Articles written by THO’s Non-Resident fellows can be found on our blog, Meddah: A U.S. - Turkey Storytelling Project
Chief Operating Officer, WhoWhatWhy
Focus area during THO Fellowship: Business and technology
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Alen is the current COO of WhoWhatWhy, a non-partisan, not-for-profit journalism outlet, and the Executive Director of A Free Bird, an organization providing music and arts courses to youth battling cancer. A Fulbright and Teach For America alum, he was recently an MBA/MPA candidate at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and the Harvard Kennedy School, where he was named one of Poets and Quants 100 Best and Brightest MBAs for 2018. He formerly helped run a food truck in Hanover, New Hampshire, and was a former White House intern at the National Economic Council.
Senior Economic Advisor, British Embassy, Turkey
Focus area during THO fellowship: Economy and education
Ipek Ariogul was born and raised in Ankara, the political and bureaucratic heart of Turkey. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Bilkent University and was awarded with scholarships during her studies. She then pursued an MA in History, specializing in Turkish-American relations. While a visiting student at Indiana University and experiencing living in the American Midwest, she wrote her thesis about the US-Turkey relations in the early years of the Cold War.
Upon her return to Turkey, she started her career as a journalist due to her heightened interest in politics and economy following Turkey’s domestic financial crisis. After an intensive training program on journalism at the Ugur Mumcu Investigative Journalism Foundation, she became a correspondent at Hurriyet, one of the most prominent dailies of Turkey. She travelled to many countries, reported on breaking news stories and conducted private interviews with leading politicians, civil society stakeholders, local and international businessmen. She still sees her experience in the press as invaluable.
She has been working as a senior economic advisor for the UK Embassy in Ankara since 2009. Her main role involves producing analytical and thematic reports on Turkish economy, meeting with public and private stakeholders, and establishing partnerships between Turkey and the UK. She has organized many study visits and roundtables aimed at improving the bilateral relationships of two countries on issues ranging from financial services to transparency. Being the G20 lead officer forthe Embassy during Turkey’s G20 Presidency in 2015 and joining the UK Foreign Office’s year-long Leadership Program along with many senior diplomats are some of her most memorable leadership experiences.
She has earned various professional certificates on economics as well as policy, communication and negotiation skills through the training of the UK Foreign Office and the London School of Economics. Ipek is also a certified yoga instructor for the last couple of years. She is keen to add value to THO’s work on improving the dialogue and relationship between Turkey and the US in an ever-changing global environment.
Administrative Assistant, University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communications Center for Media at Risk
Focus area during THO fellowship: Humanitarian aid and Syrian crisis
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
From Gettysburg PA, Joanna graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in History. She wrote her thesis on depictions of women during the transition from Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic. She has been studying Turkish since high school when she was an exchange student in Istanbul. In college she was awarded a Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to continue her studies of the Turkish Language in Bursa and the following summer was a fellow with the American Research Institute of Turkish (ARIT) at Boğaziçi University.
Joanna was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Turkey in 2016. When the program was cancelled due to the July 2016 coup attempt, she went to Turkey anyway and volunteered with the International Crisis Group, worked as a newspaper copy editor and as an English teacher. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and works as an assistant at the Center for Media at Risk at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
Program Associate, Gender Equality Initiative and Institute for African Studies, Elliot School for International Affairs at George Washington University
Focus area during THO Fellowship: Citizen diplomacy and international exchange
Washington, DC, USA
Danielle Cyr is the Program Associate for the Gender Equality Initiative and Institute for African Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, GW, where she supports engagement, programming and research. In 2010, Danielle was a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarship recipient, where she studied abroad in Trabzon, Turkey and learned Turkish. She later pursued a state department internship in the Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Embassy Ankara in 2013, as well as a VSFS internship project to create a digital archive of U.S.-Turkey diplomatic relations.
From 2013–2014, she completed the CIEE Arts & Sciences Academic Year Program at Koç University in Istanbul, where she studied Turkish history and foreign policy in the context of the EU. In 2015, Danielle graduated as a Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA) Scholar with a B.A. in International Relations and Global Islamic Studies at Connecticut College. In 2016, she completed her M.Sc. in International Politics and Human Rights at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, UK, where she analyzed critical perspectives on human/women’s rights in the international community. Her M.Sc. dissertation explored the persistence of patriarchy and rise of violence against women in Turkey.
Danielle previously interned at the Turkish Women’s Solidarity Foundation (KADAV) in 2014, where she developed surveys on sexual assault and assisted research on domestic violence against Syrian women refugees living in Turkey. She also interned with the NGO International Alliance for the Advancement of Children (IAAC) in Les Cayes, Haiti, teaching English, music, dance, and art as a means to empower Haitian girls and women.
As a THO Nonresident Fellow, she is eager to use her knowledge to write about and promote dialogue on human rights, gender issues, and the importance of education and international exchange in order to strengthen U.S.-Turkey relations.
Data Analyst, Trinity College
Focus area during THO fellowship: International political economy and transatlantic relations
Hartford, Connecticut, USA
Originally from Bursa, Turkey, Alpcan Karamanoglu spent his high school and university years abroad. He studied at the prestigious international high school in Italy, UWC of the Adriatic, thanks to the full scholarship awarded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In his first international education years, he realized his passion for Turkish foreign policy and relations. As a Davis UWC scholar, he went to Colorado College to receive his Bachelor in International Political Economy. He founded the university’s first think tank chapter and spent a summer in DC to get a hands-on experience in the Capital. During his Bachelor, he also spent a year in UK at the London School of Economics, studying management along European Politics. After London, he interned for the UNICEF in Geneva. As a fresh graduate of class of 2018 he currently is taking his first step in his career towards research, working as a Data Analyst at a university.
