Young Professionals Network 2018-2019

2018 - 2019
Area of Expertise

Program Members

Altynai Abdukarimova

FHI 360

Altynai Abdukarimova works as a program officer of academic programs for the non-profit organization FHI 360 in Washington DC. She is a project management specialist with 10 years of experience supporting international education initiatives in the United States and Eurasia. She brings four years of experience providing administrative support to education exchange programs, most recently serving as the cultural affairs assistant of exchange programs and alumni outreach for the United States Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic. She is an active supporter and believer of international programs as an effective tool of soft diplomacy, which provides great insights in foreign policy.

Kamilakhon Bakieva

Graduate Student at American University

Kamilakhon Bakieva is a graduate student at American University, Washington, D.C. with a major in development economics. Originally, she is from Uzbekistan, where she worked in the Center for Economic Research. She was involved in the research of macroeconomic developments in Uzbekistan, including currency liberalization, adaptation to climate change, tourism development, employment and gender equality. Her articles were published in Economic Review magazine, which is the major economic magazine in Central Asia.

During her undergraduate studies at Westminster International University in Tashkent, she worked in UNAIDS country office in Uzbekistan. While HIV/AIDS is a very sensitive and politically loaded issue, this experience taught her that with addition of creativity and a strong will, many sensitive issues can be addressed.

Ashley Bandura

International Republican Institute

Ashley works as a governance specialist with the International Republican Institute’s Center for Global Impact (CGI). She manages projects focused on building the capacity of political parties, legislative representatives, and local government officials to serve citizens and maintain accountable government. Her field experience includes working on democratic governance through workshops, assessments, and election observations in Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Kenya, Colombia, Poland, and Turkey. She did language studies in France and Russia. Through her work, Ashley seeks to contribute to democratic development by improving the everyday lives of ordinary people and amplifying their voices so that they can live free and fulfilling lives.

Maria Blackwood

Kennan Institute

Maria Blackwood is a Title VIII Research Scholar at the Kennan Institute. She completed a PhD in history at Harvard University, focusing on Soviet Central Asia. Her scholarly work examines the process of elite formation in early Soviet Kazakhstan in order to explore power dynamics within the USSR and its successor states.  Her research has been supported by grants from Fulbright, IREX, and SSRC, among others. She completed a joint BA/MA at Yale University and worked on international arbitration cases involving the Russian Federation for an American law firm in Paris.

William Davis

Fulbright Public Policy Fellow

Will Davis is currently an analyst for SOS International. In 2017-2018, Will was a Fulbright Public Policy Fellow and served as a special assistant and communication adviser in the Ukrainian Government’s Office of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. Prior to serving in Ukraine, Will pursued parallel professional tracks with domestic and international focuses. Will worked as a finance staffer and compliance consultant for American political campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives. These experiences have given additional color to his Eurasia-related endeavors, including internships in the U.S. Consulate in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the U.S. Department of State Office of European Regional Affairs, the U.S. Department of Justice, and as an international fellow at a Washington, DC government affairs firm.

Originally from California, Will first arrived in Washington, DC to study Russian language, culture, and history at Georgetown University. Will graduated from Georgetown University in 2011 with a double-major in History and Russia Studies. In 2016, Will earned his master’s degree from the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in European and Eurasian Studies. Will’s interests include how communities find solutions to public problems and what obstacles local, national, and international impede the efficacy and creativity of local problem-solvers.

Joshua Demoss

U.S. Department of Commerce

Joshua DeMoss works as an international trade compliance specialist at the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. Joshua conducts anti-dumping and countervailing duty proceedings, as well as serves on the Section 232 National Security Tariffs team.

Previously, Joshua was traveling around Kazakhstan and Ukraine as a participant recruiter for the FLEX program with American Councils. He also has experience working in an anti-corruption law practice in DC and in economic development in the Office of East Europe and Eurasia at the International Trade Centre in Geneva, Switzerland. Joshua’s research has covered international trade and development, Eurasia security, human rights, and political and cultural identity in Ukraine.

Joshua holds a Juris Doctor and Certificate in International Trade and Finance Law from the University of Kansas School of Law, a MA in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies from the University of Kansas, and a BA in Russian and Political Science from Baylor University. During his studies, Joshua spent a semester on a research fellowship at Kyiv Mohyla Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine, and interned and studied in Moscow, Russia.

Demna Devdariani

National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry

Denma Devdariani is a policy analyst and human rights researcher with seven years of international professional experience working with a number of governmental agencies, non-profits and international organizations in Georgia and the U.S. Currently, Demna works at the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry and monitors human rights and political developments in twenty-five countries across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Demna also works as a freelance journalist and writes commentary on political, economic and social developments in South Caucasus and Eastern European countries.

