New America Announces 2018 Class of National Fellows

Washington, D.C.—Today, New America announces its 2018 Class of National Fellows.

The New America Fellows Program supports thinkers—journalists, producers, practitioners, and scholars—whose work enhances the public conversation about the most pressing issues of our day. The full roster of 2018 National Fellows can be found here.

The Fellows Program received more than 500 applications this year, and selected a competitive class of 13 immensely talented New America National Fellows. Over the course of their fellowships, these new fellows will undertake projects in a wide range of policy areas, including military and veterans affairs, criminal justice reform, and school integration, among others. More information about specific areas of focus can be found below.

“We are pleased to welcome this new class of National Fellows to New America,” Peter Bergen, New America vice president and Fellows Program director, said. “Selected from more than 500 applicants, the work this group will produce embodies the core values of New America. Their journalism and scholarship communicates with broad audiences and changes the way we think about policy."

New America would like to thank Eric & Wendy Schmidt, the New America's board of directors, Emerson Collective, Arizona State University, the Center for the Future of Arizona, Southern New Hampshire University, as well as New America's Political Reform Program for their support this year.

Book and Film Releases from New America National Fellows:

This fall, several current and former National Fellows will release work that tells stories around a range of domestic and international topics, including:

  • Mosi Secret and Nikole Hannah-Jones in the the New York Times Magazine’s current education issue on school integration and resegregation

  • Alexis Okeowo in her forthcoming book A Moonless, Starless Sky (Hachette Books, October 2017) on fighting extremism in Africa

  • Franklin Foer in his newly released book World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech (Penguin Press, September 2017) on the role of technology companies in society and politics

  • Jeff Goodell in his forthcoming book The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (Little, Brown and Company, October 2017) on rapid sea level rise caused by climate change

  • Greg Barker in his film The Final Year, which had its Toronto Film Festival premiere last week, on the final year of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy team

The 2018 Class of New America National Fellows:

Greg Barker, ASU Future of War Fellow, will release the feature documentary The Final Year, a sweeping insiders’ account of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy team during their last year in office. Barker recently directed Legion of Brothers for CNN Films, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and tells the story of Green Berets sent on secret missions into Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban immediately following 9/11. Described by the New York Times as “a filmmaker of artistic and political consequence,” Barker looks for strong personal narratives that illuminate the complexities and moral ambiguities of global politics and war.  His previous films include HBO’s Manhunt, about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which won the PrimeTime Emmy® for Outstanding Documentary Special, Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemma, as well as Sergio (Sundance award-winner), Koran by Heart, and numerous films for PBS/Frontline, including the acclaimed Ghosts of Rwanda.

Reginald Dwayne Betts, Emerson Fellow, will work on a book that examines the criminal justice system through his experience as a formerly incarcerated person working as a public defender. He is the author of three books, including the 2015 collection of poems Bastards of the Reagan Era. A graduate of the Yale Law School, Betts has received fellowships from the Soros Foundation, the Poetry Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies. In 2012, Betts was named a member of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by former President Obama.

Nonny de la Peña, New Arizona Fellow, will work on a virtual reality story that puts the audience on the U.S.-Mexico border. She is founder and CEO of Emblematic Group where she has produced groundbreaking and award winning VR content, including Hunger in Los Angeles, the first VR piece ever shown at Sundance. Her other work includes After Solitary and Greenland Melting (in partnership with PBS Frontline), We Who Remain (in partnership with the New York Times), Out Of Exile (in partnership with Sarah Ramirez' Atrevida Productions), among many others. She has received the Knight Foundation Award for Media Innovation and was named a Yale Poynter Fellow.

Katie Engelhart, Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow, will work on a book about the “right to die”. She is a reporter/producer at NBC News and NBC Left Field, working on documentary news films. Previously, she was a London-based correspondent for VICE News and a Europe correspondent for Maclean's Magazine. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian and Foreign Policy, among other publications, and she is the recipient of awards including the Canada National Magazine Award. Engelhart holds a master’s of philosophy from St. Antony's College, Oxford University, and a B.A. from Cornell University.

Joshua Geltzer, ASU Future of War Fellow, is writing a book exploring challenges associated with modern communications technologies such as social media platforms, file-upload sites, and internet search engines. He is the executive director and visiting professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection. He served from 2015 to 2017 as senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council staff, having served previously as deputy legal advisor to the National Security Council and as counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice. He is the author of US Counter-Terrorism Strategy and al-Qaeda: Signalling and the Terrorist World-View, published by Routledge; and his work has appeared in Parameters, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, the Journal of Constitutional Law, and the Berkeley Journal of International Law.

