Ishanee Chanda Headshot
Ryan Dukeman Headshot
Melanie Goldberg Headshot
Mark Jamias Headshot
Teresa Kennedy Headshot
Alex Long Headshot
Jimmy Loomis Headshot
Joe Michaels Headshot
Merritt Ogle Headshot
Melissa Robbins Headshot
Marco Sanchez Headshot
Alice Schyllander Headshot
Leyth Swidan Headshot
James Wong Headshot
National Security & Foreign Policy LGBTQIA+

2021 New Voices List

in partnership with the New America, June 11, 2021

Out in National Security and New America are pleased to honor 15 LGBTQIA+ new voices in U.S. national security and foreign policy. This year’s list features exceptional professionals currently serving in government, the military, think tanks, academia, and non-governmental organizations. We applaud the work they are doing to not just stand in, but also stand out. 

The extra work required to change institutional cultures so often becomes the responsibility of entry-level professionals. At the same time, the pressure to conform is greatest for those who are newest to their career, especially in national security spaces. We want to celebrate and elevate those folks working to become leaders in their respective space while living openly as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. We created the New Voices’ list with this motivation in mind, and look forward to continuing to celebrate early and out professionals for years to come. 

Thank you to the evaluators who supported our review process. Selection is based on: thoughtful and incisive responses to our application; leadership potential; and, dedication to supporting the LGBTQIA+ and other intersectional communities. Finally, we work hard to create a list that represents the breath of our national security community, and at the same time, the breath of the LGBTQIA+ community. (Disclaimer: New America does not directly participate in the evaluation process, which is led by Out in National Security.)

Congratulations to our honorees, and happy pride to all. 

- Rusty Pickens, Luke Schleusener, and Shawn Skelly, Co-Founders, Out in National Security

Ishanee Chanda Headshot

Ishanee Chanda

Program Assistant, Bangladesh Environment and Development Society

LinkedIn | @ishaneechanda

Ishanee Chanda is a recent M.S.F.S. graduate from Georgetown University. Her focus is on refugee and humanitarian emergencies alongside a special interest in resettlement and repatriation practices, the protection of human rights, and the rise of right-wing nationalism across the globe.

Ishanee graduated with a B.A. in International Studies from Texas A&M University with a minor in Creative Writing after study abroad stints in Oxford, United Kingdom and Turin, Italy. Following graduation, she worked at the National Conference of State Legislatures on federal and state immigration policy and international programming, providing research on states’ implementation of immigration policy, changes in federal immigration legislation, and international affairs between subnational actors.

At Georgetown's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Ishanee was a Dulles Fellow outlining the potential to use artificial intelligence to create conflict early warning systems. While at Georgetown, she also founded Georgetown's premier graduate organization on DEI issues, Diversity and Inclusion @ Georgetown. Ishanee has worked within the university system for two years as a representative on multiple DEI Committees as well as a MSFS Fellow in the School of Foreign Service's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

In the past year, Ishanee also helped co-found a new nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. titled "Mamalas, Women at Work," a platform committed to women storytelling.

Post-graduation, Ishanee will be traveling to Bangladesh to work on climate change, food insecurity, and clean water issues with the Bangladesh Environment and Development Society before moving on to work with Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar. She speaks Italian, Bengali, Odia, and Hindi.

What's the best piece of advice you ever received from a mentor?

“No one will judge you as harshly as you judge yourself.” So many times in meetings, events, or even interactions with family and friends, I have spun myself in my circles in my head thinking about how people around me may have perceived something I said or did.

If I presented an idea that not everyone engaged in, if I came in wearing flats when every other woman was wearing heels, etc. I immediately believed that I knew what every other person in that room was thinking about me. But in reality, most of those people probably did not give it a second thought.

We are our own harshest critics and we put ourselves in the center of everyone’s universes, particularly when we feel the most insecure." 

Ryan Dukeman Headshot

Ryan Dukeman

Senior Fellow, fp21; PhD Student, Princeton University

LinkedIn | @RyanDukeman

Ryan Dukeman is a PhD student at Princeton University and a founding senior fellow at FP21, where he researches institutional reform in US foreign policy, the future of diplomacy, congressional foreign policymaking, and the geopolitics of advanced technologies.

He is also pursuing a graduate certificate in data science from Princeton’s Center for Statistics & Machine Learning. Ryan previously helped found the US State Department’s Center for Analytics, and has advised two Democratic presidential campaigns on foreign policy reform.

