Student Bios

Maira Seeley
I - International Relations
Oxford University, 2013; Oxford University, 2014
Archeology and Anthropology, B.A.; Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, M.S.
Maira grew up in Ithaca, New York, and rural Maine with a passion for exploring outdoors. She completed her B.A. in archaeology and anthropology at Oxford with a focus on the Middle East. Her experience as a volunteer Arabic interpreter and caseworker for the British Red Cross’ Refugee Support Services led her to complete her master’s degree in refugee and forced migration studies at Oxford as a Clarendon scholar. After two years of work on conflict mitigation programs in the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan, Maira joined the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a projects officer at the British Embassy in Amman. Her experience has informed her interest in foreign policy responses to economic instability in the Middle East. At the WWS, she plans to build skills in economic and policy analysis to pursue her career interests in public service and foreign policy. Maira enjoys distance running and hiking.
Nabil Shaikh
III - Domestic Policy
Princeton University, 2017
Politics, A.B.
Reading, PA
Nabil recently graduated from Princeton University with a concentration in politics and certificates in global health policy and values and public life. His academic interests and activities have taken him to Budapest to research nano-medicine, Boston to study pediatric cancer clinical trials, Hyderabad to evaluate access to end-of-life care, Trenton to analyze state health disparities, and the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee to work on health policy. Nabil is also passionate about interfaith work and civic engagement, having served in leadership roles for the Princeton Muslim Students’ Association, Religious Life Council, Muslim Advocates for Social Justice, Pace Council for Civic Values, and Community Action. He plans to pursue a career at the nexus of policy, law and public health.
Graham Simpson
III - Domestic Policy
Harvard University, 2013
Economics, A.B.
Holden, Massachusetts
Graham grew up in central Massachusetts and attended college at Harvard University, where he studied economics. After graduation, he taught high school equivalency and other classes to incarcerated men at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction. Graham then worked for three years at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)’s North America office as a member of the policy team, where he acted as project manager for the Creating Moves to Opportunity project, a collaborative effort between public housing authorities and academics to develop and evaluate ways to help families using housing choice vouchers move to higher-opportunity neighborhoods. Graham relaxes through cooking, watching the Boston Red Sox and attending concerts.
Sepideh Soltaninia
I - International Relations
University of Ottawa, 2013
International Development and Globalization, BSS
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
Sepideh is a graduate of the University of Ottawa, where she received a degree in international development and globalization. Following her bachelor’s degree, Sepideh worked for over four years at the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Much of that time was spent in Jordan, Turkey and Iraq supporting WFP’s response to the crisis in Syria and in the organization’s headquarters in Rome, where she served as a project coordinator in the Office of the Executive Director. Born in Tehran and raised in the suburbs of Toronto, Sepideh has an irrational fear of earthquakes and a fondness for the origins of words.
Ana Sorrentino
I - International Relations
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 2011
Latin American Studies/ Political Science, B.A.
Burnsville, Minnesota
Born and raised near Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, Ana attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As an undergraduate, she spent a semester studying at the Universidad de La Habana in Cuba and a semester interning in Washington, D.C. Following graduation, Ana interned at an international think tank in Amsterdam and then worked for several years at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights research and advocacy organization, where she focused on U.S. policy toward Cuba and Central America. She then spent two years as a legislative assistant to Congressman Sam Farr, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. As his point person on foreign policy and international trade, Ana advised the congressman primarily on U.S.-Latin America relations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the foreign aid budget. Following Congressman Farr’s retirement in 2017, she returned to WOLA, where she managed a congressional outreach surge and developed a long-term plan to expand WOLA’s reach on Capitol Hill. After WWS, Ana plans to return to Congress as a legislative staffer.
Luke Strathmann
II - International Development
Bates College, 2010
Economics, B.A.
Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
Luke grew up on a donkey farm near Philadelphia, and has since lived in Maine, Fiji, Massachusetts, Zambia, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and now New Jersey. After graduating from Bates College in 2010, he worked for an environmental policy consulting firm, a livestock microfinance program, an education nonprofit, and a bamboo construction company. From 2013 through 2017, he worked at MIT's Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in the Global Policy Group, where he conducted policy outreach around education and environmental policy issues, managed the Post-Primary Education Initative, and worked closely with J-PAL’s Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) office. Luke’s interests include English mastiffs, Thai food, hiking, biking, surfing, yoga and writing short stories.
Boris Strecansky
II - International Development
Comenius University, 1991
History/Philosophy, B.A./M.A.
Bratislava, Slovakia
Boris was born and raised in Bratislava, in then Czechoslovakia and today Slovakia. He obtained a dual M.A. degree in history and philosophy at Comenius University in the same city. In the early nineties, he was working with the University of Minnesota and USAID on enhancing management skills of environmental professionals from public and private sector and non-profit organizations in the region. He was training management and evaluation skills of staff from the network of national Open Society Foundations. Boris has a passion for pro-social behavior, renewing the community spirit, and new forms of philanthropy. He founded the Center for Philanthropy, a not-for-profit organization serving donors and non-profits in resourcing civil society in Slovakia. Boris worked in Eastern Europe and Central Asia with World Bank, USAID, the European Commission, and other public and private donors in designing programs, analyzing policies, and building knowledge and capacities for the strengthening of civil society. Most recently, he has managed peer learning of the European Community Foundation Initiative (ECFI) in partnership with German Association of Foundations. Boris loves playing basketball and indoor soccer, and is a passionate painter and art lover.
