Obama appoints Mehret Mandefro as a White House Fellow

Elias Kifle | June 25th, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA APPOINTS 2009-2010 CLASS OF WHITE HOUSE FELLOWS

WASHINGTON, DC – The White House announced today the appointment of 15 outstanding men and women to serve as White House Fellows. The 2009-2010 class of White House Fellows represents a diverse cross-section of professions including medicine, business, media, education, non-profit and state government, as well as two branches of the U.S. military. The 2009-2010 class of Fellows and their biographies are included below.

“We are thrilled that these exceptional men and women will be joining us here in Washington for the next year,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “The program not only allows for a variety of perspectives to come together, offering expertise and experience to benefit the administration’s efforts, but these Fellows in turn carry what they’ve learned to their own communities to benefit Americans far beyond the walls of the White House.”

The White House Fellows Program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to give promising American leaders “first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.” This unique position in our nation’s government encourages active citizenship and service to the nation. The Fellows also take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation, military operations, and current affairs. Community service is another important component of the program, and Fellows participate in service projects throughout the year in the Washington, DC area. Since 1964, over 600 outstanding American men and women have participated in the White House Fellows program, each chosen because of their extraordinary leadership ability and service to others.

Selection as a White House Fellow is highly competitive and based on a record of remarkable professional achievement early in one’s career, evidence of leadership potential, a proven commitment to public service, and the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute successfully at the highest levels of the Federal government. Throughout its history, the program has fostered leaders in many fields including Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, U.S. Representative Joe Barton, writer Doris Kearns Goodwin, former Travelocity CEO Michelle Peluso, former CNN Chairman and CEO Tom Johnson, former Univision President Luis Nogales, and U.S. Court of Appeals Judges M. Margaret McKeown and Deanell Tacha.

Additional information about the White House Fellows program is available here: www.whitehouse.gov/fellows.

2009-2010 Class of White House Fellows

Mehret Mandefro, 32. Hometown: Alexandria, VA. Mehret Mandefro is a primary care physician and HIV prevention researcher. She most recently was a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. Her research addresses the intersection of violence prevention and HIV prevention and the application of digital media in translating research. She completed a Primary Care internal medicine residency at Montefiore Hospital where she founded a nonprofit called TruthAIDS that is focused on health literacy efforts among vulnerable populations. Mehret is the managing editor for www.truthaids.org and conducts workshops on HIV prevention, health disparities, and the public health uses of media nationally and internationally as part of TruthAIDS’ outreach efforts. Her ethnographic work about HIV positive women’s lives in the South Bronx and Ethiopia is the subject of a full-feature documentary film entitled All of Us, which premiered on Showtime Networks for World AIDS Day and is used nationwide by community-based organizations and universities as an educational tool. Mehret received a BA cum laude in Anthropology and a Medical Doctorate from Harvard University, and a Masters of Science in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as a Fulbright Scholar.

Laura Bacon, 29. Hometown: Weymouth, MA. Laura Bacon is a recent graduate of Harvard Kennedy School, where she studied political and economic development on a Reynolds Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship. While at Harvard, Laura served as a Technical Advisor and Researcher for Liberia’s Women’s Legislative Caucus, helping draft gender parity legislation. As a Cultural Bridge Fellow, Laura worked at Liberia’s Ministry of Gender and Development, where she closely advised the Minister, wrote speeches for Ministry leadership, and designed leadership workshops for senior management. Laura was a Research Fellow at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership, where she co-authored several works, including the National Leadership Index: A National Study of Confidence in Leadership and a chapter in Women and Leadership: The State of Play and Strategies for Change. Laura has also conducted research for US News & World Report’s “America’s Best Leaders” project. Laura was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, where she was the National Coordinator of the Young Girls’ Scholarship Program and founded a community-run grain bank. A cycling enthusiast, she has completed AIDS rides from New York to Boston and across Niger. Laura performed as a cellist in the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and her photography has been featured in several exhibitions, publications, and calendars. She graduated with honors from Harvard College, Phi Beta Kappa, with an A.B. in Psychology.

