam International in Sierra Leone over 4 years from 2013 to 2018. She has previously worked in Myanmar, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Liberia. Thynn Thynn was selected as the best INGO Woman Leader for 2017 in Sierra Leone by the INGO Watchdog Association in Africa.

She is passionate about helping impoverished women overcome their social, political and economic barriers by bringing about tangible and social change. She has championed women rights by supporting a transformative political leadership journey for women leaders in Sierra Leone. During the Ebola crisis, she led and successfully implemented Oxfam’s emergency response which was staffed by 400 employees to fight against the global threat.

A native of Myanmar, Thynn Thynn holds a Masters in Public Administration degree from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

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Mai Ichihara

Mai Ichihara graduated from Yale in 2020 with a joint degree, Master of Environmental Management and Master of Global Affairs from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. She is specializing in water resource management with a regional focus in the Asia Pacific. At Yale, she focused on understanding equitable approaches to sustainable development, and she is a strong advocate of integrating ecosystem services, local knowledge, and participatory engagement into urban and rural development interventions.

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Michael Kalisa

Michael Kalisa is a Rwandan lawyer and transitional justice expert. Over the last twenty years, Michael has worked to restore the rule of law in post-conflict countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Repatriating immediately after the Tutsi Genocide of 1994, Michael worked as a Special Assistant to the Prosecutor General of Rwanda, contributing to the rebuilding of criminal legal infrastructure and developing mechanisms to protect the rights of all citizens, including genocide victims and perpetrators.

At the international level, Michael served five years on the prosecutorial team of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He is currently working as a Legal Specialist with the American Bar Association- Rule of Law Initiative in Central African Republic where he designs capacity building programs to improve the skills of local justice actors and promote responsive governance.

Michael is co-founder of Protect Citizen, an organization which supports Rwandan’s rights to access justice. He’s also a criminal justice lecturer at ILPD, a post-graduate legal institute.

Michael holds a Master’s degree in Government Law and Policy and a specialized certificate in Gender-based violence. He was a 2016 Transitional Justice Awards Fellow with the Australian Department of Defense. 

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Omar Mohammed

Omar Mohammed is a historian from Mosul, Iraq known until recently only as the anonymous blogger ‘Mosul Eye’. Through Mosul Eye, Omar set out to inform the world about life under the Islamic State in his city. His focus has now shifted to advocacy of social initiatives for the people of Mosul including the international effort to re-supply Central Library of the University of Mosul.

At the intersection of media, academia and civil society, Omar is motivated to develop new networks of collaboration and innovations in humanitarian action. As a historian and lecturer at the University of Mosul, he focuses his scholarly work on conceptual history and research dealing with local historiographies and narratives, micro histories and Orientalism.

Omar is a regular media commentator on Iraq, has an MA in Middle East History from the University of Mosul, and was named 2013 Researcher of the Year by Iraq's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

His doctoral research explores history and historians in 19th and 20th century Mosul. He now lives in exile in Europe.

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Vincent Ni

Vincent Ni is the Asia Editor at NPR, in which role he oversees the US public broadcaster’s coverage from Afghanistan to Japan.

As an international journalist, he has reported from the Middle East, Europe and Asia. He also reported from the US on the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. Before joining NPR, Vincent was the China Affairs correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, where he wrote about the politics, economy and changing society of the world’s most populous nation.

Prior to The Guardian, Vincent spent seven years at the BBC. He worked across platforms and launched an internal forum called BBC Asia Brief. In 2019 he created and edited Asia Matters podcast, which was acquired by the Brussels School of Governance in 2022.

Vincent is a graduate of the University of Oxford. He has lectured at the London School of Economics, City University of London, Oxford University and Yale-NUS in Singapore.

Ibrahima Amadou Niang photo

Ibrahima Amadou Niang

Ibrahima "Ibou" Amadou Niang is the Team Manager for the Global Initiative for the Restitution of African Heritage at Open Society Foundations. He is also a creative activist, researcher, and published author. For over ten years he has been striving to advance democracy and human rights across Africa. A native of Senegal, he has worked on social justice issues as an NGO activist, a democracy and electoral assistance provider, a grantmaker, a political writer, and translated poet.

As a creative activist, Ibou uses his power of words and imagery to move people from awareness to action. These messages are disseminated across the world to a diverse audience through his books and performances at international festivals. In 2016, he was awarded a certificate from the School of Creative Activism in Brooklyn, New York. In 2017, he was invited to perform at two major literary festivals: Festival Voix Vives de Méditerranée en Méditerranée (SÚtes, France) and Festival Paroles Indigo (Arles, France).

Ibou holds a Ph.D. in Political Science, an MA in International Governance and an MA in International Public Law from Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal. He also holds a BA in International Relations and Economics from the University of Reading, England.

Joy Olivier photo

Joy Olivier

Joy Olivier is passionate about finding innovative solutions to big social problems. She is the co-founder of Botanican, a social enterprise that is establishing Africa's first legal network of cannabis growers and bringing sustainable cannabis products to local and global markets. Joy is also the co-founder of IkamvaYouth, an education non-profit that enables disadvantaged youth to pull themselves and each other out of poverty, which she ran for fifteen years.

