THO Team

Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) , a non-profit organization working to promote discussion and dialogue around issues of importance in the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship as well as Turkey’s role in the international community.

Ali Cinar

President, Turkish Heritage Organization

A Turkish American, Cinar has dedicated much of his life to Turkish American causes and joined THO to help advance U.S.-Turkey relations. He has served as the President of the Federation of Turkish American Associations (FTAA) as well as the Northeast Vice President of the Assembly of Turkish American Association. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke praised Cinar’s leadership of the FTAA, noting that under his leadership, “this Federation has become a well-known and respected institution in our community.”
Prior to joining THO, Cinar worked as a businessman and journalist. In his career, Cinar has developed and implemented business programs for top global clients and agent networks. Before joining THO, he held positions with Western Union and Concord Industries. He is a credentialed reporter with the United Nations and the U.S. State Department and has been published in international publications including Washington Post, World Affairs, Washington Times, U.S News, SAIS (John Hopkins University Publication), The Hill, Daily Caller, Hurriyet Daily News, Daily Sabah and Turk of America.
Ali Cinar was testified at the U.S. Congress on Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee in 2016 and 2017. He appeared on PBS News Hour, CBNC, FOX Business,  Fox News Radio, Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg Radio, BBC TV, BBC Radio, NewsMax TV, Al Jazeera English, Canada TV, Al Jazeera Arabic, I24 News, Voice of America, France 24, CGTV, SkyNews, CNN Turk, NTV, Haberturk TV, A News, TRT Haber, Ekoturk TV, TRT World and Halk TV.
Over the course of his career, Cinar has earned a number of accolades including Leader of the Year by the Assembly of Turkish American Association, One of the Top 10 Most Successful Young People by Junior Chamber International (JCI), and one of the 50 Most Influential Turkish Americans by Turk of America Magazine.

Ali Cinar was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2019 and was the youngest Turkish American to receive this distinction in over 30 years.He recently also received a "Community Service Award' by NYPD MT&S.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from the Istanbul University, Cinar moved to the United States to continue his education. While completing his master’s degree at the University of New Haven, he worked as a Research Assistant at​ the Communication Department and Center of Professional Ethics.

During that time he also served as the President of the International Students Association and was awarded the “Outstanding International Student” Award.
Cinar has earned various executive business certificates from Harvard University, MIT and New York University.
Savannah Lane

Executive Director, Turkish Heritage Organization

Born in Houston, Texas and raised in Richmond, Virginia Savannah Lane found her passion for politics and understanding the realm of international advocacy at a young age when she became Virginia’s inaugural ANNPower Fellow (a program created by Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright). Through this program Savannah was exposed to leaders from around the world and worked with mentors as an ANNPower national grant winner.

Savannah went on to study Foreign Affairs/Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Virginia, serve as a Resident Advisor and work for Senator McCain’s reelection campaign doing research surrounding foreign policy issues.  Savannah continued her work in the political realm as a program associate at a political consulting firm working in digital media, social media, outreach, event planning and fundraising. 
Through Savannah’s extensive service and advocacy work she won the title of Miss Virginia 2015 in the Miss America Organization and worked in media realms with Dick Clark Productions, national nonprofits, Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, the American Heart Association and more. Through this opportunity Savannah won talent and Quality of Life award designations for her service and commitment to the community. 

Savannah recently moved to Washington D.C. after she was one of eight women selected from across the country to serve as a Star Fellow for Running Start in Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s congressional office. Through Running Start, a nonpartisan nonprofit promoting women in politics, Savannah honed her communication and strategy skills, mentored and trained to run for political office and advocated for women in underrepresented fields. 

Savannah is eager to use her unique experiences and passion for international relations to help promote an understanding of the importance of Turkish and American relations through her role at the THO. 

Sonia Chabane

Research and Analysis

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.

Hannah Jacobson

Communications and Research

Born and raised in Washington state, Hannah Jacobson first discovered her passion for international politics and cultures after getting the opportunity to participate in a yearlong study abroad in France. She is currently a graduating senior at the University of Washington, pursuing her degree in political science and international studies, while specializing in issues of international security.

Specifically, Hannah’s interests are in conflict analysis and prevention through mediation and negotiation dialogue. Rather than focusing on a specific region, Hannah chose to broaden her interest in international affairs through her academic experiences. This has made Hannah knowledgeable and sensitive to the cultural contexts of several different regions around the world.

She is excited to be an asset to THO and promote the importance of US-turkey bilateral relations.

Sean Russell

Programs and Research

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.

Caelan Elliot

Publications and Research

Caelan Elliot is a junior at Baylor University in the University Scholars program, concentrating in Political Science, Great Texts, Languages, and Music. A native Texan, Caelan's international interests have broadened through academic experiences in China, Turkey, and Greece. She is now a member of Baylor’s competitive Model UN team and is working towards fluency in Spanish, Swahili, and Turkish. Caelan is passionate about the intersection of policy and international affairs with the humanities, and finds great joy in learning—whether she is researching current events or reading Jane Austen.

Dustin Hinkley

Dustin Hinkley is a senior at the University of Massachusetts Lowell studying political science and history, an alumnus of Massachusetts Bay Community College, and a proud New Englander. Dustin is a member of his university's internationally recognized Model UN group and is studying French, German, and Japanese.

Dustin is particularly interested in issues relating to international energy and environmental politics, the transatlantic relationship, American foreign policy in East Asia, and nuclear security. Having interned at the Massachusetts State House and for Congressman Jim McGovern, Dustin is looking forward to expanding his horizons in the field of international affairs and to exploring his interests through the lens of the US-Turkey relationship while at the Turkish Heritage Organization.

Tyvin Whittaker

Tyvin Whittaker is a senior at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Tyvin is currently studying International Relations and Philosophy. He is a proud Midwesterner, and lover of the great outdoors and exploring new places. A leader in his fraternity, he developed a passion for policymaking and diplomacy. He is driven by finding beneficial solutions to the complex problems facing society in today's world. 

He aspires to deepen and expand his knowledge of foreign affairs while at the Turkish Heritage Organization.

Tania Valdés

Tania is an undergraduate International Relations student at Iberoamericana University based in Mexico City. Throughout her time in university, she explored human rights issues as part of Iberoamericana University´s Human Rights Program. As a volunteer in the program, she documented and systematized clandestine graves reported by the local and national press during 2019 in Mexico as part of the program´s leading research project. In 2020, she conducted research on the Uyghur Human Rights Crisis in China.

She is currently a volunteer for Amnesty International´s Digital Verification Corps Project, an innovation project in human rights and technology. Her areas of interest are human rights, refugees in the Middle East and foreign affairs. Tania is currently a member of The Washington Center´s Fall Internship Program, where she expects to work on her professional development. As an intern in the Turkish Heritage Organization, she looks forward to nurture her interests in Human Rights, specifically in refugees approaching Turkish boarders. Moreover, she looks forward to gaining knowledge in Foreign Affairs between Turkey and the United States, as well as in security concerns between both countries.