National Security & Foreign Policy LGBTQIA+

2022 Out Leaders List

in partnership with the New America, June 23, 2022


Out in National Security and New America are pleased to honor the contributions of 50 LGBTQIA+ experts in U.S. national security and foreign policy. This year’s list features experts currently serving in government, the military, think tanks, academia, and non-governmental organizations. We proudly celebrate our community's contributions to advancing peace and security in the United States and abroad. 

We applaud our national security enterprise's efforts to build on LGBTQIA+ presence and voices in our institutions and advance LGBTQIA+ rights at home and abroad. As President Biden proclaimed, “We honor the resilience of LGBTQI+ people, who are fighting to live authentically and freely.  We reaffirm our belief that LGBTQI+ rights are human rights.  And we recommit to delivering protections, safety, and equality to LGBTQI+ families so that everyone can realize the full promise of America.

We are happy that our honorees have demonstrated so much character, resilience, and determination to live authentically in a field that is not always welcoming or inclusive. 

When there are more than 200 anti-transgender bills before state houses across the country, when LGBTQIA+ books are banned, and when drag queen story hours and Pride celebrations are under attack, we’re grateful that our honorees have stood up to be counted and say, “gay.” 

So, we hope you’ll join us this year by reviewing this stellar lineup of individuals and recognize their hard work with us, especially as we celebrate Pride Month.

Thank you to the evaluators - selected from honorees of years past - who supported our review process. Selection is based on: thoughtful and incisive responses to our application, demonstrated excellence and leadership in their field, and dedication to supporting the LGBTQIA+ and other intersectional communities. Finally, we work hard to create a list that represents the breadth of our national security community and, at the same time, the rich diversity 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!

~ Luke Schleusener, James Osyf, and Rusty Pickens

2022 Out Leaders List:

Nate Swinton

Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, U.S. Department of Justice


Nate is a trial attorney in the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division at the Department of Justice, where he works on investigations and prosecutions concerning counterintelligence, cyber, export control, and foreign agent laws.

He is currently serving as counsel to the Assistant Attorney General of the Division.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being out means that I’m able to be authentic and can bring my whole self to work. A common investigative tactic is to look for points of leverage that a third party might have over a target. Were I to hide my sexuality, I would be keeping a secret that would make me subject to precisely that type of pressure and would almost certainly make me ineligible to hold a security clearance and otherwise do my job."

Zachary Strauss

Policy Analyst, Atlas Public Policy


As a Policy Analyst at Atlas, Zachary provides policy insights to public agencies and like-minded private organizations working on transportation and building sector decarbonization in the United States. Using Atlas data tools, he helps local and state agencies achieve national and global climate goals with a focus on the deployment of EV chargers across the country, the sale of more affordable electric vehicles, and the adoption of electric heat pumps. He is also the President and Founder of Out in Energy, the national association for openly LGBTQ energy and climate professionals. As President, he connects young queer people with mentors and career opportunities in the sector and organize events and networking opportunities highlighting LGBTQ energy and climate leaders. In this role, he serves as a central node of visibility and representation for queer people in a field that has historically underrepresented minority communities. Likewise, as a Nonresident Fellow at the Atlantic Council, he serves as the Global Energy Center's inhouse expert on US geothermal energy. As a Fellow, he also actively volunteers with the Veterans Advanced Energy Project, where he help leadership raise funds, plan large-scale summits, and support former service members transition from military occupations into civilian clean energy careers.

Prior to Atlas, he served as the Associate Director for Advanced Energy at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, where his work focused primarily on national security, Veterans affairs, renewable energy, US geothermal development, and international climate action. He has a strong background in foreign affairs and international energy policy, including over four years of work experience across France, Japan, Italy, and Spain. He received his Master’s degree in international security from Sciences Po, Paris and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in European studies from Middlebury College. He is proficient in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Japanese, and am currently learning American Sign Language.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being Out means that young queer people will be able to see me in public space, a visible reminder that they, too, can live happy, loving, and fulfilled lives. If I were to go back a decade, I wish I would have known that life is far too short for shame, and that to be your full self would liberate rather than destroy you. Come Out. Live Proud. Do Work."

Collin Stevenson

United States Air Force

Collin is a career Air Force officer with over a decade of experience in intelligence, Security Force Assistance, advising partner nations in special operations, and leading inter-agency and multi-national communities of interest in the sustained global effort to disrupt transregional Violent Extremist Organization networks—which included seven deployments to countries in Central Asia and the Middle East. He was recognized as the U.S. Air Force Intelligence Airman of the Year and Air Force Special Operation Command’s Combat Aviation Advisor of the Year. He currently works directly for the U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Cyber Effects Operations where he crafts strategic communications, policy, and guidance affecting a 75,000 personnel, $74 billion Intelligence & Cyber Effects Enterprise.

Prior to entering active duty, Collin commissioned through Howard University’s ROTC program while concurrently earning a B.A. in International Affairs and a M.A. in Middle East Studies from The George Washington University as a Presidential Administrative Fellow and student athlete. There he honed his passion for service including connecting DC’s low-income and homeless families with social services, leading disaster relief programs, and supporting Central and East African refugees while living in Cairo, Egypt and Sana’a, Yemen.