Focus area during THO fellowship: Syrian refugees and refugee integration
Sarah Khalbuss was born in Paterson, New Jersey to Syrian immigrant parents. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Philosophy in International and Area studies in 2015. Her studies and research focused on Arabic, the Middle East, and social movements. That year, she received the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grant to teach English at Yalova University, a public university in Yalova, Turkey. She lead classes in the English preparatory classes from Beginner to Intermediate students in their first year of university.
During her frequent trips to Istanbul, she met the cofounder of Istanbul&I and worked with the founding team to establish a civil society organization focused on social inclusion and impact with disadvantaged and displaced communities. Sarah is currently an active leader in Istanbul&I, which recently became a legal NGO and opened its social impact community space in the vibrant seaside neighborhood of Karakoy. She also works in university preparation and mentorship of Turkish and Syrian students with plans of going to the US for undergraduate studies.
KAYLEE M. LAAKSO
Partner, Program Management & Planning Lead, L&M Strategic Solutions, LLP
Focus area during THO fellowship: Security and foreign policy
Mohawk, Michigan, USA
Ms. Kaylee M. Laakso is a communication, research, and planning professional, who possesses military, private sector, and non-governmental/nonprofit experience in security, influence, and community resiliency-related fields. She has led or participated in research, planning, and/or project efforts in 13 countries across five continents. On broader communication related topics, Kaylee has shared her approach and methodologies for creating and implementing multi-layered, campaigned counter violent extremism (CVE) plans to the US Special Operations and interagency communities, and NATO allied militaries, governments, and academia.
Kaylee is the owner and co-founder of L&M Strategic Solutions, a strategic communication campaign development, research, consulting, and training company. Prior to launching L&M, Kaylee served as an officer in the US Army Special Operations Forces in the fields of Psychological Operations and Military Intelligence. She served as a subject matter expert on communication campaigns and deception, advising NATO and the US Army Combined Arms Institute on deception. Her expertise was recognized within the US Special Operations Command, where she was selected to lead the first Special Operations detachment focused on advanced influence skills within the Department of Defense. She developed and presented numerous seminars for the US Special Operations Command to the interagency, international, and academic communities, presenting on advanced influence to both practitioners and academics.
Kaylee has contributed to greater US, NATO, interagency, and academic bodies of knowledge in the study and application of communication techniques and deception through scholarship, doctrine writing and interpretation, and operational planning advising. Her scholarly contributions include international presentations to the academic community on crisis communication and deception. She holds a Master’s degree from The George Washington University in Security and Safety Leadership. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Psychology at Tiffin University, and earned her undergraduate degree from Northern Michigan University in International Studies. Kaylee studied Arabic under the tutelage of Defense Language Institute instructors and at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane Morocco. She additionally studied Twi Language and Security and Development at the University of Ghana in Accra, Ghana. Kaylee is skilled in Arabic, Spanish, and Twi.
Digital Content Strategist and Editor, Center for Financial Inclusion, Accion
Focus area during THO fellowship: Education and refugees
Washington, DC, USA
Ezra worked and studied in Turkey for more than eight years in both Istanbul and Ankara. He taught English in the Faculty of Foreign Languages at Istanbul Sehir University from 2011 to 2016. Prior to that, he was an editorial professional in the non-profit sector. He also worked with International IDEA as a consultant in 2017, where through a research study, he created a report to deepen public knowledge on political participation and attitudes of Syrian refugees in Gaziantep and Istanbul. Ezra also wrote about the 2018 Turkish elections in Oxford University's political science blog and Harvard's Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy.
Ezra holds a Master of Arts in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and International Studies from University of Oregon. He maintained a personal website which has more than 50 articles about life in Turkey. He currently resides in the Washington, D.C., area.
Office of International Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice
Focus area during THO fellowship: Security
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Adam Shirer is a Non-Resident Fellow for the Turkish Heritage Organization. Mr. Shirer has worked in government service for several years, beginning as a military police specialist. He has also worked for the Department of Homeland Security, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the State Department, and most recently with the Department of Justice. He is primarily interested in rule of law development, immigration, counterterrorism, and freedom of expression.
Mr. Shirer has a juris doctor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and a master’s degree in Intelligence Studies from the American Military University. He also received a Critical Language Scholarship and a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship to study Turkish.
Focus area during THO fellowship: Security, economy, and history
Özge Taylan graduated from Gazi University, Department of International Relations. She earned her LL.M. at International Law: Rights and Responsibilities degree from University of Sussex, UK. Currently, Taylan is a Ph.D. candidate in Department of International Relations, Middle East Technical University and faculty member at Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University. Before joining Yıldırım Beyazıt University, she worked at Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Economy. She also served as a Visiting Scholar at Yonsei University/South Korea in 2017. Her research interests include US Foreign Policy, International Political Economy, development studies, U.S.-Turkish relations, and East Asian studies.
Program Officer, Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy
Focus area during THO fellowship: Exchange and public diplomacy
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Coby works as a Program Officer at the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy (UCCD) where he arranges programs for international delegations visiting Utah. He has a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic from Brigham Young University. He speaks Arabic, German, and Turkish and has lived in Germany, Austria, Turkey, and Jordan. Prior to his work at the Utah Council, he worked at the Department of Workforce
Services Refugee Services Office consulting with Refugee Community-based Organization and developing long-term integration programs. Coby deeply believes in the need to engage with cultures, beliefs, and worldviews different from our own if we are to build a more just and equitable world and the role that such an exchange plays in the quest for a rich and fulfilling life. He also loves camping, reading anything that he can get his hands on, and exploring places both near and far.