His writing has been published by War on the Rocks and the Foreign Service Journal, and think tanks including Chatham House, FP21, and the R Street Institute.

Ryan is a recipient of the Presidential Management Fellowship, an award for innovation from the Office of the Secretary of State, and Princeton’s Ullman Prize for Best Thesis in US Foreign Policy. He holds a B.A., summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the Princeton School of Public & International Affairs.

What national security challenge motivates you, in or outside your work?

"In my lifetime, it was virtually illegal for LGBT+ individuals to serve in the State Department, a long legacy of the “Lavender Scare” and a sore strategic weakness. The primary focus of my work so far – for the State Department and in academia – has been on institutional reform in American foreign policy.

My research concentrates on the 30-year retrenchment of our diplomatic capacity since the end of the Cold War, and how to pursue institutional change to create the best-performing diplomatic apparatus we have ever known."


Jonah Glick-Unterman Headshot

Jonah Glick-Unterman

Research Assistant to Dr. Graham Allison, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

LinkedIn | @glick_unterman

Jonah Glick-Unterman is a Research Assistant to Dr. Graham Allison at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where he focuses on defense strategy, nuclear weapons, Asia-Pacific security, and U.S.-Russian relations. Jonah leads research efforts focused on drawing lessons for the U.S.-China rivalry from earlier iterations of great-power competition and on applying strategic principles from the Cold War’s great thinkers to avoid war in the 21st century.

Before joining the Belfer Center, Jonah worked at the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Wilson Center. Jonah graduated from Stanford University Phi Beta Kappa by junior election with Honors and Distinction in political science. At Stanford, Jonah conducted research with Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Secretary William Perry, Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl, Dr. Scott Sagan, and Dr. Siegfried Hecker.

He also served as class president and as president of the Jewish Student Association.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being out and visible means having seriously studied who I am and living with awareness of the gift and responsibility of my identity. Growing up in a religious Jewish community, I struggled to reconcile my respect for Judaism’s ancient wisdom with my frustration over traditional texts that condemned homosexuality as a sin meriting capital punishment. Crafting my own understanding of Jewish tradition and connecting with other LGBT Jews taught me how to think through dilemmas that have no clear answer and to be bold about my convictions.

Being out also means embracing responsibility—for how my actions reflect on the entire LGBT community, for speaking up against intolerance of any kind, and for expanding representation and access in a field where being out was once illegal."

Melanie Goldberg Headshot

Melanie Goldberg

Senior Intelligence Analyst, Global Rescue


Melanie is a Senior Intelligence Analyst at a leading travel risk and crisis management firm, Global Rescue.

Since graduating from Tufts University in 2016, she has supported NGOs delivering services in some of the world's most dangerous regions, as well as clients such as the US Olympic Ski Team and NASA. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her work pivoted to covering government responses to the virus, and her team was awarded the 2020 Travel Weekly Magellan Silver Award for their reporting.

She is also the co-founder of Tepid Takes, a weekly geopolitical newsletter that centers queer voices and aims to make international affairs more accessible to non-technical audiences.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"At the beginning of my career, I wish I’d know that being out is not a hindrance—rather, it’s an asset that informs every part of the work that I do. For instance, as the only queer person on my team, I recognized that our security and risk assessments neglected to include specific security considerations for queer clients operating in the field, and I successfully lobbied for the inclusion of LGBTQ+-specific risk assessments and expanded this program to include other marginalized identities.

The “otherness” that made me so afraid to be out professionally is the same force that makes me a better advocate for groups traditionally marginalized in national security—and it helps me make the world a safer place for the queer clients who rely on our services for their safety."

Mark Jamias Headshot

Mark Jamias

Head International Affairs Officer, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command


Mark is the International Affairs Officer for the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command. He crafts strategy and advises the Commander, division staff, and field units on global operations, major deployments, and strategic engagement in the Command’s area of responsibility spanning from the Arctic and the Americas to Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

Previously, Mark was the U.S. Coast Guard’s Presidential Management Fellow, serving as the AFRICOM Regional Advisor in the Office of International Affairs.

He also served as the Foreign Visits Coordinator and Protocol Officer. As part of his Fellowship, Mark rotated to the Department of State’s Executive Secretariat Staff and the Bureau of African Affairs.