What’s the best advice you ever received from a mentor?

"'Be Switzerland'. Despite any inter- organizational or interpersonal frustrations that may develop with colleagues, coworkers, other units, inter-agency partners, or international partners; in no circumstance does it help to speak ill of anyone to anyone else."


James J. Shea

Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State


James J. Shea is a career Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. His current assignment is with the Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs where he works on the Philippines Desk. He joined the Foreign Service in 2010 and has served at the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, and the U.S. Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar; Canberra, Australia; and Islamabad, Pakistan.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service, James worked in the private sector on trade and investment issues. He received his Master’s in International Economics from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and his B.A. in International Relations from The Johns Hopkins University. James is proud of his mixed heritage, was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, and grew up in Asia, Latin America, and the United States.

He is part of a proud lineage in his family of U.S. foreign policy practitioners and public servants but more importantly, is very serious about his role as “guncle” to his two adorable nephews.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"For too long, U.S. national security has been shaped by a monolithic group of practitioners who have similar backgrounds and experiences. This lack of diversity and inclusivity in our national security sphere limits the United States’ ability to properly understand, analyze, and respond to existing and emerging global challenges with innovative solutions. As a gay, mixed-race, brown foreign policy practitioner who grew up overseas, I bring to the table a unique perspective that helps the foreign policy establishment craft responses to U.S. national security challenges."

Kelley Sayler

Analyst in Advanced Technology and Global Security, Congressional Research Service

LinkedIn | Twitter

Kelley Sayler is an analyst in advanced technology and global security at the Congressional Research Service, where she provides confidential, nonpartisan research and analysis to congressional committees, members, and staff. She was previously a fellow in the defense program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and from 2016 to 2018 was detailed to the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development. While at the Pentagon, she assisted in the development of the 2018 National Defense Strategy and represented the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy as a quad-chair of the Defense Wargaming Alignment Group.

Prior to joining CNAS, Sayler was a research associate with the defense program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She holds an MA in International Relations from Baylor University and a BA in Letters and Sociology-Criminology from the University of Oklahoma.

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

"It can be hard to get your foot in the door if you don’t have any connections in our field, but keep
trying, keep doing good work, and know that your work will eventually speak for itself."

Colleen Ryan

Monitoring Officer, Deputy Patrol Group Leader, OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine

LinkedIn | Twitter


Colleen Ryan is a Monitoring Officer and deputy Patrol Group Leader with the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) where she was stationed in Donetsk prior to the SMM evacuation from Ukraine. As a member of the SMM, Colleen serves as a Monitoring Officer involved in monitoring the ceasefire and security situation in accordance with the Minsk Agreements, as Deputy Patrol Group Leader, where she assists with roster planning and patrol management, and as Gender Focal Point where she serves as the Gender Subject Matter Expert of her patrol group.

Before joining the SMM, Colleen served as a police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department for 6.5 years where she served as a patrol officer in north Minneapolis and northeast Minneapolis. Additionally, she helped develop the department's mental health Co-Responder Unit that was operational from 2017-2020.

Colleen completed her Master's in Human Rights in December 2021 at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs with a focus on Women, Peace, and Security issues where her Master's Thesis examined tools of gender-responsive security sector reform in Kosovo. Colleen is a 2014 graduate of the University of St. Thomas (St.Paul, MN) with a BA in Political Science.

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

"The primary challenge that motivates me is improving the efficacy of American security force assistance in Europe to mitigate the need for US boots on the ground in the event of a ground war in Europe."

Katelyn Ringrose

Data Governance Lead, Google

As Google's Lead for Global Law Enforcement and Government Access, within the Government Affairs and Public Policy, Katelyn works on issues tied to data governance. Prior to her current position, Katelyn served as the Future of Privacy Forum's Christopher Wolf Diversity Fellow. Through the International Association of Privacy Professionals, Katelyn holds CIPM, CIPP-EU, and CIPP-U certifications & is a 2021 Fellow of Information Privacy.

Katelyn is a former board member of Women in Security and Privacy DC (WISP) — and writes about issues ties to state/federal privacy legislation; sensitive personal data; and appropriate safeguards for cross-border transfers. Find Katelyn's law reviews and articles in Berkeley Tech Law Journal, Berkeley Law Review, Denver Law Review, Notre Dame Journal of Emerging Technology, Notre Dame Law Review, on IAPP and FPF's websites, and more.

Katelyn is proud to be an out member of the data protection community, and is glad to support LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Washington DC area.

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

"I believe that diversity is national security, and that without a diverse cyber and privacy workforce — we cannot adequately address an incredibly complex threat landscape."

Noah Ponton

Associate Manager, Humanity United

LinkedIn | Twitter



Noah Ponton is an Associate Program Manager at Humanity United, where he provides program and grantmaking strategy to the foundation’s forced labor and human trafficking portfolio. He works directly with human rights NGOs, grassroots activists, and journalists working across South Asia and the Arab Gulf, including policy coordination with the U.S. State Department and the International Labour Organization. Most recently, his work has included raising awareness around the abuses of migrant workers in Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Before working in philanthropy, Noah served in the offices of Senator Thomas Carper (DE) and Representative G. K. Butterfield (NC), where he conducted legislative research on issues related to U.S. foreign policy and humanitarian aid reform. As an aide to Liberal International’s Chief Human Rights Officer, he conducted policy research on the United Nations Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Doctrine and the politics of Western-backed humanitarian intervention in Libya and Rwanda. Noah has also worked at the National Women’s Law Center, providing support to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.