Nicole Campbell, 30. Hometown: Brooklyn, NY. Nicole Campbell is Vice President of the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation where she has developed and executed the Foundation’s education investment strategy. In her role, Nicole attracted new, external financial support and created innovative ways for the Bank to meet its Community Reinvestment Act obligations. She created College Ready Communities which facilitates partnerships between housing developers, local education advocacy organizations, and public schools to improve academic outcomes in low-income neighborhoods. Nicole has recruited partners ranging from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the New York City Department of Education. Her prior experience includes work with the New York City Department of Education as well as with government and nonprofit organizations in the Dominican Republic, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Nicole is a founding board member of Achievement First Brownsville, a charter school in Brooklyn, New York. She received a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School where she founded the annual Harvard Black Policy Conference and received the Julius E. Babbitt Alumni Award for Service. Nicole received her B.A. from Amherst College where she received the John Woodruff Simpson Fellowship and was a two time NCAA Division III National Triple Jump Champion in Track & Field.

Jonathan Finer, 33. Hometown: New Haven, CT. Jonathan Finer was a correspondent for The Washington Post. He has reported on conflicts in Iraq, Gaza, Georgia/Russia and Israel/Lebanon. He spent more than 18 months based in Baghdad, and was embedded with the U.S. Marines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He also covered the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign. Prior to the Post, Jon spent a year reporting and editing for the Far Eastern Economic Review, a Hong Kong news magazine, as a Henry Luce Foundation Scholar. He received the 2002 Young Journalist Award from the Society of Publishers in Asia. While on leave from the Post, Jon earned his J.D. in 2009 from Yale Law School, where he founded the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, an organization that advocates on behalf of civilians who fled the war. A Rhodes Scholar, he earned an M.Phil in International Relations from Oxford in 2001 and an undergraduate degree from Harvard in 1999. He is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Truman Security Fellow. Jon was raised in Norwich, Vermont, where his parents still live, and has three younger siblings.

Zheng Huang, 32. Hometown: San Jose, CA. Zheng Huang is a co-founder of Business Connect China, a provider of expert consultation, market intelligence, advisory services, and investments for the China market. Prior to that, he was a Managing Director at Intel Corporation, responsible for Intel’s telecommunications business in China. Under his leadership, Intel struck a number of collaborations and partnerships in China that successfully charted a new path for long term technology standards cooperation and intellectual property resolution between US and China. He holds a MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School, as well as a M.S. in Computer Science (elected President of Tau Beta Pi National Engineering Honors Society), a B.S. in Industrial Engineering, and a B.A. in Economics from Stanford University. While at Stanford, he founded the Stanford Society of Asian American Engineers, sending Stanford students to Asia to work with their university counterparts on entrepreneurial projects and selecting student leaders to participate in week-long summits to discuss high technology trends across the Pacific. Today, offshoots of SSAE have established chapters in 15 universities across ten countries. He has lived and worked in Germany (for Bosch), Japan (for Hitachi), India (for Infosys), and China and traveled to over 40 countries.

Kellee James, 32. Hometown: Chicago, IL. Kellee James is an Economist at the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). Her responsibilities include research, state-level public policy outreach and business development at the United States’ first greenhouse gas emissions exchange and cap-and-trade system. Prior to joining CCX, Kellee worked for the World Bank as part of its technology group, as well as for the Inter-American Foundation where she evaluated agriculture, tourism and microfinance projects in Brazil, Mexico and Honduras. Kellee is a co-founder and Board member of Levantamos, a non-profit that works to develop partnerships between Americans and Brazilians of African descent. She also currently serves on the Board of Net Impact, a membership organization of over 12,000 MBA professionals committed to sustainability through corporate responsibility; and is a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, a leadership training institute. Kellee is a lifelong equestrian, and has trained in the discipline of show jumping under the direction of a former U.S. Olympian. She received her MBA and MA in International Development from American University in Washington, D.C., and completed a BA in Spanish and International Studies from the University of Kentucky.