His areas of expertise also include criminal justice, migration, refugee and asylum issues, international human rights and humanitarian laws as well as project management, reporting, monitoring and evaluation.  Demna holds a bachelor’s degree in law and two master’s degrees in public policy and political science.  Demna speaks Georgian, Russian, English, and French.

Kristijian Fidanovski

Graduate Student at Georgetown University

Kristijian Fidanovski is the editor in Chief of The Vostokian, an online magazine on politics and society in Eastern Europe. Born and raised in Macedonia, he pursued an undergraduate degree in politics and East European Studies at the University College London between 2014 and 2017. Currently, he is part of the M.A. program in European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He is fluent in Macedonian, Serbian, English and Italian. Kristijian’s primary interests are the socio-political affairs of the ex-Yugoslav countries.

Maria Gershuni

Graduate Student at Johns Hopkins University

Maria Gershuni is a student at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, concentrating in Russian and Eurasian Studies. She spent this past summer traveling around Russia and working for the Russian International Affairs Council, where she was able to publish two separate analytical articles, one on denuclearization and one on comparative political internet culture.

She gained a broad understanding of international relations through her undergraduate academic career through her internships at the United Nations Secretariat during undergraduate studies, and as the foreign policy and defense research Intern at the Cato Institute. At SAIS, she dedicated herself to the Eurasian Studies program through her studies, and through leading the Russia and Eurasia Club as president this coming year.

Natalie Hall

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Natalie Hall is the program assistant for the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her interests are focused on Central Asian politics, history, and culture, specifically relations between the Central Asian polities and countries outside the region, and regional & international terrorism. Previously, she worked for Eurasia Foundation as an intern in the Office of the President and the U.S.-Russia Social Expertise Exchange.

Natalie graduated from the Elliott School of International Affairs in 2017, with a degree in International Affairs (concentration in Security Policy) and minors in History and Slavic studies. She lived abroad in Kazakhstan for six months, and travels back to the region frequently. She speaks Russian and is learning Kazakh.

Lauren Hosp

Freedom House

Lauren Hosp is a program associate at Freedom House focusing on Central Asia, South Caucasus, and Russia.

She graduated with a public policy at Central European University and a B.A. from Colorado College in international political economy, where she focused on studying democratic transitions in post-Soviet states.

Previously, Lauren worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, a recruiter for the Future Exchange Leaders Program in Kazakhstan, and a freelance writer in Germany. During her time abroad, Lauren helped monitor the first parliamentary election for Ukraine’s new government and directed conferences on youth leadership in Ukraine.

Morgan Jacobs

Kennan Institute

Morgan Jacobs currently works as a program assistant and manager of the Kennan Institute’s Mainstreaming Russia Expertise program, which connects the Institute’s experts with policy makers, the media, and the American public with the aim of facilitating a more informed national dialogue on Russia and the post-Soviet region. His areas of interest include the impact of American political opinion on foreign policy decisions and Russian foreign policy in post-Soviet states.

Prior to joining the Kennan Institute, Morgan served as a senior associate at the Katz Watson Group, a leading political consulting firm. Morgan holds a bachelor’s degree political science and finance from Florida State University.

Valeria Jegisman

Free Russia Foundation

Valeria Jegisman works as research and advocacy consultant for Free Russia Foundation, a Washington – based NGO. Previously, she worked as a spokesperson for the Estonian government. She completed her MA degree in international political economy at the University of Warwick in United Kingdom. After graduating, she worked in London in project management at several international NGOs with a focus on the Eurasia region. She moved to Washington, D.C. last October to continue focusing on building her career on Eurasia affairs. She is particularly interested in Russian sanctions, corruption and disinformation, but also in the progress of reforms in Ukraine.

Ryan Knight

Graduate Student in Georgetown University

Ryan Knight is a graduate student in Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution Program where he is focusing his academic work on the connections between corruption and conflict in Eastern Europe.

From 2017 to 2018 Ryan studied Ukrainian at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv as a Boren Fellow. While in Lviv he interned at the Center for Public Monitoring and Research where he designed and helped to implement anticorruption projects to address corruption at the regional level in Ukraine and increase citizen engagement in the fight against corruption. In 2017 Ryan also volunteered for the National Youth Council of Moldova where he conducted research on the Transnistrian conflict, helped design projects to connect youth from government and nongovernment organizations, and led seminars for youth on conflict management strategies.

Prior to beginning his graduate studies, Ryan taught English and led community development projects as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine (2013-14, 2015-16). He earned his bachelor’s degree in peace studies and international studies from Whitworth University (Spokane, WA) in 2013.