Noah holds a B.A. in Political Science and Peace, War, and Defense from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is an Honors Carolina Laureate.

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

"I strive to incorporate a queer lens into all aspects of our foundation’s grantmaking process. This not only means directly supporting projects that touch on LGBTI rights issues and queer-led organizations, but also ensuring that I and other grantmakers use gender-neutral language when conversing with prospective grantees during our exploratory conversations, it means including pronouns and other gender-identifiers in our email signatures, and it means updating our organization’s grantmaking documents to remove outdated prefixes/titles to ensure that we are an organization that is welcoming to queer,
trans, and gender non-binary grantees."

Alyssa M. Noltner

Medical Service Corps Officer, U.S. Army


Alyssa is a Medical Service Corps Officer that commissioned as a Distinguished Military Graduate in 2011. She currently serves as a student at the Evans School of Public Policy earning a Master of Public Administration with a focus on leadership and decision-making, and homeland security. At the Evans School she serves on the board of two Student Interest Groups: Out in Public, and the Network of Womxn. She also serves as a student ambassador.

Prior to the opportunity for advanced civil schooling, she served as the aide-de-camp to the Commanding General of Regional Health Command-Pacific and the Chief of the Army Nurse Corps. Before that she served as an Operations Officer, planning and resourcing training for units in the 62nd Medical Brigade. Previous to that, I commanded a medical company in the 82nd Airborne Division.

In her spare time, she co-hosts a podcast with my wife, and fellow Army officer, providing a space for mothers to share their experience as a mom in a tactical career field. She also loves hiking, biking, and traveling with her wife, Samantha, and son, Elliott.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"In the military, I always seek to represent our community in the best possible way and
offer mentorship and support to the LGBT+ community. Being out lets me be a recognizable
safe space for any Soldier that may need it."

Jake Nelson

EU Desk Officer, U.S. Department of State

LinkedIn | Twitter

Jake Nelson is a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State. His next posting will be as spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, where he will lead the embassy's press, media, and strategic communications team.

He recently finished an assignment as the Department of State's desk officer for the European Union. In this role, Jake supported the whole-of-government push to strengthen relations with the EU, advised senior leaders on EU policy, and designed and coordinated the launch of new high-level U.S.-EU dialogues on China and the Indo-Pacific. Before returning to Washington, he was a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, where he led the embassy's work on Germany's relations with China. He also served as a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in Algiers, as well as in short-term assignments at the U.S. Consulate General in Leipzig, U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, and U.S. Mission to the EU. He joined the Foreign Service in 2014 as a Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellow.

Jake received an MA from Yale University in European and Russian studies, where he was a teaching fellow in the history department and a Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies fellow in German. He received a BA from the College of William and Mary in French and Francophone studies and also studied at the Institut d'études politiques in Lyon, France. He has participated in the Atlantik-Brücke Young Leaders Program, Atlantic Council LGBTI in Foreign Affairs Fellowship, and German Marshall Fund Brussels Forum Young Professionals Summit. He speaks English, French, German, and Arabic.

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

"I wish I had felt more comfortable early in my career talking openly about burnout and mental
health. When you are new to an institution, it can feel scary to show what you think others may
perceive as a sign of weakness."

Kerry K. Neal

Managing Director, U.S. Department of State


Mr. Kerry Neal is a career member of the Senior Executive Service (SES) and serves as Managing Director for Financial Policy, Reporting, and Analysis in the Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services, U.S. Department of State. In this role he is responsible for leadership/oversight in the following areas: formulating and interpreting financial policy (4 FAM/4 FAH); agency financial reporting, including preparation and production of the annual agency financial report (AFR); and federal assistance financial management (grants and assistance payment systems, training, and policy). Prior to this appointment, Kerry served as Assistant Inspector General for Management / Executive Director (SES) in the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General (OIG). In that role he was broadly responsible for all executive office administrative functions including information technology, $150M+ annual budget & resources, facilities, physical security, and human capital management. Before joining OIG, he served as Office Director (SES) for the Office of Grants Management at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary.

Prior to the Department of the Interior, he served as Deputy Director (SES) for the Office of Grants and Debarment at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where he oversaw a diverse portfolio including overall office operations (budget, human resources, change management, immediate office resource management, and technology systems integration). He also oversaw the HQ Grants and Interagency Agreement Management Division (GIAMD) and was responsible for the timely management and administration of more than $4 billion in annually appropriated assistance activities, and more than $15 billion in overall open financial assistance and interagency agreement activities at the EPA. In addition, the Office of Grants and Debarment manages the EPA's suspension and debarment practice consisting of a cadre of attorneys, professional support staff, and the senior level Debarring Official (SL). In 2017, he helped to establish the American Bar Association Grants Law Committee (GLC), serving as one of its founding co-chairs.

