Program on Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations 2015-16 Student Fellows Selected

The Program on Religion, Diplomacy and International Relations (PORDIR) has selected nineteen 2015-16 Fellows in Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations through a competitive application process. PORDIR fellows participate in weekly lunch seminars, conduct original research, and participate PORDIR's annual colloquium. The theme for this year's PORDIR program is "Religion and Strategy."

About the Fellows:

Tumise Asebiomo is a senior in the Politics Department with certificates in Near Eastern Studies and French Language and Culture. Through her coursework and independent research, Tumise has actively engaged with her interests in the women’s question, as well as notions of democracy, freedom, and political thought in the Arab World. Because of these interests and her language experience with French and Arabic, she focuses on how the revolutions of the Arab Spring are impacting the status of women and political development in Tunisia specifically. Currently, Tumise serves as a Research Assistant to the Bobst Center for Peace and Justice in order to further her pursuit of knowledge and truth when thinking about issues related to religion, diplomacy, and international relations. In the long term, Tumise plans to attend law school and pursue a career in policy analysis and political advisory related to the Near East.

Matthieu Basselier is a junior in Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of public and international affairs and Department of Philosophy. A French visiting student from Institut d’Etudes politiques de Paris (‘Sciences-Po’) and Paris-Sorbonne university’s department of Philosophy, Matthieu enjoys crossing political and geopolitical issues with philosophical, metaphysical, ethical and religious approaches. Belonging to the Catholic Church has made him become very sensitive to the interactions between national policies and religious influences, claims and identities. As a citizen of the European Union, he feels also deeply concerned with the current migrant crisis and the religious concerns connected with, such as the shaping or European identity and the dialogue between Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions. He has a great interest in East-West relations, and the place that religion has had in designing East-West relations and mutual representations across history. Apart from this topic, Matthieu would like also further explore the interactions between international law and religious legal thought, such as Christian natural law tradition. Besides the PORDIR fellowship, Matthieu is member of Princeton’s European Union Program and James Madison Program in American ideals and institutions.

Irene Burke is a senior in the Politics Department pursuing certificates in Humanistic Studies and Spanish Language.  Her international work and study in Peru, Chile, Greece, and India has informed her interest in economic development and the challenge of preserving regional history and culture.  On campus, she is involved with the Princeton University Art Museum, the Bridge Year Program, Princeton Traveler Magazine, the Office of International Programs, and service through the Pace Center.

Aleksandra Czulak is a junior in the Economics department and pursuing certificates in Global Health & Health Policy and Information Technology and Society. On campus, she is involved with the Undergraduate Student Government as the Vice President, Students for Education Reform, and Princeton's Entrepreneurship Club. 

Originally from Maryland, Pete Erickson is an Infantry officer serving in the United States Army.  After commissioning from the US Military Academy at West Point, Pete served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in a variety of operational units.  His current research interests include civil military relations, religion and society, and the rise of the Islamic State.  Following his studies at Princeton, Pete will return to the Army.

Maria Maddalena Giungi, 2015-16 Thomas W. Smith Postdoctoral Research Associate, holds a Ph.D. in Public Law from the University of Milan. In 2007 and 2009, she completed a Bachelor and a Masters degree in Moral Philosophy and Ethics at the Catholic University of Milan. She was visiting scholar at Notre Dame Law School in 2008, under the supervision of Professor Paolo Carozza; and in 2013. In 2014-2015 she was visiting doctoral student at the Oxford Law Faculty (Michaelmas Term 2014), where she completed her doctoral dissertation under the supervision of Professor Paul Yowell. Her dissertation focused on fundamental rights protection within the European Union constitutional system, with special reference to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency - i.e. a monitoring agency created to assist the EU institutions in their policy making activities, and to reinforce a common awareness of fundamental rights as general values of the EU. Her current research interests are focused on three areas: EU fundamental rights protection and constitutionalization, the legal concept of human dignity, and legal issues related to surrogacy practices. Her postdoctoral project extends her doctoral research focusing on the EU strategies for the creation of a common culture of fundamental rights and values in comparison with other constitutional systems.

