President & CEO
Ariela Blätter 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 a Senior Fellow at WIIS and an Adjunct Professor at the School of International Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. Her research interests include foreign and security policy analysis, U.S.-European relations, migration policy, conflict analysis, and security sector stabilization. From 2017-2019, Dr. Johnston served as a Franklin Fellow in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), focusing on conflict in fragile states, security sector development, and stabilization strategies. She has worked in policy research institutes in Washington, D.C and has written on German policy decision-making on out-of-area operations, German public opinion during the Bosnian crisis and the Iraq war, and security sector reforms and Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) planning. Her current research includes projects on the securitization of Europe’s migration policy, democratic governance and use of military force, and cooperation between military and civilian components in multilateral peace and stability operations. Fluent in German, Dr. Johnston was a Mercator Fellow at the University of Duisburg-Essen in 2014 and a former fellow of the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program.
Membership Engagement Manager
Prior to joining WIIS, Ruth Mikre spent the last decade working in association and database management, gaining experience in membership recruitment, retention, and engagement within the transportation and education sectors. She received her M.A. from George Mason University in Global Affairs, specializing in gender and development. As an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech, Ruth earned a B.A. in International Studies specializing in world politics and policies and a B.F.A. in Visual Arts, focusing on painting and photography. Please join us in welcoming Ruth to the WIIS staff!
Public Affairs and Programs Manager
Roksana Verahrami is WIIS’ Public Affairs and Programs Manager. 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 Project Manager
Larissa Abaunza serves as Deputy Research Project Manager, where she oversees the implementation of WIIS Global's research agenda and programming. She became engaged with women's rights work at the age of 5. Having “grown up” in the offices of Amnesty International, where her mother served as a director, she has dedicated her life to advancing the rights of women globally. 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.
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.
Haring’s publications include:
“Make Women Register for the Draft” US News and World Report (June 22, 2016)
“Integration of Women Depends on Male Leaders” Army Times (May 2, 2016)
“Our Military Shouldn’t Turn Its Back on Servicewomen Who Need an Abortion” Huffington Post (April 30, 2016)
“Give Women All of the Rights of Citizenship, Including Selective Service” Task and Purpose (February 26, 2016)
“That Valor Isn’t Yours to Defend” Task and Purpose (March 18, 2015)
“Is the Marine Corps Setting Women Up to Fail in Combat Roles?” Cicero Magazine (February 18, 2015)
“Civilian leaders need to lead on women in combat,” The Hill Congress Blog, (February 5, 2015)
“A Snapshot: Two Years in to Combat Integration,” Women in International Security, (January 30, 2015)
“Dear Berkeley women: It’s time to lead the next revolution,” The Daily Californian, (August 26, 2014)
“The Sea of Sameness in PME” Joint Forces Quarterly (July 2014)
“Deck Stacked Against Women in Experimental Task Force” Marine Corps Times (July 6, 2014)
“Can Women Be Infantry Marines” War on the Rocks (May 29, 2014)
“Do Military Women Want Combat Jobs” Foreign Policy (April 24, 2014)
“Combat Integration: Good but not good enough” The Army Times (January 2014)
“Rangers are NOT Leading the Way” Foreign Policy (January 2014)
“A Col’s View of Commander’s Authority” Foreign Policy (September 2013)
“Women and the Audie Murphy Model,” Armed Forces Journal (August 2013)
“What Women Bring to the Fight,” Parameters, US Army War College (Summer 2013)
“To Stop Sexual Assault in the Military Add More Women,” Christian Science Monitor (June 24, 2013)
“The Army’s Disservice to Women,” The Washington Post (June 21, 2013)
“Insights from the Women in Combat Symposium,” Joint Forces Quarterly (June 2013)
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.
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.
Her publications include:
“Reviewing Brazil’s Commitment to Women, Peace & Security,” exame, with Yasmine Sterea, (in Portuguese).December 8, 2021.https://exame.com/blog/nosso-olhar/revisando-ocompromisso-do-brasil-com-mulheres-paz-e-seguranca/https://warontherocks.com/2021/07/women-peace-and-security-movingimplementation-forward/ https://exame.com/blog/nosso-olhar/revisando-o-compromisso-dobrasil-com-mulheres-paz-e-seguranca/
“Women, Peace and Security: Moving Implementation Forward,” War on the Rocks, July 23,
“How Women, Peace & Security Gives the US and Australia an Edge in the Indo-Pacific,” with Jacqui True, PacNet #23, 2021. https://pacforum.org/publication/pacnet-23-how-womenpeace-and-security-gives-the-us-and-australia-an-edge-in-the-indo-pacific
“Getting Serious about Women, Peace & Security,” with Lt. Col. Nalani Tyrell, Strategy Bridge, 2021, https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2021/4/13/getting-serious-about-womenpeace-security
“Women, Peace and Security at Twenty,” with Andrea Goldstein, The Strategy Bridge, April 28, 2020. https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2020/4/28/women-peace-and-security-attwenty
“Women, Peace & Security in the Military: The Need for Leadership,” Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, March 23, 2020. https://www.law.upenn.edu/live/news/9891-women-peace-and-security-in-the-military-theneed/news/cerl-news
Gender Equality as a Security Issue, Yale Global, September 19, 2019. https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/gender-equality-security-issue
“The Rise & Fall of Theresa May,” with Chuck Houston, YaleGlobal, June 2019. https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/rise-and-fall-theresa-may
“How the Pentagon Can Build on NATO’s Success with Women, Peace & Security, with Andrea Goldstein, Strategy Bridge, May 13, 2019 https://thestrategybridge.org/thebridge/2019/5/13/how-the-pentagon-can-build-on-natos-success-with-women-peace-ampsecurity
“Expanding Space Security Options Through Gender Perspectives,” with Sahana Dharmapuri, Space News, December 5, 2018. https://spacenews.com/op-ed-expanding-space-securityoptions-through-gender-perspectives/
“Integrating Women into Non-Traditional Fields: Athena and Beyond,” Proceedings, USNI, June 2017.