Prior to EPA, he served as Director for the Grants Division at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Executive Office where he oversaw the operational grant administration portfolio of the largest grant making bureau at the Department. Under the Fulbright-Hays Act, he directed ECA's grant activities that facilitated people-to-people exchanges between the US and countries around the world. From 2013-2015 Kerry served as Board Member and Secretary/Treasurer of GLIFAA, the Department of State LGBT+ resource group. Kerry began his federal service at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service (formerly Financial Management Service), where he worked on the Cash Management Improvement Act program. Prior to joining federal service, he worked in administrative and management positions at Georgetown University and the University of Maryland. Kerry has been a member of various non-profit executive boards, including the African American Federal Executive Association (AAFEA) and the National Grants Management Association (NGMA). Kerry is also a 2021 Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Kerry holds a B.S. in business from Long Island University, Southampton College; M.A. in business/legal administration from Marymount University; J.D. from University of Baltimore School of Law; and an LL.M. in environmental and energy law and policy from Georgetown University Law Center; he is admitted to practice law in Maryland, District of Columbia, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Out means being counted as a member of the LGBT+ community. It doesn't always mean waving flags and marching but doing what you can to ensure representation. I sing, I work (openly) and support causes that are important to the LGBT+ movement. That is why it is important for me to be out."

Safi Mojidi

Head of Information Security at FOLX Health

LinkedIn | Twitter

Safi Mojidi is a socially conscious thought leader, doctoral candidate, and cybersecurity specialist with nearly 15 years of expertise. As Head of InfoSec at FOLX Health, he combines strategic cyber vision and risk transparency to impact C-Suite and board level decisions to ensure data privacy and security for the LGBTQ population. He has expertise in the design, implementation, and execution of enterprise cloud security programs within enterprise environments such as NASA, the DOD, the DOJ, Slack, and Salesforce. Due to the absence of representation for black LGBTQ+ people in cybersecurity, he founded a non-profit, Hacking the Workforce. HtW's mission is to increase visibility and retention of Black LGBTQ professionals in leadership positions within cyber security, and more broadly tech.

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

"As a cybersecurity practitioner, I know that security is a foundational element that creates
confidence and fosters trust in information systems. Threat landscapes are always changing, so security professionals must keep learning."

Noah Metheny

Multilateral Deputy Branch Chief, Office of HIV/AIDS, USAID


Noah Metheny is currently the Multilateral Deputy Branch Chief at USAID/Office of HIV. Prior to joining the Multilateral Branch, Noah served as a Senior Technical Advisor working on gender, LGBTQ+, and key population issues at USAID. He also served as the Community Engagement Lead at the Global Fund in Geneva, managing the Community, Rights and Gender Strategic Initiative, a 3-year, $15 million effort to increase the meaningful engagement of civil society.

Noah was the Director of Policy at the MPact Global Action for Gay Mens’ Health and Rights, and he also worked as a Public Health Legal Educator with the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group in Bangkok.

Noah completed his MPH in Law and Public Health at Harvard University School of Public Health, his JD at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and his BA in Political Science at Swarthmore College.

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

"I want to bring all of my international development experiences and skills working in the HIV sector within LGBTQ+ NGOs, US government, and multilateral institutions to address the global health inequities revealed most recently by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Jim Marrone

Economist, RAND Corporation

LinkedIn | Twitter

Jim is an economist working on public policy problems across a variety of national security topics. His main research areas are: counter-extremism, propaganda, and disinformation; and military families, military retention, and military compensation. His work has supported Congressionally-mandated policy reviews for DoD, DHS, and DoS, and he has led research tasks to evaluate counter-extremism programs in a variety of countries.

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

"I am most motivated by the need to protect our democracy from extremist ideologies that seek to tear down the rights and freedoms some Americans have only recently been granted. To that end, my work on disinformation and propaganda is the most rewarding and feels the most meaningful out of all the research topics I currently study."

Landon Marchant

Global Analyst, Talent Attraction at ZX Ventures (Anheuser Busch-InBev)

LinkedIn | Twitter

Landon currently works for ZX Ventures, Anheuser-Busch InBev's global innovation and investment fund, and serves as a Fellow with Minority Veterans of America. Connecting all they do is their belief that innovation and exploring unknowns should be done sustainably and equitably, and that people deserve to thrive within the systems and organizations structuring our communities.

Landon has over a decade of experience in veteran and LGBTQ-focused military advocacy. As a Fellow with Minority Veterans of America, they are focused on increasing economic justice and employment through policy and helping to develop a flagship program serving 10.7-million minority-identifying veterans.

They have co-authored multiple academic articles and expert commentaries, been invited to present and lecture at conferences, colleges, and other events, and taught as an adjunct professor at Williams College. Landon has recently been appointed as a research assistant at the Connecticut Veterans Health Administration to understand and improve methods for patient/provider interaction.

Landon earned their B.A. in Philosophy and Sociology from Williams College. Before matriculating at Williams, they attended Northern Virginia Community College, and worked as a skilled trades apprentice with the United Association Plumbers Local 5 outside of Washington D.C. They are a veteran of the United States Air Force.

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

"Growing up as a trans, queer veteran is a unique experience that can be hard to articulate, and there were many times when my eclectic collection of professional experiences felt more like a hindrance than an asset. I wish I had been able to trust myself, and better understand the value these experiences brought to my personal and professional development."

