Class of 2020
Anna Bar is from San Diego, California. She attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where she majored in history and Russian studies. In 2013, Anna received a Boren Scholarship to study Russian in St. Petersburg, Russia. Anna has worked as a research assistant for Freedom House’s Nations in Transit publication and as a program officer with the Department of Defense’s National Security Education Program. At CERES, Anna hopes to focus on Russia’s influence in the post-Soviet space.
Nicholas Conlon is from Akron, Ohio and graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in Political Science and minor in Slavic Languages and Literatures. After college, Nick spent one year teaching at KIMEP University in Almaty, Kazakhstan as a Princeton in Asia fellow and worked as an intern at the Institute for the Study of War and Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. Nick has also spent time studying in Minsk, Belarus and Saint Petersburg, Russia and traveling by motorcycle throughout Kyrgyzstan and Georgia. His academic interests are focused on labor migration in Central Asia and Russia, the legal structures that govern it, and its impact on regional security. Nick is participating in the JD/MAERES joint degree program.
Aziz Egamov was born and grew up in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. He has attended University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent and, following his move to the United States, Manchester College in Connecticut and the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. He studied abroad at IES Abroad European Union program in Freiburg, Germany and interned for MEP Marlene Mizzi at the European Parliament in Brussels. In May 2017, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs with concentration in Europe and Eurasia. He also held internships at Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Eurasia Center at Atlantic Council in spring 2017 and spring 2018. His research interests include Russian foreign policy, Central Asia, the One Belt One Road initiative, and energy issues.
Ylham Jorayev is a Compliance Risk and Diligence Intern Kroll, a division of Duff and Phelps. Ylham is a graduate student at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service pursuing an M.A. in Eurasian, Russia and East European Studies. Originally from Turkmenistan, Ylham completed his undergraduate degree at University of Kansas. His interests include Central Asian politics, drug trafficking and terrorism in Eurasia. In addition to his native proficiency in Turkmen, Ylham speaks Russian and Turkish.
Eva Jovanova is a Skopje native passionate about the ex-Yugoslav countries, especially their integration into the EU and their relationship with Russia. She has an undergraduate degree in European Studies from Otto-von-Guericke University in Magdeburg, Germany and completed an exchange semester in International Relations at St. Petersburg State University. She organized and taught at a summer school on the European Union, worked for NDI Macedonia on projects related to Macedonia’s democratization, and was an IPS fellow at the German Parliament. For the past few years, she has edited and written for the Vostokian, an online magazine focused on Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
Amber Kiffer graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and an emphasis on Russia’s recent political and economic transitions. She’s worked in logistics as a dispatcher for several different transportation companies and is interested in Russian foreign policy and the effects of energy security.
Ben Moody graduated with distinction from the University of Virginia in 2016 with bachelor’s degrees in Foreign Affairs and Russian Language and Literature. After graduation, he began work as a Senior Program Assistant at the National Democratic Institute in Washington DC, helping oversee the implementation of the Institute’s democracy assistance programs in the Kyrgyz Republic. Having engaged with the Eurasian region in an academic and professional capacity, Ben hopes to utilize his time within the MAERES program to deepen his understanding of the practical implications of US policy in Eurasia, and how these policies interact with the region’s complex historical, cultural, and ideological frameworks. After completing his MA at Georgetown, Ben hopes to apply this knowledge through a career in the foreign service.
Alexis Mrachek grew up in San Antonio, Texas and attended Texas A&M University, where she double-majored in Russian and International Studies. She took weekly Russian classes in high school in preparation for two mission trips to Odessa, Ukraine, and has been fascinated with the Eurasia region ever since. Alexis studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia during undergrad and completed Middlebury College’s intensive Russian language program post-graduation. She has worked previously at the Rumsfeld Foundation, which focuses on Central Asia, and has interned at the American Foreign Policy Council and the Center on Global Interests. Outside of CERES, she currently works as Research Assistant for Russia and Eurasia at The Heritage Foundation. For her graduate studies, Alexis plans to advance her Russian proficiency and her knowledge of post-Soviet politics, East European history, and Putin’s Russia.
An active duty US Army officer since 2007, Major Danny O’Connor is a foreign area officer (48D), specializing in Central and South Asia. He brings experience from combat zones in the Middle East, isolated island nations in the Pacific, and most recently acted as the deputy chief of the Office of Military Cooperation, US Embassy Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He holds an AA in Russian from the Defense Language Institute, a BA in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies from the University of Connecticut, and a MBA from the College of William and Mary. Major O’Connor’s research is focused on Central Asian militaries and the Soviet legacy in the region.
Lillian Posner graduated from Oberlin College in 2017 with a degree in Russian & Eastern European Studies and History. She wrote her Senior Thesis on the Soviet poet Olga Berggolts and postwar disillusionment and traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia to conduct research in the Central State Archive of Literature and the Arts. After graduation, she became an OCREECAS Scholar and received a grant to return to St. Petersburg to teach English at the Presidential Math and Physics Lycée No. 239. Now at Georgetown, she intends to get a certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies and pursue her interest in the politics of international reckoning with historical injustices.
Maggie Samuels is from Searsmont, Maine. She attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she majored in Turkish Studies and Computer Science. Her research is oriented around pan-Turkic movements and the ties between nationalism and language shifts. Maggie has previously worked in the study abroad sector, and spent a semester as an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. After completing her MAERES degree, Maggie will be joining the Foreign Service as a Consular Officer.
Na Sha is originally from China and received her undergraduate degree from Fudan University in Shanghai. In addition to majoring in Russian and minoring in Diplomacy and Public Affairs, she completed exchange programs at Moscow City University and Washington University in St. Louis. She has interned for the China Shanghai International Arts Festival and is interested in cross cultural communication, cultural exchanges, and Central Asian issues.
