Ariela Blätter is the President and CEO of WIIS. She has more than 20 years of experience in the peace and security field as an international lawyer, grantmaker, social entrepreneur and nonprofit leader.
Most recently, Ariela served as a senior grantmaker on mass atrocity prevention and response for the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund. Here, she spearheaded new philanthropic investments in civilian protection, women peace & security, and launched a local action fund with conflict-affected community partners in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Myanmar.
Ariela co-founded the consulting firm Strategy for Humanity, stewarding its growth to an 8-person staff serving over 30 public and private sector clients. Ariela’s work included creating the inaugural research agenda for the Georgetown’s Institute for Women Peace & Security and strategically re-launching the George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute.
Ariela has held senior management roles at Amnesty International USA, Citizens for Global Solutions and Refugees International. She has twice served as an NGO Permanent Representative to the United Nations, working on the negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty and the International Criminal Court’s Rome Treaty.
While at Amnesty, Ariela founded its award-winning global center for preventing and responding to human rights violations in armed conflict. Brokering a groundbreaking public-private partnership, she secured Amnesty’s place as the first human rights organization to use commercial satellite technologies for preventative conflict and displacement monitoring. In recognition of this work, she was appointed by former Secretaries Madeleine Albright and William S. Cohen to serve on the U.S. Genocide Prevention Task Force, resulting in the establishment of the U.S. Government’s Atrocities Prevention Board.
Ariela has served as adjunct faculty at the School of International Service at American University in Washington DC and has published peer-reviewed scholarly articles.
She holds a law degree from Trinity College (Dublin) and a Master of Laws from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Dr. Karin L. Johnston is the Research Director at Women In International Security (WIIS) and adjunct professor at the School of Public Policy, University of Maryland-College Park, and American University. She is an experienced policy analyst and project manager with government, non-profit, and academic experience in international security, foreign and security policy analysis, U.S.-European relations, and gender, peace and conflict analysis.
Dr. Johnston has served as a WPS trainer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Institute for Security Governance in Monterey, California and Bogota, Colombia, and as a speaker on gender and WPS for the Inter-American Defense College and the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in Washington, D.C.
A recipient of the U.S. Department of State’s Franklin Fellowship, Dr. Johnston served in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, focusing on the Bureau’s security sector portfolio and stabilization strategies. She helped expand CSO’s security sector expertise in security sector reform (SSR), Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) of armed groups, and foreign assistance and stabilization strategies. While at CSO, Dr. Johnston co-authored a practitioner’s guide on DDR and defections with the UK Stabilization Unit that has been utilized in SSR efforts in Cameroon, Mozambique, and West Africa.
Dr. Johnston has written on German policy decision-making and the politics of military intervention, international public opinion and media and politics, U.S. and transatlantic foreign and defense policy, and gender equality in the European Union. Fluent in German, Dr. Johnston was a Mercator Fellow at the University of Duisburg-Essen and a former fellow of the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program. She received a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland-College Park and an M.A. in International Studies from the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.
Senior Manager for Programs and Partnerships
Roksana Verahrami is WIIS’ Senior Manager for Programs and Partnerships. Roksana graduated with a B.A. in Economics and International Affairs, with a concentration in international development from the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in May 2020. She has previously worked with the Save Darfur movement, studying genocide and the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. She also worked on some of the issues surrounding the ensuing refugee crisis from Sudan into neighboring countries and abroad and helped organize an annual symposium designed to bring awareness to the situation in Darfur and its impact on women. Her interests also include studying the gendered dimensions of climate change, especially the intersectionality of race and class in these gendered dimensions, analyzing the subversion or exploitation of traditional gender roles during times of violence, rebellion, and war, and looking at how religious norms shape gender roles cross-culturally. She has also spent a semester studying at Trinity College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland studying international politics, economics, and religion.