Nick Mararac

PhD Candidate, Department of Linguistics, Georgetown University

LinkedIn | Twitter

Nick Mararac is a sociolinguistics Ph.D. candidate at Georgetown University in the Department of Linguistics and a student veteran advocate. As a researcher, Nick focuses on military and veteran populations. For his dissertation, he is examining how veterans construct narratives about decisions, transitions, and community. Additionally, he focuses on the intersection of language, gender, and sexuality; and has presented on queer linguistics topics that explore how ideologies of gender and sexuality emerge in military discourse. Currently, Nick serves on the executive board of the National Communication Association’s Communication and Military Division where he collaborates with other military and veteran researchers.

As a student veteran advocate, Nick served as the president of the Georgetown University Student Veterans Association (GUSVA), which is a chapter of Student Veterans of America. As president, Nick, alongside his team, centered their goals on expanding membership by focusing on their military sense of service, creating an inclusive environment for women and queer military-connected students, and improving financial access and stability for student veterans by increasing the Yellow Ribbon Program. In January 2022, Student Veterans of America and Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education, awarded GUSVA as SVA Chapter of the Year for successfully meeting their goals. Subsequently, Nick was appointed to serve on the SVA Board of Directors.

Prior to arriving at Georgetown University, Nick was Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S Navy. He received his commission and BS in international relations from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2007. Today, Nick and his husband live in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC with their two Shiba Inus, Maki and Kumi.

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

"The national security challenge that motivates me in my work is uprooting heteronormative discourses that has predicated the historic discrimination of LGBTQ service members and women. As linguist who studies how military and veteran populations employ language, and as someone who studies how the military is talked about, I see a clear disconnect between the public imagination of the U.S. military and the experiences of those who serve(d)."

Gabriele Magni

Director, Global Policy Institute & Assistant Professor of Political Science, Loyola Marymount University

LinkedIn | Twitter

Gabriele Magni (he/him/his) is Director of the Global Policy Institute (GPI) and Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Loyola Marymount University. His scholarship examines LGBTQ rights and representation, immigration, and political economy. His research has been published in leading academic journals and has appeared in The Washington Post, Politico, The New Republic, and The New York Times.

He teaches classes on international political economy, comparative politics, European politics, and LGBTQ politics. As Director of GPI, Gabriele regularly engages in public conversations with diplomats, national security leaders, elected officials, and journalists. He also launched the Career Spotlight Initiative, the LGBTQ Politics Research Initiative, and The 3-Minute Global Policy Competition.

A first-generation college student, Gabriele grew up in Italy, obtained his Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill, and completed a postdoc at Princeton University.

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

"My work lies at the intersection of immigration and LGBTQ rights. I am especially interested in contrasting the persecution of minorities that forces many to leave their home country and seek asylum."

Esti Lamonaca

Professional Staff Member, Women and LGBTQ+ Veterans Policy Advisor, House Committee on Veterans Affairs

Esti Lamonaca (they/them/theirs) is a disabled U.S. Army combat veteran and an out and proud transgender non-binary New York native.

During their time in the military, Esti deployed to the Middle East as part of a Special Forces Joint Task Force team component of NATO for Operation Enduring Freedom. Serving as an intelligence analyst, Esti strategically advised and coordinated forces such as international ally forces, NGOs, and the United Nations. Though they were not able to serve openly as their authentic self, Esti always upheld their oath.

Upon leaving the military, Esti continued their service by partnering with national veteran organizations conducting political advocacy and policy advising. They focused on an assortment of issues consisting of ending forever wars, racial justice, healthcare rights, and women and LGBTQ+ veteran equity.

Currently, Esti is a motivated Professional Staff Member with The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs - Majority.

Esti has been featured on NPR, in Now This, NY Daily News, Task & Purpose, Huffington Post, Washington Blade, We The People, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statescraft, and others. Esti holds a B.A., summa cum laude, from Hunter College.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"I served from 2014-2020 as a “female”, because checking a “transgender non-binary” box was not an option. Many soldiers sacrificed their lives, like myself, all while hiding our sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Today, I am incredibly grateful to be my true authentic self. I feel proud to be seen and heard in government. I strive to be an inspiration and a figure of hope for others.”

Saira Johnson-Quershi

Cooperative Agreement Branch Chief, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Saira Johnson-Qureshi joined the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2012 through the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program, working in the Office of the Director in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP). Prior to joining CDC, Saira was a Lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies at Arizona State University for more than 10 years.

In 2013, Saira began working in CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS and TB (DGHT) as a Regional Desk Officer covering West Africa and the Americas. CDC via DGHT is one the implementing agencies for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Since joining DGHT, Saira has traveled to more than fifteen PEPFAR countries to provide technical assistance and facilitate trainings. Saira served as a facilitator for the PEPFAR Gender and Sexual Diversity (GSD) trainings in countries including South Africa, Tanzania, Cambodia and the United States. The training provides recommendations for meaningful engagement with gender and sexual minority beneficiaries when developing and implementing programs, and it connects participants with local/regional resources related to gender and sexual diversity.