Khamza Sharifzoda is originally from Dushanbe, Tajikistan. He completed his undergraduate degree with honors at Nazarbayev University, focusing on the politics and governance of the post-Soviet countries. He also studied abroad at Charles University in the Czech Republic and traveled extensively for his research purposes in other Eurasian countries, especially in Russia and Ukraine. In addition to his native proficiency in Tajik and Russian, Khamza speaks Turkish and Spanish. He is interested in Russian foreign policy, especially, in the Russo-Turkish-Iranian relationship and its interplay in a wider Eurasian region. After finishing his MA at CERES, he wants to work in a think tank or an international organization to analyze developments in Eurasia.
Clare Szigethy studied at Sarah Lawrence College for her undergraduate career. While there, she took an interdisciplinary approach to studying Russian culture and politics. Her main research focus lies in contemporary Russian politics.
Beryl Taylor is originally from Boston and completed her undergraduate degree at Bard College 2015. She has studied abroad in Petrozavodsk and Saint Petersburg, as well as taught English at Smolny College in Saint Petersburg. She worked with education groups to support liberal arts for international, incarcerated, and immigrant students. Her areas of focus for MAERES will include Russian nationalism in the Soviet Union, ethnic deportations during WWII, and current remains of Soviet nationalities structure.
Blake Wilcox completed his undergraduate degree at Brown, where he concentrated in Slavic studies and German Studies. Before coming to CERES, Blake served as a research assistant in the German Studies department at Brown, worked as a business consultant in Washington, DC and participated in the American Councils’ Business Russian Language and Internship Program. Blake is interested in the political and economic linkages between Russia and Europe and hopes to leverage this knowledge in a career in government service or the energy sector.
Kyra Zoubek is a recent graduate of American University’s School of International Service. As part of a military family, she has had the chance to travel and live in many places, including two years in Kyrgyzstan which inspired her to study International Relations and Russian culture. Last summer, she spent a month at MGIMO in Moscow studying Russian foreign policy and language. Over the next two years, she hopes to continue to study and expand her knowledge of Russian history and U.S. and Russian policy in Central Asia.
Class of 2021
Jordan Bekenstein is from Richmond, Virginia. He studied Russian at Amherst College, and spent a semester abroad in Moscow through Middlebury. He wrote his senior thesis on the Soviet Man and the reconstruction of Moscow in the 1930s. After graduation, he traveled the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and later spent a year and a half teaching English in Harbin, China. He is interested in Sino-Russian cooperation and competition, development in Russia’s Far East and China’s northeast, Russian social policy, and political legitimacy.
Seth Farkas is from upstate New York and completed his undergraduate studies at Columbia University in Russian Language & Culture and Neuroscience & Behavior. His past research has centered around contemporary Russian political discourse, particularly in relation to national narratives and Russian foreign policy. He has professional experience in open source and data analysis. At Georgetown, Seth is interested in nationalism and other political and cultural narratives in the former Soviet space, as well as language politics and policy in the region.
Nicholas Kulawiak graduated from University of Puget Sound in 2018 with a double major in Politics & Government and History. He spent the summer of 2016 in Freiburg, Germany, studying the E.U.’s relationship with Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was a Bangs-Collier Summer Research Scholar in 2017 and conducted archival research at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and the Open Society Archives in Budapest, Hungary on Polish media’s characterization of Radio Free Europe during the 1950s. After graduating, he traveled through Eastern Europe and the Middle East, volunteering in hostels and tour-guiding in Warsaw, Poland and the Golan Heights. His main academic interests are historical memory and its impacts on current politics in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland.
Elizabeth Lewis is from Draper, Utah and graduated from Rhodes College with degrees in Political Science and Russian Studies. After college, she spent one year teaching at Belarus State University in Minsk, Belarus as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Now at Georgetown, she intends to get a certificate in Diplomatic Studies. At Georgetown, Elizabeth is interested in the way conceptualizations of nationalism have developed in Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine.
Eleanor Lopatto is from Grinnell, Iowa. She graduated from Kenyon College in 2017 with a degree in Chemistry and Modern Languages and Literatures, specializing in Russian and French. After moving to Washington, D.C., Eleanor worked as an intern for the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, and later as an administrator and event coordinator for the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA). Outside of CERES, she provides briefings on domestic terror for the National Security Action network. Eleanor’s research interests include online disinformation and radicalization, tech regulation, and the effect of social media on international security issues.
Krysia Sikora graduated from Duke University majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Security, Peace, and Conflict. Following graduation, she moved to Poland to pursue professional soccer and learn more about her Polish heritage. In addition to her soccer career she studied Polish at Maria Curie Skłodowska University in Lublin. In MAERES, Krysia wants to examine the communist-democratic transition, as well as the rise of populism in the region.
Soren Smallwood is from Washington, D.C., and graduated from Carleton College with a degree in Russian. She studied abroad at Moscow State University for a semester, and spent a summer as an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. She is interested in gender relations and demographic issues in Russia.
Vladyslav Stegniy was born in Kyiv, Ukraine. He graduated from Taras Shevchenko National University, Kyiv, Ukraine in June 2018 with a M.A. in Political Science. During his M.A. studies, he interned with the Hudson Institute’s Center for Political Military Analysis and the I.F. Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. His research focuses on international security and military affairs in the Eurasia region.
Matthew Wisneski is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Notre Dame in May 2019 with a degree in Political Science and Russian. He had the opportunity to spend summer 2018 studying Russian language in Moscow, and realized he wanted to incorporate Russia into his career. Among other things, he is interested in Russian-American relations, Russian foreign policy, and national identity in connection with the Russian Orthodox Church.