New America Announces Fellows Class of 2017

Press Release
Sept. 13, 2016

Washington, D.C.—Today, New America announces its 2017 class of fellows, who will join the New America Fellows program for one year. The 2017 class is the largest and most competitive class in New America’s history.

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 2017 fellows can be found here.

“I am pleased to welcome this latest class of fellows to New America,” Peter Bergen, New America vice president and Fellows program director, said. “The work this group of fellows will produce embodies the core values of New America. Their journalism and scholarship communicates with broad audiences, changes the way we think about policy, and represents a diversity of backgrounds and expertise."

New America would like to thank Eric & Wendy Schmidt, New America's Board of Directors, Arizona State University's Center for the Future of Arizona, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the Walton Family Foundation, and Southern New Hampshire University for their support, which makes the Fellows program possible.

The 2017 class of New America fellows:

Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellows

Matthieu Aikins will work on a book about Afghan refugees. He is a freelance journalist who has written for Harper’s, The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and other leading publications. He has received the Livingston Award for International Reporting, the George Polk award, and numerous other honors.

Marcia Chatelain will spend her fellowship year on a book that explores visions of economic and racial justice after 1968 and the fast food industry. An associate professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown University, she is the author of the book South Side Girls: Growing up in the Great Migration (Duke University Press, 2015). Chatelain has received funding from the Harry S. Truman Scholarship and the Ford Foundations, as well as several teaching awards. She received degrees in journalism and religious studies from the University of Missouri and holds an A.M. and Ph.D. in american civilization from Brown University.

Matthew Davis will write a book about the Gallaudet University football team, the education of the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and the changing nature of deaf identity. He is currently the founding director of The Alan Cheuse International Writers Center at George Mason University. Previously, he has been a fellow at The Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and a Fulbright Fellow to Syria and Jordan. He holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa, an MA in international relations from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and is the award-winning author of When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winters Tale.

Emily Cole Hunt will write a book about the law, history, and theory of domestic undercover operations, to be published by Metropolitan/Henry Holt. Hunt previously practiced law in the New York office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Hunt worked in national security as the Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and as a consultant to a London-based private military company. Her work on terrorism and radicalization has been widely published and cited, and she has regularly provided commentary to national and international news media. She received a B.A. from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, a M.A. in War Studies from King's College, London, and a J.D. from UCLA School of Law.

Mara Hvistendahl will write a book about the U.S.-China technological relationship, to be published by Riverhead. She is a contributing correspondent at Science and a founding member of the writers' cooperative Deca. Her first book, Unnatural Selection, a chronicle of the sex trafficking, instability, and other consequences that have resulted from prenatal sex selection around the world, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New York Times, Popular Science, Scientific American, Slate, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.  For eight years, she covered science, politics, and other issues from China.

Theodore Johnson will write a book about black voting behavior in the post-Obama political landscape. He is currently a cyber policy advisor and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy. Previously, Johnson was a Commander in the United States Navy where he served in a variety of positions including as a White House Fellow and speechwriter for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He has also written extensively on race, politics, and society for publications such as The Atlantic, The Washington Post, National Review, The New Republic, and The Wall Street Journal. A native of North Carolina, he is a graduate of Hampton University and Harvard University, and holds a doctorate of law and policy from Northeastern University.

Patrick Radden Keefe is writing a book about the legacy of the troubles in Northern Ireland, to be published by Doubleday. He is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine and the author of two previous books, Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping, and The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream. He is the recipient of the 2014 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Cullman fellowship at the New York Public Library. He holds a BA from Columbia University, masters degrees from Cambridge and the London School of Economics, and a JD from Yale Law School.

Souad Mekhennet is the author of I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad, which Henry Holt will publish in 2017.  The book recounts her quest to discover what is in the minds of young jihadists, with an eye toward understanding what leads them to commit violent acts. She tells this story through her personal experiences as a Muslim born and raised in Germany and through her extensive reporting on jihadi terrorism, which she has covered since 2001 in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.  She has written extensively for publications on both sides of the Atlantic and is currently a correspondent for The Washington Post.