Deputy Research Program Manager
Larissa Abaunza serves as Deputy Research Project Manager, where she oversees the implementation of WIIS’ research agenda and programming. Larissa received her BA in International Relations, with a concentration in Genocide, Human Rights, and Holocaust Studies from Claremont McKenna College, culminating in her award-winning thesis, titled “Rape and Sexual Violence Used as a Weapon of War and Genocide.” Larissa was selected as a Fulbright recipient through the U.S. Department of State where she conducted research into the segregation and racial discrimination of Roma communities in Eastern Hungary. Upon her return to the United States, Larissa continued her education, receiving her MA in Human Rights Studies from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her area of focus in her MA program was the intersection of gender and terrorism, specifically on how women and girls are the keys to combatting violent extremism. Her graduate thesis examined the motivations and agency of women combatants in Nicaragua’s Sandinista movement and Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers. Larissa is an experienced and dogged researcher with an extensive background in open-source research, data, and policy analysis, as well as rigorous qualitative and quantitative research related to gender and security. Some of her other research and advocacy interests include gender dimensions of emerging and disruptive technologies, indigenous feminism in Latin America, post-conflict transitional justice, racial disparities in maternal healthcare in the U.S., and reproductive health and justice.
Gender and Global Security Program Assistant
Caroline Moody is a Gender and Global Security Program Assistant. Caroline is a senior at the Catholic University of America and will graduate with a B.A. in Politics with a concentration in World Politics and a minor in Computer Science in May 2024. She studied international security and intelligence at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom through King’s College London during the summer of 2021. She previously worked at the Wilson Center, conducting research on topics such as development in the third world, the dangers of debt traps and intergovernmental organizations acting as alternatives to typically Western structures, the semiconductor supply chain, and the rebuilding of Ukraine. She has also researched how Ukraine’s exposure to Russian disinformation during the 2014 annexation of Crimea has allowed Ukraine to more effectively combat Russian disinformation during the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war. She is interested in being able to further research in areas that cross the fields of technology, international security, and gender; this includes looking into how disinformation is being used to impact women and their influence on security and transnational issues.
Duilia “Dui” Turner is a Leadership and International Relations advisor focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean. She retired from the United States Air Force after 25 years of service, holding key positions in crisis response, human capital development, science, and global management. As the first Chief of the Women, Peace, and Security Program at the United States Southern Command, she reached 36 countries and over 350,000 people globally in efforts ranging from tactical military exercises to strategic and ministerial-level advisement. Duilia is an international lecturer and speaker who has collaborated with the United Nations, the Organization of the American States, the Wilson Center, and the Special Operations Community. Passionate about women’s professional development and leadership, Duilia has received three congressional recognitions and a City of Doral Women of Legacy Award. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology, a Master of Business Administration, and a Master in International Relations.
Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese served as a University Professor and Chair of the National Security Affairs Department at the Naval War College (NWC) between 2002-2022. She has also been part of the Government Department faculty of Harvard Extension School and Harvard Summer School since 2004, where she teaches courses on Women, Peace & Security, Leadership in War and Peace, and Grand Strategy and US National Security.
As a political scientist, she has published multiple articles on aspects of Women, Peace & Security, particularly focusing on raising awareness regarding the framework generally and within security communities specifically, believing that you can’t implement what you don’t know about. She is the author of Women, Peace & Security: An Introduction (2018) and Women v Women: The Case for Cooperation (2022). Over the arc of her academic career, her research also focused on space security, authoring seven books in that field and over 100 published articles, many with a particular focus on the Chinese space program. She has testified before Congress on multiple occasions about space issues and served on the National Academy of Sciences Space Studies Board.
Senior Fellow and Legal Advisor
Brenda Oppermann considers herself a “pracademic,” having extensive experience as a practitioner and academic working on conflict, peace, security, and gender equity. A senior advisor and subject matter expert, Brenda has 30+ years of experience — including more than seven (7) years in conflict-affected countries — working with DOD, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, USAID, the United Nations, U.S. Institute of Peace, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO, and assorted NGOs. Specializing in women, peace, and security, stability operations, organizational change, human rights, and traditional justice, she has extensive experience working in Africa, Central Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Brenda currently serves as an Associate Professor at the U.S. Naval War College and as Chief GameChanger at GameChangers 360, a social enterprise dedicated to creating positive change through gender equity. She has been a guest lecturer at Harvard Law School, the Harvard Kennedy School Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Yale University, the UN, Naval Postgraduate School, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and National Defense University among others. She holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Irvine, an M.A. in International Relations from Yale University, and a J.D. from Western New England University School of Law.
