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2016 Class of George J. Mitchell Scholars Announced


For Immediate Release, November 22, 2014

contact:  Serena Wilson  +                   


The US-Ireland Alliance selected the 2016 class of George J. Mitchell Scholars following interviews held today in Washington, D.C. 

Members of the class include a campus leader in the area of sexual assault, the senior class president and member of the varsity basketball team at UNC, the co-founder of Columbia University’s center for the study of nuclear-related issues, a writer working on a graphic novel about postmemory, a New York City actress, and a future physician who will focus on Alzheimer’s Disease.

The nationwide competition attracted 270 applicants for the 12 scholarships named in honor of the former Maine Senator’s contributions to the Northern Ireland peace process.  Recipients are chosen on the basis of academic distinction, leadership and service and spend a year of post-graduate study at institutions of higher learning in Ireland and Northern Ireland.  The scholarship is the flagship project of the non-profit US-Ireland Alliance, founded in 1998 but Trina Vargo, a former foreign policy adviser to Senator Ted Kennedy who was also heavily involved in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Ireland’s Ambassador to the US, Anne Anderson, welcomed the twenty finalist to a reception held at the Irish Embassy last night.  Guests at the reception, which was also supported by the Northern Ireland Bureau, included the new European Union Ambassador to the US, David O’Sullivan, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, many Mitchell Scholars, and friends of the program. 

Serena Wilson, Director of the Mitchell Scholarship Program, updated guests on the financial challenges the program is facing.  Under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the US Department of State Department, the major funder of the program for the past decade, eliminated all funding for the program.  Despite a recent appeal from nearly fifty Members of Congress, led by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME), Secretary Kerry has failed to restore funding.  Wilson noted that if new sources of funding aren’t found soon, the Alliance is unlikely to select another class a year from now.   The scholarship is strongly supported by universities across the US and in Ireland.  Popular with 20 – 30 year-olds, several applicants in recent years, including two selected today, declined an interview for the Rhodes to compete for the Mitchell instead.

Candidate interviews were held at the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, D.C.  Members of the selection committee included Ambassador Anderson; Jon Brestoff Parker, a Mitchell Scholar and CEO and co-founder of Symmetry Therapeutics, a startup pharmaceutical company developing more effective anti-obesity treatments; Ben Casnocha, Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and author of The Alliance; Kathleen Claussen, a Mitchell Scholar and Assistant General Counsel, at the Office of the United States Trade Representative; David Fidler, Professor of Law at Indiana University and a leading expert on global health (Ebola), cybersecurity, cyberspace, and weapons of mass destruction; Kerry Healey, President of Babson College and former Lt. Governor of Massachusetts; and Ganesh Sitaraman, Assistant Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University and former Senior Counsel to Senator Elizabeth Warren.  At the same time the interviews were being conducted, the newly formed alumni board of the Mitchell Scholarship Program held its first meeting under the leadership of co-chairs Cassie Farrelly and Derick Stace-Naughton. 

Those selected today will begin their studies on the island in September 2015.  


Rishi Ahuja is from San Jose, California and is a double major at UC Berkeley studying Economics and Political Science with a minor in Public Policy.  Rishi seeks to identify improvements in U.S. financial policy, design a more efficient and equitable system, and create the partnerships necessary to implement his changes.  During his internship with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Rishi examined the compliance of banks with consumer protection laws, and reached out to stakeholders in underserved communities.  He is a four-time winner of the Cal Alumni Leadership Award, the most prestigious merit-based award at UC Berkeley, and the winner of the Regent’s and Chancellor’s Scholarship.  As Student Advocate in the Berkeley Student Government, Rishi led an office of 30 caseworkers to provide direct representation to over 100 students that had disputes with the university.   He also served as a loan officer for Berkeley Microfinance, where he approved loans at zero interest for local small business owners.  Aspiring to a role in developing financial regulatory policy in the US, Rishi wishes to study the impact of the financial crisis on the Irish economy and political system.  He will study Economics at Trinity College Dublin.

Milad Alucozai was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and is a graduate of Purdue University’s Honors Program with a degree in Brain and Behavioral Science, a Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and a minor in Political Science. He is a full-time research assistant at Purdue’s Interfacial Multiphysics Lab with aspirations to change mental health policy in the United States.  As part of his remarkable journey from child immigrant to university researcher, he has invented four technologies, is involved in numerous start-ups, and was twice awarded Purdue’s Technology Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Innovator Award.  Milad has traveled the world, including working on projects in Ethiopia, Colombia, and Nepal.  He was co-founder and director of Project Heart, a global non-profit that was a featured project at the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference.  He was also the president and co-founder of Purdue’s Chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, an organization that promotes a millennial voice in pressing domestic issues.  Milad has submitted two papers for publication related to his research on interfacial biomechanics and is currently working on a third.  In Ireland, Milad hopes to consider mental health in terms of the global health policy agendas in Ireland and Europe at large, as he continues his non-linear path to prioritizing mental health in our national policy.  He will study Immunology and Global Health at Maynooth.