Sarah Johnson, 29. Hometown: Lexington, KY. Sarah Johnson is a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows, where she pursues research at the nexus of biology and planetary science. For the past two years, Sarah has helped develop a life detection instrument for a future mission to Mars; prior to that, she completed field seasons in Antarctica, Australia and Madagascar, conducted research at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and worked at mission control for the NASA Opportunity and Spirit Mars Rovers. Her publications address topics ranging from global warming on early Mars to biodiversity in inaccessible ecosystems on Earth, and in 2007 she published a paper announcing the discovery of the world’s oldest living organism. Sarah also co-founded Common Hope for Health, a non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating healthcare deficiencies in Kenya, and she serves as a consultant at United Nations climate change negotiations. She is a Goldwater, Truman and Rhodes Scholar, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow. She holds a B.A. in mathematics and environmental studies from Washington University in St. Louis, a second B.A. in philosophy, politics and economics and an M.Sc. in biology from Oxford University, and a Ph.D. in planetary science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Rob Lyman, 38. Hometown: Walkersville, MD. Rob Lyman is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. His sixteen year career includes a tour as a squadron commander, plus deployments throughout Southwest and Central Asia. He has served at the U.S. Central Air Forces Combined Air Operations Center supporting Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan and as the Director of Communications for a deployed Joint Special Operations Task Force. As a Captain he was selected for the Air Force Intern program, where he received his master’s degree in organizational management from George Washington University. Rob has been a consistent community volunteer with youth leadership organizations and has supported scholarships for technical education. He has received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal twice, and was presented the 2008 Leadership Award by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, International. A graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, he holds additional qualifiers as a Strategist, Joint Planner, and Air Operations Officer. He was an Air Force ROTC cadet at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. His military decorations include three awards of the Bronze Star Medal.

Anish Mahajan, 34. Hometown: Poughkeepsie, NY. Anish Mahajan is an internist and health services researcher. He was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar and completed a Master of Science in Health Services at UCLA. Dr. Mahajan is committed to the ideal that health policy formulation should be informed by scientific evidence and stakeholder engagement. He has led innovative research collaborations between academic, government, and relevant stakeholder organizations on an array of domestic and international health policy issues. He has given presentations and published numerous peer-reviewed articles on topics including HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, the private sector response to the South African AIDS epidemic, high-deductible health plans, and adherence to medications for chronic illnesses. His work has addressed health care challenges in the U.S., India, and South Africa and he has previously served as a consultant to The Ford Foundation and RAND Corporation. Dedicated to public service, he is currently serving a 2-year term as a publicly elected council member on a City of Los Angeles neighborhood council. He is Vice-Chair on the council’s Public Policy Committee. Anish received a B.A. in Public Policy and M.D. from Brown University. He also earned a M.P.H. in International Health from Harvard School of Public Health.

Annie Maxwell, 30. Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA. Annie Maxwell is the Chief Operating Officer of Direct Relief International, a nonprofit that through humanitarian assistance improves the quality of life for people affected by poverty or disasters in 59 countries including the U.S. Annie joined Direct Relief in 2002 and now oversees the day-to-day activities of the organization. From 2005 to 2006, Annie was seconded to the United Nation’s Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, led by Special Envoy President Bill Clinton. She served as Partnerships and Outreach Officer, focusing on environmental issues and the role of NGOs in the recovery effort. Annie served as chair and vice chair of the Alumni Board of Governors at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy and as a member of the founding Board of Directors for the nonprofit Wizzy Digital; she also volunteers as a youth volleyball coach. In 2007 she was selected for the Marshall Memorial Fellowship. Annie received her Master’s in Public Policy and B.A. in English and Political Science, Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Michigan. She attended the university on a full athletic scholarship and was captain of the university’s Division I volleyball team.

Emil Michael, 36. Hometown: Miami Beach, FL. Emil Michael is Founder and President of Venture Consulting. He works with promising technology start-ups on their business strategy, corporate development activities and executive recruiting. Prior to that, he was Senior Vice President of Field Operations at Tellme Networks where he led various departments throughout his tenure including account management, business and corporate development, legal, procurement, project management and sales. Starting with Tellme while operating out of a garage in 1999, he helped grow the company to over 350 employees and $100 million in annual revenue through its acquisition by Microsoft in 2007. He was also an investment banker with Goldman Sach’s Communication, Media and Entertainment Group from 1998 to 1999. Emil is the Founder of Twin Lakes Investments, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to teach families how best to save for college by providing individualized mentoring and matching funds. Leveraging his experience as an immigrant from Egypt, Emil counsels immigrant families on how best to assimilate to America. He speaks Arabic and passed both the New York State Bar Exam and the NASD Securities License 7 exam. Emil received his B.A. in Government cum laude from Harvard University and his J.D. from Stanford University where he graduated with honors.