In 2014, Saira was detailed to Department of State’s Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) to start up the Interagency Collaborative for Program Improvement (ICPI). ICPI brings together experts from PEPFAR’s interagency partners: USAID, DoD, Peace Corps and HHS (CDC/HRSA/SAMHSA), who form a body of subject-matter experts in HIV/AIDS program areas, PEPFAR data streams (program results, epidemiologic data, financial and expenditure data and quality), and data analytics. Saira was a member of the PEPFAR Gender and Adolescent Girls Technical Working Group and also founded and led the ICPI Gender Workstream until she accepted a position as Deputy PEPFAR Coordinator for the U.S. Embassy in Mozambique and moved there in 2018 with her family.

As the PEPFAR Deputy PEPFAR Coordinator from 2018-2021, Saira managed three teams made up of six direct reports: management and operations staff for the PEPFAR Coordination Office, Grant Coordinators on the Small Grants team, and the DREAMS Coordinator. In addition to managing the internal functions of the PEPFAR Coordination Office, Saira also served as the Co-Chair for the PEPFAR Mozambique HIV Care and Treatment Technical Working Group and was a key member of the interagency senior leadership team coordinating critical deliverables for the program. During her time in Mozambique, Saira also received training as an international elections monitor and served on an embassy team working to ensure the integrity of Mozambique’s 2019 national elections.

In 2021, Saira and her family moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where she accepted a position as Chief of Cooperative Agreements for CDC Kenya, managing a $130 million portfolio with more than 35 PEPFAR implementing partners. On a personal note, Saira enjoys spending time with her family, enjoying the outdoors, traveling and learning new hobbies.

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

"I believe there is a direct connection between national security, global health and foreign policy. Health policy is foreign policy."

Adrian V. Herrera

F-15E Evaluator Weapons Systems Officer, United States Air Force


Major Adrian V. Herrera is an United States Air Force Active Duty F-15E Evaluator Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) for the 494th Fighter Squadron stationed out of Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. As an F-15E Strike Eagle Evaluator WSO, Major Herrera flies, evaluates, instructs aircrew in executing a full array of higher level directed (POTUS & NATO) missions against high value targets across the world.

Adrian received his engineering degree and EIT certificate from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2008, and immediately joined the United States Air Force in 2010. He flew in support of multiple NATO deployments, supported airstrikes against Libya, and deployed to the Middle East in the fight against ISIS in Northern Syria and Iraq.

From 2017-2019, Major Herrera was accepted and entered in the Department of Defense Career Intermission Program, a program designed to increase retention in personnel across the Armed Forces. During this time, he received his Master of Public Administration at the University of Southern California. His research emphasis was on Public Private Partnerships, Homeland Security and Public Policy, and International Public Diplomacy. In 2018, he accomplished his personal life goal of presenting a TEDx talk, where he discusses his experience living under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. He returned to Active Duty and to RAF Lakenheath in 2019. During this assignment, he deployed in support of noncombatant evacuation operations of Kabul International Airport and flew one of the last manned coalition aircraft in the retrograde of Afghanistan. In Summer 2021, Major Herrera moved to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to serve as an F-15E Operational Test WSO for the 422 Test and Evaluation Squadron.

Major Herrera accrued over 1600 flight hours in the F-15E Strike Eagle, and boasts a distinguished combat record including more than 800 combat hours and more than 100 combat sorties in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE and Operation ALLIES REFUGE, in support of the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. He is also a published author, keynote speaker, and accomplished traveler.

What’s the best advice you ever received from a mentor, and how have you applied it?

“I’ve had the career I’ve had from all of the men who supported me; bottom line, be inclusive of everyone around you, both the good and the bad, but only lay your hat out for the positive ones that support you.”

Sarah Grant

Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, U.S. Department of Justice

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Sarah currently serves as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice. She joined DOJ through the Attorney General's Honors Program in 2021 after serving as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Katherine Polk Failla on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and for the Honorable Diane Wood on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She previously served in the United States Marine Corps as an intelligence officer.

Sarah earned a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she was co-Editor in Chief of the Harvard National Security Journal and wrote extensively for the national security website Lawfare. She holds an MPhil in International Relations from the University of Cambridge, where she studied as a US-UK Fulbright Scholar. She graduated with distinction from the United States Naval Academy with a B.S. in International Relations and was selected as a Harry S. Truman Scholar. She also has been a Heyman Post-Grad Fellow at Harvard Law School, an American Inns of Court Temple Bar Scholar, a Law Fellow with the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics, and a Women in Defense Scholarship recipient.

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

"To me, national security is not just about protecting people and property but also about
preserving a way of life. So I am deeply concerned about the global decline of democratic values and the resurgence of illiberal ideologies."

Andrew Gleason

Adivsor, Gender Equality & Social Justice, Save the Children

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Andrew Gleason serves as a Gender Equality Advisor at Save the Children – a leading child rights organization working in the U.S. and across the globe to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. In this role, Andrew provides leadership to the advancement of gender equality & social justice across the organization. This includes building and strengthening systems for agency-wide gender integration; establishing accountability mechanisms for gender equality, inclusive of steering the development, implementation, and scaling of organizational Gender Equality Self Assessments; and steering capacity strengthening and leadership development efforts on gender equality.

Andrew leads a growing body of work on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, sex characteristics (SOGIESC) across programming and within the organization, including the launch of the agency’s SOGIESC Task Force, and chairing Save the Children’s LGBTQI+ Employee Affinity Group. Andrew also serves as a member of Save the Children’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council and provides leadership to the advancement of the agency’s DEI strategy, supporting organizational culture initiatives, anti-harassment efforts, and disability inclusion efforts.

