Program on Religion, Diplomacy and International Relations 2017-18 Student Fellows Selected

The Program on Religion, Diplomacy and International Relations (PORDIR) has selected 17 Princeton University undergraduate and graduate students as 2017-18 student fellows. The fellows were selected through a competitive application process. The fellows are: Reva Abrol, Lieutenant Johnathan Falcone, Jonathan Haynes, Marina Finley, Iskandar Haykel, Peter Koczanski, Casey Li, Abyssinia Lissanu, Rebekah Ninan, Caitlin Quinn, Jocelyn Reckford, Alejandro Roig, Alonso Soto, Michael Smerconish, Alexandra Veyne, Cara Yi, and Shafaq Khan. The theme for this year's program is "Religion and Cyber." PORDIR fellows participate in weekly lunch seminars, conduct original research, and participate PORDIR's annual colloquium. 

About the PORDIR Fellows

Reva Abrol is a senior majoring in Politics (International Relations track) with certificates in History and the Practice of Diplomacy and Spanish. She was born in Brooklyn, New York to Hindu Indian immigrant parents and grew up studying Vedic scriptures at Saturday school. Her academic interests include international law, international development, transnational mobilization for human rights, ethnic conflict, and security studies. As a PORDIR fellow, she hopes to examine possible intersections between crypto-anarchism and religious fundamentalism. On campus, she is a Head Fellow at the Writing Center, an undergraduate fellow with the Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, and a member of the Black Arts Company: Dance.

Lieutenant Johnathan Falcone is an active duty Naval officer, and a MPA candidate at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. He most recently served as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer onboard USS JOHN S MCCAIN, forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. Over the past two years he sailed across the Western Pacific Ocean in support of freedom of navigation, multi-national training exercises, and presence operations. Prior to his tour in Japan, he served onboard USS GONZALEZ as the Strike Warfare and Maritime Interdiction Officer. As a PORDIR fellow, LT Falcone is interested in exploring the impact of regional religions on inter-state diplomacy. Prior to commissioning in 2013, he worked as an Investment Banker and earned a B.A. in Economics from Yale University.

Jonathan Haynes is a sophomore and prospective politics concentrator, earning certificates in African American Studies and American Studies. Academically, Jonathan hopes to explore the relationship between intra-country religious formation and international policy.  On campus, Jonathan is active developing programs for the Black student and alumni community. Jonathan is also heavily involved as a leader in the Pace Center. 

Marina Finley is a junior majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and pursuing certificates in East Asian Studies and Chinese Language and Culture. She is focusing her studies on economic development and the intersection of business and public policy in emerging markets. On campus, Marina is the Asia Pacific Managing Editor of American Foreign Policy, a National Board Member of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations, an Executive Board Member of the Princeton U.S.-China Coalition and very involved in Princeton's Pace Center for Civic Engagement. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Marina has studied Mandarin Chinese for six years and hopes to one day live and work in China.

Iskandar Haykel was born in Oxford and raised in New York City for most of his life. He was educated in the french system and had a multi-cultural upbringing thanks to his multi-national family. Iskandar discovered philosophy in his final year of high-school and plans to pursue academia in philosophy post-graduation. His intended areas of specialty are metaphysics, metaethics and philosophy of law.

Peter Koczanski is a junior from Winnipeg, Canada majoring in Economics. His independent research focuses on topics in applied microeconomics - this year, he'll be examining the economics of pro-social behavior. Within the PORDIR fellowship, he’s particularly interested in exploring how the rise of technology – both in terms of providing positive tools as well as the threat of governments’ using it in malevolent ways – has altered the organization of religious minorities in Eastern Europe. On campus, Peter is involved with the various organizations under the umbrella of the Economics Department, the Princeton Debate Panel, and the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club.

Casey Li was born and raised in New York, and is currently a junior studying Computer Science with a certificate in East Asian Studies. On campus, you’ll find her playing club lacrosse and organizing fasting and prayer initiatives for Princeton Faith & Action. She also plays electric guitar for Princeton University Gospel Ensemble and has been involved in the Entrepreneurship Club as an organizer for HackPrinceton. Casey’s interest in religion, diplomacy, and international relations is largely connected to her experience coordinating interfaith conversation on Princeton's campus through Muslim-Christian Dialogue. She believes in the importance of interfaith dialogue and is optimistic about its role in connecting different cultures and societies as well as fostering greater global awareness among our leaders. 

