Foreign Policy on the Hill: Understanding the Field

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What role does the Hill play in shaping US foreign policy and what opportunities are available? How does working for a member differ from staffing a committee? Join us for a conversation to gain a better understanding of what staffers do, what types of jobs are available, and how to get your foot in the door.

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This event is free for WIIS Members. WIIS Members can access the code for free registration on the member homepage. 


Ms. Chidi Blyden is a socio-cultural advisor on Africa’s conflicts, security and development issues. She currently serves as a Professional Staff Member for the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Policy Team, advising on Africa and South America’s defense equities for the 117th U.S. Congress. Prior to joining the HASC, she led the Africa Program at the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) and was responsible for implementing the Africa portfolio as its first Director for Africa. In this capacity Ms. Blyden designed and implemented a pilot program focused on culturally specific training for the Nigerian Armed Forces on practices to minimize harm to civilians during the height of the Boko Haram insurgency.

Prior to CIVIC, Ms. Blyden served in the Obama Administration as the Special Assistant and Regional Director to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for African Affairs in the Office of Secretary for Defense for Policy (OSDP) from 2013- 2017. During her tenure she managed several functional and regional responsibilities including U.S.- Africa defense policy for East and Central Africa and as the Africa Peacekeeping Advisor to the office of Stability and Humanitarian Affairs. In addition, she managed complex emergencies in the Central African Republic and South Sudan as well as provided invaluable expertise to the interagency protecting defense equities. As lead expert on the President’s Africa Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership, Ms. Blyden was instrumental in the planning and execution of travel by the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to South Sudan. The visit ultimately resulted in new opportunities for support to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan which were announced at the 2016 UN Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial in London.

Prior to her appointment, Ms. Blyden worked at the National Defense University: Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) from 2007-2012 as the Academic Operations Coordinator, leading the business and administrative operations of the Academic Dean’s Office and as the Senior Academic Research Associate. There she contributed to academic material and curriculum for over 30 programs on counterterrorism, defense economics, conflict management, security studies and civil-military relations for Africa’s security sector professionals. She received awards for her time in public service including the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service. Ms. Blyden is an adjunct at Georgetown University, where she teaches a graduate course on Africa Security Studies and Policy in the Security Studies Program. She is a Political Partner (2015) and Co-lead of the Africa Expert Group for the Truman National Security Project and serves on the Leadership Council for Memunatu Magazine, a magazine for young African girls. She is also the founder of the USG-Africa Diaspora Security Professionals Group (LinkedIn) for African-American USG Security Professionals, a member of Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS) and the Diversity in National Security Network (DINSN).

She is an alumna of Texas A&M University (BSc, Sociology), and the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University (MSc, Conflict, Analysis and Resolution). She also attended the Annie Walsh Memorial School for Girls in Freetown, Sierra Leone.Ms. Blyden speaks French and Krio and her interests include global education, women peace and security, and the  physical sciences. Ms. Blyden’s interests in U.S.- Africa defense and security issues were greatly influenced by her time as a teenager in Sierra Leone at the height of the country’s civil war and presidential elections. She is passionate about security challenges in Africa which she seeks to improve through her work in the US government.

Katherine Earle is a Professional Staff Member on the Republican staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee where she focuses on Europe, Russia and NATO. She is currently working on ensuring the robust implementation of the Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act of 2020 to support the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people and the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act, as am

ended to prevent the competition of the Russian malign Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Previously, she was a Nuclear Security Fellow in the office of Senator John Hoeven (R-ND). Before working on the Hill, Katherine served as the Senior Program Manager in the Foreign and Defense Policy Studies Department at the AEI. Prior to that, Katherine was a research associate for AEI’s Director of Russian Studies. She holds a MA in Security Studies from Georgetown and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a focus on Russia and Eastern Europe from Middlebury.

Katarina O’Regan is an Analyst in Foreign Policy and Presidential Management Fellow at the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which provides policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. At CRS, Katarina provides authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan analysis to Congress on topics relating to transnational crime, corruption, and trafficking. Prior to CRS, Katarina worked on international development and human security issues internationally in Tunisia, Bangladesh, Liberia, and Uganda and in Washington, DC at the British Embassy and the National Democratic Institute. She has a MS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, where she served as Teaching and Research Assistant to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and a BA in International Studies from Fordham University. In 2019, she co-chaired the Women’s Foreign Policy Group’s Young Professional Network.

Maggie McNamara Cooper is a Professional Staff Member for the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) where her portfolio includes budget and policy issues related to US European Command, NATO, and Russia, US Africa Command, counterterrorism, information operations, and overseas humanitarian, disaster, and civic aid. Prior to joining the SASC staff in August 2010, Ms. McNamara Cooper worked in the personal office of Senator Carl Levin. She received a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in national security studies from the Naval War College.

Meghan Gallagher is a Professional Staff Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee for Lead Republican Michael McCaul (R-TX) handling foreign assistance, sub-Saharan Africa policy, global women’s issues, UN peacekeeping, and conservation/wildlife trafficking and previously handled sub-Saharan Africa and conservation for Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA). Prior to this position, she worked for Senator Jeff Flake, assisting with foreign policy, defense, and international trade issues. Meghan also spent time in South Africa on a USAID Research and Innovations fellowship and in Uganda working with the Pulte Institute for Global Development. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a BA in Political Science and International Development Studies and was born and raised in Napa, California.

Kim Kahnhauser FreemanKim Kahnhauser Freeman (Moderator) is the executive director of the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, a non-profit organization which promotes women’s leadership and amplifies their voices in international affairs. Since joining the WFPG team in 2006, she has held roles of increasing responsibility supporting the organization’s global issues programs, membership outreach, mentoring initiatives, and strategic development. Previously, Kim was a Fulbright teaching fellow in Tirol, Austria, and researched public housing for the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service in DC. Kim was a 2011 State Department Young Turkey/Young America Fellow, and holds a BS in International Politics from Georgetown and an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy.