Meet the Team


Hillary Rodham Clinton - Honorary Founding Chair

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the Honorary Founding Chair of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. From January 2009 to February 2013, she served as Secretary of State of the United States. During her tenure as Secretary of State, Clinton launched the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security at Georgetown University on December 19, 2011, at which time she also announced the creation of the Institute. A lifelong advocate of women and girls’ empowerment, Secretary Clinton has dedicated some four decades to public service.

Melanne Verveer - Executive Director

Ambassador Verveer served as the first U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, a position to which she was nominated by President Obama in 2009. She coordinated foreign policy issues and activities relating to the political, economic and social advancement of women, traveling to nearly sixty countries and developing the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. President Obama also appointed her to serve as the U.S. Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Amb. Verveer also served as the Special Representative on Gender Issues for the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.

Carla Koppell - Managing Director

Carla Koppell is the Managing Director of GIWPS, School of Foreign Service (SFS) Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and SFS Professor of the Practice. Koppell recently served as a vice president with the United States Institute for Peace. Prior to that she served as chief strategy officer in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and was appointed USAID’s inaugural senior coordinator for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Koppell also directed the Institute for Inclusive Security, served as deputy assistant secretary for international affairs with the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development, and worked with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Jessica Smith - Research Director

Dr. Jessica Smith works with Ambassador Verveer to envision and execute research projects, supervise research fellows, and disseminate research findings through academic, policy, and practitioner communities. She brings nearly a decade of research experience working on gender-related issues with women in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Indonesia, Jordan and the United States. Dr. Smith completed her PhD at the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University. She has worked in various capacities for the International Rescue Committee, Catholic Charities, the United Nations, USAID, the US Institute of Peace, and Everyday Peace Indicators.

Sarah Rutherford - Director of Communications and External Affairs

Sarah is the director of the Georgetown Ambassadors for Women, Peace and Security. She also helps to promote the Institute’s original research on gender and conflict through the Institute’s podcast, oral history project, media relations, and student advocacy. She previously worked for Georgetown's Vice President for Global Engagement, and as special assistant to the Dean of Admissions at the Georgetown University Law Center. Sarah received a B.A. in political science from Brown University, where she graduated magna cum laude, and a graduate degree in public relations and communications from Georgetown University. Please direct press requests to

Mike Brand – Director of Policy and Programs

Mike Brand leads the Policy and Program team and is responsible for directing the Institute’s strategic advocacy initiatives, policy recommendations, programs, special projects, and engagement with key stakeholders. Mike has spent his career advocating for the prevention of mass atrocities, the protection of civilians, and greater involvement of civil society in fragile and conflict-affected states. He has previously worked for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the United States, Rwanda, and South Sudan, and has done fieldwork in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. Driven by the Nelson Mandela quote, “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” Mike is an unabashed idealist who believes we can make the world a better place.

Melissa Shields - Director of Finance and Administration

Melissa Shields (née Pasos) has over nine years experience in accounting and finance. Prior to joining GIWPS, Melissa was an independent business operations consultant with a variety of clients. Prior to that, she served as the Business Manager for Global Technology Programs at Internews Network. There, she was responsible for managing over $25M in funding annually for programs relating to Internet Freedom, Digital Rights and Digital Safety. She was also responsible for ensuring all agreements and subawards were administered according to US Government (USG) rules and regulations.

Dr. Marisa O. Ensor – Senior Climate Research Fellow

Dr. Marisa O. Ensor is a gender and youth specialist with a background in the human dimensions of environmental change, disasters, conflict, displacement, security, development, and humanitarian action. Trained in applied environmental anthropology and human rights law, Dr. Ensor serves as GIWPS’ Senior Climate Research Fellow, where she is responsible for shaping the Institute’s climate research agenda and producing cutting-edge research and analysis that responds to the challenges and opportunities found at the intersection of gender, climate, and security issues. Additionally, she teaches courses on Gender, Climate and Security, Conflict Analysis and Transformation, Peacebuilding, and Research Methodologies.

