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Josef Korbel School of International StudiesSié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security & Diplomacy

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Student Research Assistants

PhD Research Fellows  

Chuck Aoki, Research Fellow
Chuck is a PhD student in International Studies at the Korbel School in Denver. He is currently working as a research assistant for Dr. Rachel Epstein on various ongoing projects. His research interests include civil-military relations and the way in which changes in military technology will affect these relationships, particularly with regards to drones and autonomous weapons. Alongside this, he is also interested in how advances in technology will change intrastate conflicts, particularly between militant groups and state actors. He is also interested in how development projects can be more inclusive of persons with disabilities. Prior to Korbel, Chuck received his master's degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota, with a graduate minor in program evaluation. He earned his bachelor's degree from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN in secondary education, where he was named the most outstanding graduate of his class. Chuck has also been a member of Team USA Wheelchair Rugby at the last two Paralympic Games, earning a bronze medal at the 2012 London Paralympics, and a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, and is currently training for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, where he hopes to help bring home a gold medal.


Laura Siltanen Hosman, Research Fellow
Laura is a PhD student at the Korbel School in the fields of International Relations and Comparative Politics. She currently serves as a Production Editor for the Journal of Global Security Studies (JoGSS), and a Research Assistant overseeing and coordinating all data coding for Professor Tricia Olsen's Corporations and Human Rights Database (CHRD) Project. Prior she served as a Research Assistant coding data for Professor Erica Chenoweth's External Support NAVCO Database Project. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2008 with a BA in Political Science. She earned her JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2013, where she served as Production Editor for the Journal of Islamic Law & Culture and a Research Assistant to Professor Uche Ewelukwa, S.J.D. Laura's current research interests focus on the intersection between global governance, business, and human rights; the impact of human rights prosecutions and transitional justice on democratization; and the likelihood of judicial defection under non-democracies. Prior to entering the PhD program, Laura worked for Legal Aid of Arkansas where she represented indigent clients in domestic violence cases. Laura currently lives in Denver with her dog Catherine and works as a volunteer debate coach with the Denver East High School speech and debate team. She enjoys running marathons and hiking.


Sooyeon KangSooyeon Kang, Research Fellow
Sooyeon is a PhD student in International Studies at the Josef Korbel School and a research fellow working on the Major Episodes of Contention data project at the Sié Center. She earned her MA in International Affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and double majored in Government and Psychology at Dartmouth College. Her recent professional experiences include developing content for a HarvardX/ Harvard Humanitarian Initiative course on "Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster," contingency planning for change in North Korea at the Joseon Institute, and assessing grant acquisition and management strategies for World Vision International. Her current research interests include unconventional warfare, state-building, and understanding the calculus behind violent and nonviolent resistance. Her extracurricular experiences include running the Boston Marathon (2012), scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, golfing and playing basketball with her husband and their friends.


Pauline Moore, Research Fellow 
Pauline Moore is a PhD candidate at the Korbel School in the fields of International Relations and Comparative Politics, as well as a research fellow on the MEC data project, and a Production Editor for the Journal of Global Security Studies. Her research seeks to understand the patterns of interaction between armed groups and civilians during civil war, and her dissertation examines the role of social embeddedness on conflict dynamics. Together with Erica Chenoweth, Pauline recently completed the book The Politics of Terror (Oxford University Press, 2018). She received her BA in International Studies from Middlebury College and an MA in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Before the beginningherPhD program, Pauline consulted on the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in Africa and Latin America and worked at Conservation International's Carbon Fund.


Christopher Shay, Research Fellow

Christopher Shay
Christopher Shay is a PhD student in International Studies at Korbel and a research fellow on the  NAVCO data project. His research interests focus on transitional justice and security sector reform, with special emphasis on human rights prosecutions and their effects on regime stability and state-on-citizen violence. Christopher also provides analysis on the Naxalite Conflict in East India for the International Institute of Strategic Studies' Armed Conflict Database. Christopher received a master's degree (with distinction) in peace and conflict studies from Uppsala University (Sweden), where he subsequently researched armed conflicts in South Asia for the Uppsala Conflict Data Program. Prior to graduate school, Christopher worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a fire ecology research assistant and wildland firefighter, and with the National Parks Service as a trail crew leader.

