leila austin

Executive director, public affairs alliance of iranian-americans (paaia)

As PAAIA’s Executive Director, Dr. Leila Golestaneh Austin provides operational direction for the organization, ensuring that PAAIA’s three pillars of influence-building, leadership-building, and bridge-building are met.

A Professorial Lecturer in Global Theory and History and Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (“SAIS”), Dr. Austin served as deputy director of Cultural Conversations at the Foreign Policy Institute at SAIS.  She also manages a multi-year grant that launched the Global Politics and Religion Initiative at SAIS. In addition, Dr. Austin teaches in the Global Security Studies department of Johns Hopkins University’s Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the American University’s School of International Service. She has previously taught at Georgetown University’s Center for Arab Studies and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Dr. Austin received her Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University and her M.A. in International Affairs from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

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Arash aramesh

Associate at yetterColeman llp, and National Security & Foreign Policy Analyst

Arash "Ari" Aramesh graduated from Stanford Law School, where he served as Member Editor and Article Selection Committee Member of the Stanford Journal of International Law. Ari also received his M.Sc. with merit from the London School of Economics and Political Science. His practice focuses on complex litigation. 

Prior to practicing law, Ari co-founded a successful physician placement company. While at Stanford, he worked as a teaching assistant to former Secretary of Defense, William Perry, and former Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sig Hecker. He also was a director of Stanford Law School's Afghanistan Legal Education Project.

Ari comments and publishes extensively on issues involving international law, with particular emphasis on U.S. national security and foreign policy.  He appears frequently on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, BBC, Fox Business Network, Sky News, and others.

He is fluent in English, Persian (Farsi and Dari), and proficient in Arabic (Modern Standard). He also holds a B.A. in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of California at Berkeley.

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Sherry hakimi

founder, sparktures 

Sherry Hakimi is the founder of Sparktures, an organizational design firm focused on gender equality. Previously, she worked in strategic planning and economic development in the Bloomberg administration for the City of New York. Throughout her career, Sherry has worked with and advised consumer goods companies, governments, universities, technology startups, financial institutions, healthcare organizations, and international nonprofits. Her special interests are gender equality, Iran policy, and economic development.

Alongside her professional work, Sherry is a National Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and currently serves as Vice-President of the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Board of New York as well as Co-Founder/Co-President of the Harvard Iranian Alumni organization. An active member of the Iranian-American community, Sherry has worked with numerous Iranian-American organizations, including IAAB, PAAIA, NIAC, and others. She has initiated and co-chaired numerous conferences and initiatives within the Iranian-American community, including the 2013 PAAIA NexGen Leadership Conference at Harvard University and the inaugural Harvard Iranian Weekend in 2016. In 2015, she was named among the “100 Most Influential Persians” by Persian Tech Entrepreneurs.

A New England native, Sherry completed two degrees within four years and graduated with honors from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she was also selected as a Commencement Speaker. She holds a Master in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, where she was elected President of the HKS Student Government, among other student engagements. Her writing has been published in outlets including Fast Company, Muftah, Medium, and The Kennedy School Review.

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Legislative director and foreign policy advisor, office of u.s. senator al franken

Ali Nouri has been on staff in the US Senate since 2008, currently serving as a Legislative Director. He is also an adjunct Professor at George Washington University.  Previously he worked at the UN and at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School on science and global security issues. He holds a BA in Biology from Reed College and a PhD in Molecular Biology from Princeton University.



Yassamin Ansari

founder, ansari fellowship program

Yassamin Ansari is an Advisor at Mission 2020, a global initiative aimed at driving down global emissions at the pace and scale required by science for full decarbonization by 2050. Prior to this, Yassamin worked at the United Nations in a variety of capacities. Most notably, she was the Director of the Climate Action 2016 Summit in Washington D.C., where she led all aspects of its planning and execution under the direction of Dr. Robert Orr, the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Climate Change. Yassamin was also the youngest person serving in the Executive Office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon between 2014-2016. She was a member of the climate team that advised the Secretary-General and helped to deliver the historic Paris Agreement. Prior to this, she worked on multi-stakeholder initiatives to advance women's and children's health, innovative uses of big data for development, and sustainable energy in her role as the Special Assistant to the Secretary-General's Senior Advisor on Partnerships, Ambassador Tomas Christensen. 

Yassamin holds a bachelor's degree from Stanford University in international relations with honors in international security studies. She also has a master's degree from the University of Cambridge, where her research focused on the UN’s response to the security implications of climate change. While at Stanford, Yassamin interned for U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, led global and student-run advocacy campaigns on the Syrian refugee crisis, and served on multiple university boards. In recognition of her humanitarian and public service work, Yassamin has won multiple awards and honors including the John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, the Gates Scholarship, the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship, and the Democratic National Committee Hope Institute Fellowship.