2015 John Lewis Fellows

Ayah Abo-Basha 

Washington University in St. Louis

Ayah Abo-Basha graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in anthropology and political science. Her previous research on Egyptian diaspora engagement as well as Muslims for Ferguson focused on the ways in which transnational identities shape transnational social movements. She is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, a Gephardt Institute for Public Service Civic Scholar and a Gephardt Social Change Grant alumna. As a student, she co-founded a cultural advocacy group called WashU Foreign Policy Engagement. She also worked abroad in Cairo where she established a schoolroom at the Children’s Cancer Hospital of Egypt. Upon returning to the US, she joined Ashoka Innovators for the Public in Washington D.C. to strengthen diaspora connections between public health activists in the Middle East and the US. She currently mentors a group of Oklahoma Students in Solidarity, which she co-founded in her home state with other student activists.

Victoria Allen

University of Louisville 

Born and raised in rural southern Kentucky, Victoria Allen is a rising senior at the University of Louisville with a double major in history and political science with a minor in women's studies. As the incoming Student Body President at U of L, Victoria is passionate about enhancing the student experience for all students, and advocating for underrepresented student populations. She has interned with the Library of Congress, a women's nonprofit that seeks to elect women to Democratic office Emerge Kentucky, a top five law firm in Kentucky and is a National Campaign Ambassador for Harvard's Institute of Politics. In her spare time, Victoria engages in oral and local history projects, focusing on the rural communities in the Upper South. After U of L, Victoria plans to pursue a joint JD/MA in legal and constitutional history, and to practice trial law in the Southeast.

Lauren Anderson

University of Georgia   

Lauren Anderson graduated from the University of Georgia in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in international affairs and a minor in human geography. As an undergraduate, her interests in human rights and social justice led her to conduct field research pertaining to the long-term implications of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. At the University of Georgia, Lauren was also a Public Service and Outreach Scholar at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government International Center, an Associate Editor for the Georgia Political Review and the Social Sciences Editor of the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Journal. Since graduation, she has been working in the office of a state representative in Georgia, where she currently serves as Chief of Staff. This fall, Lauren will pursue a PhD in sociology at the University of California, Irvine concentrating in race/ethnicity, social movements, and policy framing and narrative studies.

Tasniem Anwar

University of Amsterdam

Born in a bi-cultural family, Tasniem sees herself as both Dutch and Egyptian. She has finished her bachelor studies in interdisciplinary social science and continued with a master's in conflict resolution and governance. She has founded a student platform at her university that strives for a better understanding of diversity and an inclusive environment for all students. During her studies, she completed an internship in Palestine and has participated in a research exchange with Moroccan students in Rabat. In the future, she would like to continue working with diversity issues and human rights issues in the Middle-East.



Summer Awad

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

Summer is a rising senior at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and is majoring in social justice activism through the performing and written arts. As co-chair of Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee (SEAT), Summer plays an active role in organizing the annual Sex Week at UT, which provides comprehensive sexuality education to members of her university community. In addition to sexuality and gender issues, Summer is also passionate about ending the occupation of Palestine, her father's birthplace. Summer has conducted interviews with Palestinian refugees in Jordan and is in the process of writing and producing a play on the topic. In her spare time, Summer enjoys writing, dancing, and playing with her cat, Sappho.

Marko Barišić

University of Zadar

Marko is a graduated archaeologist who was born in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even though he officially finished archaeology, his interests are wider than that specific field. His interests include anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, religious studies and music. Furthermore, epistemology and theory of science are subjects that fascinate him very much at the moment since he can find usefulness of this knowledge. In addition, he is very active both as a solitary activist and as a part of many activist groups and organizations. Through numerous projects, he has been working on various social issues ranging from ecology to human rights. Even though he enjoys activism and academia respectively, he thinks that the combination of both is a perfect match for him and the role of his work in this world.

Jenna Baron

University of Pittsburgh 

Originally from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Jenna Baron graduated with a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013. During her four years as an undergraduate, Jenna was involved in a student organization that provided after-school tutoring to Somali Bantu refugees in Pittsburgh. Her work with immigrant youth as an undergraduate inspired her to create and direct a summer camp for refugee youth in Pittsburgh that she continues to support today. After graduating in 2013, Jenna lived in Nairobi, Kenya as a Fulbright Research Scholar where she interviewed disability rights activists. As a result, Jenna has curated a photo exhibit to showcase their profiles. Currently, Jenna is a fellow with Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience and works for the United Way of Allegheny County on the Be There Campaign, which seeks to combat chronic absenteeism in public schools. 