“Sexism and Sexual Assault: Connecting the Dots,” USNI Blog, June 6, 2015, http://blog.usni.org/author/jjohnsonfreese
“Patriarchal Sexism is Alive and Well in the Military,” with Ellen Haring, Best Defense, December 18, 2014. http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/12/18/is-patriarchal-sexism-alive-and-wellin-the-military-where-do-you-think-bears-poop/
“The Counterproductive ‘Sea of Sameness’ in Military Education,” with Ellen Haring and Mary Beth Ulrich, Joint Forces Quarterly, July 1, 2014.
“Dancing for Democracy,” with Marilyn Moss Rockefeller, Orbis, February 2013. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0030438713000057
Some Thoughts on the Need for More Diversity in Military Education, Best Defense, December 3, 2013. http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/12/03/some-thoughts-on-the-need-for-greaterdiversity-in-professional-military-education/
Resident Senior Fellow
Dr. Jana Wattenberg is a Lecturer in International Politics and Security at the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University. She is also the Deputy Director of the David Davies Memorial Institute for International Studies and a fellow with Women in International Security. Dr. Wattenberg was awarded a Ph.D. from Aberystwyth University. Her Ph.D. thesis Ideas that Stand in the Way of Nuclear Disarmament shows how entrenched ideas about nuclear weapons and disarmament have made global nuclear abolition more difficult. Dr. Wattenberg received a BA in Sociological European Studies from the University of Bremen and a MA in International Studies/Peace and Conflict Studies from Goethe University Frankfurt. She is an active member of the EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Consortium network and the UK Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) network. Her current research projects focus on the roles of women in the nuclear weapons field, gendered dimensions of nuclear discourses, nuclear stigmatization processes, and the role of ideas in global nuclear politics.
Ana Laura Velasco Ugalde
Diorella Islas Limiñana
Dr Diorella Islas is an independent security and intelligence analyst and an adjunct faculty member in the Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC) program at the Marshall Center since 2018. She was instructor of mafia and organised crime culture at the Bader International Study Center of Queens University and member of the Steering Committee of the Standing Group on Organised Crime of the European Consortium for Political Research. She holds a PhD in Politics Languages and International Studies from the University of Bath.
For ten years, her area of expertise has been focused on understanding the expansive process of transnational organize crime and to the design and implementation of related national security policies. She did her Masters Degree in International Studies and her undergraduate degree in International Relations at the Tec de Monterrey, Mexico City.
Some of her recent publications include
The chapter “Guatemala: Organised Crime, fraud and politics” in the Handbook on Organised Crime and Politics. (2019) and the article “Coca leaf boom in Colombia: How it concerns us all” Per Concordiam v.9n.4. (2019)
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.
Gender and Global Security Program Intern
Amy Cowley graduated with a B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in International Politics and a minor in Middle East Studies from Utah State University. While at school she studied issues like the Israeli-Palestinian divide, the impact of COVID-19 on global economies, and how constitutional theories present in contemporary politics. Before joining WIIS, she was a corporate trainer for a homebuilding company and was a part of Professional Women in Building. She is currently getting her M.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs with a concentration in Global Gender Policy.
Gender and Global Security Program Intern
Rebecca Wilson is from Athens, Georgia. She graduated Cum Laude from the University of Georgia in May 2021 with a BA in International Affairs and minors in Criminal Justice and Public Policy and Management. She has been a participant in the Master of International Policy “Double Dawg” program since 2019. During her undergraduate career, she interned or studied abroad every summer. She completed the Comparative Politics and Education Maymester Study Abroad Program in Glasgow, Scotland in 2018. In the summer of 2019, she lived in Tel Aviv, Israel working as a Higher Education Caseworker at the African Refugee Development Center. Last summer, Rebecca lived on Sao Miguel Island, Azores, and interned at the American Corner within the US Consulate Ponta Delgada, directly assisting the Principal Officer. These unique experiences allowed her to explore various topics, including education policy, immigration, refugee policy, human rights, and American foreign policy. Rebecca hopes to work in intelligence or policy analysis.