Observer’s Global Team

With three campuses spread over three continents, The SAIS Observers prides itself on its international team. The team wants to bring current, interesting, and stimulating articles to its readers, not only in the countries that have SAIS campuses, but from around the world.




Lisa Martine Jenkins


 Lisa is a Bologna-based MA student focusing on Energy, Resources, and the Environment. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 2015, and subsequently worked for journalism non-profit The Chronicle of Social Change and radio program the Marketplace Morning Report. She ultimately hopes to evolve into a journalist-hybrid of Audie Cornish, Ezra Klein, and Samantha Power, with a particular focus on international environmental reporting. When Lisa is not in the SAIS library, she spends her time cooking pasta, reading 19th century British literature, and listening to Bob Dylan or Frank Ocean. Find her work at


TJ image

T.J. Sjostrom

Deputy Editor-in-Chief

T.J. is a first year MA student at SAIS Europe, focusing on European and Eurasian Studies and a minor of Energy, Resources, and the Environment, and is originally from the great Pacific Northwest, hailing from Tenino, WA.  He is a father to his eight-year-old son Nolan, a Marine Corps veteran of 15 years and three deployments, and a 2014 graduate of National Intelligence University.  His media experiences include staff writing for a San Diego-based law firm, and as a social media manager for an electric company in Lacey, WA.  His hobbies include playing drums, ultimate frisbee, cooking, and playing Minecraft with his son.  Find his blog:


my phtoo

Josh Brickman

Digital Editor

Josh is a first year MA student at SAIS Europe, focusing on Strategic Studies. He is originally from Scarsdale, New York but has had stints in DC, Boulder, Melbourne, and Catalonia. He is also a 2013 graduate of The George Washington University majoring in Security Policy and minoring in History. Before coming to SAIS, Josh worked as an English teach in Spain as well as in various aspects of the Digital Media industry such as: Sales, Planning, Sales Operations, and Account Management. His hobbies include skiing, surfing, hiking, biking, and playing video games.



R John

Rebecca John

Bologna Bureau Co-Chief

Rebecca is a first year MA student in Bologna concentrating in Middle East studies. A former violinist, Rebecca graduated from Cambridge University with an undergraduate degree in Music but spent the past few years working as an investment analyst in Switzerland. Alongside her job she was engaged with various NGOs and has also spent time living and working in Bangladesh and Nepal. When not engrossed in a book, Rebecca can be found hiking in the mountains, or running the occasional marathon in West Africa.



Julian Strachan

Bologna Bureau Co-Chief

Julian is a first-year MA student at SAIS Europe, concentrating in Strategic Studies. Born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland, he attended undergrad at Lewis & Clark College, graduating with a degree in International Relations. Julian has a rich history of experience publications and is currently the Director of Development for, as well as the social media coordinator for The SAIS Journal of Global Affairs. His main academic interests lay in German history and nationalist movements. Outside of academics he enjoys watching the Redskins constantly let him down, bad tv, and hiking.

AhnPhuong-Anh Nguyen

Social Media Editor

Phuong-Anh Nguyen is a first-year MA student at SAIS Europe, concentrating in Global Theory and History. Born and raised in Vietnam, Phuong-Anh decided to leave her hometown in 2014 to pursue higher education in the United States. During her time at Dickinson College, she spent a semester abroad in Bologna and served as the Marketing Coordinator at the Popel Shaw Center for Race and Ethnicity for two years. Phuong-Anh recently completed her internship at the Australian Defense Attaché Office in Hanoi, where she authored weekly defense media reports and conducted research briefings on the Vietnam’s People Army (VPA). Beyond academics, she enjoys photography, outdoor projects, good conversation and non-judgy karaoke.


Caitlin O’Grady

Staff Writer

Born and raised in Tempe, Arizona, Caitlin is a first year MA student focusing on American Foreign Policy at the School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna. Prior to attending SAIS, Caitlin studied at Arizona State University, where she was a research fellow with the School of Politics and Global Studies and a student affiliate at the McCain institute for International Leadership. Caitlin also worked with the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, The Arizona State Senate, and Refugee Focus. When she is not studying Caitlin can be found enjoying evening aperitivos, hiking through the hills of Bologna, or traveling with her fellow SAISers.





Caroline Yarber

Co-Bureau Chief

Caroline Yarber is a second-year M.A. candidate at the Nanjing campus concentrating in International Politics. Caroline’s primary interest is Northeast Asian security, and has spent significant time in South Korea in addition to her education in China. Before coming to Nanjing, Caroline graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and Chinese. Caroline looks forward to returning to DC’s political culture and endless happy hours. When she is not studying, Caroline enjoys drinking coffee, learning to play the erhu and watching procedural dramas.



Liz Witcher

Co-Bureau Chief

Liz Witcher is a second year MAIS student concentrating in Chinese Studies at the Hopkins Nanjing Center. She is honored to be a co-bureau chief for the SAIS Observer this academic year after serving as a section editor last year. Liz has recently returned from a summer in Fuzhou, Fujian where she was researching urban middle class women and the social and economic pressures they face when considering career, family, and dating choices as a part of her work for her Master’s Thesis. In addition to school work, Liz is the founder and current captain of the Nanjing City Women’s Rugby Team, the Rockettes, and spends weekends either at practices or attending tournaments across China. Liz moved to China in 2014 after graduating from Michigan State University with degrees in Chinese as well as Social Relations and Policy. She is excited for the rest of the year, and looks forward to the news articles coming from not only Nanjing but the other two bureaus as well!


