Eric Schwartz became President of Refugees International in June 2017. Eric has had a three-decade career focused on humanitarian and human rights issues. Between 2009 and 2011, he served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. As Assistant Secretary, he was credited with strengthening the State Department’s humanitarian advocacy around the world, initiating and implementing critical enhancements to the U.S. refugee resettlement program and raising the profile of global migration issues in U.S. foreign policy. He was the senior human rights and humanitarian official at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, managing humanitarian responses to crises in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. He also served as the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery after the 2004 Asian Tsunami; as Washington Director of Asia Watch (now the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch); and Staff Consultant to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, among other positions in the U.S. government, at the UN and in the non-profit sector. Just prior to arriving at Refugees International, Eric served a six-year term as Dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. During much of that period, he also served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and, ultimately, as the Commission’s vice chair. He holds a law degree from New York University School of Law, a Master of Public Affairs degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, and a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from the State University of New York at Binghamton.
Hardin Lang, Vice President for Programs and Policy
Hardin Lang is vice president for programs and policy at Refugees International. A veteran of six United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian field missions, Hardin has worked in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Myanmar, Central America, Gaza and West Bank, Iraq, Haiti, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey, and West Africa. During his UN tenure, Hardin helped launch the UN stabilization in Mali, served as head of office for the UN special envoy for the Haiti, and worked on the UN mission in Afghanistan. In Iraq, he served as chief of staff for the International Organization for Migration’s humanitarian and stabilization mission and later as an adviser to the UN special representative in Baghdad. Earlier in his career, Hardin spent two years working for the UN mission in Kosovo and three years working for the UN and human rights organizations in Guatemala. Immediately prior to joining Refugees International, Hardin was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP) where he specialized in Middle East conflicts and national security policy. He has also been a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Hardin has published widely, including in the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. Hardin holds a master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, a master’s degree in international history with a focus on the Middle East from the London School of Economics, and a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College.
Lisa Cantu-Parks, Vice President of Philanthropy
Lisa Cantu-Parks is vice president of philanthropy at Refugees International. She is responsible for leading fundraising efforts with individual donors, corporations and foundations, special and community events, and planned giving for the organization.
For more than 16 years, Cantu-Parks has been dedicated to non-profit fundraising, having directed major gift fundraising for the Joseph E. Robert, Jr. Center for Surgical Care at Children’s National Health System and having served most recently as director of leadership gifts at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. Cantu-Parks has participated in three major and unprecedented capital campaigns which totaled $75 million for Catholic Charities, and over $300 million and $500 million for Children’s National.
Lisa holds a Master’s in public administration and a B.A. in communications from James Madison University.
Chris Allbritton, Director of Communications
Chris Allbritton is the director of communications at Refugees International, where he leads the agency’s communications efforts. Chris is a former international journalist with 25 years of experience, much of it covering conflict in the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Many of his stories dealt with the plight of refugees fleeing violence and have appeared in publications such as Time, New York Magazine, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Wall Street Journal. His last journalism posting was as bureau chief for Thomson Reuters in Pakistan.
Most recently he was the communications manager for Center for Civilians in Conflict, an NGO focusing on protecting civilians caught in military activity, and media relations manager at Mercy Corps, a humanitarian non-profit active in more than 40 countries. In 2008, he was awarded the John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University. He holds an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. in journalism from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Andrea Dickerson, Director of Finance and Operations
Andrea Dickerson is the director of finance and operations at Refugees International (RI). She comes to RI after nine years at the Peace Corps, where she worked in the areas of financial management, budget, human resources, procurement, and asset management, including six years as the chief administrative officer for the office of the chief information officer. Prior to Peace Corps, she worked in the non-profit arts sector for over ten years. In 2000, she helped to found the American Dance Institute in Rockville, MD, and served as their director of operations. From there, she went to Dance/USA, a service organization for dance organizations across the United States, as their director of programming and government affairs. Her most recent non-profit position was director of artistic operations at The Washington Ballet, where she was a ballet dancer in an earlier life. Dickerson holds a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Maryland.
Ann Hollingsworth, Director of Government Relations and Senior Policy Adviser
Ann Hollingsworth is director of government relations and senior policy adviser at Refugees International (RI). Ann leads RI’s advocacy efforts within the U.S. foreign policy community and on Capitol Hill. Prior to working with RI, Ann represented International Crisis Group as senior analyst for U.S. Advocacy and Research, participating in targeted advocacy with leading Washington policy audiences, including the State Department, the White House, the Department of Defense, USAID, and Congress, as well as think-tanks and other international organizations. She provided political and strategic analysis and covered all Crisis Group areas of reporting, with primary responsibility for advocacy and research for the Africa portfolio. Ann has been a featured panelist in a variety of foreign policy events, most notably with the State Department, the Brookings Institution, and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Ann has participated in field research on conflict minerals in Burundi and disaster relief management in Sri Lanka, which included working with IDP’s in tsunami-affected areas. She also served in the office of U.S. Senator Ernest F. Hollings, then Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. She earned a Master’s degree in International Development from Tulane University and a B.A. in Communications from the College of Charleston, South Carolina.