Prior to the Coast Guard, Mark served in the Political Section of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Recently, Mark was selected for a direct commission to the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Mark earned his B.A. and Master of International Affairs degrees from Columbia University.

How do you engage with, and support, the communities you are a part of, LGBT+ or otherwise?

"In the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, I have grown from a participant member to an active leader. Two years ago, I was first involved in the Coast Guard’s chapter of the Federal Asian and Pacific American Council (FAPAC) when I volunteered to teach tinikling, a traditional Filipino dance, as part of our Headquarters’ AAPI Heritage Month celebration.

I also mentored cadets from the Coast Guard Academy’s Asian Pacific American Council. Now, I serve as the chapter’s treasurer. In light of increased attacks on AAPI members nationwide, FAPAC-USCG has worked with Coast Guard senior leaders to address this problem, while we provide a space and support for members to discuss their experiences during this difficult time."

Teresa Kennedy Headshot

Teresa Kennedy

Program Analyst, Naval Sea Systems Command

LinkedIn | @natsecTK

Teresa D. Kennedy is a Program Analyst for the Department of Navy’s Guided Missile Frigate Program. She is committed to a career in public service working on national security policy. She is a proud member of Veterans for American Ideals, NatSecGirlsSquad, and Out in National Security.

Teresa is a 2016 Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and is a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in Security Studies at Georgetown University with a concentration in U.S. National Security Policy.

She lives in Arlington, VA with her partner, Kathleen, and their beloved dogs Buckee and Truman.

What's the best piece of advice you ever received from a mentor?

"I once had an O-3 chaplain tell me “you can do anything for ten seconds.” His point was all it takes is ten seconds of courage to start something big and take that leap of faith. Then usually adrenaline kicks in or you find out whatever it is was not as scary as you thought it was going to be.

I have used this advice a lot in my life: when I applied to my current job, before stepping in a conference room to brief an Admiral, messaging a potential mentor on LinkedIn, and likely when I will submit this application."

Alex Long Headshot

Alex Long

Program Associate, The Wilson Center

LinkedIn | @W_AlexLong

Alex Long is a Program Associate for the Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) at the Wilson Center, focusing on STIP’s Innovation Initiatives.

Alex has recently been elected as a Junior Policy Fellow with Cambridge University’s Centre for Science and Policy to research Global Health challenges and how the use of innovative technologies and data collection schemas, like citizen science, can contribute to pandemic prevention.

At the Wilson Center, Alex is a Project Manager of the Earth Challenge 2020 working on mobilizing the global public around six human and environmental health-focused research areas through citizen science.

Aside from Earth Challenge, Alex assists with the environmental science and open data science programming STIP is pursuing -- all the while, finding ways to integrate ongoing research and policy with the One Health framework that addresses public health challenges by focusing on the human, animal, and environmental factors at play.

Alex received his MS in Biomedical Science Policy and Advocacy from Georgetown University and his BS in Biology from the University of Richmond where he founded their first healthcare review magazine, Osmosis Magazine.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"I wish I knew that I did not have to try so hard to code switch and pretend to be a straight person every time I wanted to have a professional conversation with someone I perceived as straight. I slowly broke from that practice and found that, within my team, my personality as a more flamboyant and expressive queer man worked as an asset.

While I still struggle with the fear that people don’t take me seriously because of my voice or interests, I have started to simply not care. Because at the end of the day, I want my queerness to be as visible as possible in case the people I’m talking to could take something away from that interaction."

Jimmy Loomis Headshot

Jimmy Loomis

Defense and Foreign Policy Advisor, Office of Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy (FL-07)


Jimmy Loomis currently serves as Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy’s (FL-07) Defense & Foreign Policy Advisor. In this role, his principal duties consist of managing the Congresswoman’s House Armed Services Committee portfolio.

Prior to assuming this position, Jimmy conducted research on Chinese grey zone operations in the Indo-Pacific for the Stimson Center’s Defense Strategy and Planning Program, and studied foreign direct investment and trade issues while working at the World Trade Center St. Louis.

A proud native of St. Louis, Missouri, at age 18 Jimmy was the youngest elected official to serve in public office in a district of 35,000 residents.

He holds a MSc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics, a L.L.M. in International Affairs from Peking University, and a B.A. in Chinese Affairs and Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis.

