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 a master's student at the University of Cambridge studying international relations and politics, where her research focuses on climate change and international security. She was recently awarded the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue her PhD in politics and international studies beginning in the fall of 2017. Yassamin also serves as the Strategy Coordinator for Mission 2020, a climate action initiative under the leadership of former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. 

Previously, Yassamin spent two years working at the United Nations. Most recently, she served as Project Coordinator and Special Assistant to the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, and as the Director of the Climate Action 2016 multi-stakeholder summit in Washington D.C. Yassamin was also a member of the climate team that advised the UN Secretary-General and helped to deliver the historic 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Prior to this, she was special assistant to the Secretary-General's Senior Adviser on Partnerships, Ambassador Tomas Christensen, where she worked on multi-stakeholder initiatives to advance women's and children's health, innovative uses of big data for development, and sustainable energy. 

Yassamin holds a B.A. from Stanford University in international relations with honors in international security studies. While at Stanford, she interned for Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, led a global and student-run advocacy campaign for Syria Deeply, and served on multiple university boards. She is fluent in Farsi, advanced in Arabic, and has studied and worked in Jordan, Morocco and the UK.  She also won multiple awards and honors including the John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, the Democratic National Committee Hope Institute Fellowship, and the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.