Rowena Averia is a senior accountant at Refugees International. A certified public accountant, she has 15 years of experience in public accounting. She started her audit work with Arthur Andersen in Manila, Philippines working with clients in the banking, finance, and manufacturing industries. She has also worked in Indonesia as part of the internal audit department in one of the biggest conglomerates in the country. Prior to joining RI, Ms. Averia worked as an external auditor and accounting consultant working primarily with non- profit organizations. Ms. Averia holds a Bachelor of Science in Commerce Degree Major in Accounting from Assumption College in Makati, Philippines and she passed the Philippine CPA Licensure Exams in October of 1989.
Sahar Atrache, Senior Advocate for the Middle East
Sahar Atrache is the senior advocate for the Middle East at Refugees International. Prior to joining Refugees International, Sahar was the senior advocacy officer at the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), where she led research and advocacy efforts around Syria policy and humanitarian issues in the United States and the Middle East. Prior to SAMS, Sahar was a senior analyst on the Middle East and North Africa at International Crisis Group, where her policy reports and articles were the basis of direct international advocacy and media engagement. Her research took her to refugee camps and conflict zones throughout the region, where she interviewed affected individuals and collaborated with local communities. From July 2007 to July 2008, Sahar also served with the United Nations in Lebanon, where she coordinated post-conflict relief and reconstruction in a Palestinian refugee camp. She previously worked with several Lebanese and international NGOs on projects aiming at socio-economic development, empowering vulnerable groups and improving governance. Sahar holds Post Master's degrees in Political Science and in Journalism. She is fluent in English, Arabic, and French.
Dawn Calabia, Resident Advisor
Dawn Calabia joined Refugees International in 2004. Ms. Calabia follows executive and legislative branch developments, works to increase RI’s impact in Congress, and provides special assistance on RI’s statelessness, Burma, women’s rights, and climate advocacy. Ms. Calabia has 30 years of experience with foreign policy analysis, human rights issues, and public advocacy. She served over ten years with the United Nations, as Acting Director of the United Nations’ Washington Information Office and as External Relations Director for U.S. governmental and non-governmental relations for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Earlier, she was the Director of Refugee Policy and Development for the U.S. Catholic Conference Migration office, one of the country’s oldest service organizations for refugees and asylum seekers. Ms. Calabia worked on Capitol Hill for eleven years as a staff consultant to the House International Relations Committee specializing in refugee, human rights, and development issues, and as the senior legislative staffer to Representative Stephen J. Solarz (D-NY). One of the founders of the Women’s Refugee Commission, housed at the International Rescue Committee, Ms. Calabia has led numerous fact-finding missions to Central America, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Africa. In December 1996, she was honored by President Clinton for her human rights work with refugee women and children. She holds a Master of Social Services degree from Fordham University and a Bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in New York.
Devon Cone, Senior Advocate for Women and Girls
Devon Cone is the senior advocate for women and girls at Refugees International. Prior to joining Refugees International, Devon was the director of protection programs at HIAS where she was responsible for providing technical expertise to HIAS’ protection-related programming globally. Previous to HIAS, Devon worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon, Uganda, Egypt, and Kenya and for a variety of NGOs providing services to refugees. As part of her work, Devon has developed curriculum and led trainings on refugee protection for government officials, NGO staff, and UN agencies. At the request of the U.S. State Department, in 2015, Devon conducted an independent evaluation of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) which is responsible for choosing, vetting, and resettling refugees into the United States.
Devon holds a Master’s degree from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. She also holds a certificate in Forced Migration from Oxford University, a certificate in International Migration Law from the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, and a certificate in Humanitarian Studies from Harvard University. Devon’s writing has been published in Foreign Policy, the Forced Migration Review, and the Huffington Post.
Sara Conklin is the special events manager at Refugees International. She is primarily responsible for the execution of annual fundraising events, including Refugees International’s Annual Anniversary Dinner, Luncheon, and New York and Washington Circle events. Sara has a diverse non-profit fundraising experience, most recently as the events manager at N Street Village, Washington DC's largest service provider for women experiencing homelessness. Sara’s event portfolio includes an array of community-driven special events, with a particular focus on human rights advocacy. Sara served in Peace Corps Fiji and graduated with her MA in African Studies from Stanford University and BA in International Relations from Florida International University.