Maxim Kondratenko

National Endowment for Democracy

Maxim Kondratenko works as a program assistant for Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), supporting the promotion of democracy and civil society in the region. Prior to NED, Maxim worked at the US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange (SEE) program at Eurasia Foundation. Maxim’s professional and academic interests include the development of civil society in Europe and Eurasia, as well as comparative politics and security in Russia and the Former Soviet Union.

Maxim graduated from Tufts University with a B.A. in International Relations, with focuses in International Security and the Russia/Eurasia region. While at Tufts, he completed a Senior Capstone project analyzing the events of the Ukraine Crisis through the lens of long-term historic, cultural, and political trends in Russia and its near abroad. Maxim was also actively involved in the 2014-2015 EPIIC Colloquium, a year-long program of the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership devoted to conducting in-depth study of Russia in the XXI Century and organizing a Symposium on the subject.

Mirgul Kuhns

U.S. Institute of Peace

Mirgul Kuhns is currently assisting the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) project “Promoting People-Focused Approaches to Security Provision throughout Kyrgyzstan”. She is an author and coordinator on USIP’s Special Report on the ten-year anniversary of the adoption of UNSCR 1820. Previously, at the Search for Common Ground and UN Women in Kyrgyzstan, she managed projects to counter violent extremism and conducted national research on perceptions of gender. As a Fulbright Scholar, Mirgul obtained her master’s degree in international security and diplomacy in 2014. Prior to her graduate study, she worked for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), providing technical assistance to Kyrgyz Law Enforcement Agencies and advocating community policing in the cross-border regions of Central Asia.

Steven Luber


Steven Luber is an intelligence collections manager at WorldAware (previously iJet International), a private intelligence company based in Annapolis, MD. Prior to joining WorldAware, he completed internships with the United Nations in Geneva, the US Naval Postgraduate School, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. A life-long nerd of history and language, he has previously studied Georgian politics, history, and language at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, and completed Indiana University’s Summer Language Workshop.

A recent graduate of the Middlebury Institute, his graduate work focused largely on issues of nuclear security, nonproliferation, and US-Russia arms control. He completed a crash-course on nuclear reactor operations hosted by the Czech Technical University in Prague and remains an active member of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM).

Ekaterine Maghaldadze

Voice of America

Ekaterine is an International broadcaster at the Voice of America Georgian Service. Coming from Georgia and having six years of experience in news, multimedia, and in-depth reporting, her roles on an everyday basis include covering U.S. foreign policy as well as developments in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus.

She graduated from Caucasian School of Journalism and Media Management (MA Program) at Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) in 2016. At GIPA she received valuable experience while working with journalists from across the Caucasus, planning and producing cross-border multimedia projects and short documentary films together with them.

In 2015 she became a fellow of Heinrich Boll Foundation program – Green Academy, which also gave her a great chance to advance her knowledge about energy issues in Eurasia as well as environment, cultural heritage, urban sustainability or other human rights issues. Following this fellowship, she conducted training for Georgian journalists covering environment and energy.

Nicole Ng

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Nicole Ng is a research assistant in the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research focuses on Russian foreign policy issues, including Sino-Russian relations and U.S. and Russian policy in Syria. She also contributes to Carnegie’s research on the Return of Global Russia, a project examining Russia’s efforts to expand its global influence. Previously, she was a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment.

Originally from Hong Kong, Nicole graduated summa cum laude from Yale with a B.A. in Global Affairs and Russian and East European Studies. She volunteers for National Security Action, an organization dedicated to advancing and restoring principled American global leadership. She has also had previous experience in the financial services industry. Nicole speaks Russian and Mandarin.

Will O’Roark

World Learning

Will O’Roark is a program officer at World Learning Inc. He manages the Eurasia and Central Asia portfolio of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD).

Prior to joining World Learning, Mr. O’Roark lectured and worked at KIMEP University and Ablai Khan Kazakh National University in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He spent four years living in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, where he worked on several US Department of State and USAID education and business development projects including TFCA II and the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX). He also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Karaganda, Kazakhstan in 2011.

He graduated from Providence College in 2009 with a BA in Political Science and CUNY Brooklyn College in 2011 with an MA in International Affairs. Mr. O’Roark is professionally proficient in Russian and has a working knowledge of Kazakh and Uzbek.

Catherine Putz

The Diplomat

Catherine Putz is managing editor of The Diplomat, a current affairs publication focused on Asia. She is responsible for managing the publication of The Diplomat’s monthly magazine as well as writing and editing for the website on a variety of subjects, especially Central Asia and Afghanistan.