Eli Tirk

Managing Editor

Eli Tirk is a second-year M.A. Candidate at the Nanjing Campus concentrating in International Politics. Eli’s Primary academic interests include the global arms trade, Security Studies and Asian Studies. Eli graduated from The George Washington University with a B.A. in International Relations, concentrating in Security Studies. Eli’s hobbies include lacrosse, reading science fiction and mercilessly destroying his rivals in Settlers of Catan.

Yiyun Shen

Yiyun Shen

Managing Editor

Shen Yiyun is a certificate student at the Nanjing campus where she focuses on Economics and Politics. She graduated from South China Normal University with the major Chinese Literature and Language in 2014, and subsequently worked as an English-Chinese interpreter in Shanghai for different business occasions where she got to know people from a variety of backgrounds and learned knowledge of different industries. She also has work experience in China’s stock market in which she gradually found interest in financial market. She enjoys cooking, singing and reading Chinese literature in her spare time. Now on her wish list, the top priority is to travel around the world and know more about human history and civilization not from books, but from the real world.


Alexandra Hansen

Managing Editor, Local

Alexandra Hansen is a certificate student at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. Prior to coming to Nanjing, Alexandra graduated from Kenyon College, where she triple-majored in Chinese Languages and Literatures, Asian Studies and International Studies and minored in Anthropology. Her interest in Chinese is a product of her upbringing in Beijing and Singapore.  In the future, Alexandra hopes to continue living internationally by working for the United Nations, or the US government. When she is not studying, Alexandra enjoys playing Volleyball, drinking bubble tea and watching Buzzfeed videos.



follow on Twitter

Issy Schmidt

Bureau Chief

Issy Schmidt is a second year General IR concentrator from London, UK, where she has lived her entire life. After graduating from the University of Bristol in 2012, with a degree in Ancient History, she worked at a small social action charity, tackling educational inequality and refugee integration, and trying to change the world one disinterested student at a time. When not attempting to understand the basics of economics, Issy spends her time at SAIS passionately defending the use of the word ‘aubergine’ and eating a lot of pasta.



Joniel Cha

Editor, Opinion

Joniel, a first-year MA student in the DC campus, is unsure of his concentration (he is considering AFP, ILAW, CM, EES) but sure of his destination. Before entering SAIS, he lived in Ukraine for one year (2014-2015) during civil unrest and war, working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Donetsk on humanitarian aid projects for refugees, as well as with Transparency International in Kyiv on anti-corruption and constitutional reforms. Upon his return to the United States, he worked at Eurasia Foundation on the U.S.-Russia Social Expertise Exchange.

He graduated from the University of Virginia with a double-major in Leadership & Public Policy and Foreign Affairs concentration on Europe. Prior to attending university, he lived in Uzbekistan for 6 years and Kyrgyzstan for 4 years (2000-2010) where he learned Russian, Uzbek, and Tajik, and was heavily involved in community service and humanitarian aid projects. He was an eyewitness of the 2010 Revolution at Ala-Too Square in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan resulting in over 100 deaths and subsequent ethnic conflict between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, and he participated in citywide reconstruction and crisis response for victims of racial violence.

In regards to the future, he is interested in pursuing a career related to international relations, development, diplomacy, conflict resolution, and refugees resettlement.



Alec Ansusinha

Editor, Satire & Opinion

Alec Ansusinha is a first-year SAIS M.A. Candidate studying International Development. But parents of Alec Ansusinha’s friends say he’s mature for his year and acts like a second year.

The SAIS Observer hired Alec in Fall 2016 to cover hard-hitting campus gossip and offer his sage advice to fellow students. Before attending SAIS, Alec spent two years in Thailand working low-paying jobs in environmental conservation—even though he is worth much more, and doesn’t need anyone to reassure him of that fact.

Alec is a half-Thai American and spent most of his childhood conquering the Chicago suburbs and later the rural Sauk Valley before heading to Columbus to get his B.S. from The Ohio State University.


Zindzi Thompson

Editor, Graphic Designer & Cartoonist

Zindzi Thompson is a first-year M.A. candidate on the Washington, DC campus of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) where she is pursuing her interest in private sector development. In addition, she currently serves as the in-house cartoonist for The SAIS Observer and also acts as an assistant editor for The SAIS Review of International Affairs, a bi-annual print journal by the Foreign Policy Institute.

Prior to SAIS, Zindzi grew up in Trinidad and Tobago and later attended, Howard University where she graduated summa cum laude with a B.B.A. in Finance. Upon graduating, Zindzi joined Ernst & Young as a management consultant where she worked with clients across the US, Latin America and Europe on large-scale business transformation projects and operational performance improvement initiatives.   


other photo

Srijoni Banerjee

Copy Editor

Srijoni is a first-year MA student from Singapore, concentrating in International Relations and minoring in South Asian Studies. Her interests include South Asian foreign policy and security concerns. At SAIS, she’s involved in Global Women in Leadership and The SAIS Review of International Affairs. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in economics in 2016 where she was a copy editor for UCLA’s daily newspaper as well as for the campus feminist news magazine. She enjoys good food, good books and tea.





Elizabeth Goffi

Copy Editor

Elizabeth is a second-year MA student at SAIS D.C., concentrating in Conflict Management with a minor in International Development. Originally from the Washington D.C. area, she spent five years studying in Scotland, Sweden, and Italy before returning this year. She became interested in journalism after working as a copy editor for the Association of Foreign Affairs at Lund University. During her first year at SAIS, she continued editing with both the SAIS Observer and the SAIS Europe Journal of Global Affairs. Her academic interests include political development, climate change adaptation, and human rights advocacy. Outside of class, she enjoys taking her mind off the craziness of D.C. by running, hiking, and playing piano.