Ayumi Teraoka
Keio University, 2013; Georgetown University, 2014
Political Science, LLB; Asian Studies, M.A.
Tokyo, Japan
Ayumi is a first-year Ph.D. student with particular interests in U.S. foreign policy towards Asia, alliance dynamics, and national defense decision-making processes. Prior to coming to Princeton, she worked at the Council on Foreign Relations’ Japan studies program and the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ office of the Japan chair. She holds a master’s degree in Asian studies from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Keio University. Ayumi was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, and is mother of Haru, a five-year-old shibainu. Haru moved to the United States from Japan in 2016 and spends most of her spare time napping.
Henrietta Toivanen
Claremont McKenna College, 2017
Biophysics/International Relations, B.A.
Kuopio, Finland
Henrietta is a first-year Ph.D. student at the Woodrow Wilson School with interdisciplinary research interests at the intersection of science, technology, and international security. Her research focuses particularly on nuclear arms control, non- and counterproliferation, and other nuclear policy issues. She grew up in Kuopio, Finland, in a Finnish-Polish home, before moving to California to receive her bachelor’s degree in biophysics and international relations at Claremont McKenna College. Her past professional experiences have been in Washington, D.C., Switzerland and India, and most recently she worked at the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
María Francisca Vidal
II - International Development
Universidad de Chile, 2012; Universidad de Chile, 2014
Industrial Engineering, BEng; Management and Public Policy, Magister
Santiago, Chile
Francisca was born and raised in Santiago de Chile. She studied industrial engineering as an undergraduate and earned a Master in Management and Public Policy at Universidad de Chile. Upon graduation, she started working at the Center for Public Systems, a research center at the Universidad de Chile focused on the improvement of management capabilities of the Chilean public sector. She was the director of the Projects and Studies Area for three years, participating in more than 20 studies for different ministries and public offices, where she discovered her interest in health policy. She was also a part-time teacher at Universidad de Chile for undergraduate students in industrial engineering. After graduation, Francisca’s goal is to return to Latin America and work as a development practitioner in the health area. In her free time, she enjoys practicing ballet at an amateur level and traveling to new countries.
Kayla Vinson
III - Domestic Policy
Yale University, 2011; University of Pennsylvania, 2012
African-American Studies/Sociology, B.A.; Social Studies, MSEd
Atlanta, Georgia
Kayla is an MPA/J.D. student completing her J.D. as a Public Interest scholar at NYU School of Law. Before returning to school, she taught high school at an alternative school in East New York, and middle school at Harlem Children’s Zone. Her background in sociology and experiences as an educator led her back to graduate school in order to build the skill set necessary to be a meaningful participant in the movement to transform urban public schools. Kayla holds a MSEd in secondary education from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. cum laude from Yale University.
Kate Vlach
III - Domestic Policy
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 2007
Political Science/Women’s Studies, B.A.
Washington, D.C.
Kate is currently pursuing joint degrees at the Woodrow Wilson School and Georgetown University Law Center. Immediately before returning to school, she served as senior manager of state legislative affairs at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists where she guided physician leaders in advocating for evidence-based women’s health policy. Prior to that, Kate spent six years in the legal and policy departments at NARAL Pro-Choice America lobbying on reproductive health legislation – most notably the Affordable Care Act. She graduated with highest honors from the University of North Carolina and interned with Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa during a semester abroad in Cape Town. A native Washingtonian, Kate has volunteered for almost a decade with the D.C. Abortion Fund and hopes to continue assisting the organization remotely while at Princeton.
Mark Walker
University of Tennessee, 2012
Nuclear Engineering, BSc
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Mark is a Ph.D. candidate in science, technology and environmental policy (STEP) in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. His dissertation research focuses on the development and implementation of international safeguards approaches for verifying the peaceful use of gas centrifuge enrichment technology. During his Ph.D. studies, he participated in internships at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Department of Safeguards, Division of Concepts and Planning, as well as at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Prior to arriving at Princeton, he gained experience as an undergraduate student at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, working on technical measures for arms control verification. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Timothy Weedon
II - International Development
University of Bath, 2008
Business Administration, B.S.
London, United Kingdom
Following a semester studying abroad in Toronto, Tim graduated with first class honours in business administration from the University of Bath. He began his public service career on a graduate intern programme at the Cabinet Office, where he worked on a review examining how the U.K. measures poverty and life chances. He also spent time as a researcher for the Global Leadership Foundation, a network of former world leaders that works to promote good governance. He then moved to Yunnan Province, China, where he taught English in a state middle school on a British Council programme. Upon return to London, Tim became head of office for a member of parliament, where he helped lead a successful campaign for a new Modern Slavery Act. He then went on to work in the Home Secretary’s private office, and headed up development of the government’s strategy for tackling modern slavery and human trafficking in the U.K. and internationally. Tim was most recently chief of staff to the U.K.’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, working with the commissioner to lead advocacy efforts to ensure that a strong anti-slavery target was included in the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. In his spare time, Tim enjoys most sports, traveling – ideally getting lost off the beaten path – and photography.
Thomas Whitney
I - International Relations
Yale University, 2002
Sociology, B.A.
New Haven, Connecticut
Thomas is a career foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State. He has served at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; as a political officer in the U.S. Embassy, Tokyo; as the principal advisor on U.N. and Global Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and most recently as the political and economic officer at the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka, Japan. A New Englander who now calls California home, he and his wife have three children born on three different continents who have grown up primarily on two other continents.