Dafni Basta       

University of Athens

Born and raised in Athens, Greece, Daphne is a MSc student in international medicine and health crisis management. She holds a BA degree in social anthropology and a MA degree in migration and ethnic studies. Over the course of her studies, she developed a solid understanding of and a strong interest in human rights in general and issues related to migration in particular. The internships she undertook in a variety of international organizations enriched her humanitarian related perspectives in both academic and professional ways: at the European Parliament in the Gender Equality and Women’s Rights Committee, in Amnesty International and in UNCHR. She also worked as a researcher for the ‘Citizen’s Beyond Walls’ project, in the SCI Hellas, on the rise of xenophobic trends and civil society’s initiatives. Her goal for the future is to form a career within the Human Right sector and work with marginalized populations such as immigrants.

Devon Crawford

Morehouse College

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Devon has enjoyed many opportunities to develop as a ministerial leader by providing public leadership in the cases of Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown in the Atlanta University Center. Devon has served as president of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel Assistants Program, vice president of the Alpha Rho chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Intern and the 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar. As a young globetrotter, Devon has traveled as a peace ambassador to Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan to commemorate the nuclear attacks of World War II and an Oprah Winfrey South Africa and Zimbabwe Leadership Fellow. After graduating from Morehouse College, Devon will attend the University of Chicago Divinity School to pursue a master's of divinity degree and later begin PhD work in philosophical theology.

Sagiv Galai

Bard College   

Sagiv was born and raised in Israel and moved to Queens, New York at the age of twelve. Sagiv’s studies have focused on the ability of activists and lawyers to influence state policies. While he has mostly focused on the manifestations of state violence and military actions, and the balance of human rights and state security, he has maintained an interest in the trafficking of migrants across the Mediterranean and Sinai desert, public health, incarceration in America and labor rights. He has done some work with Amnesty International as an intern for the campaign to close Guantanamo Bay, and has worked as a translator for an Israeli human rights organization dedicated to helping African refugees. His undergraduate thesis is concerned with the history of torture and interrogations in Israel. 

Jamal Grant

University of Massachusetts, Lowell  

Jamal Grant was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts and is a graduating senior in mechanical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. In his first few years at his university, he became aware of the immensely evident achievement gap between majority and minority groups, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.  Motivated to learn about the causes and potential solutions for such a widespread problem, Jamal has sought discussions and advice from various sources including Massachusetts Appeals Court Justices, advisors from former President Bill Clinton’s administration, Boston City Mayor’s Office officials and district public school superintendents.  He is currently the chapter president of the National Society of Black Engineers and a member of the REDSTEM network, which works to implement STEM programs in inner-city schools. After graduation, Jamal plans to use his experiences to implement a creative solution to the STEM achievement gap in the United States. 

Lamija Grbic'

Emory University

Lamija Grbic was born in Munich, Germany after her parents emigrated from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her family later immigrated to the United States and settled in Boise, Idaho. Lamija is currently attending Emory University, where she is pursuing degrees in sociology and philosophy. She is a tutor at the Emory Writing Center and a member of Freedom at Emory, a coalition dedicated to making university admissions and financial aid policies more equitable for undocumented students.



Gwen Gruner-Widding         

University of Copenhagen

Gwen is an organizer, activist, feminist and a law student. Raised in Denmark by an American mother, Gwen has been given two perspectives. She grew up well taken care of in a welfare state. However, she always knew that, for better or worse, it was not set in stone that our society would be organized the way it was. This has been her motivation for engaging in many projects. She has been working with student organizations in Colombia, been an EU-lobbyist for student right in Brussels and has worked as a student organizer in vocational schools. She has also traveled in Iran, Australia and South-East Asia.  Currently, she is in the final phase of a year-long organizing effort bringing together students working on over eighteen educational reform projects to change UCPH.

Catherina Juel

University of Copenhagen

Born and raised in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, Catherina Juel is a master student at the University of Copenhagen. She will obtain a master's degree in clinical psychology. With an A-graded bachelor thesis addressing self-stigmatization issues among mentally ill individuals, Catherina is highly passionate about issues involving stigmatization, suppression and minorities. Her academic point of view is that of the psychology of the individual, the group and inter-relational issues. Catherina has lived and worked in India with tribal-people; through education and information trying to emphasize their human rights in a suppressive local community. She's raised funds to build a new school to the tribal people by holding lectures at Lions Club. She spent a semester abroad in Australia where she studied Group behavior change and change management. In her spare time she does students' association work at her local student's dorm.

