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McCain Institute Welcomes 29 New McCain Global Leaders

Representing 26 countries and selected from a pool of over 1,300 applications, the fellows will convene in Washington, D.C., June 9 – June 17.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The McCain Institute at Arizona State University is proud to announce the 2023 McCain Global Leaders (MGLs) cohort. Comprised of 29 leaders from 26 countries and five continents, the MGLs will participate in a seven-month fellowship aimed at continuing the legacy of Senator McCain’s character-driven leadership.

The 2023 cohort includes highly accomplished mid-career leaders working “in the arena” in a variety of public sector, private sector, military, and NGO positions related to this year’s theme of “Defending Democracy.”

The entities represented by the 2023 McCain Global Leaders cohort include the Office of the President of Portugal, Oxfam, the Lviv District Council, Meta, CNN International, the Hong Kong Democracy Council, the Polish Armed Forces, and Nigeria’s African Democratic Congress among many others.

See the entire 2023 McCain Global Leaders Cohort here and below.

  • Abdul Mufeez Shaheed, Fiji –Pacific Engagement Lead, Human Rights Measurements Initiative, Founder of Pasifika Foundation for Development, Rainbow Pride Foundation
  • Abigail Saveria, Indonesia –Founder and Executive Director of Girls Can Lead
  • Alexander Luong, United States –Head of Elections Integrity, Meta
  • Annabel Deegan, United Kingdom –Executive Editor, CNN International
  • Andrea Reyes, Guatemala –Director of PERIOD
  • Aya Chebbi, Tunisia –Founder, Nala Feminist Collective, Advisor to Chair of African Union on Youth Matters
  • Damilola Oligbinde, Nigeria –National Director of Communications and Programs, African Democratic Congress
  • Enock Nkulanga, Uganda –Founder and Director, LeadMinds Africa
  • Honorable Ana Natsvlishvili, Georgia –Member of Parliament
  • Jasmin Alsaied, United States –Surface Warfare Officer, U.S. Navy
  • Jesus Armas, Venezuela –President, Ciudania Sin Limites
  • Laura Schroeder, United States –Senior Manager, Leg Affairs, PEN America
  • Lejla Nuhanovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina –Journalist, Federal News Agency
  • Lourdes Argueta, El Salvador –Secretary General, Latin American Youth Network for Democracy
  • Marilena Stegbauer, Germany –Human Rights Lawyer
  • Najeeb Nangyal, Afghanistan –Media Fellow, Truman Center for National Policy
  • Nikita Makarenko, Uzbekistan –Independent Journalist, Founder of the Aral Dream NGO
  • Nikoloz Khatiashvili, Georgia –Chief of Staff, Foreign Relations Committee, Parliament of Georgia
  • Piotr Dzikowski,Poland – 2nd Lieutenant, International Cooperation Liaison Officer, Polish Armed Forces
  • Rita Sais, Portugal –Advisor on Youth and International Dialogue, President of the Portuguese Republic
  • Shomy Chowdhury, Bangladesh –Founder and Co-Chair, Awareness 360
  • Sunny Cheung, Hong Kong –Hong Kong Democracy Council
  • Tatiana Torres, Colombia – Former Chief of Staff, British Embassy to Colombia
  • Thembinkosi Dlamini, Eswatini –Former Executive Director, Coordinating Assembly of NGOs
  • Theresa Morfaw, Cameroon –Founder and CEO of Youth for Change and Empowerment
  • Ugbad Hashi, Somalia –Gender Advisor and Lecturer, University of Hargeisa, Founder of Somaliland women empowerment platform
  • Vandalark Patricks, Liberia –Founder and Executive Director, Campaigners for Change
  • Youssef Karrakchou, Morocco –Senior Program Manager, International Republican Institute, Morocco
  • Yurii Stechyshyn, Ukraine –MP at Lviv District Council, Digital Consultant and German Marshall Fund of the United States fellow

“We are excited to welcome these 29 character-driven leaders into the McCain Institute network,” said McCain Institute Executive Director Dr. Evelyn Farkas. “Our pool of over 1,300 applicants was extremely competitive. We are confident the members of the 2023 cohort will use the knowledge they gain and the relationships they build over the next few months to be a force for change in their home countries.”

“As a member of the McCain Global Leaders Advisory Council, it’s a privilege to welcome this impressive cohort of young leaders to our program,” said Elisa Massimino, McCain Institute trustee and executive director of Georgetown Law’s Human Rights Institute. “Each of them embodies Senator McCain’s example of character-driven leadership, and each will carry on in their own ways his fight for freedom and human dignity. Senator McCain’s legacy lives on through this program and its participants.”

“My father would be so proud to be associated with this group of leaders from all over the world, all of whom are dedicated to furthering democracy in their home countries,” said James McCain, a McCain Global Leaders Advisory Council member. “I’m excited to see this group in action – not just during the fellowship, but years from now as they grow as leaders and changemakers in their home countries and communities.”

“The relationships we developed and the skills we learned during our fellowship will last a lifetime,” said Andrea Villagrán, 2022 McCain Global Leader Cohort member and member of the parliament of the Republic of Guatemala. “As a recent alumnus of the McCain Global Leaders program, I am thrilled to welcome this new cohort into our expanding global network.”

The McCain Global Leaders program is also proud to welcome three new members to the McCain Global Leaders Advisory Council. Virginia Foote, the co-founder of the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council (USVTC), currently serves as USVTC’s board president in addition to her role as the senior advisor for the Albright Stonebridge Group’s East Asia and Pacific practice. In the 1990s, Foote worked extensively with Sen. McCain on the normalization of relations with Vietnam. Also joining the advisory council is Leon Toh, executive director of Damson Capital based in Singapore, and Juliet Mureriwa, a senior program advisor for the Ford Foundation. Together, Foote, Toh, and Mureriwa bring a wealth of global knowledge and expertise to the McCain Global Leaders program.

To kick off the fellowship, the 2023 cohort will be convening in Washington, D.C. June 9 – June 17, for a week of meetings, tours, and leadership activities, featuring an impressive list of speakers from various government agencies, the White House, Capitol Hill, NGOs, and businesses. The Washington, D.C. module for the McCain Global Leaders will begin in Annapolis, Md., at the United States Naval Academy, a place that Senator McCain held dear.

About the McCain Global Leaders Program
Structured as a 10-month fellowship and learning experience, each cohort of the McCain Global Leaders Program will include a global selection of roughly 25 leaders who are working “in the arena” to advance democracy, human rights, and freedom. The non-residential program, which includes both in-person and virtual programming, is designed to advance each participant’s personal and professional leadership journey and impact by providing training, resources, and access to highly relevant regional and global networks with the goal of preparing today’s leaders to meet tomorrow’s challenges. Learn more here.

About the McCain Institute at Arizona State University
The McCain Institute is a nonpartisan organization inspired by Senator John McCain and his family’s dedication to public service. We are part of Arizona State University and based in Washington, D.C. Our programs advance democracy and human rights, empower character-driven leaders, combat human trafficking, and prevent targeted violence. Our unique power to convene leaders across the global political spectrum enables us to make a real impact on the world’s most pressing challenges. Our goal is action, not talk, and like Senator McCain, we are fighting to create a free, safe, and just world for all.

About Arizona State University
Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.


Publish Date
June 5, 2023