WCAPS July Woman of the Month
Asha Castleberry, a WCAPS Board Member, is an adjunct faculty professor at Fordham University and Baruch College. She teaches U.S. Foreign Policy and United Nation Peace Operations. A U.S. Army veteran, Asha recently completed a 30-month deployment in the Middle East. Since the 2014 ISIL incursion in Iraq, she served for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Kuwait. From December 2012 to June 2014, Asha served as the Kuwait Desk Officer for International Military Affairs, U.S. Army Central. During the Obama Administration, she worked with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations at the State Department. Asha also has extensive experiences in Latin America. She was an election observer for the 2009 Presidential Election Observer in El Salvador and worked on USSOUTHCOM peacekeeping operations in Nicaragua. Asha is also a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves. Asha is a 2018 recipient of the Robert Myers Carnegie Council of Ethics and International Affairs Fellows Fund. She is a member of the Truman National Security Project Defense Council, a global fellow at the Project on the Study on the 21st Century (PS21), Adjunct Fellow at the American Security Project and a cofounder of International Youth Council. She was recently awarded the 2016 Aspen Institute Ideas Scholarship and a scholarship recipient for the Socrates Program. A graduate of Hampton University and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Asha is a proud study abroad student studying Law and Business in China and international politics at the University of Oxford New College Program. She received her certification at New York University Center for Global Affairs. She is a New Leaders Council Fellow and was chosen as one of the Diplomatic Courier Top 99 Under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders and The 2015 Route 100 Top African American Rising Leaders. She has appeared on many media outlets including MSNBC, Al-Jazeera English, I24 News, TRT World, Sky News, Tom Joyner Show with Roland Martin and many more.
WCAPS June Woman of the Month
Christine Ahn is the founder and International Coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing with the goals to end the Korean War, reunite families, and ensure women’s leadership in peace building. Her organization pursues its goals by:
- Expanding and deepening relationships among women leaders and organizations in North and South Korea and globally;
- Promoting women’s leadership in peace-building processes on the Korean peninsula and region; and
- Building capacity and partnerships for greater impact and sustainability.
Christine is also the co-founder of the Korea Policy Institute, Global Campaign to Save Jeju Island, and National Campaign to End the Korean War. Christine has organized peace and humanitarian aid delegations to North and South Korea, and has spoken in Congress, United Nations and the Republic of Korea National Commission on Human Rights. Ahn is the former Senior Policy Analyst at the Global Fund for Women and has worked with the Oakland Institute, Grassroots Global Justice, Institute for Food and Development Policy, and Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development. She served for six years on the board of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
WCAPS JUNE YOUTH AMBASSADOR OF THE MONTH
Mareena Robinson is a Graduate Fellow at the NA-19 Office of Major Modernization Programs, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) at the Department of Energy. She is a recent Ph.D. graduate of MIT in Nuclear Science and Engineering. The title of her dissertation is "Nuclear Warhead Monitoring: A Study of Photon Emissions from Fission Neutron Interactions with High Explosives as a tool in Arms Control Verification." At NNSA, Mareena provides programmatic support to both the NA-19 Front Office and the Uranium Program. As a fellow, she is able to gain a deeper understanding of how the nuclear enterprise functions as well as understand the perspectives of government decision makers tasked with overseeing our arsenal. While at MIT, Mareena worked at the Laboratory Nuclear Security and Policy as a Research Assistant where she investigated the use of photon emissions from fission neutron interactions with high explosives as a warhead monitoring tool in arms control verification.
WCAPS May Woman of the Month
WCAPS Advisory Council Member
Nicolette A. Louissaint, Ph.D. serves as the Executive Director of Healthcare Ready, a nonprofit organization set up in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to ensure that the catastrophic breakdowns in patient access to healthcare would never happen again. In this role, she leads the organizations efforts to build greater healthcare preparedness and response efforts in coordination with the public and private sectors. Her particular areas of interest are biosecurity (especially infectious and emerging diseases) and supply chain complexities.
Healthcare Ready drives programs and advocates for policies related to emergency response and healthcare operations. The organization’s programs focus on building community health resilience in times of disaster or pandemic outbreaks through partnerships with healthcare.
Prior to this position, Nicolette served as a Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. As the lead officer for health intellectual property and trade issues, she advised the State Department’s leadership on issues related to public health, technology transfer and biotechnology. She also worked on policies related to pharmaceutical counterfeiting, pharmaceutical trade, supply chain, climate change and other science and technology development issues.