René Kreichauf

University of Vienna

René Kreichauf is an urban researcher from Berlin, Germany. He studied urban planning and sociology at the Technical University Berlin as well as urban studies within his international master's program at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Universität Wien, Københavns Universitet, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. As a research assistant, he has worked at several university and research institutions, such as the Department for Urban and Regional Sociology at TU Berlin and the Leibniz-Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning. In 2011, René lived and worked in Chicago and Detroit investigating social polarization processes and urban shrinkage. His research and publication activities focus on urban transformation trends, social inequality, urban minorities and migration. René plans to pursue a PhD in political science studying the reception and integration of refugees and asylum seekers in North American cities.

Maciej Kuziemski  

University of Warsaw

Born and raised on the Polish seaside, Maciej is an editor and social entrepreneur. He studied political science at the University of Warsaw and currently serves as a Board Member of Res Publica Foundation, a publisher behind three rigorous magazines of ideas. His previous professional activities include managing democracy assistance programs of the Lech Wałęsa Institute as well as speechwriting and advising to senior government officials. Maciej invented and leads a series of documentary filmmaking workshops in Burma as a way of promoting social change. After vacations, he will pursue a postgraduate degree in public policy at the University of Oxford.


Aleksandra Leniarska

University of Warsaw

Born and raised in Warsaw, Poland, Aleksandra Leniarska is an MA student at American Studies Center, where she is currently writing her MA thesis on American literature, focusing on the work of Jonathan Franzen and its correspondence with social novel. She earned her BA degree from Faculty of Modern Languages, University of Warsaw. There, her field of study was French, Spanish and English philology with the focus on modern literature, her BA project was concerned with the theory of mythocritique and the representations of oedipal complex in French literature. Her academic interests include American literature and its attitudes to race, gender and ethnicity. She is planning to pursue a PhD in literature and sociology.  

Antonio “Tony” Lopez

Duke University   

Born and raised in East Palo Alto, California, Antonio “Tony” Lopez is a rising senior at Duke University with a double major in literature, African-American studies and a certificate in Latino/a studies and the Global South. He is President of La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc, a historically Latino-based Greek organization dedicated to cultural empowerment, community service and academic excellence. He participates twice a week at GANO (Gente Aprendiendo Para Nuevas Oportunidades), a student-run organization offering ESL classes to Latino/a migrants in the local Durham population. As President of MGC (Multicultural Greek Council), Tony oversees 7 Greek organizations, and works with the executive board to best represent them. Tony's honors thesis offers a tripartite analysis into the Black Power, American Indian Movement and Chicano Movements of the late 60’s and 70’s. Tony plans to pursue a PhD in literary/ethnic studies and become a teacher at both the university/high school level.

Zvijezdana Marković

University of Banja Luka

Born in Travnik, at the heart of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zvijezdana Marković is a human rights activist and social blogger, with a passion for constitutionalism and civil rights movement. During her law studies, she participated in the Erasmus exchange program at Karl Franzens University of Graz (Austria), with engagement in Debate and Moor Court clubs. For the past three years, Zvijezdana has been engaged in numerous civil society organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina including the Fund for youth projects and Youth Press Association. She has worked on the support of youth projects from undeveloped areas of her country and on the creation of free media space for ethnically separated youth. Zvijezdana plans to pursue her legal studies in the US.

Max Mauerman

Ohio State University

Max Mauerman is a senior at Ohio State University with a double major in political science and economics. As a member of the executive board of Collegiate Council on World Affairs, he has helped organize model United Nations conferences for inner-city high schools in Columbus as well as global conferences through the UN Foundation. He also plans the Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship Summit, one of the largest conferences for social entrepreneurship in the Midwest. He is passionate about sharing his experiences through writing. He is co-founder of the Algerian, OSU's first magazine for politics and international affairs, and has covered the UN's annual NGO conference as an official writer. His future plans lie in policy research. He wants to re-imagine urban planning through direct citizen input. He has been recognized for his research at national presentations and plans to pursue a PhD in either economics or public policy. 

Heather Menefee

Northwestern University 

Heather Menefee is a researcher and writer who was raised in Maryland, Washington, DC and Milton, Georgia. She graduates from Northwestern University in June of 2015 with a degree in Native American studies. She has been engaged in indigenous and Palestine solidarity activism on campus with the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance, including an ongoing effort to decolonize and remediate the University's relationship to the Cheyenne and Arapaho and nearby Tribal Nations and communities. Over the past two years she has been completing a community-based research project with a Dakota Community, focused on documenting and theorizing ongoing displacement and Federal mismanagement and developing economic futures that transcend the colonial imaginary. After the Fellowship, she will likely return to Mnisota Makoce to be near her mentors and eventually work toward a PhD in critical ethnic studies.