George Packer will write a book about Richard Holbrooke and American foreign policy. Packer has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2003. He is the author, most recently, of The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, a New York Times bestseller, which won the 2013 National Book Award for non-fiction. He has published four other works of non-fiction, including The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq; two novels; and a play, Betrayed, based on a New Yorker article, which ran five months Off Broadway in 2008 and won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play. Packer has been a Guggenheim fellow and twice a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin; he is also a 2016-17 Cullman fellow at the New York Public Library.

Zia Haider Rahman will work on a novel exploring specific inherent hostilities of a market-based economy to human fulfillment and looking at the rise of the algorithm in shaping the world each human being inhabits. He is also writing a memoir. His first novel, In the Light of What We Know (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014), was published to international critical acclaim and won the James Tait Black Prize, previous winners of which include Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Nadine Gordimer, and Cormac McCarthy. In his varied career, Rahman has worked as an international human rights lawyer and anti-corruption activist, as a lawyer advising financial institutions on regulation, and briefly as a derivatives trader at Goldman Sachs. He was educated at Oxford, Cambridge, Munich, and Yale Universities.

Phil Sands is writing a book focused on a single murder committed in the opening months of the Syrian revolution, which exposes new details about the start of the revolt and the country’s descent into civil war. He has worked as a Middle East reporter for over a decade, and his writing has appeared in GQ, Esquire, Le Monde, The Independent and The National, as well as specialist regional publications.  He was based in Damascus from 2007 through 2013 as The National’s Iraq and Syria correspondent. Sands is currently a correspondent for The National, specializing in in-depth stories on Syria’s southern front.

Lauren Henry Scholz will write a book on the recent rise of privacy protective technologies and organizational strategies, and will discuss how this pro-privacy boom in corporate strategy can be entrenched and reinforced. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Law School's Project on the Foundations of Private Law. Previously, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale Law School's Information Society Project. Her scholarly work on law and technology has or will appear in Iowa Law Review, Cardozo Law Review, and Stanford Technology Law Review. She is a graduate of Yale College, and has a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Paul Wood will write a book about Syria’s unending war, having spent four years covering the conflict for the BBC. The book will be a record of the people he met in the uprising, most now dead. He was smuggled over the border into Syria many times to report on the country’s rebel movement. His stories have won two Emmys, a Peabody, and he was twice awarded the US Radio and TV Correspondents’ Association David Bloom award for foreign reporting. He was also the UK Foreign Press Association’s journalist of the year. Wood has covered a dozen conflicts in a 20 year career as a BBC foreign correspondent in: Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Darfur, Libya, Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Balkans, and Ukraine.

Other Fellows

Nikole Hannah-Jones will write a book about school segregation in the United States, to be published by One World/Random House. Hannah-Jones is a reporter at the New York Times Magazine. Prior to that, she was a reporter at the investigative reporting firm ProPublica and at newspapers in Oregon and North Carolina. Hannah-Jones's reporting earned the 2015 Peabody and Polk awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for public service, the Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, among others, and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and earned her master's from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Media and Journalism. She will be an Emerson fellow.

Azmat Khan will investigate U.S. counterterrorism detention practices. Her reporting for the PBS series FRONTLINE, Al Jazeera, and BuzzFeed’s investigative unit has earned the 2016 Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting on South Asia, the 2016 Deadline Club Award for Independent Digital Reporting, a 2016 Livingston Award nomination in international reporting, a 2014 Emmy nomination in New Approaches to Documentary Film, and other honors. She received an MSt. from Oxford University, which she attended as a Clarendon scholar, a B.A. from the University of Michigan, and studied at the American University in Cairo. She will be a New America Future of War fellow.

Gideon Lewis-Kraus will work on a long-term reporting project on the present and future of machine learning, centered around the research teams at Google Brain and their experimental inquiries into the theory, design, and implementation of artificial neural networks. He is currently a writer at large for the New York Times Magazine, a contributing writer at Wired, and a contributing editor at Harper's, and writes regularly for a variety of other publications. He is the author of the book A Sense of Direction and the Kindle Single No Exit. He is a graduate of Stanford University and a former Fulbright Scholar. He will be a New America Fellow.