Andrew has 10 years of experience working in the international development sector, having lived and worked in eight countries across Asia, Europe, Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Andrew graduated from LeMoyne College with a BA in Spanish and Peace & Global Studies, and Creighton University with a MA in Medical Anthropology. Andrew and his husband Jono live in Maine, and in his free time volunteers for the Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

What national security challenge motivates you, in or outside of your daily work? What does it mean to you that you are out?

"As a mid-career professional working at one of the largest international non-governmental organizations dedicated to child rights, I am laser-focused on addressing gender inequality and all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). Gender inequality is a structural issue that undergirds so many national security issues, and there is an important and inextricable link between international development and national security."

Dustin Gabus

Public Affairs Officer, The Joint Staff


Dustin currently serves as a public affairs officer on the Joint Staff, as well as a reservist assigned to the U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs. As a reserve officer, he deployed in 2018 and 2020 in support of a special operations joint task force as part of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE.

Dustin graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Central Oklahoma. In 2011, he earned a master’s degree in strategic communication from the University of Oklahoma.

Currently he resides in the Dupont neighborhood of Washington, D.C., with Lady, his one-year-old corgi.

What’s the best advice you ever received from a mentor, and how have you applied it?

"You are your best—and sometimes only—advocate. As a professional, learning how to negotiate on your own behalf and others is a vital skill. Timidness will get you nowhere."

Mike Friel

Office of the Director of National Intelligence


Michael (Mike) Friel is an Integration Manager at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) where he works on National Security Policy efforts related to Identity Intelligence.

Prior to his current role, Mike served on the IC's Presidential Transition team for the 2020 Election at ODNI and previously worked as an Identity Intelligence analyst at NCTC. Mike is also the co-chair of his agency's LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG) where he proudly leads a large and active group. He advocates for a safe work environment where LGBTQ+ officers can be their truest selves while also educating allies on how to engage with their LGBTQ+ coworkers and family members. Prior to joining the USG, Mike worked as a Paralegal, focusing on White Collar Litigation in Anti-Money Laundering and foreign tax compliance efforts. Before being a Paralegal, Mike supported the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)'s Government Relations team. Mike went to American University where he studied International Relations, earned a certificate in European Security Studies from Sciences Po Paris and interned with the Northern Ireland Bureau and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

A Southern New Jersey native, Mike lives in Falls Church with his boyfriend, who reluctantly (but lovingly) spends Sundays in the Fall watching Philadelphia Eagles games with him.

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

"I am most motivated by the idea of a transparent and functioning national security apparatus that is a faithful steward of the American taxpayer and civil liberties. I think a lot of people hear national security and think it doesn’t affect them other than when they have to take their shoes off at the airport for TSA."

Rodney Ferguson

Foreign Area Officer, U.S. Department of Defense


Rodney Ferguson is a Foreign Area Officer with the Department of Defense. He manages humanitarian assistance and security cooperation programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. He hails from Nassau, The Bahamas, and graduated with highest honors from the Defense Language Institute in 2019.

Rodney earned a B.A. in political science from The Citadel in 2009. Rodney has over 12 years of active-duty experience including three combat deployments to Afghanistan and the Kingdom of Jordan. In 2016, he served as Deputy Senior Intelligence Officer for the Army’s Terrorism (Transregional) Criminal Investigation Unit. Rodney studied global effects on defense policy at the Defense Academy of the United Kingdom in Shrivenham, England in 2017 and served as the Aide de Camp to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2018. Rodney has conducted developmental engagements and research in Jamaica, Mexico, Colombia, and Panama, and the Security Cooperation Office at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Rodney is fluent in Spanish and studies at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University.

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

"I’m principally motivated by development due to the urgent need for increased social and economic reform in the Americas. Professionally, I focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, regions that have struggled with development due to corruption, violence, foreign intervention, and inequality."

Karim Farishta

Director of Strategic Alliances, The Asian American Foundation

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Karim Farishta currently serves as the Director of Strategic Alliances at The Asian American Foundation, created after the Atlanta Spa Shootings to serve the AAPI community in their pursuit of belonging and prosperity free from discrimination, slander, and violence. Most recently, he served as Associate Director for the Office of the Vice President-elect for the Presidential Inaugural Committee and as the Texas AAPI State Director for the Biden for President campaign. Karim began his work in public service at the Obama White House, where he served as Program Manager on the presidential transition and personnel teams.

He was also a Fulbright Scholar in Sri Lanka, where he launched an urban collaborative in Colombo to convene government, corporate, and community leaders to address shared concerns. A native of Houston, Texas, Karim holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and graduated summa cum laude in International Affairs as a Harry S. Truman Scholar from The George Washington University.

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

"People are policy. To show up in our full selves and represent the tremendous diversity of the U.S. is the greatest form of public service. I am compelled to resolve divisions and build an inclusive vision for national security because it is at the crux of my identity."

Kristina Drye

Strategic Communications Manager, Giant Oak Inc.