Tahina Montoya is the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Multi-lingual, International Affairs Strategist & Women, Peace and Security Expert working at the tactical, operational and strategic levels within the Continental United States (CONUS) and Outside of the Continental United States (OCONUS). She is a Political/Military analyst in the Air Force Reserves and Doctoral student at Georgetown University.
Dr. Ellen Haring is a senior fellow at Women in International Security where she directs the Combat Integration Initiative. Haring’s research and work focus on women and gender in the military. She is a West Point graduate and a retired U.S. Army colonel. She holds a Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution and she has taught at the US Army Command and General Staff College, the US Army War College, and Georgetown University. Haring has published numerous articles and papers on a wide array of military and security related topics. She has been a guest speaker on foreign and domestic news shows. She guest lectures and has testified before Congress.
Dr. Jana Wattenberg is a UKRI postdoctoral fellow (Horizon Europe Guarantee Scheme for Marie Sklodowska Curie Global Fellowship) at American University and Aberystwyth University. She is also a Senior Fellow with Women in International Security (WIIS) and a Lecturer in Security at Aberystwyth University. Jana is a founding member of the Emerging Voices Network of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and on the Executive Board of British Student Young Pugwash.
Jana’s research focusses on nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament, women in the nuclear weapons field and gendered dimensions of nuclear discourses. Her project ‘Women and the Bomb’ was awarded a UKRI postdoctoral fellowship (Horizon Europe Guarantee Scheme for Marie Sklodowska Curie Global Fellowship). For this project, Jana is currently conducting research on the roles and experiences of women in the U.S. nuclear weapons field in Washington D.C.
Expert in EU policies and migration, actively involved in gender-related issues, Loredana Teodorescu is the Head of European and International Affairs at Istituto Luigi Sturzo, a foundation based in Rome, and Research Associate of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies in Brussels. Since February 2020 she is the Secretary General of WIIS Italy.
After graduating in International Relations, she obtained a PhD in Political Science-European and International Studies at the University of Roma Tre, focusing her research on the link between internal security and external action of the EU in the migration field.
Her areas of interest include migration and asylum policy, link between internal security and external relations, EU’s foreign and neighbourhood policy, security and borders, women’s rights and gender issues. On these topics she develops and coordinates research projects, holds university lectures and participates in working groups and debates, writes articles and analysis.
She collaborates with the chair of EU law and institutions and the Altiero Spinelli Center of excellence (CeAS) of Roma Tre University, and with numerous international think tanks and organizations. In 2014 she worked for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the occasion of the Italian EU Presidency.
Diorella Islas Limiñana
Dr. Diorella Islas is a security and intelligence advisor for governmental and private entities, lecturer at the School of Social Sciences and Government, Tec de Monterrey in Mexico, and adjunct faculty member in the Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC) program at the Marshall Center. Dr. Islas has more than 15 years of experience working as an analyst and operative in countering transnational organized crime, national security, and intelligence project management. From 2021-2022, she served as Deputy Director of Research at the Mexican Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection in Mexico, where she worked closely with the Ministry’s Gender Unit and as Director of Professionalization of the Graduate School of Intelligence in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. She is an external contributor to Jane’s Intelligence Review, and in 2021 she served as a WPS trainer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Institute for Security Governance in Mexico City, Mexico. Her research interests include assessing gender equality policies and the role of women in the security community, analyzing intelligence as a tool to forecast and diminish threats, and the evolution of transnational drug trafficking organizations and cocaine routes to Europe. She holds a Ph.D. in Politics, Languages, and International Studies from the University of Bath and a master’s degree in international studies from the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico
Ana Laura Velasco Ugalde
Ana Velasco is a feminist security researcher and consultant with experience in government, media, and civil society. Winner of the international essay contest 1325andBeyond in 2020, Velasco has specialized in the Women, Peace and Security agenda from a Global South perspective and has published on the subject in international and Mexican media. She is co-author of the report “Increasing Security: Women’s Participation in Security Forces in Latin America and the Caribbean” published by Women In International Security (WIIS). Currently, she is a fellow of WIIS and a Research Associate at the University of Bremen.