From Virtual Exchange Participant to Champion: Reflections from Stevens Initiative Alumni Fellows

Event Details
  • Date

    January 11, 2023

  • Time

    12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
    U.S. Eastern Time

  • Location


Every year, thousands of young people around the world engage with one another in unique and pivotal exchanges that help shape their futures. Through virtual exchange, these young people expand their worldviews, learn to better appreciate our shared humanity, and prepare to succeed in a global workforce. Join the Stevens Initiative to celebrate the inaugural cohort of the Stevens Initiative Alumni Fellowship, which brings together incredible young leaders working to impact their communities, build ties between global communities, and create a better world for all. Hear their stories, including what they’ve done since their exchanges and why they believe every young person should have similar international experiences.

The Stevens Initiative Alumni Fellowship is supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Pedro Jose Martin is a Foreign Service Officer, a native of Pembroke Pines, FL,  and a graduate of St. Thomas University, Class of 1999, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and American History. He is currently serving as Division Chief in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Office of Citizen Exchanges, Global Leaders Division. Mr. Martin joined the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service in January 2002 and has served overseas as a Consular/Economic Officer in Santo Domingo, Political Officer in Mexico City, Deputy Press Attaché in  Jerusalem and Baghdad, Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Mission to Somalia, and most recently as Deputy Public Affairs Officer in Baghdad. His domestic assignments include the Bureaus of International Information Programs, Educational and Cultural Affairs, Near Eastern Affairs, and Western Hemisphere Affairs. He holds a Master of Arts degree from Syracuse University, a Master of Science degree from the National Defense University’s Eisenhower School, and is the recipient of multiple Meritorious Honor and other awards.

Dan Porterfield is President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. A native of the City of Baltimore, where he was raised by a single mother at the height of the civil rights movement, and a Rhodes Scholar, he has been recognized as a visionary strategist, transformational leader, devoted educator, and passionate advocate for justice and opportunity. Dan previously served as President of Franklin & Marshall College, where he led the College in tripling its percentage of incoming low-income students and doubling its percentage of domestic students of color. He was named a White House Champion of Change in 2016, holds bachelor’s degrees from Georgetown and Oxford, and earned his Ph.D. at The City University of New York Graduate Center where he wrote his dissertation on the poetry of American prisoners.

Christine Shiau is Executive Director of the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute. She drives vision and performance, leading strategy and program development, cultivating international and philanthropic partnerships, and ensuring effective management and oversight of the program. She blends strategic insight with creativity to establish virtual exchange as a cutting-edge field that builds global competencies and career readiness skills in youth and propels the internationalization of education.  Christine sits on the board of the Alliance for International Exchange and AMP Global Youth. She joined the Initiative following a career in the public and private sectors. Christine graduated from the University of Illinois-Chicago with a B.S. in accounting and a minor in marketing. She received a Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland.

Dr. Anne Stevens is a younger sister of Ambassador Chris Stevens. As a pediatrician and a scientist, she is dedicated to data-driven approaches to improving the health and welfare of children and families. She is a Senior Director in Immunology Research and Development in the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. She also serves as an Affiliate Clinical Professor in the Division of Rheumatology in the University of Washington Department of Pediatrics and as a pediatric rheumatologist.   She cares for children with arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, and other chronic inflammatory diseases at the Seattle Children’s Hospital and at the Native American Medical Center and Providence Hospital in Alaska. Intercultural understanding and relationship-building is essential to her work as it was central to the work of Ambassador Stevens. Anne is a champion for the Stevens Initiative.

Kyle Kastler is a Program Manager, where he oversees alumni engagement for participants and awardees of Stevens Initiative programs and contributes to the Initiative’s research and knowledge sharing work. In his role, Kyle focuses on providing support to alumni to leverage their virtual exchange experience into future opportunities and sharing resources about virtual exchange with the wider field. Previously, he contributed to the field of international exchange by working on in-person youth exchange programs funded by the U.S. Department of State.  Kyle joins the Initiative after completing a Master’s Program in International Education Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park where he researched and wrote about practitioner perceptions of virtual exchange.  Kyle, originally from Kansas, is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, a Critical Language Scholarship Recipient, and holds a B.A. in Spanish and Political Science from Missouri Southern State University.

