Meet Our Summer 2018 Next Leaders!

Next Leaders for Summer 2018

Left to right: Sajjad Hussein, Daniela Aspiazu, Lidwina Bell, Juliette Legendre, Fizz Perkal, Celia Bottger, Abigail Brook, Mery Concepcion, Karla Molinar Arvizo.


Sajjad Hussain — Peace and Foreign Policy

Sajjad was born in Quetta, Balochistan, the southwestern province of Pakistan which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Balochistan has been home to a low-level Baloch insurgency and increasing sectarian violence. In the face of genocidal violence against Shia Hazaras, Sajjad stepped up as a voice of resistance. The Hazara community has been cited as a community whose nonviolent protests have appealed to the conscience of the larger Pakistani masses. Sajjad is one of the few members who served as informal representatives, bridging his community and the larger Pakistani intelligentsia, activists and journalists. Academic institutions have invited him to give talks on issues concerning human rights, religious extremism, and the political crisis in Balochistan.

As a graduate of the University of Engineering & Technology Lahore, with a degree in Electrical Engineering, the crisis in Balochistan motivated him to study Peace and Conflict Resolution (PCS) at the National Defence University, Islamabad. His online and offline activism has been acknowledged by civil society organizations in Pakistan and abroad. Since April 2013, he has proudly associated with Alif Ailaan, a campaign for education reforms in Pakistan. Sajjad is also a member of the Swedish Institute (SI) alumni of its Young Connectors of Future (YCF), a leadership program for emerging leaders from South Asia.

As a Rotary Peace Fellow, he plans to embark on an academic journey to study Global Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is eternally grateful to the Ummat Educational & Cultural Center, Quetta where he met his first mentors, that inspired him with the passion for volunteerism and community work, which he vows to continue lifelong. Through the knowledge and skills gained at UNC and IPS, he wants to join global activists who are facilitating socio-political conversations between communities and societies often described as ‘incompatible.’

At IPS this summer, Sajjad is working on building his profile as a writer on foreign policy issues and already has three pieces in the pipeline for FPIF. He’s also reviewing Steve Coll’s latest ‘Directorate X’ on US interventions in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Alyssa Aquino — Communications

Alyssa is from Hamden, Connecticut. A second-generation American — but top quality citizen — she indulged her internationalist background by writing extensively on it to attain her B.A. in International Studies from Vassar College. Her 92-page behemoth on women migrant workers in Israel is the pinnacle of her academic interests in feminized global migration, the Southeast Asian diaspora, and the role of the exogenous Other within settler colonial societies. It is also an exemplar of inaccessibility within academic-style writing — it won her university honors. As a student, she was heavily involved with her university’s ALANA and Women’s Centers, case studies in trying to add some color to the ivory tower. In addition to her voluntary unpaid labor for the university, she worked on several political campaigns and can subsequently tell you all about Elizabeth Warren’s 2014 platform.

Wanting to understand multiculturalism within the French context, she worked in a non-profit in France that staged legal interventions in the human rights abuses of refugees and immigrants to the French state. Discovering that the French aren’t that different from the Americans, she willfully forgot all her French language skills. Upon graduation, she completed coursework in Peking University through a Chinese Government Scholarship. (This is her only recorded financial tie to a foreign government.) In her spare time, Alyssa enjoys withholding her money from corporate entities profiting off of human suffering and analyzing racial politics within K-pop group f(x)’s latest music video. She aspires to a career in political satire.

Daniela Aspiazu — Criminalization of Poverty and Race

Daniela is rising senior at Wellesley College, double majoring in American Studies and Economics. She currently lives in Indiana, although she was born in Quito, Ecuador. Through her academic work she hopes to explore the often erased experiences of racial, sexual, and gender minorities in American popular culture and history.

On campus, Daniela is involved in Wellesley for Public Health and the college’s QuestBridge Chapter. Additionally, she recently began volunteering off-campus at a nearby women’s correctional facility, which has allowed her to understand how women in Massachusetts navigate the prison system. After graduating, she hopes to work with low-income and minority communities in a nonprofit setting. Besides her involvements on and off campus, Daniela enjoys listening to a variety of music, watching Tasty videos, and spending time with her adorable cat, Lucy.

