Program on Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations 2016-17 Student Fellows Selected

The Program on Religion, Diplomacy and International Relations (PORDIR) has selected twenty 2016-17 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 Empire."

About the Fellows:

Maya Aronoff is a sophomore planning to major in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, with certificates in Near Eastern Studies and the History and Practice of Diplomacy, reflecting her interests in human and civil rights, conflict resolution, refugee affairs, diplomacy, and international law. Though she has spent her time at Princeton expanding her knowledge of different countries and regions, she has a particular attachment to the Middle East, having studied in Israel and in Turkey, and having focused on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict specifically.

Claire Ashmead is a senior from Cleveland, Ohio majoring in Intellectual History with certificates in East Asian Studies, Humanistic Studies, and Creative Writing. Her senior History thesis is a comparative study of McCarthyism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Her senior fiction thesis is a novel exploring what it means to be a daughter and a granddaughter. On campus she writes for the Princeton Triangle Club, acts in French theater troupe l'Avant-Scène, tutors at Garden State Prison, and is a committed member of the Human Values Forum. 

Hammad Aslam is a senior in the Near Eastern Studies Department with certificates in Finance, European Cultural Studies and South Asian Studies. Hammad was born and raised in Pakistan before moving to the States with his family, and possesses a deep personal and academic interest in the Greater Middle Eastern and South Asian international relations, as well as human rights and civil liberties. He has explored the nuances of modern Islamic practices in his courses and studies Islamic philosophy and Sufism in the context of Western philosophical theories. For his senior thesis, he hopes to deliberate on self-determination and the validity of ethnic identity in the creation of nation-states. In the long term, Hammad hopes to marry his interest in international relations and foreign policy with finance and focus on the Greater Middle East, South Asia and the Mediterranean.

Atakan Baltaci is a sophomore from Turkey, who will most likely concentrate at the Woodrow Wilson School. He is planning on pursuing a certificate in Environmental Studies or Near Eastern Studies or both. Passionate about international affairs, he is active with the Model UN team on campus and has taken part in conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is also an avid photographer and takes pictures for the Daily Princetonian. As a PORDIR Fellow his research interests include Turkish politics, specifically Turkish relations with neighboring Arab states, and the intersection between religion and nationalism.

Annabel Barry is a sophomore in the English department, considering certificates in Interdisciplinary Humanistic Studies and Theater. Annabel has conducted research on the poetic and theatrical underpinnings of Irish self-determination, and on cultural portrayals of Irish nationalist religious institutions. She is interested in continuing to research the intersections of religious and literary modes of self-determination in the Irish context and beyond. Annabel is an undergraduate research fellow in the Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, a set designer for Theatre Intime, an assistant essay editor and copy editor for the Nassau Literary Review, and a volunteer tutor in the New Jersey Department of Corrections with the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program. 

Miriam Friedman is a sophomore and prospective Politics major from Long Island, New York. Before coming to Princeton, Miriam spent a year in Israel studying politics, philosophy and biblical texts. Since then, Miriam has visited a number of other countries including India, Hungry, and Romania studying the intersection of religion and politics. Miriam has a particular interest in the conflict in the Middle-East, and more generally, the way in which war infringes on human rights.On campus, she serves on the board of the Center for Jewish Life, Tigers for Israel, and the David Project.

William Gansa is a senior in the History Department pursuing an Applications of Computing Certificate. Before matriculating at Princeton, he spent a year in Varanasi, India, working for NGO focused on women's literacy and micro loans.  It was in Varanasi that his interest in the intersection of religion and politics took shape.  On campus, Will co-founded 1080princeton, a visual journalism organization, and has worked with the Petey Greene Program.  Internships at PBS and VICE media provided him with valuable insights into the worlds of traditional and new media.  Will is from Los Angeles, California.

Becca Keener is a senior in the Religion department pursuing certificates in Near Eastern Studies and Arabic Language and Culture. She is broadly interested in the interaction of law and policy with the lived experience of religious communities. Her senior thesis is focused on the unintended consequences of American-led religious freedom promotion efforts in Syria. She developed this interest through studying Arabic in Jordan, analyzing the religious dynamics of foreign policy decisions in the Middle East during an internship with the State Department's Office of Religion and Global Affairs and working in Tel Aviv with Amnesty International in the refugee division. On campus, she is involved with Princeton Against Sex Trafficking, Breakout and Princeton Faith and Action. 

Stefan Kondic grew up in Belgrade, Serbia. He graduated with honors from Amherst College in 2016, where he majored in political science and received the Five College International Relations Certificate. Stefan’s academic interests are multilateral diplomacy and intergovernmental organizations and institutions, particularly the United Nations system. In college, he explored these issues through an academic, extracurricular and professional lens, taking courses and writing an honors thesis on the U.N., serving as president of the United Nations Association of Serbia’s Youth Section since 2011, and interning at the U.N. office in Serbia. Through his involvement, he has had the chance to visit twenty countries, and has striven to create more opportunities for young people in his own country. After graduation, Stefan hopes to find a job working in negotiation and conflict management.

Jonathan Liebman is a senior in the Woodrow Wilson School pursuing a certificate in French Language and Culture. His academic and independent research focuses on the intersection of law, institutions, and international relations; he is particularly interested in exploring the nexus of religion and politics in this context with the PORDIR fellowship. On campus Jonathan currently is an RCA in Butler College and a Head Fellow at the Writing Center, and has previously been active with the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. Originally hailing from Vermont, Jonathan has lived and worked in Morocco, Benin, and France. 

