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I-House Announces the 2019 WIL Fellows

Established in 1990, the Women’s International Leadership (WIL) program at International House NYC  is an intensive, 9-month fellowship facilitated within I-House that aims to prepare young women for future roles as global leaders. Each year, I-House admits a select number of women who display exceptional leadership qualities and the potential to impact their respective fields. The selected cohort reflects the global population of I-House Residents, who hail from more than 100 countries. Throughout the year, WIL Fellows participate in workshops and seminars with visiting speakers from a wide range of global industries. These and other activities are designed to help WIL Fellows cultivate their personal leadership identity, improve their cross-cultural competencies, and expand their professional skills in a tightly knit and supportive environment. Fellows also receive one-on-one mentorship with established professionals, many of whom are I-House and WIL Alumnae. Below are the Women’s International Leadership Program 2019-2020 Fellows:
Rachel Adeney, Australia Rachel Adenay is an economist with a passion for serving the public interest. She is currently pursuing a Master in Public Administration degree at Columbia University, specializing in International Finance and Economic Policy. Rachel also holds a Bachelor of Commerce with First Class Honours in Economics from the University of Melbourne, Australia and has published research on structural change in the Australian economy and inflation expectations.
Bolor Amgalan, Mongolia Bolor Amgalan is a creative technologist and a design strategist investigating the role of e-textiles, machine learning and other disruptive emerging technologies as catalysts for social change. She started out as a zero-waste fashion designer and received international recognition for her series of Metabolism fashion collections. Bolor developed her practice further at Central Saint Martins (CSM) in London and was selected as an Open Style Lab design fellow, working on adaptive clothing for and with a client with mild dementia and paralysis. She is currently completing her Master of Fine Arts in Design and Technology at The New School, focusing on educational technology and co-design processes, and how these intersect with novel machine learning techniques for the design of culturally sensitive design interventions.
Ekama Eni, United Kingdom/USA Ekama Eni is a Master of Divinity candidate at Union Theological Seminary, where she is focusing on Pastoral Leadership. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, with a minor in Counseling, from the University of North Texas (UNT) in her hometown of Denton, Texas. While a student Ekama worked at the UNT Kristen Farmer Autism Center and spent a semester as an intern at the Legacy Counseling Center in Dallas, Texas, working with individuals with positive HIV/AIDs diagnoses. After graduating from UNT, Ekama spent a year in Glasgow, Scotland as a volunteer with the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), involved in their inaugural Milton Music Festival and working towards justice for those living in the context of poverty in urban areas in Scotland. Now serving as an intern at First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn under the Reverend Adriene Thorne, Ekama is in the ordination process and is exploring how the church can be a vehicle for change in the areas of peace and conflict.
Lydia Grek, USA/Serbia Lydia received her Bachelor’s degree in Chinese Studies from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, where she grew up. Her passion for public service and learning Chinese language and culture led her to receiving a Fulbright grant and 2nd-year Fulbright Extension Award to teach English in Taiwan’s underprivileged schools. After spending three years in Taiwan and one year in China, Lydia returned to the US to pursue a Master of International Relations at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Due to her familial ties and extensive time spent in Serbia, Lydia plans to research China’s political and economic expansion in Eastern Europe at SIPA.
Gabrielle Head, United States Gabrielle Head is currently pursuing a Master of Professional Studies degree in Fashion Marketing from LIM College. Her graduate studies in branding, consumer behavior, and market segmentation studies along with her background in philanthropy have been supporting her strong interest in sustainability and social initiatives for a better world. As an I-House Resident, Gabrielle received a Youth Employment Innovation Fellowship Grant to direct the first ever Entrepreneur Expo, an interactive event to enrich African-American youth entrepreneurs in North Carolina which employed over 20 minority youth and provided monetary support for several minority businesses in the area.
Ameera Issa, Jordan Half Romanian and half Palestinian, Ameera “Amy” Issa was born in a multi-cultural home and has spent her life experiencing foreign exchange programs, most recently in South Korea, Jordan, Germany, Italy and the UK. Amy considers herself a junior urbanist and is a passionate architect who believes in participatory design and in design as a key to alter human behavior. She practiced urban planning and urban design in Munich, Germany and Amman, Jordan for three years, focusing on public space design and social equity. A Fulbright scholar, she is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree at Parsons in Design and Urban Ecologies with a minor in Political Economics. Through her grad study, she hopes to enrich her experience in social sciences, urban methods and urban economics. Amy enjoys cooking and believes in food as a peace ambassador across different cultures.