Sadaf Doost, Government Relations Associate
Sadaf Doost is the government relations associate at Refugees International (RI). Prior to joining RI, Sadaf was part of the education team at The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Facebook, and served at the White House as Associate Director for Boards, Commissions, and Presidential Delegations under the Obama Administration. Sadaf’s international experience includes conducting research in Turkey on issues surrounding war crimes and the effects of U.S./international political rhetoric regarding Islamist extremism, as well as volunteering as an English instructor for refugees and asylum seekers in Greece. Sadaf received her B.A. in political science at the University of California, Berkeley in 2016.
Alanna Fox, Special Assistant to the President
Alanna Fox is special assistant to the president of Refugees International. She graduated from American University in May 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree from the School of International Service with a major in International Studies and a minor from the Justice, Law and Criminology department. Her academic career has focused on human rights and foreign policy with a regional focus on the Middle East. Alanna has also completed two courses at the London School of Economics and was an intern for DCRally4Refugees and for Refugees International before being hired.
Alexandra Lamarche, Advocate
Alexandra Lamarche is an advocate at Refugees International where her work focuses on sub-Saharan Africa and peacekeeping. She has led research missions on displacement crises in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria, among others. Prior to joining Refugees International in 2017, Alexandra held various positions in the Canadian government and worked on issues of conflict, reconciliation, and migration in the Central African Republic, Chad, Lebanon, Mauritania, Côté d'Ivoire, and Uganda. She holds a Masters in Conflict, Security, and Development from the University of Sussex in the UK and Bachelor of Social Sciences in Conflict Studies and Human Rights from the University of Ottawa, Canada. Alexandra is fluent in both French and English.
Izza Leghtas is a senior advocate at Refugees International where she focuses on Europe and the Mediterranean. Since joining RI, Leghtas has authored reports on the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, Turkey, and Libya. Previously, Leghtas worked as a researcher on Western Europe at Human Rights Watch where she covered issues related to migration, rights of refugees and asylum seekers, discrimination, and criminal justice. Before joining Human Rights Watch, Izza worked at Amnesty International’s International Secretariat in London as a researcher covering France and Spain and then as a researcher on the Maghreb, focusing on Tunisia and Morocco. Leghtas holds a law degree from the University of Montpellier, France, a master’s in European litigation from the University of Luxembourg, and an LLM from the College of Europe in Bruges. Leghtas is a native speaker in English, Arabic, and French and is fluent in Spanish.
Sarah Miller is a senior fellow with Refugees International where she specializes in forced migration. Most recently, she has consulted for UNHCR, the ILO, the World Bank, the IRC, and Mercy Corps. She has worked on refugee issues with various NGOs in Tanzania, Thailand, Switzerland, and the United States, and has carried out research or consulting projects in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Nepal, Kenya, and Uganda. She has also helped with displacement-related projects at USAID and the U.S. Department of State as a Franklin Fellow, and has consulted with think tanks including the Brookings Institution.
She is currently adjunct faculty with Columbia University (SIPA) and the University of London (SAS), and has published two books and various articles on forced migration. She received her doctorate in International Relations from Oxford University in 2014, and also holds an MSc in Forced Migration from Oxford University, an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, and a BA in History, Spanish, and International Service from Valparaiso University.
Cathy O'Rourke, Principal Gifts Officer
Cathy O’Rourke is Principal Gifts Officer at Refugees International. Cathy works on fundraising for RI through events, major gifts, annual giving, and planned gifts. Previously, Cathy worked as a development officer at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, raising money primarily for student scholarships. Cathy has more than five years of experience in fundraising, including time at MicroGrants, a non-profit which gives small grants to individuals in Minnesota. She earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies and history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law.
Daphne Panayotatos, Program Associate
Daphne Panayotatos is a program associate at Refugees International. She received her MA in International Relations and International Economics in May 2018 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) where she concentrated in International Law & Organizations and minored in International Development in preparation for a career in human rights advocacy. Prior to SAIS, Panayotatos spent five years working at the Open Society Foundations, where she supported strategy development and oversight and helped design and facilitate the organization’s first formal assessment process. She has interned in the Business & Human Rights division of Human Rights Watch and participated as a member of SAIS’ 2017-18 International Human Rights Clinic. Panayotatos also holds a BS from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.