During the height of the Ebola Epidemic of 2014, Nicolette served as the Senior Advisor to the State Department’s Special Coordinator for Ebola. In this role, she was responsible for coordinating international efforts as the U.S. Department of State’s Ebola Coordination Unit jumpstarted the diplomatic response to the epidemic. She contributed to efforts to raise more than $1 billion in donations to the United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Fund from stakeholders around the world towards the response.
Nicolette holds Bachelors of Science degrees in Chemical Engineering and Biological Sciences from Carnegie Mellon University. She earned a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, specializing in HIV Clinical Pharmacology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed post-doctoral fellowships at the Johns Hopkins University and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was recognized in 2016 as a “40 under 40 leaders in minority health” by the National Minority Quality Forum by the Congressional Black Caucus.
WCAPS MAY YOUTH AMBASSADOR OF THE MONTH
WCAPS Youth Ambassador Program Leader
Marieme Foote is graduating this May 2018 with her Bachelors degree at Ithaca College in Political Science with a minor in Environmental studies. She completed a full scholarship program through her university named the Martin Luther King scholars program and is also graduating with honors.
She served as the Student Body President her junior year and has remained actively involved with student government by helping make structural changes at her university through committee work and school wide projects. Through her passion in social justice, she has worked at numerous NGO's such as Africare in Dakar, Senegal and is currently working with WCAPS on their Youth Ambassadors program. Prior to this, she also had the opportunity to intern with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee on Capitol Hill in D.C.
In the Fall of 2018 she is looking forward to beginning her position in Peace Corps for two years in Benin as an Agricultural Extension Agent, and hopes to attend law school after her term is over. We wish Marieme good luck in her new venture!
WCAPS May Youth Ambassador of the Month
WCAPS Youth Ambassador Program Leader
Xiomara Salazar is a senior at Georgetown University, majoring in International Politics. She was born in Yonkers, NY and raised in Berwick, PA. During her time at school, Xiomara was a Hoya Saxa Weekend Event Coordinator, a co-chair for the Student of Color Alliance, and a student strategy team member for Buffy Wicks, a fellow at the Institute of Politics and Public Service. These opportunities allowed her to explore issues of race, socio-economic status, mental health, and public policy. Apart from her extracurriculars, Xiomara has interned for the Department of Commerce, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Instagram, and Google. After graduating, she will be joining Facebook as a Business Integrity Analyst. In the future, Xiomara wants to apply the skills she gained in the private sector to the public sphere. She hopes to find the intersection between technology and social good. We wish Xiomara good luck in her new position!
WCAPS April WOman of the Month
Karen Isabel Guevara
WCAPS Advisory Council Member
Ms. Karen Isabel Guevara partners with foreign governments to build alliances and institutional capacity. Her work yields measurable results. Most recently, she successfully led the Senegalese Prison Administration host the first Mock Prison Riot in West Africa and was involved in projects working with government ministries, military, and civilian security forces with border security mandates in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.
She has extensive experience in monitoring and evaluation, international development, national security, security policy, and a diverse career in the non-profit, public, and private sectors. At the Grameen Foundation, whose founder won the Nobel Peace Prize in Economics, she worked in the Americas portfolio and evaluated numerous international and non-governmental organizations. Part of the portfolio required building capital markets investments and joint ventures in countries such as the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Bolivia, and Haiti. Her international development experience was emboldened at the United Nations. During her time at the United Nations, Ms. Guevara promoted and enhanced cross-cultural understanding by developing curriculum for the Model United Nations Program and implementing programs to promote dialogue and peace missions through student cross cultural exchanges from Ghana to Russia.
Ms. Guevara developed a deep understanding of national security strategy and military capabilities at the tactical, operational, and strategic theatre levels at the Department of Defense (DoD). At the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), she recommended policies concerning resource allocation and developed metrics to improve organizational performance. She also served as the DoD representative to the White House Council on Women and Girls. Ms. Guevara then joined the Department of State where she specialized in Turkish-Syrian relations with an emphasis on the Syrian conflict and border issues. She successfully represented the U.S. Government in various posts in Turkey, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands, and Botswana.
After several years with the federal government, Karen moved to the private sector, working at Morgan Stanley, AARP, and in multiple consulting projects. In the private sector, she has merged her expertise in digital products and platforms with her background in international development and security sector reform to develop international programs that leverage the latest technology for strategic decision-making and best results. She measures the true impact of programming by using objective and methodical metrics as well as rigorous data-driven insights and analytics.