He is proficient in Mandarin Chinese.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"I wish I had appreciated the importance of patience and humility earlier in my career. Trusting the knowledge and expertise of peers in your field is critically important to your own personal growth and professional development: sometimes it is best to sit back and simply listen. Moreover, learning and development take time; it does not happen overnight."

Joe Michaels Headshot

Joe Michaels

John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellow at the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy

LinkedIn | @jamichaels_

Joe Michaels is a John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellow for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, where he currently serves as a Space Policy Advisor. On Space Policy’s Strategy and Plans teams, his work focuses on China and Russia and the role of space in strategic competition.

Previously, Mr. Michaels served as a Country Director in OSD(P)’s China Policy office in both the Directorate for Defense Relations and the Directorate for Innovation and Technology. Prior to the Department of Defense, Mr. Michaels completed consultancies and internships with the U.S. State Department, Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, National Bureau of Asian Research, and RiceHadleyGates.

He holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University with a concentration in Indo-Pacific security affairs.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"I wish I understood the power and importance of vulnerability earlier in my career. Too often, we are taught that vulnerability is inappropriate for the workplace or inconsistent with success. Over the course of my career, I have found the opposite to be true. Vulnerability enables professional growth. It helps teams work together more effectively. It provides space for and encourages new ideas and solutions. And, it fosters an environment of trust, respect, and support."

Merritt Ogle Headshot

Merritt Ogle

Senior Associate, Markon Solutions


Merritt Ogle is a Senior Associate at Markon Solutions where she supports Defense and National Security clients in advancing digital services initiatives within the national security community. In her role, she builds interagency partnerships, supports the development and adoption of new technologies, and supports talent transformation efforts.

Outside of her day job, Merritt is honored to serve as the Director of Growth for #NatSecGirlSquad and as Chief of Staff for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. At #NatSecGirlSquad, she leads coalition building for advancing competent diversity in the national security apparatus and with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy she supports in building the leaders tomorrow needs through creating networks for young people. She has built and managed various projects with these organizations including the U.S.-China Futures Project to cultivate a cohort of the next generation of U.S. experts on China and the Emerging as a Global Leader Experience (EaGLE) program to connect exceptional and disruptive public servants.

Merritt graduated from The Ohio State University in 2017 with degrees in Public Affairs and International Studies.

Her professional passions include innovation for national security, building intrinsically inclusive environments, Eurasian studies, and advancement of LGBTQ+ professionals.

How do you engage with, and support, the communities you are a part of, LGBT+ or otherwise?

"Coming out of college as a queer woman, I was desperately seeking communities that I could relate to and learn from. I was lucky to find #NatSecGirlSquad and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy – both of which have diverse and cross-industry communities. Moving into leadership organizations in both organizations, I knew that it was important to me that all people felt like I did when I joined. I want all community members to have a safe, empowering, and healthy community that they could be welcomed into and grow with."

Melissa Robbins Headshot

Melissa M. Robbins

Project Manager, New America

LinkedIn | @melissarobbins_

Melissa M. Robbins is a project manager for New America’s New Models of Policy Change project.

She previously worked as an intern and cyber security and emerging technologies consultant for the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Scientific and Technical Affairs Team.

Her areas of interest include the intersection between emerging technologies and nuclear weapons systems, arms control and nonproliferation, and the new era of great power competition.

Ms. Robbins graduated from St. John’s University in 2019 with a M.A. in International Relations and an advanced certificate in International Law and Diplomacy.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"I am a pansexual, Indian American first-generation college graduate working on national security. Coming from a poor, Evangelical family in a small town, I was encouraged to be a missionary, not a government employee. But I fell in love with this field in college and was able to embrace a part of me that I had buried for so long—being gay.

Although my family does not accept me, I still want to fight for families like mine that do not care about existential crisis that will affect them, in part due to a lack of outreach, money, and education.

Being out is just one way that I am able to present the most authentic, real version of myself, but I fully understand it is not an option for everyone—and that many, like me, face abuse or worse if they come out to their families."

Marco Sanchez Headshot

Marco Fabian Sánchez 

Grassroots Advocacy Officer, United Nations Foundation


Marco Fabian Sánchez (He/Him/His) is a first generation young professional with expertise in digital advocacy, public engagement, and policy communications.