George Grealy is a freshman planning to major in Economics and pursue a Medieval Studies Certificate. He has a strong interest in religion's role as a transnational force and as both a strengthener and a subverter of national authority. The different political and institutional paths that religions with common origins have taken, also fascinates him. At Princeton, George also works on WPRB's News & Culture show, participates in Whig-Clio events, and is a member of PUCC. His other diversions and interests include art, particularly watercolors, colonial America and the Revolution, canoeing, and Irish history.

Jacqueline Gufford is a junior in the Art and Archeology department pursuing a certificate in Italian Language and Culture. Her independent work focuses on the intersection of art and law, including cultural policy and art restitution. Jacqueline’s academic background also includes studies in constitutional law, development, and international relations. She has previously interned with Innovations for Successful Societies and the Medici Archive Project in Florence, Italy. Upon graduation she hopes to pursue a degree in law. Outside of academic pursuits, Jacqueline is a Student Captain at Mendel Music Library and enjoys films and literature.

Andrew Hanna is a senior in the Department of Near Eastern Studies with a focus on contemporary North African politics. His interest in the Middle East and Islam stems from his family's experience as Christians living in Egypt, as well as time spent in the region immediately following the Arab Spring protests. Andrew spent the Spring 2015 semester studying abroad in Morocco and is now conducting research on the formulation of Moroccan nationalism in regards to the Amazigh community for his senior thesis.

Sarah Jacobs is a senior from Massachusetts studying Near Eastern Studies and pursuing a certificate in African Studies. She has interned for the US Department of State Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor, for Friends of the Earth Middle East, an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian eco-peace group, and for GiveWell. She has also worked on domestic violence policy for American and Arab-Israeli women. On campus, Sarah has founded a student branch of a local suicide hotline and a pluralistic Jewish prayer group.

Major Michael Kelvington is an active duty Infantry officer in the US Army. He is currently attending the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University as a Downing Scholar working on an MPA focused on International Relations. He has served in numerous operational jobs in conventional and special operations units over the past ten years including seven deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor and two Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in combat.

Originally from Cheyenne, Wyoming, Kelsey Montgomery graduated from Grinnell College in 2011 with a degree in political science. While at Grinnell, she spent a summer studying in Arles, France and a semester in London where she worked at Canary Wharf Group’s public affairs office. After graduation, she spent three years in Washington, D.C. working for Wyoming’s U.S. Senators John Barroso and Mike Enzi. This past summer, she interned at the U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels in the Office of the Defense Advisor. 

Amna Qayyum is a second year PhD student in the History Department, focusing on Modern South Asia. Her research interests include the histories of global development, state-formation, and resource administration - primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Prior to her graduate studies, she has worked on USAID and US Department of State educational exchange, democracy and governance projects in Pakistan.

Mikhael Smits is an Orthodox Jew and sophomore from France likely concentrating in the Woodrow Wilson School. His fields of interest include U.S. politics, international jurisprudence, counterterrorism, self-determination, and all things Middle East. He is the president of the Alexander Hamilton Society's Princeton chapter and on the executive councils of the American Enterprise Institute on Campus and the Princeton Program in Law and Public Affairs. He is active with Tigers for Israel, College Republicans, Princeton Debate Panel and Model United Nations team. He is currently a fellow in the James Madison Program and an assistant simulation director for the Center for International Security Studies. To bolster religious life on campus, he also serves on the boards of Scharf Family Chabad House and the Center for Jewish Life. He races with the cycling team in his free time.