Kendric Robbins, 38. Hometown: Albion, ME. Kendric Robbins is a Major in the United States Army. He has held a variety of staff and command positions throughout his fifteen year career. Most recently, he served as the operations officer and later executive officer of Task Force 2-6 Infantry while deployed to Iraq. Prior to that he commanded a cavalry troop serving as part of the NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia, and as a platoon leader, he operated a remote observation post on the Macedonian and Serbian border conducting UN peacekeeping operations. Ken also served as an assistant professor and executive officer in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, were he taught courses on American politics and mentored future officers. In addition to his professional pursuits, Ken ran the Boston Marathon twice to bring attention to the plight of homeless veterans and is a 4th Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic charitable organization. He earned a B.S. in American Politics from the United States Military Academy and an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where he was recognized for academic and leadership excellence. Ken and Heidi Robbins are the proud parents of two girls.

Marc Sternberg, 36. Hometown: New York, NY. Marc Sternberg is the Founder and Principal of the Bronx Lab School. Bronx Lab is a non-selective college preparatory high school that serves 430 students from the Bronx and upper Manhattan. Founded in 2004, Bronx Lab has been called one of New York’s high profile new schools by The New York Times, and has earned praise from, among others, the Gates Foundation, The Economist, and Education Week Magazine. The school graduates its second class of students in June 2009. In a borough with a graduation rate of less than 40%, more than 90% of the Bronx Lab Classes of 2008 and 2009 have graduated having earned more than $4 million in scholarship dollars and nearly four college acceptances per graduate. Bronx Lab graduates attend Middlebury, Brandeis, Connecticut College, Syracuse, SUNY Binghamton and scores of other colleges and universities. After earning a B.A. from Princeton University in 1995, Marc served as a Teach for America corps member in the South Bronx where he taught for three years. He then earned a joint MBA and Masters in Education from Harvard University, after which he returned to New York City as Vice President of Victory Schools, an organization that launches and manages charter schools.

Adam Taylor, 33. Hometown: Washington, DC. Adam Taylor is the Senior Political Director at Sojourners. He is responsible for leading the organization’s advocacy, coalition building, and constituency outreach. He formerly served as the Executive Director of Global Justice, an organization that educates and mobilizes students around global human rights and economic justice. Before co-founding Global Justice, he worked as an Associate at the Harvard University Carr Center for Human Rights and as an Urban Fellow in the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in New York City. Adam served as the co-chair of the Jubilee U.S.A. Network and on the Advisory Board of the Global Interdependence Initiative. He currently serves on the boards of Micah Challenge USA and Africa Action. Adam serves as an Associate Minister at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington DC. Adam graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Masters in Divinity from the Samuel Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University in 2009. He received a Masters in Public Policy from the JFK School of Government, Harvard University in 2001. He graduated Cum Laude with a BA in international studies from Emory University in 1998, where he was the recipient of the Marion Luther Brittain Award, the University’s highest student honor.

Presiliano (Raúl) Torrez, 32. Hometown: Albuquerque, NM. Raúl Torrez is an Assistant Attorney General in the Special Prosecutions Division of the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. He prosecutes complex felony cases including violent crimes, white collar, voter fraud, and Internet Crimes Against Children. He is also the only cross-designated Special Assistant United States Attorney assigned to the firearms section of the United States Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque where he prosecutes felons in possession of firearms and armed career criminals. Prior to his legal career, Mr. Torrez worked for an Internet startup company in New York and Silicon Valley, and he also served as the Development Officer for the César E. Chávez Foundation in Los Angeles. He is an American Bar Association / Young Lawyers Division Scholar, a Deputy Regional President of the Hispanic National Bar Association, and a board member of the Rio Grande Community Development Corporation. Mr. Torrez is also the founder of Albuquerque KIPP, a non-profit organization dedicated to the establishment of a premiere, college-prep charter school for Albuquerque’s low-income students. He received his A.B. in Government, Cum Laude, from Harvard University, his M.S. in International Political Economy, with Merit, from The London School of Economics, and his J.D. from Stanford Law School.