Alumni Advisory Group

Founded in January 2023, the Leir Institute’s Alumni Advisory Group (AAG) supports the Institute’s goals to develop policy-relevant research; grow the reach and impact of its work; and deepen its network of engaged practitioners, policymakers, grantmakers, and funders.

Emily Butera (F04)
Senior Strategist, Advocate, and Philanthropic Advisor

Washington, DC
Emily Butera is a senior strategist, advocate, and philanthropic advisor on asylum, refugee, and migration issues. Since graduating from The Fletcher School, she has worked with a wide range of organizations, including the Women’s Refugee Commission, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the Open Society Foundations (OSF). Most recently, Emily directed the immigrant and refugee rights portfolio at Open Society-US, where she planned and oversaw strategies to drive pro-immigrant narrative and policy change and build the power of immigrant and refugee communities. Her work included designing OSF’s Afghan American Initiative and Black Immigrant Justice Fund. At the Women’s Refugee Commission, Emily developed and ran a successful national campaign that changed Department of Homeland Security policy to enable detained and deported parents to participate in child welfare proceedings and defend their custody rights. She has also served on several advisory boards, including the Detention Watch Network and the Center on Immigration and Child Welfare, and been a visiting practitioner at academic institutions including the University of Sussex (UK) and Duke University.
Sandra Contreras (F01)
Director of Impact and New Business Development, Glasswing International

Bogotá, Colombia
Sandra Contreras is responsible for Glasswing International’s Impact and New Business Development team. She has over twenty years of experience in international development in Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean. Sandra has worked with the Salvadoran government and leading international NGOs across a broad spectrum of fields including microfinance, positive youth development, mental health, and humanitarian assistance. Sandra holds a Master’s in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. A dual Salvadoran and French citizen, Sandra and her husband live and raise their twin teenage daughters and younger son in Bogotá, Colombia.
Christabell Makokha (F21)
Senior Director of Innovation, CARE USA

Nairobi, Kenya
Christabell is a strategist and development professional with over ten years’ experience in designing and implementing innovative, sustainable solutions that meet the needs of traditionally underserved and marginalized groups, including women, youth, and rural populations.

Christabell is passionate about inclusive development and has a background in both strategy development and program implementation. She is skilled in strategy consulting, analytics, market research, management, and competitive intelligence.

As the Senior Director of Innovation at CARE USA, Christabell leads the Innovation team in identifying new sustainable solutions that increase impact and accelerate scale. She has previously worked with and led teams in other organizations in the development space, including Aceli Africa,, Mercy Corps, and Dalberg Advisors.

Christabell holds a Masters’ degree in Global Business Administration from Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University, and AB & BE degrees in Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering from Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College.
Mario Patiño (F13)
Senior Program Development Advisor, Latin America, International Rescue Committee

New York, NY
Mario Patiño has thirteen years of project and relationship management experience in challenging environments. He has worked in some of the most severe humanitarian crises with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the Danish Refugee Council, and the United Nations. As a Senior Program Development Advisor, Mario supports IRC's business development efforts in Latin America, securing financing from institutional donors. In this role, he brings technical and operational experience, leading the delivery and scale-up of cash transfer and workforce development programs for refugees, internally displaced persons, and migrants. Before this, he worked with CCS Fundraising, where he helped nonprofits position their programs with new donors and reach their fundraising goals. He is passionate about generating action to promote social change and helping field teams obtain the resources needed to achieve scale, respond to client needs, and deliver more effective programs. Mario holds an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a B.A. in International Relations from the City College of New York. Mario is an avid runner and enjoys biking around Brooklyn, where he lives with his partner Amy and corgi Jasper.
Dr. Xanthe Scharff (F06; F11)
CEO and Co-founder, The Fuller Project
Founder and Board Chair Emeritus, Advancing Girls' Education in Africa

Washington, DC
Dr. Scharff is the CEO and Cofounder of The Fuller Project, the global nonprofit newsroom dedicated to groundbreaking reporting on women. The team’s reporting has spurred the introduction of new legislation, large scale data releases, and has saved lives. Since its cofounding in 2015 from Turkey, The Fuller Project newsroom has won 16 industry awards and citations.

Xanthe’s reporting has been featured in Newsweek, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and beyond. She was named among the top 40 under 40 by the Leadership Center for Excellence and was named Tufts Distinguished Alumna. She is the Founder and Board Chair Emeritus of Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa, a thriving nonprofit in East Africa. For visionary leadership around climate and gender reporting, the Helen Gurley Brown Trust awarded her a Genius Grant. She serves on the Board of Advisors of The War Horse, a nonprofit newsroom that covers the military.

Xanthe is a former scholar at the United States Institute of Peace and The Brookings Institution and is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Meridian Center Rising Leadership Council.
Katya Sienkiwicz (F05)
Manager, Latin America & the Caribbean, Global Risk & Resilience, Starbucks

Bozeman, Montana
Katya serves as Manager, Latin America & the Caribbean, Global Security & Resilience (GS&R) at Starbucks, where she manages risk intelligence and security support for Starbucks' Latin American operations team as well as corporate due diligence. She also leads planning and delivery of risk and resilience strategies, economic development programs, humanitarian relief, and post-conflict educational design frameworks. She has more than 20 years of professional achievements, including cultivating resilient design partnerships with executive city leadership across a portfolio of cities throughout the US and Asia; developing and delivered training and support to cities, coordinating the integration of sustainability and urban resilience strategies; managing USG’s largest agricultural stabilization program in Kandahar, Afghanistan, valued at more than $90 million; leading USAID’s Human Rights program in Colombia, valued at $22 million; and directing the effort to successfully implement Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first-ever integrated school and curriculum program.
Dr. Colleen Thouez (F99)
Senior Fellow, New School's Zolberg INstitute
Senior Visiting Fellow, SciencesPo Paris

New York, NY
Colleen Thouez is currently senior fellow at the New School’s Zolberg Institute, where she directs the Global Cities portfolio, and senior visiting fellow at SciencesPo Paris, where she advises French cities and the Africa-Europe Mayors Dialogue on Growth and Solidarity. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, she co-founded Europe Prykhystok, a locally-led effort connecting Ukrainian and European communities responding to the needs of Ukrainian IDPs and currently focused on providing short-term get-aways for hundreds of Ukrainian children in France. Also in the last year, she founded the Refugee Resettlement Initiative at the National Association of System Heads (NASH) in the United States, which has mobilized 15 public university systems and millions of dollars in resources dedicated to this cause. Previously, Dr. Thouez served as the inaugural director of the Welcoming and Inclusive Cities Division at the Open Society Foundations (OSF), where she conceived the Mayors Migration Council (MMC) and its Global Cities Fund for Pandemic Relief (2019), the Africa-Europe Mayors Dialogue (2020), and the University Alliance for Refugees and At-Risk Migrants (2018). Before joining OSF, for 17 years, she held leadership positions at the United Nations in the dual fields of adult education and international migration. As the Head of the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the UN’s main training arm in New York, she was responsible for the training of 3,000 government delegates annually on all aspects of international law and the UN from 2004-2010. She has also driven advances in migration governance serving as special advisor to the late Sir Peter Sutherland, the first director of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN Secretary-General’s representative on migration until 2018. Her most recent academic publications are “New power configurations: city mobilization and policy change” (2022) in Global Networks; and “Cities as emergent international actors in the field of migration” (2020), Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations. She is Canadian and French, and the mother of three.