Ms. Guevara completed studies at the University of Oxford and Georgetown University. She is the recipient of numerous awards including a Department of State Meritorious Honor Award, Federal Bureau of Investigations Intelligence Operations Award, and Department of Defense Award for Exemplary and Outstanding Achievement, Scholarship, and Service. Ms. Guevara participates in various speaking engagements and panel discussions including events at the United Nations Foundation and Georgetown University Law School.
WCAPS April Youth Ambassador of the Month
“Sometimes it’s a lonely and intimidating seat at the table when no one looks like you. I’ve learned to take on my uncertainties of being the only woman of color by practicing to speak up and share my perspective on foreign policy issues. I’m blessed to be at these tables, and I truly believe when more diverse views are represented in policymaking, our policies are better and stronger. That’s what drives me to mentorship and to help build the pipeline of women of color in the foreign policy and national security space.”
Grace Choi is the Associate Director for Global Gender Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children. Previously, she served as Policy Advisor in the Secretary’s Office on Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State. Before that role, she served as Staff Assistant in the White House Liaison’s Office at the U.S. Department of State.
She is a NetKAL Fellow, was a Member of the White House National Security Leadership Workshop, and served on the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership’s (CAPAL) Board of Directors as Vice Chair for Programs.
Prior to her political appointment at the Department of State, Grace worked for the Council of Korean Americans (CKA), the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) in Congresswoman Judy Chu’s office, the Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC), President Obama’s 2012 Presidential Campaign, the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Refugee Affairs Division.
She holds a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a Bachelor of Arts from Boston College.
WCAPS march Woman of the Month
WCAPS Advisory Council Member
Laila Hasan was sworn in as a Foreign Service Office in 2010, and currently serves in the Department of State's Operations Center as a Watch Officer. From 2015-2017, Laila worked in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs' Office of Policy and Global Issues, where she was responsible for the countering violent extremism (CVE) portfolio. In 2016, she was detailed to the Bureau of Counterterrorism's newly-created Office of Countering Violent Extremism to help craft the Department's CVE strategy and policy for Europe.
Before returning to Washington, Laila served as a Political Officer covering CVE and human rights issues at Embassy Brussels from 2013-2015. She was posted to Embassy Beirut from 2010-2012, working on human rights and Syrian refugee issues in both the Political and Consular sections. In the fall of 2018, Laila will begin a three-year assignment at Embassy Paris as a Political Officer.
Prior to joining the Department of State, Laila worked for the Department of Defense as an Arabic Language Analyst, focused on Middle East and counterterrorism issues. She holds a B.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University, and speaks Arabic and French.
Career Path Q&A
Do you think being a woman of color has had an impact on your career so far?
I think everyone’s identity impacts their career in one way or another, and mine is certainly no different. While I’ve faced challenges due to both my gender and ethnicity, I’ve always drawn strength from the fact that the United States is a nation of immigrants and everyone has a unique story to tell. Everybody has a voice, and everyone deserves a seat at the table. In order to tackle today’s toughest obstacles, we need to take into account diverse opinions, perspectives, and experiences. One of the ways to achieve this is by cultivating a diverse workforce that mirrors society. Traditionally, defense and counter-terrorism fields have been male-dominated arenas, but today there are many more women of all backgrounds pursuing careers in these field. It’s imperative that we work together to support these young women, empowering them to be part of the next generation of strong leaders. As a woman and the daughter of a Muslim immigrant, I know first-hand the struggles one can face just to get a seat at the table. But now that I have, I see it as my responsibility to help ensure there are enough place settings at the table for those who follow.
How did you join the State Department?
After graduating college, I joined the Department of Defense as an Arabic Language Analyst, focused on Middle East and Counter-terrorism issues, but it had always been my dream to work at the State Department. In middle school, I idolized Madeleine Albright as she became the first female Secretary of State. I couldn't imagine a cooler job than traveling around the world and meeting with foreign dignitaries, and my inner feminist was thrilled that a woman represented America abroad. Nearly 15 years later, I signed up to take the Foreign Service written exam, and after a series of interviews and tests spanning more than a year, I was sworn in as a Foreign Service Officer in 2010. The fact that the daughter of a small-town Kentucky mother and a Pakistani immigrant father is now serving as an American diplomat makes me immensely proud. And it’s with that sense of pride and gratitude for all this country has afforded us that I pursued a career in public service.
Any advice for someone who would like to join the Foreign Service?
I would encourage anyone who is thinking about joining the Foreign Service to sign up and take the exam. Many people think you have to be a student of international affairs, politics, or history in order to pass the entrance exams, but that isn’t the case at all. Of course knowledge of foreign affairs is important, but a diverse academic background is equally valuable.
