THO's Academic Liaison program is an opportunity for THO to continue to work with academic institutions from around the world and continue work in fostering the dialogue surrounding the U.S.-Turkey relationship.
Abdul Abbas is pursuing an economics degree at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Being a Canadian student of business gives him the ability to look at contemporary policy issues through a unique lens. His previous work with THO in D.C. widened his understanding of the relations between the U.S. and Turkey, and by proxy, the U.S.’s relationship with the Middle East at large. He looks forward to adding his unique voice to ongoing discussions regarding U.S.-Turkey relations through THO’s liaison program.
Columbia Academic Liaison
A first-generation Turkish-American, Melissa developed a strong interest in U.S.-Turkey relations as well as political and foreign affairs. Earning her IB diploma in high school also contributed to giving her a global perspective. She holds a B.A. in Political Science - Public Law with a minor in Business Management from the University of North Florida. At present, she is pursuing her master's in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University where she is currently researching Brexit, the EU, and Northern Ireland.
At Columbia, she actively participates in the Columbia Turkish Students Association and the Association of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. She previously interned with Jared Genser, an international human rights lawyer at Perseus Strategies, a law firm in D.C. where she conducted research and directly advocated human rights cases on Capitol Hill. She also interned with Syrian Women’s Social Enterprise with Small Projects Istanbul, an NGO centered around refugee women and their families, helping them earn a livelihood and integrate into the Istanbul community where she translated between English and Turkish and directly worked with Turkish vendors as well as the women. She now serves as their community ambassador helping support and raise awareness in the states.
Dr. Acehan is an historian and a researcher from Turkey. She holds an M.A and a Ph.D. degree in History from Bilkent University, Turkey. Her focuses are majorly on Ottoman immigration to the US and US-Turkey relations. Acehan received multiple scholarships and research grants to conduct her doctoral and post-doctoral research. Isil was a Fulbright visiting fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University in the academic year 2006-2007. Later in the 2017-2018 period, she was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna, Italy. Currently, Acehan is a visiting professor at George Mason University, Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. She is also a Senior Advisor at PASS Global Strategic Consultancy.
Sarah Houston is a world traveler who is excited to bring her passion for Turkish International Relations and experience as a Fulbright grantee to the Turkish Heritage Organization. During her Fulbright in Turkey, Sarah taught at Balikesir University while establishing a refugee community outreach group that worked with local Syrian and Iranian refugees to facilitate the visa process, preparing them for lives in the US. She also worked closely with the Director of the School of Foreign Languages to create and implement new curriculum, changing the way the University prepares English teachers for future employment.
Sarah was a Posse scholar at Pepperdine University, where she studied Political Science and Film Studies. As Vice President of the Student Government Association, she founded Pepperdine's first ever Women's Initiative for students, bringing together women's groups from all over campus for speaker events and long term policy change. During her time at University, Sarah was awarded scholarships and grants to study in Buenos Aires, Argentina and work on the ground with widows in India through the White Rainbow Project.
Sarah’s academic focus is on gender issues and economic development projects for underserved and displaced populations in the Middle East and Europe. In her thesis, What Do Women Get? Measuring Outcomes in a Post-Revolutionary Society, she focused on Egyptian women’s position in society during the Arab Spring. She is very interested in the current refugee crisis and examining obstacles the international aid community faces, specifically focusing on economic development programs implemented in the refugee camps.
Prior to joining THO, Sarah acted as Political Director for David Trone’s Congressional Campaign, where she developed an overarching political outreach plan, establishing a diverse network of community, labor, and cultural organizations to solidify key constituency networks. Growing up in the DC area, Sarah also offers extensive non-profit and government experience on the Hill with American Psychological Association, Congress, and DC Public Schools Central Office.
As a graduate student in the Governance of International Relations at Sciences Po Toulouse, in France, Sonia foresees to pursue a Ph.D. During a one-year exchange at Yeditepe University, she has researched Istanbul and Gaziantep as part of her undergraduate thesis, before displaying her results in Berlin and Istanbul. Her work deals with the years following the 2016 EU-Turkey deal and the Syrian refugee response implemented by varying actors in Turkey. As a former Research Intern at the Istanbul Policy Center in Spring 2019, among other tasks, Sonia participated in the elaboration of quantitative analysis of Turkey’s economic trade with the MENA. For the past nine months, she has been involved in European Horizons, Yale's student policy-incubator as a Research analyst, and now as Co-President of a Chapter.
Currently, she is thrilled to be associated with the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and The Turkish Heritage Organization. Throughout a combination of political sociology, sociology of international organizations, and urban geography, her main areas of research concern forced displacements, refugees' resettlements and returns, urban migrations, and migration governance and policies in the Middle East and North Africa.
Home to Los Angeles, California, Sean Russell found his spark for International Affairs after completing his first year at American University. Making the bi-coastal commute, Sean studies International Relations through the lens of Global Economics. He recently concluded an internship with the Congressional office of his home town Representative, Adam Schiff. His short time so far in DC was filled with academic rigor and critical work experience making Sean productive and adaptive for such a young age.
Sean was introduced to the Turkish Heritage Organization through a field trip led by his Professor. Coincidentally, Sean traveled to Turkey shortly after this visit. Cementing his interest in all things Turkey, Sean is thrilled to utilize his ability and help the THO team.