Yael Schacher, Senior U.S. Domestic Advocate
Yael Schacher is a senior U.S. domestic advocate at Refugees International, where she focuses on U.S. asylum, U.S. refugee admissions, temporary protected status, and immigration practices that have refugee protection implications. Prior to joining Refugees International, Yael spent a decade researching the relationship between immigration and refugee policy for her forthcoming book on the history of asylum in the U.S. since the late nineteenth century. She has taught at the University of Connecticut and lectured on immigration history and refugee policy at Harvard Law School, the University of Minnesota, and numerous academic conferences and public forums. In recent years, Yael has focused on direct legal representation of behalf of those seeking asylum and other humanitarian statuses at the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants. Most recently, Yael was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, where she combined historical research on asylum and advocacy on behalf of asylum seekers (with the law school’s immigration clinic and with the organization Justice for Our Neighbors).
Yael has an M.A. in History and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Harvard University and a B.A. in literature from Columbia University.
Katherine Seaton, Manager of Corporate Relations and Donor Communication
Katherine Seaton is Manager of Corporate Relations and Donor Communication at Refugees International. Previously, she worked at the peace building non-profit, Search for Common Ground, for both the U.S. programs and development departments. Katherine’s experience also includes positions at the World Food Program USA and the office of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in international studies from American University and a Master’s degree in international communication from Boston University.
Sarah Sheffer, Communications Officer
Sarah Sheffer is the communications officer at Refugees International. Sarah has over seven years of experience in strategic communications, having previously worked with Burson-Marsteller, a leading global communications firm, and with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace where she served as outreach manager for Carnegie’s foreign affairs experts. Earlier in her career, Sarah worked in Cairo, Egypt, as a video producer for Thomson Reuters’ breaking news stories and in Washington, DC, as a desk assistant at the PBS NewsHour. She earned a Bachelor’s in international affairs and Middle East studies from Northeastern University.
Aviva Shwayder, Communications Specialist
Aviva Shwayder is a communications specialist at Refugees International. Previously, Aviva worked on the National Democratic Institute’s Government Relations and Communications team and on BerlinRosen’s Issue Advocacy team. Aviva’s experience also includes positions at the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs, the Office of U.S. Senator Peters, and La Maison des Journalistes. In 2017, Aviva presented a research paper, “Media Framing of the Syrian Refugee Crisis in the US, UK, and Germany” at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference. She earned her B.A. in political science and minored in French at Middlebury College.
Daniel P. Sullivan, Senior Advocate for Human Rights
Dan Sullivan is the senior advocate for human rights at Refugees International. Dan focuses on Myanmar, Sudan, South Sudan, and other areas affected by mass displacement. Prior to joining RI, Dan worked for five years with United to End Genocide (formerly Save Darfur), first as a senior policy analyst then as director of policy and government relations, leading strategic planning, report writing, and development of policy recommendations on Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and prevention of genocide and mass atrocities.
He has more than 15 years of human rights and foreign policy experience having worked for the Brookings Institution, Human Rights First, and the Albright Stonebridge Group, where he assisted former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in her role as co-chair of the Genocide Prevention Task Force. Dan has been a featured speaker at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the London School of Economics and has provided expert testimony before the U.S. Congress. He has been featured on several media outlets including MSNBC, CBS News, NPR, Al Jazeera, and Voice of America TV. His work has been published in the Journal of Modern African Studies, the Journal of Peace Research, The Nation, U.S. News and World Report, and USA Today. Dan has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Management from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Harvard University.
Jessica Thea is a fellow at Refugees International. Prior to joining RI, Jessica worked with several organizations, including PresenTense Group, a non-profit that helps entrepreneurs build sustainable social ventures, and IMBY, a fashion-based advocacy startup that supports safe working conditions and fair wages. In 2014, Jessica founded Cultivating Connections, which promotes cultural exchange between a community of refugees in St. Louis and local college students. Her article on international intervention and the effectiveness of foreign aid during the 1994 plague outbreak in Surat, India was published in the journal Slideshow. She earned her B.A. in International Development from Washington University in St. Louis
Mark Yarnell, Senior Advocate and UN Liaison
Mark Yarnell is senior advocate and UN liaison for Refugees International where his work focuses primarily on forced displacement in sub-Saharan Africa. Since joining RI in 2011, he has led field assessments to Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, and has conducted research in Burkina Faso, Niger, Myanmar, and Greece.
Mark has testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. He been a guest on multiple broadcast shows including on NPR, PBS, BBC, CNN International, Al Jazeera, and CBC. Prior to joining RI, Mark was a Stimson Center congressional fellow based in the office of U.S. Senator Richard Lugar. He has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a field officer with Merlin, a medical relief organization, and as a food security consultant for Oxfam. Additionally, he was a program associate at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and a senior program associate at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. Mark earned a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University and was a teaching assistant to former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He grew up in Ottawa, Canada.