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Kristina Drye is the Manager of Strategic Communications at Giant Oak, Inc., where she focuses on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and combating illicit activities and actors. Kristina continues to conduct independent research, focusing on the security intersection of statebuilding, conflict resolution, peacebuilding processes, and diplomacy, with a strong area expertise of the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

She holds a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, an M.A. in Security Studies from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and graduate credit from the American University of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Kristina’s previous employment includes positions at the European Parliament and the World Affairs Council of Charlotte.

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

"I know now that your successes in your career do not define your success as a human being. I
spent my entire life reaching for the next goal, the next “win.” I wish I knew then that no number of laurels will bring you peace with yourself in the moments where labor is not defining your time."

Farley R. Cleghorn

Chief Medical Officer & Global Head, Health Practice, Palladium


Farley is an international expert who has over 30 years' experience in international health development, research and programme implementation as an infectious disease thought leader, systems thinker and epidemiologist, with particular focus on HIV/AIDS.

At Palladium, Farley leads our global Health Practice, an interdisciplinary team in four markets (US, Europe, Middle East and Australia/Pacific) focused on holistic responses to global health priorities based on sustainable health systems, implementation science, health promotion and prevention.

He had a distinguished career at the US National Institutes of Health before serving as a senior scientist and faculty member at the University of Maryland Medical Center. He holds an MD and MPH from Johns Hopkins University and is trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases.

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

"I started my career as an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist and have always had an international research program, both at the National Institutes of Health and at the University of Maryland Medical Center. When I transitioned to Futures Group, now Palladium, in 2004, the world of international development became my passion, in all its myriad expressions. I say that I have moved from patient interaction to country interaction."

Ava Elaine Hartwell Bagley

Senior Analyst, Government Accountability Office

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Ava Elaine Hartwell Bagley has served in several executive branch national security organizations for more than ten years. Since 2016, she has served in the Government Accountability Office. As a senior analyst, Ava has written reports on key issues facing the Department of Defense, including program delays and cost overruns of vital naval shipyard improvements, cybersecurity concerns in weapons system software, and challenges the military services encounter in prepositioning military materiel. Ava has also been a member of and President of GAO’s Toastmaster’s group and a member of the GAO’s Gender Identity Information Group and Gay and Lesbian advocacy group. She has participated in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workshops at GAO, presenting on transgender issues. 

Prior to beginning her service at the GAO, Ava worked in various capacities across DOD and the Department of State, as well as the Voice of America. At DOD, researched and evaluated cybersecurity tools, and worked on positive messaging around (to her chagrin, in retrospect) the Littoral Combat Ship. At State, she served as program liaison to South and Central Asia for the Overseas Security Advisory Council, among other positions. At VOA, Ava taught the newsroom how to leverage social media to engage directly with citizens across North Africa involved in the Arab Spring and produced a comprehensive report on press freedom issues across Asia. 

Ava holds a BA from Oberlin College (‘06) and a MA from Georgetown University (‘11). At Georgetown, Ava studied American government and North African terrorism. Ava is currently pursuing a certificate in the Fleet Seminar Program at the Naval War College. At NWC, she has reviewed many elements of the U.S. National Security strategy, including failures in the war against Al Qaeda. 

She lives at the top of a tower in Silver Spring and spends her free time writing, drawing, and painting.

What’s the best advice you ever received from a mentor, and how have you applied it?

"I think the best advice I’ve received from a mentor is to remember to trust myself, that I have the answers I need. Too often, I have been in my own way. Until I began working on accepting this advice - to trust myself, to listen to what my own mind and heart are telling me - I was my own worst enemy."

Tyler Adamson

Desk Officer, Department of Defense HIV/AIS Prevention Program

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Tyler holds an MPH in Health Policy and Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and a BS/BA in Molecular Biology and Anthropology from the University of Washington. Tyler Adamson is a Desk Officer with the U.S. Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program, where he manages US Military to foreign Military HIV programs including data collection, grant review, program operations and evaluation. He previously worked for Baltimore City Mayor Jack Young and Health Policy Staffer in Congressman Trone’s office working on health policy. Tyler is passionate about human rights, equity in health, and ensuring that every individual has access to the resources they need to live a healthy and happy life.

During his graduate education, he conducted research under Dr. Chris Beyrer on human rights and HIV and drafted expert opinions on Dr. Beyrer’s behalf for cases being heard before High Courts around the world, regarding the criminalization of same-sex behavior. Tyler was named a Desmond M. Tutu Scholar by the Center for Public Health and Human Rights and a Public Health Practice Scholar by the School of Public Health.

Tyler is a co-author of several peer-reviewed publications, and his research was used by the United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in his report to the UN Human Rights Council on Conversion Therapy. Additionally, Tyler’s research has been covered by several news outlets, including the Washington Blade, The Bay Area Reporter, Reuters, the Washington Post, and USA Today, among others. He continues to conduct research on human rights, HIV, and health equity.

A Pacific Northwestener at heart, Tyler loves reading, baking, food, ultimate frisbee, getting outdoors, and most of all, his black cat Minerva.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being out means everything to me. It means I can bring my full, authentic self to all of the work I do, and show how my identities inform and motivate to me do pursue the work I do. I also hope that being out in both my personal and professional life will unconsciously liberate others to do the same, knowing that it is a safe space to do so."