Graduate and Undergraduate Research Assistants

Deema Almoayyed, Research Assistant
Originally from the Kingdom of Bahrain, Deema completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, where she majored in Finance and Commercial Law. She then returned home and pursued a career in research and management consulting for several prominent governmental organizations. Through this work, she familiarized herself with local development programs targeting women, students, farmers, and other segments of Bahraini society, and took an interest in international development. In line with her passion for women's rights, she also held a volunteer position as a crisis advocate for Women's Crisis Care International, where she provided advocacy services for victims of domestic and sexual abuse in Bahrain. Deema has been granted the Fulbright scholarship to study at the Josef Korbel School, where she plans to pursue an MA in International Development and center her research on gender and development, with a primary focus on the Middle East.


Leah Breevoort, Research Assistant
Leah Breevoort is an M.A. candidate in International Human Rights with concentrations in Humanitarian Assistance and Forced Labor & Human Trafficking. Her research interests include refugee policy, with a regional focus on the Middle East, and the intersection of securitized borders and human trafficking. She graduated with honors from the University of Georgia with a degree in broadcast journalism and minor in film studies, which she parlayed into a communications and marketing career working for an international disaster relief and first-aid organization. Leah also spent a year teaching English in Israel where she developed a video production program for teens which aimed to break down stereotypes and discrimination within Israeli society. Prior to her studies at DU, Leah lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia volunteering with a human rights organization working with minority groups to advocate for citizenship, land, and education rights. She then returned to Washington, DC where she shaped communications and advocacy efforts for a USAID non-profit contractor focusing on economic growth in the developing world. After completing her degree, Leah plans to address the immediate needs of children living in refugee camps, particularly by resolving protection gaps and ensuring they have access to adequate education. At the University of Denver, when she's not acting as Deputy Director of the Human Trafficking Center, researching for the Inclusive Global Leadership Initiative, or interning with the International Rescue Committee, Leah enjoys taking long hikes in the beautiful Colorado mountains.


Kelci Burckhardt, Research Assistant
Originally from Alabama, Kelci graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2008 with a degree in global health policy and minor in chemistry. She spent eight years as an analyst in the federal government before beginning her master's degree in international studies at the Korbel School. Kelci's academic interests include conflict resolution, political psychology, institution building and development in post-conflict societies, and sub-Saharan Africa.


Joseph Digby, Research Assistant
Joseph is a Research Assistant with the Private Security Monitor project at the Sié Center. A graduate student pursuing an MA in International Security, his goal is to become an analyst for a government agency or a research think tank. At the Josef Korbel School, he is exploring his interest in emerging forms of warfare and how to meet the challenges posed by them. He graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 2016 with a BA in Political Science and Minors in Public Policy and Asian Studies. While at Case Western he spent a summer as a research intern at a policy think tank in Cleveland, Ohio, focusing mainly on tax and sustainability policies. Born in Toronto, Canada, he is a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Summer Downs, Research Assistant
Summer Downs is an MA candidate in International Administration and a Colorado native. She graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Global Development Studies from Seattle Pacific University, complemented by numerous distinctions and awards. Summer has extensive experience working with NGOs in locations such as Ghana, Rwanda, northern Iraq, Greece, Guatemala, the Philippines, and Thailand. Her interests as an aspiring scholar-practitioner include complex emergencies, sexual violence, psychosocial trauma, health, and humanitarian assistance, with a regional focus on East Africa. She is currently working on becoming fluent in Swahili, and she also plans on earning a degree in International Disaster Psychology at DU.


Rebecca Duke, Research Assistant
Rebecca is an MA candidate in the International Security Program. Raised in Indiana, she attended Hanover College where she earned a BA in International Studies and Spanish with minors in history and political science. Additionally, Rebecca has studied abroad in Spain and Belgium. Through her studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, Rebecca has developed an interest in the Gender, Peace, and Security field, particularly in post-conflict settings. Rebecca is a co-president of Denver Women in International Security which focuses on developing a network for women in the international security field. 


Bilen Gurara, Research Assistant 
Bilen is an MA candidate in Global Finance, Trade, and Economic Integration. She is from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Bilen holds degrees in Economics from Addis Ababa University. She was involved in various research projects when she was working at the Ethiopian Development Research Institute. Her academic research interests include political economy, development in sub-Saharan Africa, economic integration and socio-economic policies in developing countries. She enjoys taking long walks and reading in her spare time.


Caroline Holdren, Research Assistant
Originally from Ohio, Caroline attended the University of Michigan where she received a BA in Public Policy in 2014. Upon graduation, Caroline commissioned as a Military Intelligence Officer in the United States Army. Throughout her four years of service, Caroline completed multiple assignments with different units across the United States Army Special Operations Command and participated in training exercises and deployments to Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan. Caroline is pursuing an MA in International Studies with a desire to explore her interests in foreign policy and international security. Living in the Pacific Northwest for the past three years, Caroline is excited to continue climbing mountains, pursuing outdoor activities, and enjoying a lot more sunshine while living in Denver.