At IPS, Daniela is currently drafting her first op-ed on student suspension and expulsion rates in Indiana, and a Restorative Justice Bill that could serve as a positive alternative to these forms of punishment.

Celia Bottger — Climate Policy

Celia Bottger is a rising junior at Tufts University, double majoring in Environmental Studies and International Relations. She has a passion for climate policy, advocacy and grassroots organizing, and is extremely excited to be combining these passions as a climate policy intern with IPS this summer. At Tufts, Celia is co-president of Tufts Climate Action, a fossil fuel divestment campaign and climate justice group on campus. She believes that climate change work inherently intersects with social justice struggles around the world, and that fighting for climate action means fighting for economic, gender, and racial justice as well. Her dream job would be to travel around the world, helping foreign governments implement environmental policies. In her free time, Celia enjoys hiking, traveling, running, scuba diving, dancing, and spending time with friends.

This Summer, Celia is working with IPS’s Climate Policy Program Director, Basav Sen, to finish a report analyzing state policies on state efficiency for commercial and residential energy. Their research discusses ways to increase access to sustainable energy for low income homes by equitable financing from utilities. She’ll soon publish an article on energy insecurity in Puerto Rico.

Mery Concepcion —

Mery is a rising junior at Yale University, currently pursuing a double major in Ethics, Politics, and Economics and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration. She is passionate about progressive public policy and social justice as it relates to the intersection of economic and racial inequality. She aspires to use public policy to dismantle the current oppressive political and economic systems that disproportionately affect people of color.

Aside from academics, she’s involved with several extracurricular groups on campus. As the first ever Director of Outreach for the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee, she coordinates meetings between students organizations and finance managers, ensuring the committee provides guidance and transparency throughout the funding process. She has also served as social chair and historian for the Dominican Students Association for the past two years, helping to plan events that highlight and celebrate Dominican culture as well as cataloguing the history of the organization to preserve the presence of the Dominican identity on campus. As a Fellow for the Yale Effective Altruists, this past year she attended weekly discussion sessions on topics related to the Effective Altruism movement such as animal welfare, systemic social change, and the ethics of development aid. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, watching Netflix and spending time with friends.

Mery just published her first piece at IPS through about Colombia’s desire for progressive politics. Outside of her time writing, she’s doing a deep dive into research through a joint project with the Restaurant Opportunity Center, helping research and analyze strategies and tactics from prior minimum wage fight in Montana.

Fizz Perkal— Organizational Development and Fundraising

Fizz Perkal is a queer, non-binary/trans feminist born and raised on unseeded Native land in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They attended the University of New Mexico where they received a Bachelor’s degree in University Studies and a Masters degree in American Studies. While at UNM, they worked with Students for Justice in Palestine to raise awareness on campus and in Albuquerque about the occupation of Palestine and the Palestinian struggle for liberation. During that time they also worked closely with (un)Occupy Albuquerque, a direct action group born out of the Occupy movement. However, to acknowledge the fact that the Occupy movement happened on stolen, Indigenous land, the group changed its name and worked to center de-colonial activism.

Since graduating, Fizz worked for the last three years as an abortion counselor and doula. Through this work they became aware of the undue burden undocumented immigrants face in accessing healthcare in New Mexico. To offset this burden and support undocumented folks seeking abortion care, they co-founded, along with other abortion care providers, the Mariposa Fund. As a member of the National Network of Abortion Funds, the Mariposa Fund is dedicated to creating a world free from violence where everyone has access to culturally competent and affordable reproductive healthcare. When they’re not organizing or working, Fizz enjoys gardening, hiking, crafting, and spending time with their sweet cat Lola.

Fizz is currently helping to develop a progressive style guide for IPS which would address current best practices around liberatory language. They are in the process of applying for various grants to fund research of LGTBQ health clinics across the country. As part of this research, they are also working on a series of writing projects that explore the relationship between inequality and LGTBQ healthcare.