Joy is intrigued by the power of collaboration, and the conversion of challenges into opportunities. She is committed to doing all she can to fight inequality and promote access to opportunities that change lives.

In addition to being a Yale World Fellow, Joy is also a fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative (ALI), YALI, and Ashoka. Joy won the civil society category for the Most Influential Women in Business & Government in the SADC region in 2013. She has an MPhil in Education and ICT.

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Elpida Rouka

Elpida Rouka has most recently served as Chief of Staff a.i. to the UN Special Envoy on Syria whom she joined in September 2014. She remains part of his core good offices team to date. Previously, she was in Jerusalem where she led the political team for the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, an office which was set up after the Oslo Accords.

She has worked for the United Nations for over 15 years and has most recently served as Principal Political Adviser for the UN's Special Political Missions both in Iraq (2007-2009) and in Afghanistan (2010-2012) where she has dealt with aspects of facilitating peace and political processes, advancing regional dialogue, promoting human rights and assisting with the framework of electoral preparations.

Previously she has held various positions in the United Nations Headquarters in New York, including in the Office of the Iraq Program, which oversaw the sale of Iraqi oil and the delivery of aid to that country, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations during the surge in multidimensional operations and the Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations under the administrations of both Kofi Annan and then Ban Ki-moon. During that time she took part in various good office and mediation initiatives.

A Greek national, Elpida is a graduate of the American High School of Thessaloniki, Columbia College (Political Science and East Asian/Chinese studies) and SIPA/Harriman Institute in New York (Economic and political development program and Russian/Central Asian Studies).


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Josh Rubin

Josh Rubin is Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of State at the U.S. Department of State. A graduate of Yale Law School, he was a member of the Rule of Law Clinic and served as co-president of the National Security Group. Josh also co-taught an undergraduate seminar at Yale on speechwriting and foreign policy, and his writing has appeared in publications including The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, and Just Security.

Before law school, Josh served as a special assistant in the Office of Secretary of State John Kerry. A recipient of the State Department Superior Honor Award, Josh staffed the Secretary of State on travel to over 25 countries, including during negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, the Paris climate agreement, and the war in Syria. Previously, Josh served as the speechwriter for the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

Josh received his undergraduate degree from Yale, where he graduated magna cum laude, with distinction in the Global Affairs major. He is originally from Syosset, New York.

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Pilar Velasco

Pilar Velasco is a Spanish journalist currently working at Cadena SER (Prisa Group), the radio network leader in Spain. Specializing in investigative and data journalism, she has exposed political and economic malpractices in Spain and uncovered high profile international corruption cases. Her reports have focused on revealing unlawful and unethical activities of the powerful against the public interest. Pilar is the author of two books, one about social change in Spain; and another one about the rise of indignados (Occupy) movement, both of which have been translated into several languages. She has also published two essays in Germany about the challenges of democracy in Europe in the context of the economic crisis, and how new models of citizen participation are emerging. She is a member of the Strategy Group ‘A Soul of Europe’, a European Union initiative to strengthen and connect communities through different frames of discussion. She collaborates with several digital media platforms, radio stations and TV channels in Spain and Latin America. Pilar teaches investigative journalism in Madrid and presents at conferences across Europe and Latin America. She is also the Founder and a Board Member of the Spanish Association of Investigative Journalists (2017) with the aim of promoting cross-border investigative journalism and reinforcing freedom of expression.

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Leonid Volkov

Leonid Volkov is a Russian politician of the Russia’s Future Party. Leonid was campaign manager and chief of staff for Alexei Navalny’s 2013 mayoral campaign for Moscow, as well as Alexei Navalny’s attempt to get registered for the 2018 presidential election. Currently, Leonid oversees all regional political operations of the Russia’s Future Party over Russia’s 11 time zones.

He is a former deputy of the Yekaterinburg City Duma and the head of the central election committee of the Russian Opposition Coordination Council. Leonid has over 20 years of experience as an IT professional, running and consulting several of Russia’s largest software firms. Together with Fyodor Krasheninnikov he published three editions of "The Cloud Democracy", a book on how modern technology could re-shape and re-define democracy and elections.

Leonid is also founder of the Internet Protection Society, a NGO focused on internet freedom and digital rights in Russia.

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Tianyi Xin

Tianyi "Tian Tian" Xin is a litigation associate at the Washington DC based law firm of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer. She graduated from Yale Law School in 2019. Before law school, she served for five years as an active duty Military Intelligence Officer in the US Army.

Most recently in uniform, she worked as a speechwriter to the Commanding General of Fort Hood and III Corps, where she deployed in 2016 to Baghdad as part of the counter-ISIL coalition. Prior to working as a speechwriter, she was stationed in Camp Red Cloud, South Korea and deployed in 2014 as individual augmentee to the 2nd Ranger Battalion in eastern Afghanistan.

In May 2011, she graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a B.S. in International Relations. At Yale Law School, she was involved as a Herbert J. Hansell student fellow for the Center for Global Legal Challenges, a board member for Yale Law Women, a co-President of the Yale Law Veterans, and an editor on the Yale Law Journal.