Sanjana Jagannathan, India/Singapore Although she originally hails from Singapore, Sanjana has lived in the Netherlands since she was 13 years old, and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Groningen there. Sanjana’s research on bio-based polyurethanes sourced from modified lignins sparked her interest in renewable resources and their different applications. Sanjana is currently enrolled at Columbia University, where she is pursuing her Master of Science degree in Chemical Engineering with a specialization in electrochemical energy. With experience that includes internships at TechnipFMC and Shell, Sanjana plans to work on solutions geared towards making renewable energy technology more accessible and cost-effective.
Basbibi Kakar, Afghanistan Basbibi Kakar is from Nangarhar, Afghanistan and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International Affairs at Columbia University, with a concentration in Economic and Political Development. She has diverse experience working in the international development sector in both the US and Afghanistan with internships at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Malala Fund, where she assisted the operations team with grants management and helped teams in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, India and Nigeria with planning and management of their projects. She has also held positions such as assistant head of school at the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA). In her career to date, Basbibi has helped to develop the leadership skills of young women, and is passionate about their role in development, education and reproductive health and women’s rights.
Thet Thiri Ko, Myanmar/Singapore Thet Thiri Ko received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Management from the University of Oxford, UK. Her interest in serving communities has led Thiri to work with micro-finance institutions in Nigeria and Myanmar while in university, providing pro-bono consulting services. She has worked closely with female leaders through her role in the Oxford Women in Business Network and channels her belief in youth empowerment into her work with Project Access to increase accessibility to top universities. She is presently reading for her Master of Arts in Global Thought at Columbia University. Thiri’s work experience has included internships with Singapore-Myanmar Investco in Yangon, Myanmar, as well as the Singapore Government. After completing her graduate studies, Thiri will be returning to Singapore to work in the Singapore Civil Service.
Mayuri Mei Lin, Malaysia Mayuri Mei Lin is a journalist from Malaysia specializing in environmental issues and social justice with a specific focus on women. She started her career in her hometown of Kuala Lumpur as a reporter for an independent online news outlet, and then moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to work alongside Khmer journalists covering under-reported issues like domestic worker abuse and child homelessness. She later joined the BBC World Service as a data and visual journalist working out of Jakarta, Indonesia, producing stories in new and experimental multimedia formats. She’s written about Jakarta being the fastest sinking city in the world and also about the most prolific female activists in the region risking their lives for their activism, and organized a three-day data journalism boot camp in Bangkok to train journalists in the region on accessibility, representation and innovation in visual journalism. She is currently studying to earn her Master’s degree as part of New York University‘s Studio 20 program.
Prithima Nirmala, India Prithima Nirmala is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Enterprise Risk Management from Columbia University, where she also serves on the Columbia Graduate Council. She received her Corporate Management in Finance degree from Symbiosis International (Deemed University), India and her Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering from Anna University, India. She also holds a degree in Bharathanatyam, an Indian classical dance, from Annamalai University-India. Prithima started her career as a mainframe developer and consulted across the USA, leading multiple teams which were globally diversified and cross functional. An active member of professional associations like Women in Cybersecurity, Prithima is passionate about helping women in poverty become successful entrepreneurs and small business owners. She volunteers her time scribing for the visually challenged and mentoring the less fortunate and the differently abled.
Sareen Palassian, United States With interests that span topics like women’s roles in international development, the women’s and LGBT movements, and global civil society, Sareen Palassian is enrolled in a Master of Arts program in Political Science at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where she is developing her research skills to produce work that brings marginal voices in the developing world to the fore. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations, French and Gender Studies from the University of Southern California (USC) in her native Los Angeles. She has conducted archival research at the ONE Archives Foundation and presented her work at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association Conference. Sareen also has a language and area studies interest in Japan sparked by her time teaching English in Sendai City.