Juliette Legendre—

Juliette Legendre was born and raised in a small village in France just outside of Paris. Growing up she played tennis competitively which led her to receive an athletic scholarship from the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2015, she graduated with a double degree in Economics and International Business and she is now completing her Masters in International Studies from the University of Montreal. Since December 2017, she’s been a contributing writer for Foreign Policy in Focus at IPS on French politics and far-right movements.

Juliette is enthusiastic about political theory, electoral politics, social movements and international affairs and loves talking with activists about their experience fighting against various social justice issues. Playing tennis in college did not leave her much time to connect her studies to activism, so she’s looking forward to connecting her academic work to her activism through the Next Leader program at IPS.

Juliette’s summer research at IPS focuses on the social and solidarity economy movement that promotes economic alternative practices to our current unsustainable economic system. She plans on publishing a series of articles introducing and supporting local/regional and solidarity economy initiatives launched abroad.

Takema Keyes — Events and Community Engagement

This Summer Kema is devising popular education forums for IPS’s partner, PACA, a grassroots group of African/Black people organizing for community based power in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) metropolitan area. She’s also producing a comprehensive outreach strategy to increase community led power through participatory programs of action that avow and advance collective community control over local economies, community control over the police, and a movement led by the most impacted of our communities. As part of this project, she’ll assist in administering a community survey that will gather from residents information on what they say their needs are and how they feel those needs can best be addressed. At IPS, she’ll identify organizations to partner with for PACA on policy and developing public awareness events.

Lidwina Bell — Criminalization of Poverty and Race

Lidwina Bell is a rising senior at Brown University double concentrating in Public Policy and Africana Studies. Her research and social justice interests include womanism, prison abolition, as well as restorative, transformative, and healing justice for communities of color to uplift community resilience over criminalization. At Brown, she has participated in student groups such as Students Against the Prison Industrial Complex, a prison abolitionist group on campus. She also served as the Black Heritage Series Programmer, responsible for planning events on different areas of the African Diaspora through a cultural and social justice lens for students and Providence community members.

Apart from activities at Brown, Lidwina created a curriculum for and taught a Social Justice Elective course at Higher Achievement, an enrichment program for low-income middle school students in DC of which she is a graduate. She has also served as a campaign intern at Critical Resistance, working on campaigns to stop police militarization, challenge jail construction in communities of color and advocate for alternatives to incarceration, and to equip communities with skills in emergencies in order to not have to rely on the police. In her free time, Lidwina enjoys meditation, yoga, collaging, cooking and spending time with family and friends.

With the Criminalization of Poverty and Race Program at IPS, Lidwina’s research centers on guaranteed basic income. She’s analyzing the successes and challenges of pilot programs and translating that data to a fact sheet. She’s also fact-checking CPR’s upcoming report, Students Under Siege, and producing state-based memos that identify different campaigns against the school to prison pipeline for the Poor People’s Campaign.

Abigail Brook — Global Economy

Abby is a recent graduate from The George Washington University where she studied International Affairs. In her time as a student, she became deeply involved as an activist and community organizer working against U.S. complicity in violence in Palestine. She helped organize a divestment campaign with Students for Justice in Palestine, advocating for the university’s divestment from companies that profit off of the Israeli occupation. She also has worked with Jewish Voice for Peace, where she performed research as a fellow, started a chapter of JVP at George Washington, and supported with the DC chapter with their Deadly Exchange campaign. Abby has also worked as an intern for Amnesty International’s Middle East North Africa Government Relations Program, where she performed research and published materials on U.S. arms transfers.

After graduating, Abby hopes to continue organizing as a member of the Palestinian solidarity movement against U.S. imperialism and militarism as well as for economic and racial justice in the U.S. Outside of her activism, she works as a baker and joyfully nourishes her friends and family with bread! Through food, she loves to combine her convictions for social justice with love for the earth and belief of importance in community. You can also find her running around on the ultimate frisbee field or longing for her home, Washington state’s, beautiful mountains in her spare time!

Abby is now coordinating and producing data collection about gender inequality for, and she’ll write an article on her findings. Then, she’ll move into contributing research on IPS’s 25th annual CEO pay report.