Thomas Golden is from Bradley Beach, New Jersey; a third year medical student at Rutgers University; and a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead Cain Scholar, with a major in English and minors in Chemistry and Spanish.  With an early desire to become a physician for the disenfranchised, he spent a summer in South America researching healthcare systems for the impoverished in Argentina, Chile, and Peru. He later conducted research in Nicaragua on the incidence of gastric cancer.  Before medical school at Rutgers University, Thomas obtained employment as an Emergency Room Technician in Mississippi, and volunteered at a community health center in the Mississippi Delta.  He often helped marginalized citizens, such as in the Hinds County Restitution Center as a GED Tutor in Jackson, MS, and in implementing a diabetes education lecture series for inmates in New Jersey State Prisons.  He served as the student coordinator for the Health Literacy Initiative for Students Teaching Older Spanish Speakers (LISTOS), and later organized health education workshops for Spanish-speaking children.  His research interests include investigating the efficacy of the Patient Centered Medical Home, a model of primary care delivery that emphasizes comprehensive care, in improving patient access and outcomes.  Thomas will study public health in Ireland to reinforce his goal to become an innovator in improving healthcare delivery.   He will study Public Health at University College Cork.

Rachel Green is a resident of Germantown, Tennessee and a senior at the Indiana University studying Economics and Sociology.  She is a campus leader, particularly in the area of sexual assault, a major issue on American college campuses.  She is the Co-Chair of Culture of Care, which engages in awareness programming in four areas: mental health, drugs and alcohol, sexual well-being, and respect.  The organization has trained more than 2000 students in bystander intervention.  Rachel is also the Co-Director of U Bring Change 2 Mind, working closely with Glenn Close’s national organization to eliminate mental health stigma.  She is one of 13 students selected by the President of IU to research and develop recommendations on the most pressing issues on campus.  Helping others is a theme running through Rachel’s activities.  She served as a social services intern at Porter-Leath, working on foster and adoptive care in Memphis and for Middle Way House in Bloomington which provides services to women and children victims of domestic violence. As a social responsibility intern for FedEx, she helped coordinate Memphis service opportunities for FedEx volunteers.  Rachel will study law, politics and gender on the island of Ireland before pursuing a JD in Public Interest so that she may have a career combatting violence against women. Rachel will study Conflict Transformation & Social Justice at Queen’s University Belfast.

Gavin Landgraf is from Saratoga, California, and a graduate of Claremont McKenna College, where he majored in PPE: Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and won the H.N. Berger Prize for Outstanding Senior Man.  Gavin was elected Student Body President, a position that enabled him to collaborate with the college administration to develop a $100 million initiative to finance scholarships for low-income students.  He also worked to address sexual assault on campus, a problem challenging colleges nationwide. Gavin is currently an Executive Fellow with the California Capital Fellows Program and is working full-time for the state on water policy issues. His interest in public policy has taken him to the Rose Institute of State and Local Government; an internship in Washington, D.C. at the constitutional law firm Cooper & Kirk; and to Morgan Stanley’s Public Finance Group in San Francisco. Gavin hopes to pursue a law degree in environmental and natural resource law with the aim to develop and implement public policies to ensure water is a resource on which both agricultural and urban communities can consistently rely.  He will study Natural Resource Economics and Policy at NUI Galway.

Daniel Listwa is from East Brunswick, New Jersey and is a John Jay Scholar at Columbia University majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and concentrating in Business Management.  In the wake of the nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan in 2011, Daniel was part of a research team based at the European Council for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, tasked with studying the state of nuclear policy.  He shifted the team’s focus from observation to countering the effects of a fear-inducing media to prevent government policy shifts based on emotion.  He subsequently co-founded and is Assistant Director of the K1 Project at Columbia University, a center for the study of nuclear-related issues, aiming to promote informed debate about nuclear technologies to garner support for disarmament and sustainable energy policies.  Daniel is the Editor-in-Chief of The Columbia Economics Review (CER), the oldest undergraduate economics journal in the U.S., which publishes academic student papers from around the world and maintains an online magazine.  He is also an editor of the Gadfly, Journal of Philosophy. Daniel is a member of the executive board of Koach, the traditional egalitarian Jewish community at Columbia.  To enhance his knowledge of government and the law as he furthers his pursuit of policies that will advance a safe and sustainable future, Daniel will study Philosophy and Public Affairs at University College Dublin.