Kholoud Khalifa is a consultant at the Stevens Initiative, where she works to create content for the Fellowship Program and facilitates training sessions focused on different topics including virtual exchange and cross-cultural communication. She is also a personal development coach, and a lecturer at the University of Applied Science in Vienna, previously at the American University in Cairo. In addition to this, she has been a long time fellow, senior facilitator, and coach at Soliya. Previously, Kholoud has worked for the United Nations as a communications officer and advocated for refugees in both Egypt and Austria.  She has a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the American University in Cairo, and an M.A. in Conflict Resolution from King’s College London.

Lindsey Powers is a Senior Program Officer II with IREX managing the Global Solutions program and education programs in Iraq. With a degree in education and curriculum design, Lindsey has spent a majority of her career providing strategic technical design, program implementation, and curriculum development for virtual exchange and teacher professional development programs in the U.S. and Middle East. Prior to working at IREX, Lindsey facilitated teacher development to public and private educators in Jordan for four years and taught first grade for six years.

Maryam Alfakhrey is an architecture student at the University of Mosul in Iraq. In addition to her passion in her specialty, she’s an environmental activist and helps to spread awareness about sustainable cities and communities by participating in lectures and events. Recently, Maryam became a UN Sustainable Development Goals Ambassador in Mosul. She has also participated in several culture-exchange programs, with the hopes to show the beauty and culture of her city, Mosul. She believes this is a great way to spark a larger interest in the city. She also enjoys all kinds of arts, music, and languages. She’s an alumna of the spring 2021 cohort of the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge implemented by IREX.  

Abdelkhalik Aljuneidi is a software engineer at Amazon. Previously, he was Takalam L.T.D’s first hire, and he focused on building software solutions for Takalam’s online platform. He graduated with honors from Palestine Polytechnic University with a degree in Computer Engineering in 2021. Before that, he obtained a certificate in computer and data science from MIT in 2019. That same year, he attended the exclusive Google Inside Look in Munich, Germany and led the E-Bazzar Project as a finalist in the Hult prize regionals in Tunisia. Abdelkhalik also completed internships at Bloom EMEA, Localized, Olika Consulting, and ASAL Technologies. At his university, he founded and led the Google Developer Student Club in 2020 and was also IEEE PPU’s public relations manager and PPU’s first Microsoft student ambassador.

Whitney Brooks is a recent graduate at the University of Michigan, where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design. During that time, she also contributed to the Zell Lurie Institute at the Ross School of Business as a Marketing and Media Intern supporting their long-term brand identity goal and creating digital graphic assets. She now works as a research analyst intern at U.S. News and World Report. She is an alumna of the Business & Culture (B&C) program implemented by the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan. Whitney is from Detroit, Michigan in the United States, and has an interest in product/industrial design that encourages thoughtful decisions and uses natural, symbiotic systems.

Mennatullah Mustafa Sakr is currently studying to be a doctor at Kasr Al-Ainy Medical School in Cairo. Prior to this, she studied at the Alexandria STEM school. She is an alumna of the How to Succeed as an Innovator virtual exchange program implemented by Citizen Diplomacy International. Mennatullah is from El-Beheira, Egypt, and has an interest in global health and humanitarian development. She’s also passionate about the integration of technology in medicine through fields like health informatics and digital health.

Adem Oumeddour is a third-year Accounting and Finance student at University of Algiers 3 and a freelance branding and social media strategy consultant, where he supports his clients in the creation of their brands and the development of their social media marketing strategies. Prior to this role, he worked as a brand designer for Geometric Algeria, a digital and branding agency, where he had the opportunity to work with different national and multinational brands and small businesses. He is an alumnus of The Experiment Digital implemented by World Learning and the Algerian Youth Leadership Program implemented by the U.S. Embassy in Algeria. Adem is from the city of Algiers, Algeria and has an interest in art, history, and sports.

Lily Payton is a Senior Associate at the Centre For Public Impact (CPI) where she aids the implementation of a human-centered design curriculum to cities hoping to solve a pressing issue in their local community. Previously, she participated in the Global Allyship Program implemented by the African Middle Eastern Leadership Project, where she had the ability to meet and ideate with peers from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Syria. Prior to her current role at CPI, Lily graduated from McGill University in Montréal, Québec, with a double major in International Development and Political Science. Lily is originally from Potomac, Maryland, and has professional interests spanning government innovation, cross-cultural communication, Arctic issues, and the increasing influence of big tech.