Sara Hendren, Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow, will work on a book about the unexpected places where disability is at the heart of design, to be published by Riverhead in 2019. Examining the origins and evolution of products, architecture, city planning, and beyond, Hendren will report on the always-adaptive human body where it meets the built environment and our collective global stakes in an inclusively designed future. Hendren is a designer- and researcher-in-residence at Olin College where she runs the Adaptation + Ability group, a lab for creative technology and the body; she also teaches human-centered design and disability studies for engineering students. Her work, which includes artifacts, graphics, and social design projects, has been exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States and abroad and is held in the permanent collection at MoMA (NYC). In 2017, she is the recipient of a Public Scholar grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Didi Kuo, Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow, will write a book on the collapse of political parties across Western democracies and its implications for democratic reform. She manages the Program on American Democracy in Comparative Perspective at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. Her first book, Clientelism, Capitalism, and Democracy, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press. She holds a BA from Emory University, an MSc in economic history from Oxford University, where she studied as a Marshall Scholar, and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University.

Emma Findlen LeBlanc, Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow, will make a documentary film about Iraq war veterans, in collaboration with co-Fellow Taylor Lee Nagel. LeBlanc is a senior researcher at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, where she is completing her DPhil in social anthropology. Previously, she worked as a journalist in Syria and Iraq for publications including GQ, Slate, Le Monde, the New York Times Globalization and Human Rights blog, and the National, and she has exhibited her photographs in the United States, United Kingdom, and Middle East. Her first short film, There Are No Brothers Here, about a young Syrian protester and a secret police interrogator, is currently screening in film festivals.

LeBlanc and Nagel’s project—A Normal Soldier—follows a group of soldiers deployed to Iraq’s “Triangle of Death” in 2007 and 2008. The film tracks these soldiers ten years later, back at home, as they move through their daily routines, while also narrating the events of their deployment. The film explores the challenges of reconciliation that these soldiers face: the reconciliation of Iraq and America, war and peace, the past and the present, the roles of soldier and civilian, and their two worlds governed by often contradictory values and rules. Through these parallel narratives A Normal Soldier offers a reflection on the Iraq war and America’s relationship with the war, its soldiers, and veterans.

Larissa MacFarquhar, Emerson Fellow, is writing a book about the decision to stay, leave, or return to a hometown, how that can affect a person’s worldview, and how countless such decisions shift America’s politics. Her previous book, Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help, told the stories of people with an extreme sense of ethical duty, and traced a history of attitudes towards them. Since 1998 she has been a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine, where she has written recently about the Bronx Family Court and Trump voters in West Virginia. Her profile subjects have included philosopher Derek Parfit, candidate Barack Obama, and poet John Ashbery.

Azadeh Moaveni, ASU Future of War Fellow, will write a book about women and ISIS, exploring why the group’s brand of jihadism has appealed so powerfully to women in both the West and the Middle East, and how women’s involvement propelled its rapid rise and success. She will look at how the world of transnational jihadist groups connects to the challenges of social policy and governance in America, Europe, and the Middle East. She is the author of Lipstick Jihad, Honeymoon in Tehran, and Iran Awakening, together with Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. As a correspondent for TIME and the Los Angeles Times, she reported from across the Middle East for over a decade. Her writing appears in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Financial Times, and other publications. She is currently senior lecturer in journalism at Kingston University, London.

Taylor Lee Nagel, Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow, is a film director and producer. Along with co-Fellow Emma Findlen LeBlanc, she will spend her fellowship year making a documentary about Iraq war veterans. Previous documentary projects include a series about a Mexican immigrant’s journey across America, as well as a feature-length documentary about the Strangers Project, a traveling storytelling exhibition. Nagel has also produced independent narrative films that have screened at festivals in the United States and internationally. She has a B.A. in political science from Barnard College.

Nagel and LeBlanc’s project—A Normal Soldier—follows a group of soldiers deployed to Iraq’s “Triangle of Death” in 2007 and 2008. The film tracks these soldiers ten years later, back at home, as they move through their daily routines, while also narrating the events of their deployment. The film explores the challenges of reconciliation that these soldiers face: the reconciliation of Iraq and America, war and peace, the past and the present, the roles of soldier and civilian, and their two worlds governed by often contradictory values and rules. Through these parallel narratives A Normal Soldier offers a reflection on the Iraq war and America’s relationship with the war, its soldiers, and veterans.

Mo Scarpelli, Southern New Hampshire University Fellow, will spend her New America fellowship directing and producing REFUGEE; a documentary transmedia project that unpacks the refugee experience in America, examines the social construction of the term ‘refugee,’ and examines the how and where refugees fit into the contemporary American social fabric. Scarpelli is a non-fiction filmmaker; she directed, shot and produced the feature-length documentary FRAME BY FRAME, about four Afghan photojournalists. Her work seeks to capture the innate poetry of human life, allowing observation to poke holes in prevailing myths of the world and air the complexities of human identity.

Mosi Secret, Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow, will write a book about a little known effort to desegregate elite boarding schools in the South beginning in the late 1960s. The desegregation project recruited and provided scholarships for black students to go to prep school, and quietly doubled as a social experiment, seeking to measure whether integration would decrease bigotry among elite whites. Secret is an independent journalist based in Brooklyn. Previously he was reporter for the New York Times, and before joining the Times, he was a reporter at the nonprofit investigative newsroom ProPublica. He got his start in journalism at alternative weekly newspapers. His work has won numerous local and national awards, and in 2015 he was a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow. He grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Harvard College.