Abyssinia Lissanu is a first-year MPA student in the Woodrow Wilson School. Hailing from Somerset, KY, she also attended Princeton for her undergraduate, studying politics and Spanish. Her interest in human rights work led her to a year-long fellowship with the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress in San José, Costa Rica. She plans to work for the federal government from 2018-2020 as part of the Scholars in the Nation's Service Initiative (SINSI).

Rebekah Ninan is a junior from Nashville Tennessee. She is in the Politics department focusing on International Relations and pursuing certificates in South Asian Studies and the History and Practice of Diplomacy. Her academic interests include civil and ethnic conflicts, responses to mass atrocities, refugee movements, proxy terrorist organizations, and power dynamics in South Asia. Outside the classroom, she is a Residential College Advisor and is involved with the Whig-Cliosophic Society, Princeton Debate Panel, Naacho Dance Company, Princeton Clay Project, and LISD’s Project on Women in the Global Community.

Caitlin Quinn is a senior in the Woodrow Wilson School, pursuing certificates in Latin American Studies and Portuguese. An alumna of Princeton's Bridge Year Program in Salvador, Brazil, she has also studied and interned abroad in Toledo and Málaga, Spain; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Belfast, Northern Ireland. On campus, she is involved at the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. She is interested in both domestic and foreign policy, and her independent work focuses on immigration policy in the United States.

Jocelyn Reckford is a sophomore from Chapel Hill, NC.  She plans on majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School, with potential certificates in East Asian Studies, Cognitive Science, and Global Health.  When she was young she lived in Beijing for five years, and she has a deep attachment to China and US-China relations.  On campus Jocelyn is an officer of the club tennis travel team, a member of the Princeton-US China Coalition, a consultant for Princeton Business Volunteers, and a Peer Academic Advisor.

Alejandro Roig is a member of the Class of 2021 at Princeton and intends to concentrate in History. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese and is particularly interested in Latin American history and culture. When not engaged in academics, Alejandro enjoys his time cycling and listening to music, particularly songs at the intersection of jazz, hip-hop, and folk.

Alonso Soto started his journalism career reporting on immigration and labor unions in Chicago for Reuters before heading to Ecuador for a 12-year tour through Latin America. Witness of the rise and fall of a leftist wave in the region, Alonso wrote about everything from shocking foreign debt defaults to a catastrophic earthquake and the impeachment of a president. Growing up in a country torn by civil war and economic chaos, Alonso has focused on public policy in Latin America with the last six years devoted to covering economics in one of the world’s biggest economies, Brazil.

Michael Smerconish is a senior at Princeton, majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School. On campus, Michael is a Writing Center Fellow, a tutor for Prison Tutoring Initiative, an editor of the Writing Center’s Journal Tortoise, and a member of Princeton Effective Altruists. Upon graduating this spring, Michael plans to pursue graduate programs prior to attending law school. He hopes to further his studies in religion and public policy at the University of Oxford, where he studied during the fall semester of his junior year.

Alexandra Veyne is a freshman planning on majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs with either a certificate in Near Eastern Studies or the History and Practice of Diplomacy. Her areas of interest include conflict resolution, human rights, international security, and diplomacy; she hopes to pursue a career where she can facilitate dialogue between misunderstood and subsequently hostile parties. Alexandra was born and raised in France.

Cara Yi is a junior in the Woodrow Wilson School studying power politics, crisis management, and peace negotiations through the lens of international trade. Her studies have primarily centralized in East Asia, but she is beginning to explore the Middle East and North Africa regions as well especially in her work with the Arab Barometer through the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice. Aside from her academic interests, Cara enjoys hiking, writing short-stories, and singing and playing the piano.

Shafaq Khan is a freshman from Long Island, New York. Currently, she is interested in studying philosophy and politics at Princeton. On campus, she is involved in the College Democrats, Model Congress, and the Muslim Students Association (MSA). Through this program, she hopes to better understand religion, authority, politics, and the law, and how they function in the context of human rights. 


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.