Amber Hunt, Research Assistant
Amber was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arizona with a BA in Political Science, Linguistics, and Eastern Asian Studies with a minor in Spanish. During her time at UA, Amber studied Japanese politics abroad in Tokyo for a semester, then taught English in Himeji, Japan as a participant in the Phoneix Sister Cities Teach Abroad program. At the Josef Korbel School, Amber will pursue an MA in International Security. 


Colin Johnson, Research Assistant 
Colin is a graduate student pursuing an MA in Conflict Resolution. Born and raised in New Jersey, he graduated with honors from Marist College in New York where he received a BA in Public Relations with a minor in Psychology. Following his graduation, Colin moved to Shanghai, China and spent a year working as an English teacher. Returning to the United States, he accepted a position with a small non-profit that assists immigrants, refugees and asylees seeking to gain United States citizenship. In his role, he was responsible for coordinating a volunteer educator program helping individuals to prepare for the citizenship exam. In 2013 he began service with the Peace Corps in Thailand where he focused on education and providing student-centered training for local teachers. While there he met his wife and, after completing his service, spent two and a half years teaching Social Studies at a small international school in Bangkok. Colin is interested in studying interpersonal and community-based conflict resolution, the use of restorative justice as a vehicle for conflict resolution, and best practices for responsible and active allyship. In his free time, Colin is an endurance sports enthusiast having competed in several marathons, ultra-marathons, triathlons, and open-water swimming races, and both he and his wife love to travel whenever possible.


Micaela Iveson, Research Assistant 
Prior to pursuing an MA in International Development from the Josef Korbel School, Micaela worked for the ONE Campaign in Washington, DC. At ONE, Micaela helped plan and execute advocacy campaigns that promoted the health, education and economic empowerment of women and girls throughout sub-Saharan Africa - work that took her everywhere from the sidelines of rock concerts to the floor of the UN General Assembly. She has also held fellowships with the Andrew Goodman Foundation and the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, which included policy research on engaging youth living in poverty with educational and professional opportunities. Micaela graduated with Summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors from the University of Idaho, earning a BA in International Studies. She was born and raised in Reno, Nevada and enjoys running, road tripping and performing stand-up comedy.


Caitlin O'Brien, Research Assistant
Cait is an MA candidate in International Development. She is a recently returned Peace Corps Zambia VolunteerandTeach for America Alumni. While in Africa she focused on rural education development and sexual reproductive health for youth and HIV/AIDS vulnerable populations. Her projects included electrifying the village's school, hosting multiple HIV testing and education events in the village, as well as leading female youth empowerment camps and clubs. Cait is a competitive marathon runner and outdoor enthusiast.


Shannon Payne, Research Assistant
Born and raised in England, Shannon has lived in Virginia and Florida since moving to the United States. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a BA in Anthropology and a minor in Diplomacy. During the summer of 2014, Shannon completed a State Department internship in the Cultural Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia. After finishing her bachelor's, Shannon worked at the UCF Global Perspectives Office for two years. There, she facilitated a variety of programs designed to sharpen UCF's international focus, including a distinguished speaker series. Shannon is an MA candidate in International Studies with a specialization in the Middle East. In the summer of 2018, she participated in the DU Center for Middle East Studies' annual trip to Israel and Palestine. At Korbel, Shannon is a Sié Fellow and works as a Research Assistant on the Crowd Counting Consortium. Following graduation, she hopes to stay in Denver in the short term and ultimately hopes to work in public diplomacy and international exchange programs.


Brittny Parsells-Johnson, Research Assistant
Brittny came to the Josef Korbel School to pursue a master's degree in International Human Rights and to explore her interests in transitional justice and conflict response. Brittny began her career in public diplomacy and international exchanges, first working at a university study abroad organization and then at the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She later moved to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, where she managed foreign assistance grants to promote and protect human rights abroad. Her portfolio included atrocity prevention, documentation, forensic anthropology, memorialization, and truth-telling initiatives. Brittny is interested in the different ways countries and communities address legacies of conflict and human rights abuses. She is looking forward to bolstering her previous work experience with theories and methods for becoming a stronger advocate for justice and accountability.