Julianne Norton is a resident of Trumbull, Connecticut and a senior at the University of Connecticut where she studies International Relations with a concentration in Cross-Cultural Relations and a minor in Studio Art. For her honors thesis project, she has been conducting a cultural analysis of postmemory, the imaginative/emotional recreation of cultural trauma by the second and third generation of survivors. She completed a series of oil paintings in response to this analysis, and has since received grant funding to create the first book of a graphic novel. On campus, Julianne is the cofounder and president of Everybody Arts, an organization that brings together people from a variety of fields and majors to make art and provide outreach to schools with underfunded art programs. She runs an improv comedy group, which meets twice a week and puts on shows. Through UConn Connects, Julianne works with a caseload of students on academic probation for whom she serves as a facilitator and counselor. She is also a conversation partner for non-English speaking prospective UConn students. Julianne aims to earn a JD and practice art law as a means of expressing her desire to protect artists’ rights as she continues to work as an artist as well. First, she will earn an MA in support of the next book of her graphic novel, which will address the relationships between Irish and Jewish postmemory.  She will study Writing at NUI Galway.

Stephen Sechler is a resident of Fruitland, MD and a senior at Villanova University where he is a Presidential Scholar studying Electrical Engineering.  He is a teaching assistant for freshman engineering classes and served as the vice president of PEERS Engineering Tutoring, which eases the transfer to college for engineering students. He is also the vice president of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society.   Stephen’s involvement in a variety of service projects include home building in Appalachia, playground building in the Philadelphia area and volunteering for the Special Olympics.  He has held internships involving industrial heat trace systems, electrical wiring systems for defense aircraft, and writing computer code for NASA.  However, it is his involvement in Level that has the most profound impact on him.  Level is designed to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the same academic and social opportunities as the rest of the Villanova students.  Through his work with a student with cerebral palsy, Stephen has been frustrated by the limitations of current technology on his friend’s ability to effectively communicate.  Knowing he wants to pioneer new ways to use engineering in medical application with a focus on improvements in auditory devices, Stephen will study Bioengineering at Trinity College Dublin.

Sasha Seymore, a resident of New Bern, North Carolina, is a senior at UNC Chapel Hill where he studies Economics/Global Studies.  Sasha was elected President of the Class of 2015 and selected as the head of all student trip leaders for Kenan-Flagler Business School's global immersions, through which he studied in Beijing, Shanghai, and Taipei.  Although some schools tried to recruit him to play soccer, Sasha opted to attend UNC as a Morehead-Cain Scholar and had the rare distinction of making the varsity basketball team this year as a walk-on.  Sasha is interested in the impact of sports NGOs and is writing his senior thesis on this, with a focus on conflict resolution in Israel/Palestine.  He is also the co-founder and co-president of Kicking Across Carolina.  Sasha is a Christian who became friends with a Muslim and a Jew through soccer and they founded this organization to raise money and awareness for NGO’s in the Middle East that use soccer as a method to promote religious tolerance and peace.  Sasha also volunteered in South Africa with an organization that works to alleviate clubfoot, and worked as an English and basketball instructor in Brazil’s largest slum.  During a summer spent with McKinsey & Company, he worked on a project for a major non-profit organization.  Sasha will study Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Keelie Sheridan is a resident of Brooklyn, New York.  She received a BA in Theatre from SUNY Empire State College and an MFA in Acting from Brooklyn College.  Keelie wrote and performed a solo-show at La MaMa E.T.C. and has performed in numerous other productions.  Receiving a scholarship to study at a local Irish dance school was transformative and Keelie went on to compete in the 2009 Irish World Championships with Niall O’Leary’s School of Irish Dance.  She lost her home and all of her belongings in Hurricane Sandy and “had the rare privilege of stepping onto a blank canvas.”   She is exploring her experiences with Hurricane Sandy in a full-length play.  She serves 'at-risk' communities and has created an adaptive arts curriculum for adults and children with developmental disabilities, and is currently working to implement a program called Emerging Voices, which empowers under-represented youth across NYC.  With colleagues from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Keelie founded Mind the Art Entertainment and in seven years the production company has produced fifty-two original projects in various art forms in collaboration with over 550 international artists.  In Ireland, Keelie would continue her exploration of Aeschylus' classic Greek tragedies, The Oresteia trilogy, through the lens of Irish history. Keelie will study Directing at the Lir, Trinity College Dublin. 

Tara Torabi is a resident of Sedona, Arizona and a senior at Brown University where she studies Neuroscience.  Having represented her high school at the National Brain Bee neuroscience competition, she founded the Brown University Brain Bee.  Tara raised funds, recruited students from local high schools, designed a website, coordinated neuroscience lessons on campus taught by her professors, and organized the competition culminating the program.  Understanding the value of music on the brain, Tara is currently organizing a free music program for youth in Providence.  As an Americorps Access Scholar, she worked with underrepresented youth applying to college.  Tara’s primary interest is in Alzheimer’s disease and supporting those affected, as well as their caregivers.  She serves as Co-President of Brown’s Alzheimer’s Activists, a student group that raises awareness of AD on campus and within the local community, and participates in political activism with the RI chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. She also works as a hospice volunteer to a patient with Alzheimer’s and recently began an independent research project in the Pathology Department at Rhode Island Hospital, studying Alzheimer’s disease on a molecular level.  With plans to be a researcher and physician focusing on Alzheimer’s, Tara will study Neuropharmacology at NUI Galway.