Katie is a graduate of the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky (Dec. 2011), where she studied international security and Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania (June 2010), where she majored in history with a focus on U.S. diplomatic and conflict history. At Shippensburg, Katie took a fateful course on the History of Islam in Central Asia, deepening her knowledge of the region’s history and politics in the subsequent years.

Clarissa Rodriguez

Defense Personnel and Family Support Center

Clarissa works as a program analyst for the Defense Personnel and Family Support Center in Alexandria, Virginia.  She had always been deeply passionate about Russian history and literature so studying the language motivated her to seek out opportunities to incorporate this interest into her professional career. She was fortunate to have had such supportive professors and mentors who encouraged her to join the Russian Flagship Program, through which she was able to travel to Almaty, Kazakhstan for a capstone year after graduation. During this time, she lived with a host family, studied Kazakh language and culture, and learned about Central Asia’s rich history and traditions. Within a year of completing the language program, she was selected as a Student Ambassador for the 2017 World Exposition on Future Energy in Astana, Kazakhstan and traveled to Central Asia once again for a summer of unique experiences and great friendships with other students working at the USA Pavilion. She intends to continue learning about the Eurasian region so that she can contribute her regional knowledge to discussions and proposals focused on the social issues of the region.

Joshua Russell

Open Society Foundations

Joshua Russell is a policy specialist with the Open Society Foundations. His work focuses on advocacy in Europe and Eurasia on issues pertaining to strengthening civil society, government transparency, and promoting human rights. He regularly coordinates advocacy efforts with local partners across Europe and Eurasia as part of a large international team. Prior to joining Open Society, Joshua worked in the interfaith advocacy community in Washington, D.C., and in international development. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University.

Caroline Sagalchik


Caroline Sagalchik is an investigative researcher and analyst focused on transnational security issues related to the Eurasian region. Caroline graduated from Brown University with a degree in international relations. Upon graduating, she spent a year on the Fulbright program in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. She now runs the Eurasia desk as a Regional Director at a financial intelligence firm. Caroline comes from a family of Belarusian chess-players.

Khamza Sharifzoda

Graduate Student at Georgetown University

Khamza Sharifzoda is a graduate student at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He is currently pursuing an M.A. in Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University. Khamza is originally from Dushanbe, Tajikistan. He completed his undergraduate degree with honors at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan, focusing on the politics and governance of the post-Soviet countries. He researched conflicts in Ukraine, Moldova, South and North Caucasus. He also studied abroad at Charles University in the Czech Republic. Khamza traveled extensively for his research purposes in other Eurasian countries, especially in Russia and Ukraine.

In addition to his native proficiency in Tajik and Russian, Khamza speaks Kazakh, Turkish and Spanish. Khamza is interested in Russian foreign policy, especially, in the Russo-Turkish-Iranian relationship and its interplay in a wider Eurasian region, especially in the South Caucasus.

Sarah Straney

Open Government Partnership

Sarah Straney is a research associate at the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative that secures commitments from governments to promote transparency and fight corruption.  She supports the organization’s Independent Reporting Mechanism, which tracks member governments’ implementation of their commitments.  Prior to joining the OGP she worked as an open-source intelligence analyst at Prevalent, Inc., as a recruiter for the FLEX high school exchange program in Ukraine and Georgia, and on the Eurasia Foundation’s U.S.- Russia Social Expertise Exchange program.

Sarah holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, and bachelor’s degrees in Russian and history from the University of Maryland, College Park.  She speaks Russian and Ukrainian. Her interests include corruption in the post-Soviet space, and the role of ethnicity in military composition in the region.

Peter Ter

United States Peace Corps

Peter Ter is a certifying officer at United States Peace Corps. Originally from South Sudan, he immigrated to the United States from Kenya as a teenager vulnerable refugee in 2001. Peter served as a Peace Corps volunteer (English Teacher and Teachers Trainer) in Azerbaijan, China, and Georgia.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in American history, U.S. politics, and international affairs from the University of Florida in Gainesville. He also holds two Masters’ degrees from Brandeis University in Boston/Waltham, Massachusetts: in sustainable international development, and in coexistence, peace and conflict resolution. He currently pursues his 3rd master’s degree in international affairs at American University School of International Service in Washington, D.C., focusing on the United States Foreign Policy and National Security.

Keith Weber

Booz Allen Hamilton

Keith Weber is currently a senior consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. He graduated from the Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) Program at Georgetown University, where he concentrated in global politics and security with a certificate in diplomatic studies.  He specializes in political and security issues in Eurasia and Russian foreign policy and he has spent much time on the ground in the former Soviet Union, having served in the US Peace Corps in Georgia from 2014-2016 and studying Russian language in both Russia and Ukraine. He also completed an internship with the US Treasury Department in 2017 working on economic and financial issues of the Europe and Eurasia region.