Participant Profiles


Past and present East-West Center participants come from all 50 U.S. states and more than 180 countries and territories, and there are nearly 50 active alumni chapters worldwide. Our alumni include presidents and prime ministers, leading educators and business executives, journalists, entrepreneurs and social advocates. Explore the profiles below to get to know some current and recent EWC participants. You can also learn about more EWC alumni on LinkedIn and the Center's oral history pages.


Aggarat Bansong (Ake)

Thailand, Asia Pacific Leadership Program '08

Based in Bangkok, Aggarat is currently working with an American network-marketing company called Nu Skin. Previously, she worked as a news producer with the BBC in Bangkok and was a staff reporter with Tokyo Broadcasting System covering news stories throughout Southeast Asia. Prior to coming to EWC, she was awarded a Fulbright grant to pursue her graduate degree in the U.S.

"Lifelong friendships and the professional network that I gained during APLP program taught me about true bonding and human nature. The inter-cultural environment helped me to become more open and understand differences of personalities and cultures"  ...more...

D MacLean Brodie (Mac)

Canada, Asia Pacific Leadership Program '07

After completing his East-West Center fellowship, Mac moved to the Chinese countryside to develop a series of sustainable tourism enterprises in a village at the foot of the Great Wall.  More recently, he has worked at Ogilvy Public Relations in Shanghai as a consultant in public affairs and government engagement.

"I have continued to use the long-term planning tools that were introduced to my skeptical younger self in Hawaii. ... Forget about leadership ‘techniques’ and spend more time listening to yourself and to others.” ...more...

Atif Ikram Butt

Pakistan, Asia Pacific Leadership Program '07

Atif is the Executive Director of the Center for Communication Programs Pakistan, a sister organization of the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs in the domain of development communication. Previously, Atif worked with UNICEF Pakistan and completed his graduate degree in public policy.

“I have come to see leadership as not just about one’s personal traits, behavioral aspects or situational opportunities; it is as much about learning and nurturing too. Leadership, for me, is not just about success it is about failure too.” ...more...

Roreti Eritai

Kiribati, Pacific Islands Women in Leadership ’14

Roreti is a Senior Trade Promotion Officer in the Government of Kiribati’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives. Since completing her program at EWC, she has worked on efforts to address socio-economic issues faced by Kiribati communities – particularly women and youths – through projects that could enhance community capacity and provide them with income opportunities.

“Three very important words advocated by the EWC – collaboration, expertise and leadership – are applicable in any situation. In achieving development, countries need  visionary leaders who must engage in a bottom-up and holistic approaches to ensure that everyone is involved and issues are effectively addressed.” ...more...

Micah Fisher

USA, Degree Student

Currently a Ph.D. student in geography, Micah previously spent four years with the World Bank in Indonesia and worked in Washington, D.C., with the International Programs office of the U.S. Forest Service. He began his career working on community-driven regeneration with the International Rescue Committee in Aceh, Indonesia, following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

“I was attracted to EWC because I wanted to get exposed to a broader Asia-Pacific community by connecting with emerging leaders throughout the region while being able to participate in timely research. While at the Center, I have made lifelong friends, been provided with leadership opportunities, connected with researchers and been part of programs that connect us with a sense of place here in Hawai‘i. There really is no place like it.” ...more...

Sheryan P. Guialel

Philippines, Institutes on Environment, ’12

Sheryan Guialel

Sheryan is a supervising Cultural Affairs Officer for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Bureau on Cultural Heritage , as well as Senior Management Team Head of an environmental NGO, Adat-Betad Inc. She is also a regional representative of the Youth Network on Philippine Heritage.

“I thought I was going to land on an environmental career; instead, I landed on one that aims to promote and preserve the cultural heritage and identity of the people in our region. Now working in both cultural and environmental advocacy, I realize that our heritage and identity is all connected to our environment, and as we take care of our environment, we preserve our cultural identity.” ...more...

Hajra Hafeez-ur-Rehman

Pakistan, Asia Pacific Leadership Program '10

Hajra works as a consultant on nutrition for UNICEF headquarters in New York. She was previously based in Addis Ababa, where she worked with UNICEF to help the Ethiopian government set up a multi-sector nutrition program. She has also worked on sexual and reproductive rights, youth issues and HIV/AIDS surveillance for at-risk populations in South Asia and runs her own youth-empowerment NGO called Youth Dividend.

"APLP has been very instrumental in shaping me into who I am today, both personally and professionally. It gave me the chance to push myself out of my comfort zone and achieve what I wanted by taking an uncertain road. I still use the skills to check where I am now and who I seek to be.” ...more...

Lelemia Irvine

Hawai'i, Degree Student

Lelemia is a Hawaiian engineer, rain farmer and advocate who loves to combine his passions for culture and STEAMS (science, technology, engineering, arts, math and social sciences) to better serve our communities. His life-long goal is to help our generation to leave a lasting and ‘sust-ʻāina-able’ legacy for future generations.

"I applied to EWC because I wanted to sharpen my expertise; to learn from world leaders; and to join an extensive network to connect, exchange, and talk story with many people from all over the world. From these relationships, I aspire to collaborate and put into motion thoughtful ideas and actions for a better today and tomorrow. The future is now!” ...more...

Sofia Jamil

Singapore, Institutes on Environment '09

Sofiah is in the final stage of her Ph.D. studies at the Australian National University, focusing on the role of Islamic institutions in environmental awareness and action in Indonesia. She is also the co-founder of Hornbills, a company specializing in public communications training and consultancy, and a member of the Young Association of Muslim Professionals in Singapore.

“Since my program at the East-West Center, I feel more confident and positive in pursuing goals and have tended to be more proactive in encouraging others to pursue their passions as well.  I am more conscious of the gaps, similarities and differences among communities in the Asia Pacific, which encourages me to think about how more collaborative efforts can be done in the region.” ...more...

Mele O'Brien

Solomon Islands, Pacific Islands Women in Leadership '14

Mele is currently an insurance underwriter and relationship manager. She has worked previously in banking and for the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“I’m passionate about helping the people of Solomon Islands - youths and women in particular - to see themselves differently and realize their self-worth. I see leadership as not a position to occupy, but rather a state of being where responsibility, service, integrity, and character is first built within the leader and then given to the people.” ...more...

Sayaka Sakuma

Okinawa, Degree Student

At the East-West Center, Sayaka has been active in student activities, including chairing EWC’s International Graduate Student Conference. As an undergraduate she worked as an assistant language program coordinator at a non-profit organization in Okinawa.

“I was attracted to EWC by its various educational programs and research opportunities, and felt that the diverse community as well as other Okinawan students who had been studying at EWC provided strong support.Having friends from different backgrounds has been the most meaningful part of my experience at the Center. I feel my interests have expanded a lot more than I expected.”more

Mattias van Ommen

Netherlands, Degree Student

A former president of the EWC Participant Association, Mattias is currently on a Nippon Foundation fellowship in Yokohama, researching the growing number of young people in Japan who favor online adventures over the "real" world. He has experience as a translator and has worked with the Japanese Football Association, and is the founder of a soccer club.

““The number of life lessons I have learned here at the East-West Center because of cross-cultural engagement with people that are experts in their respective fields is simply astounding. This ranges from the trivial (how to boil an egg) to the deep and complex (personalized perspectives on independence and self-governance).”more