Justinas Mickus is a junior in the Politics department, having chosen International Relations as his primary field of study. In addition to the concentration, he is pursuing certificates in History and the Practice of Diplomacy, as well as Contemporary European Politics and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. His primary interests include how European integration affects domestic power dynamics in the EU member states, EU foreign policy studies, EU-Russia relations, and studies of political and economic transition.

Christine Östlund is a Swedish Master in Public Affairs candidate at the Woodrow Wilson School, focusing on international relations and international economic policy. Before coming to Princeton, Christine worked for three years with European Union economic governance for the Swedish Ministry of Finance. As a PORDIR fellow, Christine is particularly interested in how European states' relation to religion varies and how this comes into play in EU cooperation, not least in regard to the ongoing migration crisis. 

Amma Prempeh is a sophomore and prospective Anthropology major, earning certificates in Global Health Policy and African Studies. The daughter of Ghanaian immigrants and raised in the diverse San Francisco Bay Area, she is interested in the impact of religion on migration and foreign aid, especially between Sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe. She also considers the return to traditional Afro-religious practices in globalized Black diaspora communities. At Princeton, she is an organizing member of the International Relations Council, chair for DoroBucci Dance Company, and fundraiser with Tropical Clinics for Rural Health Activism. She is also a baker at the Murray-Dodge Cafe, serving free cookies and a community space. 

Julia Reed is a second year in the Master’s in Public Affairs Program at the Woodrow Wilson School, focusing on international relations, civil-military affairs, and organizational management.  She is the co-chair of the Woodrow Wilson Action Committee, WWS’ graduate student government and is also active in the Graduate Women of Color Caucus, the Princeton Refugee Project, and the Aquinas Institute. Prior to graduate school, she served for six years in the federal government, most recently as the Assistant and Advisor to the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget. Prior to working at OMB, she served in the Office of the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace and the Political Military Affairs bureau at the Department of State. Julia has a B.A. in Government from Smith College, and is from Seattle Washington.

Jorge Silva Tapia is a senior in the economics department at Princeton University from Arequipa, Peru pursuing certificates in political economy and African studies. His interest in international development has led him to volunteer at educational NGOs in Peru, Tanzania and Malaysia and to intern for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome. On campus, Jorge has been the co-president of the International Students Association and a board member of the Princeton Development Lab and Natives at Princeton. As a PORDIR fellow, Jorge is interested in assessing the political, economic and social implications of the rise of religiously motivated separatist movements in the central Sahel.

Masako Toyoda is a third year undergraduate student pursuing a major in Philosophy, as well as certificates in Chinese Language and Applications of Computing. Born in Kobe, Japan, she has spent her academic life in the United States, having lived in Boston, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia, where she now resides. Masako has spent nearly every summer before her college matriculation studying in Japan; she is natively fluent in English and Japanese, and conversationally proficient in Chinese. She is most heavily interested in East Asian diplomacy, specifically the relationships between China, Korea, and Japan in the 20th century as well as today. With her PORDIR fellowship she hopes to research Chinese and Japanese history, specifically where they overlap, to explore philosophically sound plans to improve their historically recent, strained relationship in ways that focus not only on economic agreements but also on ethnic and religious understanding.

Aleksandar Vladicic is a sophomore from Bosnia and Herzegovina concentrating in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International affairs prospectively pursuing certificates in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and Statistics and Machine Learning. His broad interests involve diplomacy, international security and politics of development. On campus, Aleksandar is involved with the International Relations Council, the Model United Nations team and the United World Colleges network. 

Major Hugh “Hoot” Walker is an active duty Air Force officer, and a MPP candidate at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. He most recently served as the Director of Operations for the 16th Weapons Squadron at the United States Air Force Weapons School. Maj. Walker was commissioned in 2004 as a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, and since then has served as an instructor at the United States Air Force Weapons School, joint operational planning expert, joint/coalition integration expert, and as an operational advisor to multiple research labs and government think tanks. With 725 combat hours and over 2,000 total hours flying the F-16, he has supported contingency operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Following graduation from Princeton, Major Walker plans to continue his service in leadership roles throughout the Air Force. 

Eric Wang is a junior in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, pursuing a certificate in East Asian Studies. His academic interests include constitutional and international law, Chinese domestic politics, and international relations in East Asia. Coming from a Christian background and having interned at the State Department in China this past summer, he seeks to explore the intersection of Christianity, diplomacy, and rule of law in China. Eric is the Co-President of Princeton US-China Coalition, a research assistant for the Woodrow Wilson School, and the Outreach Chair of Manna Christian Fellowship.  

Sadiki Wiltshire is a Senior studying East Asian Security Studies and Physics. Prior to his freshman year he spent a year living in Western China through the Princeton Bridge Year Program. While based in Kunming, Yunnan Sadiki volunteered at the non-governmental organization Heart to Heart Community Care, where he facilitate educational campaigns, and "Fight Domestic Violence" Campaign. While at Princeton, Sadiki has competed in the Princeton Corporate Finance Case competition where his team was one of three to place for their theoretical model of corporate expansion into Western China. In 2015, Sadiki’s junior paper research on STEM expansion and increasing nuclear capabilities in mainland China was awarded the Manfred Pyka Memorial Prize in Physics. Throughout his undergraduate career Sadiki completed internships in 和创科技有限公司, the leading producer of SaaS mobile technology in mainland China as well as completed the UChicago Project on Security and Terrorism's (CPOST) UChicago-Peking University Summer Institute on IR Theory and Methods. In 2015, Sadiki founded the Princeton U.S.-China Coalition: Princeton's first organization dedicated to training future leaders of U.S.-China relations. Sadiki is also an editor of Stanford Law School's China Guiding Cases Project. Sadiki is interested in cybersecurity, terrorism, and preventing interstate conflict.


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.