Samanta Palomeque, Ecuador Samanta Palomeque was born in Quito, Ecuador and has lived in the United States for nine years. She is pursuing her Master in Arts in Science Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Samanta received her Bachelors of Science in Biology and Spanish from SUNY Potsdam. Her undergraduate work included mentoring freshman in her program, which inspired her to choose a career in teaching, as she enjoyed helping first-year students transition from high school to college. She also loves to travel around the world; her travels have included a semester abroad in Hawaii and Puerto Rico to rebuild houses because of hurricane Maria. She also has visited the Dominican Republic, Russia and other places in the United States. Traveling is very important for her because she loves to learn about other cultures, food, and traditions, and she is excited to combine her knowledge about different cultures and integrate that in her classroom.
Stephanie Philp, Canada Stephanie Philp is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in Nonfiction Creative Writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, pursuing a joint course of study in Translation. Her graduate work has focused on personal essays delving into topics such as family bonds, mental health and young womanhood. Stephanie received her Honours Bachelor of Journalism degree from Ryerson University, where she focused on magazine production. She has been published in print and online at various publications and has worked with the National Media Awards Foundation, acted as an investigative reporter’s research assistant, and managed as well as coached at a local circus school in Toronto, Ontario. Her volunteer work has been centered on bringing arts education to youth. She has co-directed children’s theatre productions, worked with Read Ahead and, through Columbia’s Artist/Teacher program (C/AT), helped fourth and fifth graders develop and write their first novels. This year she will be acting as a volunteer lead in her role as C/AT Coordinator as well as the Public Program and Engagement Fellow at the Lenfest Center for the Arts.
Irina Elena Preotescu, Romania Born in Bucharest, Romania, Irina Elena Preotescu graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from St. John’s University. Her work at the Permanent Mission of Romania to the UN has focused on issues pertaining to human rights, sustainable development, gender equality, terrorism, and GA reforms. She has represented her country at the United Nations General Assembly. Following a MEDLIFE trip to Lima, Perú, where she helped set up mobile clinics and infrastructure development projects for disadvantaged communities, her focus shifted towards the importance of policy-making and human rights in development. Irina also works as Secretary General in the League of Romanian Students Abroad, Romania’s largest student organization, striving to consolidate the growing network of students abroad and to create professional opportunities for them to return. These experiences have strengthened her passion for diplomacy and global issues and inspired her to pursue a career at the UN to research the effects of racial discrimination on working memory, cognitive functions, and health habits, within the Collaborative Health Integration Research Program.
Warda Sahtout, Syria/Palestine Warda Sahtout is a second-year Master’s student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, specializing in Economic and Political Development with a focus on International Conflict Resolution. Warda is originally from Palestine, but she was born and grew up in Syria. Before moving to NYC in 2018, she worked with different INGOs in Syria during the Syrian crisis. She served as a Livelihood Focal Point with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and Children’s Psycho-social Support specialist and volunteered with different NGOs, conducting needs’ assessments analysis, women’s empowerment activities, and youth’s capacity building training. She also founded an online platform allowing people to share their skills and meet their needs based on the sharing economy concept, and has also engaged in volunteering activities with the UNHQ and other NGOs. Warda recently interned with the UNICEF to work on their conflict sensitivity and peacebuilding portfolio.
Jacquelyn Sieck, United States Hailing from Quincy, IL, Jacquelyn Sieck received her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies from Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN in 2018. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in Human Rights Studies at Columbia University with a concentration on Forced Migration Law. Her research interests include forced migration and comparative international asylum law. She has previously interned for a refugee resettlement agency, an immigration law office, asylum advocacy organization, immigration nonprofit, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She also served as a consultant at UN Women during their 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women. She is interested in the effect of US immigration policy on international migration patterns. After graduation, she hopes to work in immigration and asylum policy.
