Congratulations to Abi Marutama, Aziz Taouri, Abdo Ibrahim, Iftikhar Khan, Christa Muzanila, and Michael Brubaker, exchange alumni of the Professional Fellows Program (PFP), who were awarded this year’s 2020 Professional Fellows Alumni Impact Awards! Representing the nations of Indonesia, Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, Tanzania, and the United States, these exchange alumni have inspiring stories to tell about the positive impacts they’ve made in their local communities and across the world.
The six winners were recognized at the first-ever virtual Professional Fellows Congress, which took place from November 2-13, 2020. The PF Congress provided the alumni an opportunity to share their inspiring stories, while networking remotely with nearly 300 Professional Fellows who have completed fellowships across diverse settings within government entities, civil society organizations, and business across the United States. This year’s Congress was coordinated by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs (ECA) and supported by ECA implementing partner, the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL).
Explore their bios below to learn more about these spectacular #ExchangeAlumni and how they have impacted their local communities for the better.
Abi Marutama has drawn on his own experience as a professional with a visual disability to empower disabled Indonesians and to advocate for disability rights in Indonesia. With a Bachelor of Law from Tarumanagara School of Law, Abi worked for the Center for Persons with Disabilities’ Access to General Election, and, fostering relationships within the government, helped to bring about the enactment of the Indonesians with Disabilities Act in 2016.
In 2016, Abi joined the Disability-Inclusive and Accessible Urban Development Network, an international disability rights movement led by UCLA disability expert, Dr. Victor Santiago Pineda. Together, they successfully invited people with disabilities to contribute as stakeholders in the New Urban Agenda, which was adopted by the United Nations during the Habitat III Conference held in Quito, Ecuador.
His experience in the PFP enabled him to become familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and he joined a robust network of disability rights activists and experts in the U.S. that focuses on voter accessibility legislation. Upon his return to Indonesia in 2018, Abi became a Human Rights Analyst at the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, where he has since worked on disability rights issues and in helping to promote disability inclusion on a national scale.
Aziz Taouri is a farmer in rural Morocco who has set out to create a successful farming cooperative in his community for young farmers aspiring to own a small agribusiness.
In addition to his work as a farmer, Aziz has a passion for empowering women and girls in Morocco, and in 2017, he was awarded an Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) Grant to implement a series of workshops for 75 rural girls. The workshops focused on strengthening media literacy; equipping them with entrepreneurial skills; and empowering them to achieve financial independence. In 2019, Aziz worked with his PFP host organization HANDS Along the Nile to design a leadership program for girls-at-risk, which involved a virtual exchange component with American inner city girls of the same age.
After completing his PFP in the U.S., Aziz returned to Morocco to work with HANDS in coordinating follow-up exchanges to his village in the south of Morocco. As an ambassador of the PFP, he is dedicated to investing in the Moroccan-American relationship, with a specific interest in establishing a personal and professional connection between the two countries. He often documents photos of Americans who travel to Morocco to showcase the rich diversity and culture of the region. One such exchange program is the U.S.-Moroccan sports exchange, which Aziz helped to coordinate in his village in 2019.
As the CEO and Founder of Egypreneur, a company dedicated to providing business owners with best practices and strategies on how to improve and scale their business, Abdo Ibrahim coaches entrepreneurs and executives on how to maximize their potential and expand their enterprises, both on a local and global level.
After his participation in the PFP in the fall of 2018, Abdo returned to Egypt and drew on his exchange experience to harness the power of automation and A.I. to launch an Automated Funding Assistant for entrepreneurs in his community. From this experience, he expanded the concept to include an Automated Virtual Business Mentor. Abdo is currently working on the prototype for Lyla, a voice-activated coach for remote workers, in addition to authoring "Remote Work Confidence: Your 30-day journey into an optimal remote work lifestyle."
Iftikhar Khan is a media professional who has published journalistic work on legislative governance as a senior reporter, feature writer, and columnist in print media. During his PFP in 2018, Iftikhar worked in the Accountability Lab in the Open Gov Hub, where he focused on developing standard operating procedures in two government departments in the Punjab province to facilitate citizens’ requests for information.
His experience enabled him to step into a role with the German Development Cooperation as a State Advisor - Citizen Dialogue in the Support to Local Governance (LoGo) program in Lahore, Pakistan, where he supports the Punjab Information Commission engaging citizens around the 2013 Punjab Transparency & Right to Information Act.
With 15 years of diverse experience in the right to information (RTI), governance, and media & communications, Iftikhar regularly engages youth to promote awareness on RTI laws, which enables them to hold the government and public bodies accountable and contribute to transparency and good governance.
An experienced and passionate supporter of women in agribusiness, Christa Muzanila serves the lives of her Tanzanian community by creating business solutions to combat poverty through her work with MEDA Tanzania, an international NGO focused on building opportunities for Tanzanian farmers. In this role, she oversees entrepreneurs and farmer groups as they establish and manage sustainable businesses, providing a business management training series, mentorship, and coaching on best agronomic practices.
Christa’s participation in the PFP inspired her to establish her own business enterprise. Following the affiliation with her host organization, Allen Neighborhood Center, an organization devoted to promoting neighborhood revitalization of Lansing, Michigan, she co-founded KALAMALI Agri-Nutri products, an enterprise that supports the delivery of locally-grown healthy and nutritious food in the community.
In 2019, Christa was awarded an Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) Grant to coordinate and implement a community project known as the Empower Young Women in Agribusiness (EYWA), which trained 100 young women in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar in the area of agri-food processing. Through her EYWA program, Christa continues to mentor young women entrepreneurs in acquiring skills to grow their businesses.
As a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Principled Strategies, a consulting and advisory services company which he founded in April 2019, Michael Brubaker is also an advocate for economic and financial empowerment. He has an impressive background, having also served in the political sphere as a Pennsylvania State Senator prior to joining the private sector.
Michael went on to build the largest agricultural advisory firm in the Mid-Atlantic region, serving thousands of farms by consistently increasing the profitability of farmers while ensuring compliance with rapidly changing federal and state environmental regulations. He holds his PFP experience close to heart, as he has hosted five professionals over his life and worked to provide the best experience possible for the international visitors in their homestay and fellowship placement.
Michael believes in giving back, and has become a mentor to many of the Fellows that he hosted. He maintains close contact with all five of the alumni, and he has visited three of the five professionals on follow-on programs to Armenia, Moldova, and Singapore. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy from West Virginia University, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.