Nadia Oweidat is a Middle East fellow at New America. She holds a D.Phil. in oriental studies from the University of Oxford. She is currently working on a book on social media and positive change among Arabic speakers. Her doctoral research focused on the challenges facing liberal Muslim intellectuals who attempt to update Islamic thought and bridge the gap between modern values such as secularism and women’s rights and Islam. Prior to her doctoral studies, Oweidat worked as a research associate at the RAND Corporation where she led several research projects. In 2007, she initiated and co-led a research effort to look into works by Arabic-speakers that counter violence and extremism, including fiction, non-fiction, cartoons, and film that advance values of tolerance, pluralism, and the ability to deal with ambiguity without violence. (See Barriers to the Broad Dissemination of Creative Works in the Arab World, RAND 2008). Oweidat also initiated and led an analysis of the grassroots Egyptian reform movement Kefaya. In addition, she has conducted research on Islamic extremism and counter-terrorism strategies, the ideological evolution of al-Qaeda, Salafi jihadi networks, jihadi strategies in Iraq, Iranian ascendancy in the Arab world, and radicalization of Muslim youth.

Born and raised in Jordan, she has a BA from the University of Jordan in English literature and an MA from the University of Wyoming in international studies, in addition to her D.Phil. One of 25 international students to be awarded the prestigious Weidenfeld Leadership Program scholarship, Oweidat was also chosen in 2014 by the American Italian Council to participate in its Young Leaders Conference in Italy.

She has appeared on various Arabic and English networks including BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera Arabic, Al-Arabiya, BBC Arabic, France 24, and National Public Radio. 

New Arizona Fellows

Jude Joffe-Block will co-author a book and produce long-form audio stories about how Sheriff Joe Arpaio pioneered local immigration enforcement initiatives in Arizona's Maricopa County, and the class action racial profiling lawsuit Latino drivers brought to challenge those tactics. The book will be written with journalist Terry Greene Sterling. Joffe-Block is a senior field correspondent for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix, and Fronteras Desk, a regional network covering immigration and border issues. Her stories can be heard on NPR and she is part of a team contributing 2016 election stories to the network. She is a former Fulbright Scholar in Mexico and has degrees from Yale University and U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

Lauren Redniss, a writer and artist, will work on a visual nonfiction book that tackles the question of environmental stewardship and the struggle of indigenous communities in the 21st century American Southwest. She has been a Guggenheim fellow and Artist-in-Residence at the American Museum of Natural History. Her most recent book, Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future won the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. She was a finalist for the National Book Award for Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout, and is also the author of Century Girl: 100 Years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis, Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies.

Carnegie Fellows

Hassan Abbas will write a book about Islam's internal struggles and spirituality as observed during his travels to sacred Muslim sites and shrines in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, India, and Pakistan. He is currently a professor and department chair at National Defense University's College of International Security Affairs in Washington D.C. He also served as Distinguished Quaid-i-Azam Professor at Columbia University. He remained a fellow at Harvard Law School, Belfer Centre at Harvard's Kennedy School & Asia Society. He earned an LLM from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom as a Britannia Chevening Scholar and a MALD and PhD from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University. His most recent book The Taliban Revival was published by Yale University Press in 2014.

Bartow Elmore, an assistant professor of environmental history at The Ohio State University and a member of their Sustainable and Resilient Economy Discovery Group, will work on his book Seed Money: How the Monsanto Company’s Quest for Power Remade Our World, which will offer the first global environmental history of the St. Louis firm, tracing Monsanto's astounding evolution from making DDT to manipulating DNA, and use the firm to assess the future environmental sustainability of corporate capitalism.

Timothy Shenk will write a book examining the surprisingly short history of the economy, a concept that began the twentieth century as an obscure notion of interest mostly to a small group of economists but soon became the dominant subject of political debate across the globe. He attended Cambridge University on a Kellett Fellowship, received a doctorate in history from Columbia University, and is currently a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. His first book, Maurice Dobb: Political Economist, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013, and his work has appeared in a variety of outlets, including the Nation, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Dissent, where he is also the associate book review editor.

Erin A. Snider will begin a new book project on the political economy of transition in the Arab world exploring the economic antecedents and consequences of the 2011 uprisings. She is currently an assistant professor of international affairs at Texas A&M University’s George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service, where her research focuses on the political economy of development in Arab world, particularly in Egypt. She is presently finishing a book manuscript on the political economy of U.S. democracy aid in the Middle East. Previously, she was a fellow in middle east political economy at Princeton University’s Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance. She was a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge, where she earned her PhD and a graduate of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and James Madison University.