Robert Nagel - Research Fellow

Dr. Robert Ulrich Nagel’s research at GIWPS focuses on women’s impact on peacekeeping missions’ effectiveness. He also directs our graduate certificate in Gender, Peace and Security. He earned his PhD in International Conflict Analysis at the University of Kent. His prior research explores the conflict dynamics that contribute and result from sexual violence, their consequences for international security, conflict resolution, and post-conflict stability. He won the 2019 Cedric Smith Prize for the best peace and conflict studies paper by a UK or ROI-based PhD student and the International Studies Association 2020 Dina Zinnes Award.

Jessica Anania - Conflict Tracker Research Fellow

Dr. Jessica Anania leads GIWPS' conflict tracking initiative, which will monitor and analyze conflict dynamics through a WPS lens. She holds a PhD from the University of Oxford, where her research focused on domestic and multilateral response to gender-based violence amidst armed conflict. She has worked for UN OCHA and UNOPS and been a consultant to the UK national government. Her research is published in International Affairs and forthcoming in the Journal of Peace Research and the International Feminist Journal of Politics.

Elena Ortiz - Research Manager and Lead Author, WPS Index

Elena Ortiz is the Research Manager for the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Index at GIWPS. She has assisted with multiple previous iterations of the WPS Index and brings research experience exploring the gender dimensions of humanitarian aid, social norms, forced displacement, financial inclusion, and peace processes. Most recently, Elena has worked for the World Bank and the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds an MSc in International Development & Humanitarian Emergencies from the London School of Economics and a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

Lina Tori Jan - Policy Officer

Lina Tori Jan is the Policy Officer. Lina is a social entrepreneur, public speaker, and advocate for equality and human rights, with a focus on the rights of women, girls, and refugees. She oversees the implementation of Georgetown University’s Afghanistan initiative, Onward for Afghan Women, elevating and supporting Afghan women leaders with opportunities to continue their advocacy on behalf of Afghan women and girls.

Ana Lejava - Policy Associate

Ana Lejava supports the development and execution of all activities within the Institute’s policy and advocacy portfolio. She provides critical research and writing support for GIWPS’ interventions in crisis response efforts and policy processes. She helps coordinate stakeholder engagement across the U.S. government, the United Nations, civil society, and the private sector. Specifically, she focuses on the Institute's Ukraine portfolio, Response Network and the Elevating and Connecting Global Women Leaders to Accelerate Progress on Gender Equality, Democracy, and Peace project. Previously, Ana worked as an advisor for the Permanent Mission of Georgia to the United Nations. She also served as a Young Ambassador of Georgia to the United States, using public diplomacy, arts, and culture to build stronger ties between the two countries.

Christina Vetter - Climate Policy Associate

Christina Vetter serves as the focal point for stakeholder engagement and policy advocacy to advance the Institute’s research on the nexus of climate, conflict, and gender. Prior to joining GIWPS, Christina worked in NGOs to influence UN policy on climate security and environmental protection, women, peace and security, and the protection of civilians at PAX for Peace and the Center for Civilians in Conflict. Her background also includes research and communications work at UNICEF, the US Department of State, and the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Riya Ou - Operations Support Associate

Riya Ou is the Operations Support Associate. She manages the daily operations of the institute, supports recruiting and onboarding processes, and assists the director of finance and administration with finance projects. Prior to joining GIWPS, Riya was a Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Learning intern at Vital Voices and a Journalism intern at Voice of America, Khmer Service. She holds a B.A. in Economics with a minor in Data Science from Gettysburg College, where she graduated cum laude and earned the Student Employee of the Year (2022-2023) award for her work at Musselman Library.

Colleen McMahon - Senior Associate, External Relations

Colleen is the Senior Associate of External Relations. Prior to joining GIWPS Colleen’s experience was in the nonprofit sector as the Program Coordinator for Girls on the Run, where she helped to grow the program into surrounding counties. Colleen has a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Social Science with a primary concentration in Public Service and a secondary concentration in Social Entrepreneurship from Florida State University where she graduated magna cum laude; and an M.Sc. in Human Rights from the University College Dublin, in Ireland where she graduated with first class honors. Colleen’s thesis was centered around women’s political participation and its impacts on sexual and gender-based violence.