Tasia Poinsatte, Research Assistant
Tasia graduated summa cum laude from American University in 2013 with a dual degree in International Studies and Environmental Studies, along with minors in French and Economics. As an undergraduate, Tasia studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal, where she taught English at a public primary school. Following graduation, she worked in Ghana as the site manager of an education-focused nonprofit before moving to New York City, where she received a Conservation Corps Fellowship to work for the NYC Parks Department Office of Green Thumb as a school gardens coordinator. For the past year, she has worked as a financial editor in Valparaiso, Chile. When she was 19, Tasia founded a scholarship program serving students from rural communities in Nicaragua, which she continues to direct today. A Boulder native, she is excited to return to her roots in Colorado to pursue an MA in International Development. She loves painting, hiking, riding her bicycle, learning languages and organizing co-ed soccer matches wherever she might be in the world.


Sinduja Raja, Research Assistant
Sinduja Raja has a Master's in Development Studies from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. Through this five-year interdisciplinary engagement, she learned to wed her interests in gender, conflict and foreign policy. Her early foray into research began with field-training at Kabadiwalla Connect (a Global Partnership for Sustainable Development funded social enterprise) in the realm of recyclable waste management and this nascent interest in sustainability led to project with the Ministry of External Affairs (India) on Financing Sustainable Development Goals from an Indian perspective. Her independent research, however, is grounded in Conflict studies – she studied the legal and political grey areas constructed by the Indian Peacekeeping forces in the Sri Lankan Civil War for her MA thesis. At Josef Korbel, she intends to continue this regional emphasis on Asia and is keen on foregrounding individuals in conflict-areas in her research - studying the impact of their day-to-day experiences on macro policies on conflict resolution and exploring the role of gender in constructing conflict and peace.


Abigail Richards, Research Assistant 
Abigail Richards is a Gambian-American student pursuing her second M.A. in Conflict Resolution. She graduated with an M.A. candidate in International Development with a Certificate in Humanitarian Assistance June 2018. Abigail has an interest in deconstructing colonial frameworks to peace, development, and gender in armed conflict environments. Particularly, exploring the intersection of gender and development in armed and post-armed conflict, specifically the role of women in promoting sustainable peace. Abigail completed her B.A. in International Comparative Studies and Arabic at Duke University and spent an academic year at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco.


Josh Satre, Research Assistant
Josh Satre received a BA with Honors in Political Science from Swarthmore College in 2013. During his time at Swarthmore, he interned for a microfinance organization and studied abroad in Belfast, Northern Ireland, sparking an interest in conflict resolution. After graduation, Josh interned at Congressman Van Hollen's Office and worked as a legal secretary at the Distilled Spirits Council. He enjoys endurance sports and has completed two marathons, including the Right to Movement marathon in Bethlehem, which fused his interest in running with his interest in conflict resolution and human rights. An avid reader and researcher, Josh is particularly fascinated by stories and research describing the role of institutions in peacebuilding, development, and innovative public partnerships.


Noa Shapira, Research Assistant
Noa was born and raised in Israel. She served in the Israeli Defense Force for three years as a foreign affairs correspondent for the military radio and later worked for two more years as a journalist covering Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other conflicts around the world. She graduated summa cum laude from Tel Aviv University with a dual degree in Political Science and the Interdisciplinary Program in Humanities - Social Justice, Gender Studies and Judaism. Noa has a vast experience in human rights and conflict-related work, including with an Israeli-Palestinian initiative to resolve conflict, and as an intern with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Israel. Her experience led to an interest in the privatization of conflicts and the way it affects women rights in those conflicts, a subject she hopes to explore at the Korbel School, where she is pursuing a degree in international human rights. She loves baking, traveling, and open-water diving.


Katie Smith, Research Assistant
Katie is an MA candidate pursuing a degree in International Security. Born and raised in Rochester, NY, Katie received her BA in Political Science from Siena College. During her time at Siena, Katie studied in Amman, Jordan, where she gained an interest in water politics. She is expanding on this interest in grad school, where her academic studies focus on environmental security, transboundary water conflict, threats to critical infrastructure and the geopolitics of natural resources. In her free time, Katie enjoys hiking and exploring Colorado.


Ariel Zarate, Research Assistant
Ariel Zarate is a second year, MA/ M.S.W candidate. She received her B.S.W / BA in Psychology from Lewis University. Prior to returning to graduate school, she spent 27 months in South Sudan working on empowerment and educational programs for women and girls. She has additional experience working with youth development organizations in Bolivia and the Philippines.
Her primary areas of interest are trauma and resilience of communities that have experienced various levels of conflict. She does this both in the field with a regional focus spanning across Sub – Sharan Africa and domestically in the refugee/asylee resettlement and development field. Of particular interests to her are communal healing processes, how trauma manifests somatically in the body as well as how spaces of healing can serve as platforms for increased political and social engagement. She is interested in how different gender identities and members of marginalized communities operate within these spaces and applies a feminist analysis to these topics.