Zulpha Styer, South Africa/Australia Zulpha Styer is a Master of Public Administration Student at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. A dual citizen of South Africa and Australia, she was born in Cape Town and has spent most of her life on the Australian east coast. Zulpha holds degrees from the University of New South Wales and the Australian National University. She has more than five years of experience as a senior policy advisor to Australian governments at federal and state levels, including the Australian Attorney-General’s Department, and has worked on issues including national security, criminal law, education funding, and indigenous affairs. Zulpha was admitted as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, and in 2016 was appointed to the Multicultural NSW Regional Advisory Council for South West Sydney, advising the Minister for Multiculturalism on one of the state’s most culturally diverse areas. She was awarded an Australia Day Achievement Medallion for her public service in 2015, and volunteers extensively in her local communities; she is a Read Ahead mentor at PS 36, and has previously volunteered as a tutor for women and children from refugee backgrounds and a life skills workshop coordinator for a youth social inclusion program. Zulpha is passionate about working with communities and governments to eliminate intercommunity violence and tension, and promote inclusive policy-making.
Thuy Hang Tran, Vietnam Thuy Hang “Hangelina” Tran is completing her Master’s in Education Policy with a specialization in law at Teachers, College, Columbia University. She received a double Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Politics from her undergraduate college. A self-proclaimed global citizen, Hangelina was born in Vietnam and raised in the US in metro Atlanta. Her work experiences are diverse, ranging from being a congressional intern to an English teacher. As a first-generation college student, Hangelina is proud to be a Gates Millennium Scholar, a Fulbright Scholar, and a Dell Scholar. She is committed to giving back to underprivileged communities through education and law and working with others for an equitable and sustainable future.
Jade Jolene Verheije, The Netherlands Jade Jolene Verheije received her joint Master of Science degree in International Management from the Rotterdam School of Management and Copenhagen Business School. Originally from the Netherlands, she has studied and worked abroad in nine countries. Following studies in Spain, France, the Netherlands, the US, and Denmark, Jolene moved to Kenya to work on a sustainable energy access project. There she developed a keen interest in spurring development through enhanced access to sustainable energy, and endeavored to grow her knowledge on how global policy and public/private cooperation can facilitate this through her membership in the European Youth Parliament and Model of United Nations. After working in Australia, she returned to the Netherlands to complete the Graduate Programme at Shell, receiving Shell’s Outstanding Achievement Award and Best Sustainability Proposal for the European Space Agency in 2017, she worked on various environmental projects in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and founded her own environmental NGO while posted in the Philippines, where she once again personally witnessed the impact of access to sustainable energy on the well-being of communities. Now Jolene is pursuing her Master of International Affairs at Columbia’s SIPA, specializing on Energy Environment as a platform for her to contribute to furthering the field of access to sustainable energy to promote development for remote and impoverished communities.
Marie Donata von der Leyen, Germany Marie Donata von der Leyen was born in Germany and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History and in Political Science from the University of Heidelberg, where she specialized in Jewish history and its unique remembrance culture during the crusades. Having spent a year at the Institut Catholique de Paris, France, Marie worked as an intern at both the German Embassy in Paris and the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation in London. In 2016, she became regional specialist at the World Economic Forum in Geneva. In the context of the initiative New Concept for Europe, she oversaw the security and defense working group and contributed to the related Renew Europe report. Committed to fostering peace and reconciliation, Marie facilitated an ongoing diplomatic dialogue on the Western Balkans. Marie is a member of the Christian Mission Service Germany, a charitable child-care organization sponsoring neglected children worldwide. Her focus was on the Philippines, where she volunteered in 2012 and has since then acted as a mentor for Filipino children. Marie is presently pursuing a Master’s degree in International and World History at Columbia University and the London School of Economics.
Shan Wu, China Brought up in Jiangsu, China, Shan Wu is a candidate for a Master of Public Administration degree at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) with a focus on International Finance and Economic Policy. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Nanjing University and received the China National Scholarship Council Scholarship. Shan also served as a vice president of Global Youth Exchange Club. Committed to providing global internship and voluntary opportunities for over 200 students each year, she strived to empower others to take action. Shan’s work experience has included internships at the Development and Reform Commission of Jiangsu Province and Consulate General of Canada in Shanghai. During her work as an economic policy researcher in these public sectors, she conducted her research of pension service industry in terms of smart technology application adoption and presented her work at the China Academy of Social Science. Shan is also a talented oil painter who presented a solo exhibition “Fusion of East and West” in China in 2018.
Typically each year, applications open in the Spring for the following academic year of residency. Read more about the Women’s International Leadership program here.