Michael Nishimura

Vassar College 

Michael Nishimura is currently a senior at Vassar College, and will graduate in the spring of 2015 with a BA in international studies. His concentrations are economics and geography. He is originally from Mississauga, Canada, but also calls Troy, OH home. He recently studied abroad in Nepal, Jordan and Chile on the IHP Human Rights program. He has a passion for human rights and has previous experience working with organizations in NYC, Community Action For Safe Apartments  (CASA) and US Human Rights Network, along with other international organizations: ATMA SEVA and Trailblazer Foundation. He is writing a senior thesis about Western representations and images of Tibet throughout history, and the ways in which Tibetans resist those essentializations. He plans to eventually pursue a graduate degree in political science. He enjoys all things related to music, gastronomy poetry/spoken word, film, travel, dance and love.

Mahamed Omar

Emory University  

Mahamed was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and raised in the US He is a rising senior at Emory University with a major in political science and a minor in economics. He has worked in multiple groups in Emory, holding positions such as Vice President of the Young Democrats and Publicity Chair of the Feminist-in-Action. He is a member of Freedom at Emory, which is a coalition of students, faculty, and student organizations advocating for the educational rights of undocumented youth, and Strong Returns, which works to make prison reform the Millennial generational’s issue in the 2016 election. He has volunteered in New Orleans, working on multiple fronts to help rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina and in the greater Atlanta community, tutoring youth with immigrant backgrounds. After Emory, I plan to pursue a graduate degree in public policy and continue working for human/civil rights in my domestic sphere.

Nikita Perumal

Columbia University  

Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Nikita is a junior undergraduate in the Dual BA Program between Columbia University and Sciences Po. At the Euro-American campus of Sciences Po Paris in Reims, France, she received a BA in the social sciences, with specializations in law and political Science. At Columbia she is currently completing a major in human rights and a minor in sustainable development. Nikita has been active in a variety of grassroots environmental and social justice campaigns since high school and is particularly interested in the human rights implications of environmental issues like climate change. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, writing, and exploring new cities. Nikita is decidedly undecided about her current career path - but she hopes to work to create meaningful human rights and environmental policy in some capacity. 

Bill De La Rosa

Bowdoin College

Born in Nogales, Arizona, Bill is a sociology and Latin American studies double major planning to pursue a PhD in sociology with an emphasis on migration. A Mexican-American, first generation college student, he is the student coordinator for the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project, a member of the national State Farm Youth Advisory Board, a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and a Gates Millennium Scholar. In 2014, he was the youngest of 15 US delegates selected by the Forum for Cooperation Understanding and Solidarity (FoCUS) to work alongside 15 Mexicans to draft policies and influence US-Mexico affairs. Bill is passionate about immigrant rights and has conducted grant-funded research on the effects of border security on undocumented migration and presented his findings at the Eastern Sociological Society and the Association for Borderland Studies.

Erica Sterling

Emory University

Erica Sterling is a senior at Emory University double majoring in history and psychology. As a staff member of Volunteer Emory, a student-run community service organization at Emory, Erica led a weekly service trip to the Genesis Shelter, a shelter for newborn babies and their mothers. She is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, Fox Center Undergraduate Humanities Honors Fellow and conducts research for the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Case Project. Her honors thesis, "A Better Chance for Brown," interrogates the role of philanthropy in the integration of private secondary education in the United States from 1963 to 1978, and the government’s abdication of responsibility in solving historical injustices. Erica’s primary passions deal with educational inequality. After taking a gap year, Erica plans to pursue a PhD in history or American studies to further her studies of educational inequality and public policy.

Mohamed Taguine

Institut d'études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po Paris)

Born and raised in France by North African parents, Mohamed Taguine is currently a master of international affairs student at Sciences Po Paris. As a member of Salaam, a student association providing interfaith dialogue, Mohamed is committed to build bridges of cultural understanding. He previously interned with the United Nations and the independent media Democracy Now! in New York, where he was strongly involved in the grassroots struggles for social, economic and racial justice. In his spare time, Mohamed reads about African American history and multicultural studies. After Sciences Po, Mohamed plans to work in human rights advocacy for an international NGO.


Sharon Villigran

University of California, Los Angeles

A rising senior at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Sharon Villagran is majoring in sociology, with a double minor in Latin American studies and labor and workplace studies. Pursuing a career as a researcher of international migration, Sharon is currently working on her senior thesis for a Sociology Honors Seminar. As an open-ended ethnography, she is spending time on the two busiest Metro bus lines in Los Angeles, looking to better understand how public transportation serves as a vehicle for social mobility and socialization in the lives of immigrant workers. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Sharon has also volunteered extensively for organizations within her community, which together, share a commitment to diversity and community solidarity. Understanding that there are many barriers to higher education in her community, through her volunteer work, Sharon hopes to aid in dismantling these barriers for future generations.