Alumni Spotlight April 2019

The Institute has continued to engage alumni throughout the year, from bringing them to campus for presentations to participating in the EPIIC symposium to speaking to Inquiry to advising IGL student groups.  The IGL alumni are integral to the IGL community and their willingness to come back and work with the next generation is greatly appreciated.

Alumni Presentations
Tufts Alumni Michael Niconchuk (BUILD, A’11) and Elizabeth (Biz) Herman (EPIIC’08, Exposure, A’10) came to campus in late fall to discuss their work at the intersection of cognitive science and social conflict with Beyond Conflict (formerly Peace and Justice in Times of Transition). 

They spoke about how conflict affects your brain and body, your sense of self, and your community. They went on to explain how conflict often molds the cultural narratives of communities touched by violence around the world.

Mike is a Senior Researcher at Beyond Conflict and a former Emergency Response Coordinator at the Za’atri Refugee Camp in Jordan.  Biz is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley and an Innovation Fellow at the Innovation Lab for Neuroscience and Social Conflict at Beyond Conflict. 

Mike and Biz are taking an interdisciplinary approach to examining how the brain behaves.  Their current work focuses on forced migration and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among refugees and displaced peoples. Their goal is to educate and increase access to self-care tools for people struggling with mental health and wellbeing. Understanding how these traumatic experiences manifest themselves mentally, emotionally and physically is key to designing specific self-care exercises.  Using this research, they are creating The Field Guide for Barefoot Psychologists, bringing science to those who need it most in vulnerable setting.

Nichole Sobecki (EPIIC’06, Exposure) is returning to campus on April 23 to present, with her colleagues and fellow photojournalists Sara Terry and Linda Bournane Engelberth, on their project “Her Take: (Re)Thinking Masculinity”.

Her Take: (Re)Thinking Masculinity is a project in seven parts by the Seven of VII, the seven female photographers of VII. Each photographer is undertaking a visual reflection on masculinity — re-framing it, challenging it, referencing it historically, exploring it, considering it in specific cultural contexts and changing social conventions, or coming out from the shadow of it. This project grows from the photographers’ participation in the volatile contemporary debate about gender, power and representation, and the platform that gives them to help build a constructive dialogue in the photography world. (Tuesday, April 23, 11:30am, Cabot 206)

EPIIC Symposium
This year’s Norris and Margery Bendetson EPIIC International Symposium on “Migration in a Turbulent World” featured three IGL alumni: Leila Abu Gheida (EPIIC’87, A’87), Adam Goodman (EPIIC’00, A’03), and Kerri Sherlock Talbot (EPIIC’96, ’97, A’96).

Leila spoke on the panel on “How South to South Migration Is Changing our World” and co-led a breakout session on “Meeting the Need? Development, Investment, Infrastructure and Migration”.  Now the Regional Director of the West Africa and Middle East Regional Office for FHI 360, she is an international development and conflict programming expert with decades of experience working for the U.S. Agency for International Development and other entities specializing in international development and humanitarian assistance.

Both Adam and Kerri spoke on the panel on “Movement and Order: The Securitization of Migration” and led a breakout session on “Migration Challenges on the US/Mexico Border”.

Adam Goodman is an assistant professor of Latin American and Latino Studies and History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research and teaching interests include migration history and policy; Mexican American and Latina/o history; and recent U.S., Mexican, and Central American history. During 2018-2019 he will be a Faculty Fellow at UIC’s Institute for the Humanities, where he will be working on a book (under contract with Princeton University Press) about the history of the deportation machine in the United States.

Kerri Talbot, Esq. is Director of Federal Advocacy at the Immigration Hub where she works with non-profit organizations and Congress to promote the fair treatment of immigrants and refugees. The Immigration Hub was formed in response to the election of President Trump to help coordinate rapid response legislative and communications work on immigration and refugee issues. The organization provides strategic support to national immigration organizations and Congress in support of immigrant rights.

Rachel Brown (EPIIC’08, PPRI, A’10) joined this year’s Inquiry program, virtually, to present on her work on defusing hate, focusing on counteracting hate speech.  She is currently the founder and executive director of the NGO Over Zero. Over Zero supports societies to resist division and create long-term resilience to identity-based conflict through trainings, strategy advising, piloting and testing new approaches, and supporting interdisciplinary research. She is the author of Defusing Hate: A Strategic Communication Guide to Counteract Dangerous Speech, which brings together insights from diverse fields of expertise - from marketing to cognitive neuroscience – to support practitioners seeking to design communications-based interventions for atrocity prevention. She was a 2014 Genocide Prevention Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.

Inquiry, in the context of migration, focused on global cities as the frontline for contending with both internal and external flows of migrants.  The high school students were charged with creating a blueprint for cities to address issues such as Leadership, Urban Planning, Economic Integration and Social Cohesion.  Given the polarizing debate over migration in so many communities, it was important for the students to be introduced to what often incites such speech.

Student Group Advising
As NIMEP prepared for its 2019 fact-finding trip to Morocco over spring break, the students benefitted from the counsel of Matan Chorev (EPIIC’04, ’07 (TA), NIMEP, A’05, F’07), a co-founder of NIMEP in 2003, and Gabriel Koehler-Derrick (EPIIC’05, NIMEP, A’05), who was a member of NIMEP.  Fifteen students were traveling to Morocco to research topics ranging from migration to transitional justice to the rise of Sufism to labor parties and the political left.

Matan joined the students virtually, offering a wide range of advice from thinking through how to conduct group interviews to suggestions for translators and fixers.  Currently the chief of staff for Amb. William Burns at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Matan had spent several years with USAID in Morocco before joining Amb. Burns’ staff at the State Department. 

Gabe joined the group on the third floor of the IGL from Harvard, where he is finishing his PhD on state building, state capacity and economic development with a regional focus on the Middle East and North Africa.  Prior to starting his PhD program, he was an Assistant Professor at the US Military Academy at West Point.

Alumni Events
The IGL also continues to hold alumni gatherings to share its plans and impact.  In early April, the IGL invited alumni and friends to Washington, DC to hear from current students about their experiences at the IGL and about the IGL’s future plans.  It was hosted by Daniel Kramer (EPIIC’00, A’03) at Dave’s Grocery, where he is a managing partner. 

On May 6, alumnus Brad Bernstein (EPIIC’89, A’89) will host a New York gathering at FTV Capital (if you are interested in attending, please email