Our job as diplomats is to represent America abroad, and it is essential that our colleagues reflect the diversity-whether racial, ethnic, religious, geographic, academic-that enriches our great nation. Among the members of my orientation class, we had former lawyers, journalists, and even a pilot. There isn’t one cookie cutter profile or biography needed to be a successful Foreign Service Officer. What matters is a curiosity of the world around us, an appreciation for different cultures and languages, and a commitment to representing the United States’ values and ideals, both at home and abroad.
Why did you pick countering violent extremism as one of your areas of expertise?
I was in Beirut, serving the first year of my first Foreign Service tour, when the Arab Spring broke out. I was a Political Officer covering human rights and refugee issues when the Syrian civil war began, and before I knew it I was accompanying our military officers to survey the Lebanese-Syrian border and assess the number of refugees fleeing to Lebanon. In 2011, we could not begin to imagine what atrocities would ensue in Syria, nor the rise and global impact of ISIL that would soon emerge. By the time I arrived in Brussels in 2013 for my second Foreign Service tour, Belgium held the dubious honor of sending one of the highest levels of foreign terrorist fighters to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIL. I dedicated a large portion of my assignment in Brussels to developing strategies and programs to foster social cohesion among Belgian minority communities, improve community policing efforts, and exchange best practices with Belgian government officials and civil society leaders, all aimed at ultimately reducing the number of foreign terrorist fighters.
Despite working on these issues for several years in the field, I often discounted the impact my own minority background had when meeting with minority communities in Europe, and the apparent positive influence a diverse workforce and diplomatic corps could have. This manifested itself in one of my proudest moments in the Foreign Service, while sitting with a group of Belgian Muslim activists, strategizing ways to counter rising Islamophobia across Europe. As we discussed tactics for amplifying their voices and crafting counter-narratives to hate speech, one of the activists told me I was a role model. That my mere existence as the daughter of a Muslim immigrant, now serving abroad as an American diplomat, was something many young European Muslims didn’t dare to imagine they could achieve. Yet by seeing me in front of them, it inspired the dream of a different future for themselves and the continued pursuit of religious freedom and social integration. I can’t imagine a greater feeling than knowing our country’s work abroad is having such a direct impact on communities, and it’s with that sense of pride that I keep trying to fight violent extremism in all its forms.
The views expressed here are Laila Hasan’s and do not reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or United States Government.
WCAPS March Youth Ambassador of the Month
Isabella Grullon Paz
Ithaca College, Class of 2018
Isabella was born in New York City, raised in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, and came back the U.S. three years ago to pursue a degree in journalism at Ithaca College. Throughout her studies, she has focused on immigration and foreign policy issues— especially those about U.S. military involvement overseas and the military-media-industrial complex. She worked with Ithaca College to pass policies to make the college a safe space for those affected by the U.S. travel ban, and she has begun reporting and bringing to light immigration issues within Ithaca and Tompkins County.
February WCAPS Woman of the Month
WCAPS Advisory Council Member
Linda Etim has held positions focused on mitigating conflict and promoting international development throughout her career. Most recently, Ms. Etim served as the head of the Africa Bureau at the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) from 2015-January 2017. In that capacity, she was responsible for more than $7 billion of assistance funding to 46 countries in Africa as well as over 1,000 staff. While at USAID (including as Deputy Assistant Administrator from 2012-20150, Ms. Etim oversaw efforts for stabilizing fragile states and promoting transformational development through the full range of foreign assistance programming. This included peace and security, democracy, good governance, health systems strengthening, including Ebola response, economic integration, education and humanitarian assistance.
From 2009-2012, Ms. Etim served was the Director for African Affairs on the White House National Security Council. There, she was charged with coordinating the U.S responses to some of the African continent’s most pressing challenges, including countering rising levels of violent extremism, the Somalia famine response, developing a meaningful response to Africa’s youth bulge, and the continent’s uneven record of democratic governance. Prior to that, Ms. Etim spent over a decade as a specialist in African security affairs for the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.
Ms. Etim received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in International Relations, French, and Portuguese with concentrations in Agricultural Economics and African Studies. She received a certificate in International Affairs from Sciences-Po Paris and studied land reform at the Universidade de Sao Paulo in Brazil. She has served on the Board of Directors for the U.S Africa Development Foundation (USADF) and the Young African Leaders Initiative.
This month Linda Etim will begin a new role as the Senior Advisor on Africa Policy for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where she will support the foundation's work on advocacy, strategy, and communications.