Recently, Marco worked on the Biden/Harris presidential campaign where he helped to mobilize hundreds of online communities through strategic digital organizing. Currently, Marco works for the United Nations Association of the USA where he builds grassroots support for the United Nations in the U.S. Throughout his academic career at California State University, Fullerton, Marco helped to lead mobilization efforts in the Southern California community through Rep. Gil Cisneros’ (CA-39) GOTV campaign.

In addition to political campaign work and grassroots advocacy, Marco has a personal interest in human rights and international economic development given his previous role as a policy consultant for the World Bank Group.

Through his experiences in advocacy, organizational development and public leadership, Marco has been able to successfully engage everyday Americans and lawmakers throughout his academic and professional career.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being out is one of the greatest joys and challenges of my professional life. As an openly gay man, I realize that generations before me were not as privileged as I am. I believe that as a rising leader in the foreign policy / national security space, being out means that I have a responsibility to pave the way for future generations of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Part of this responsibility includes addressing systemic issues in the workplace, drawing intersections and comparative challenges between the LGBTQIA+ community and other diverse communities, and holding leadership accountable to ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are integrated in all aspects of decision making."

Alice Schyllander Headshot

Alice Schyllander

Graduate Student, Elliott School of International Affairs; Independent Consultant, Micro Rainbow

LinkedIn | @Alice_Schylland

Alice Schyllander is a recent graduate of the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University completing a Master of Arts in International Affairs with concentrations in Global Gender Policy and International Law & Organizations.

Alice has focused her studies and professional work on issues of LGBTQIA+ rights, gender equality, gender-based violence, and refugee rights with a regional interest in Latin America and the Caribbean.

She recently completed a year-long group capstone consulting project on gendered disinformation for the client organization #ShePersisted Global. Her research work also includes an intensive research project on the experiences of Central American LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers.

She has interned and worked previously at Micro Rainbow International Foundation, the Elliott School of International Affairs, Vital Voices Global Partnership, the Tahirih Justice Center, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, and the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice.

What national security challenge motivates you, in or outside your work?

"I work at the intersection of LGBTQ+ rights, gender equality, and forced migration, and I am highly motivated to transform U.S. foreign policy priorities to center the experiences of communities historically marginalized by current and past U.S. foreign policies using a trauma informed and feminist lens in policy creation processes. I am dedicated to elevating the experiences of LGBTQ+ and women refugees, and other marginalized communities, to ensure that these lived experiences are shaping important foreign policy conversations."

Leyth Swidan Headshot

Leyth Swidan

Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State


Leyth Swidan is a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State. He is currently in Danish language training at the Foreign Service Institute for his next assignment as a Political Officer in Denmark.

He most recently completed his first assignment as a Vice Consul at U.S. Embassy Kuwait.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Leyth served at U.S. Embassy Singapore and on the Syria Desk as a Pickering Fellow.

Leyth holds an M.P.A. from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and a B.A. from Pomona College.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Diversity and inclusion are core American values that make the United States and our national security stronger. It is a privilege to be a visible representative of what it means to be an American as a queer Muslim diplomat abroad.

At the same time, this also comes with its own set of challenges, especially when serving in Muslim-majority countries and the societal expectations associated with being Muslim, that have limited the extent to which I could be out. I have taken advantage of being out, whenever possible, to dispel misconceptions that may exist about my overlapping and seemingly contradicting intersectional identities. Being vulnerable has also helped me break down barriers and strengthen trust among partners around the world."

James Wong Headshot

James T. Wong 

Undergraduate Student, Carnegie Mellon University; Cadet, U.S. Air Force ROTC


James Wong is a rising senior pursuing a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. His interests include mechanical engineering, focusing on robotics and mechatronic applications, and he has worked in the Biorobotics Lab at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute on DARPA projects as well as modular robotics.

Over the past 3 years, James has pursued a commission in the USAF through Air Force ROTC despite the transgender ban that had been in place since his freshman year. The prospect of obtaining a medical waiver prompted him to pursue minors in Cybersecurity and International Conflict and Computer Science.

He hopes to work in cybersecurity or intelligence and eventually shape high-level cybersecurity strategies after receiving his commission.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"As I have navigated the transgender military ban over the past three years, I regret not reaching out for help sooner. I spent too long thinking that my own physical, academic, and extracurricular achievements would carry me through the process. I now realize I should have built a stronger network of advocates because real, systemic change can’t be accomplished alone."