Alexandra Gopin - Communications Associate

Alexandra is the Communications Associate. She manages all GIWPS social media accounts, maintains the website, and assists the director of communications with special projects. Prior to joining the team, Alexandra worked as the Social Media & Marketing Director for Community Minded and was a freelance reporter. She was also an editor for The Diamondback, the University of Maryland’s independent student newspaper. Alexandra holds a B.A. in Journalism with a concentration in Women’s Studies from the University of Maryland. In 2022, she took part in an award-winning investigation regarding Title IX violations in high school girl’s sports for Capital News Service. Her article was picked up by AP News, The Washington Post, and PBS NewsHour.

Kristine Baekgaard - Hillary Rodham Clinton Fellow

Kristine Baekgaard is the 2023-2024 Hillary Rodham Clinton Fellow. She contributes to the Institute’s research on masculinity, violence and peacebuilding, and supports multiple projects. Kristine previously worked for the Embassy of Denmark in the United States and with UK-based nonprofits combating gender-based violence. She holds a BSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics and an MA in Security Studies from Georgetown University. Her research interests include the construction of gender in military contexts through reproductive policy.

S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana - Affiliate GIWPS Researcher

Dr. S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana previously served as Associate Director and Assistant Professor of the Practice at Georgetown University’s MA Program in Conflict Resolution. Before coming to Georgetown University she served as a consultant for the Religion and Peacebuilding Program at United States Institute of Peace, and as an Assistant Professor in the field of Peace and Conflict Resolution at the School of International Service at American University, Washington D.C. Her research focuses on Muslim women’s peacebuilding initiatives, mediation and peace building, religion and conflict resolution, interfaith dialogue, Islamic approaches to war and peace, and Islam and nonviolence.

Akiko Horiba - Hillary Rodham Clinton Fellow on Gender Equity

Akiko Horiba is Program Director of the Asia Peace Initiative Department in the Sasakawa Peace Foundation with a focus on Southern Thailand, women’s political participation in Asia, and strengthening civil society networks in Southeast Asia. She has more than a decade of field research and on-the-ground peacebuilding experience in Southeast Asian countries, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Previously, Akiko worked as a policy secretary in the Japanese House of Representatives and was directly involved in promoting the WPS agenda because of her experience working in conflict areas and conviction that the role of women in conflict areas is increasing and women are the leaders of peace and reconstruction. She received a PhD in Area Studies (Indonesia, conflict analysis) from Sophia University, Japan and a Master of theological studies at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Massachusetts, USA.

Rangita de Silva de Alwis - Hillary Rodham Clinton Fellow on Gender Equity

Rangita is a renowned international women’s rights expert. She is Senior Adjunct Professor of Law and Global Leadership and served as the Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School where she teaches international women’s rights and a policy lab on AI and bias, among other courses. She started the Global Women’s Leadership Project and Women, Law & Leadership Lab at the University of Pennsylvania under the auspices of UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to map the laws that regulate the status of women in the family.

Dr. Robert Egnell - Senior Fellow

Robert Egnell (Ph.D. London) is Vice-Chancellor of the Swedish Defence University and a professor of leadership and command and control. He is also a senior fellow with the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security. Dr. Egnell is also a captain in the Swedish Army reserves with operational experience from the first Swedish battalion in Kosovo in 1999-2000. Dr. Egnell’s educational background includes a Ph.D. (2008) and an MA (2003) in War Studies from King’s College, London, a BA (2000) and an MA (2002) in literature at Uppsala University, and a BA (2002) in Political Science from Stockholm University.

Nagwan Soliman - Affiliate Scholar

Nagwan is a Nonresidential Scholar fellow at Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security at Georgetown University. Nagwan received her Ph.D. in social and political sciences from the European University Institute in Italy and her master’s in political science from Cairo University. Nagwan has also served as a regional trainer in conflict and peace studies, training activists from Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, and Turkey. She has contributed to designing Early Warning and Rapid Response networks (EWRR) and dialogue processes in many counties in the MENA region.