Atif Ahmad

Co-Lead, You Were There   |   @atifjahmad   

Atif Jalal Ahmad is a second-year student concentrating in Strategic Studies and minoring in South Asia Studies. Prior to coming to Johns Hopkins SAIS, he worked in market research and at the Wilson Center, specifically in the Asia Program, focusing on South Asia. He is excited to work with Daniel Gagliano on the You Were There Series to bring riveting speakers on a variety of topics to Johns Hopkins SAIS. Additionally, he is a quartermaster for the 2020 International Staff Ride studying the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. He completed his undergraduate studies at Rutgers University where he studied Political Science and Economics. He is the author of "The Death of Democracy in Bangladesh," "Why Extremism Is on the Rise in Bangladesh," and "Will ISIS Infect Bangladesh?

Paula Alvarez-Couceiro

Research Assistant


Paula Alvarez-Couceiro is a second-year MA candidate concentrating in Strategic Studies and serves as the Senior Research Assistant for Dr. Nora Bensahel and LTG David Barno (USA, ret.) in the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies. Also serving as a Fellow at Pallas Advisors in Washington, DC, Paula’s work focuses on the intersection of U.S. national security policy and European security policy.

Alia Awadallah

Research Assistant


Alia  Awadallah  is  a  Middle East analyst and second-year MA student at Johns Hopkins SAIS, where she concentrates in Strategic Studies. Prior to attending Johns Hopkins SAIS, Alia worked as research  associate  for  National  Security  and  International  Policy  at  American  Progress. In this role,  she  conducted research and authored reports on  security  and  counterterrorism  in  the  Middle  East. She previously  worked  on  the  Human  Rights  team  at  Vital  Voices  Global  Partnership and as a field organizer in Ohio during the Obama 2012 presidential campaign. Alia  holds  a  Bachelor  of  Arts  in  political  science  with  a  concentration  in  Middle  East  Studies  from  Kent  State  University and is a native Arabic speaker. Alia is the author of “Can’t Buy Mohammed bin Salman Love,” “The Case for U.S. Support of Lebanon,” “The United States should listen to Jordan on the Jerusalem decision,” “The Future of U.S.-Jordanian Counterterrorism Cooperation,” “Losing the War of Ideas: Countering Violent Extremism in the Age of Trump,” and “Playing the Long Game: U.S. Counterterrorism Assistance for Lebanon.” 

Phoebe Benich

Research Assistant 

Phoebe Benich is a second-year MA candidate concentrating in Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS where she serves as the Research Assistant to Strategic Studies Program Director, Dr. Mara Karlin. She also works as a Cyber Strategy and Policy Analyst for the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission. Prior to joining the commission, she worked as a defense consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton. She has experience supporting the Department of State at the U.S. Embassy to Laos in Vientiane and researching Asia-Pacific security policy at the Center for a New American Security. She previously received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach and study in Taiwan, and she holds a BA in International Relations from the College of William & Mary.

James Byers

Research Assistant

James Byers is a second-year MA candidate concentrating in Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS where he serves as Strategic Studies Research Assistant to Dean Eliot Cohen. He served as a quartermaster on the inaugural Johns Hopkins Homewood Staff Ride to Gettysburg in 2019, as well as a research lead on the 2020 International Staff Ride and 2019 Spring Staff Ride. He has also recently interned at the National Defense University’s wargaming division, the Center for Applied Strategic Learning. Prior to SAIS, James worked as a project support specialist for a small business in the military container sector, where he was responsible for supporting international and federal business operations. He holds a Master of Arts in War Studies from Kings College London and a Scottish Master of Arts (Bachelor of Arts) in History from the University of St. Andrews.

Holly Geffs

Co-Lead, You Were There

Holly is a SAIS Strategic Studies MA Candidate with a Minor in European and Eurasian Studies. She received a BA in Global Affairs with Honors from Yale University in 2018. Prior to SAIS, she was a Research Assistant at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Europe Program, where she co-authored publications and supported resident scholars. In Winter-Summer 2020, Holly is interning at the Department of Defense. She hopes to build a career serving the U.S. government at the intersection of foreign policy and national security. Holly is from Connecticut.

Anne-Marie Mills

Research Assistant

Anne-Marie Mills is a second-year MA candidate concentrating in Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS where she serves as the Research Assistant to Strategic Studies Associate Director, Dr. Paula Thornhill.  She has previously supported various portfolios at the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the most recent of which included Libya and West Africa.  In addition to her work at the Department of Defense, Anne-Marie managed the implementation of a USAID emergency health supply chain project that operated in Francophone Africa and Haiti.  Anne-Marie holds a BA in Peace, War, and Defense and Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Elliott Silverman

Research Assistant 

Elliott Silverman is a second-year MA candidate concentrating in Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Prior to his time at SAIS, Elliott spent four years working in the U.S. house of Representatives for a member of Congress. While on Capitol Hill, Elliott handled a diverse portfolio of national security and foreign affairs issues. At SAIS, Elliott is learning Russian and focusing on Russian and Eurasian security. He is currently the Research Assistant for Prof. John McLaughlin. Elliott holds a Bachelor of Arts from Southern Methodist University in Political Science.

Photo: David Solimini 2018

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