Ann Thompson is a US Army veteran and a 2015 Pat Tillman Military Scholar. As an undergraduate at Stanford University, she participated in the Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law honors program and interned at World Vision, developing a passion for responsibly leveraging U.S.-backed assistance to the world’s most vulnerable populations. After commissioning as a military intelligence officer, she deployed to Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade and later worked at U.S. Army Africa. Her experiences while serving in the military strengthened her commitment to a public service-oriented career, leading her to the Woodrow Wilson School. As a PORDIR fellow, she is interested in international religious freedom and the foreign policy implications of religion's global resurgence, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.

Durva Trivedi is a junior from Naperville, Illinois. She is majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School and pursuing a certificate in South Asian Studies. On campus, she is a senior news writer for the Daily Princetonian, a research intern for Innovations for Successful Societies, and a co-President of Princeton Hindu Satsangam. Her research interests include communication and media, international human rights, and conflict resolution.

Olivia Wicki is a Swiss sophomore in the English department and is pursuing a certificate in Values and Public Life. Born and raised in Zurich and a product of the international school system, she loves to ski, chocolate and direct democracy. At Princeton she writes for several campus publications, works with the Davis Center, enjoys writing poetry, is committed to various service projects and plays badminton competitively. A recent Journalism internship in Mumbai reignited and confirmed her interest in religion, diplomacy and international relations. She looks forward to delving into the intersection between religion and politics, with a particular focus on cultural integration and issues of religious freedom in European nations.

Simon Wu and is a junior Art History major, with certificates in Visual Arts and Chinese Language and Culture. He is interested in the role art plays in society, urban spaces, and the larger political sphere. He has done work in the role of artists in gentrification in NYC and creative place-making. As a PORDIR fellow he will focus on reconciling his personal religious Buddhist beliefs with those presented in the media about the persecution of Rohinga Muslims in the Rakhine state. Born in Burma, the Buddhism that he grew up being taught is entirely different than the one that he sees in violence today. He hopes to find ways to rationalize these conflicts, and hopefully in the process think of practical means of alleviating these tensions in the world. 


Established in 2007, the Program on Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations offers students and faculty at Princeton University the opportunity to study, reflect, and generate ideas and publications concerning the multiple intersections of religion, diplomacy and international relations. PORDIR aims to explore the influence of religion and religious beliefs in the conduct of international relations, diplomacy and politics; facilitate discussions about religion and international relations in a neutral, non-ideological forum; encourage interdisciplinary, inter-generational, international and interreligious exchanges among students, scholars and policy practitioners; and promotes research, teaching and publication relating to religion and international relations.

A key component of PORDIR is the opportunity for a cohort of undergraduate and graduate students – representing a range of religious, academic and ideological perspectives – to participate as Fellows in Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations. Fellows conduct research projects, participate in weekly lunch seminars, and present their independent research at an end of the semester event. The objective of these weekly seminars is to facilitate a scholarly environment that provides academic guidance, opportunities for peer-to-peer critique and encourages an interdisciplinary approach to the broad topics of religion, diplomacy, and international relations. These seminars provide fellows access to visiting researchers, political figures, and religious leaders who visit the weekly sessions as guest speakers. The sessions are a unique opportunity for fellows to voice their opinions, test hypothesizes, and learn from a diverse array of people. Past PORDIR fellows have come from a variety of departments and programs, bringing their specific academic backgrounds and interdisciplinary methodologies to bear on key issues related to religion, diplomacy, and international relations.

Independent research is the cornerstone of the PORDIR program, through the course of which students take advantage of the academic resources available to them. Fellows are expected to pursue independent, academically rigorous research throughout the term of the fellowship and to present their final article-length research papers (max 15 pages). In previous years, PORDIR fellows have submitted their research papers for publication, have used their research as a basis for future thesis and dissertation work, and have utilized their research through the course of internships at such places as the UN, State Department, and a variety of international NGOs. Past research papers have engaged such topics as Christian and Islamic Theories of Just War, Development and Religion; Human Rights in Islam; Taxes and Religion; The Politics of Sainthood; Religious Communities and Prevention of HIV in Africa; and Crisis Diplomacy and Religion.