Ahmed Badr


Author, Poet, and Social Entrepreneur

Ahmed M. Badr is a 23-year-old Iraqi-American author, poet, and social entrepreneur working at the intersection of creativity, displacement, and youth empowerment.  Ahmed’s work seeks to combine poetry, archival collections, and multi-media to explore the complexities of migration, identity, and self-expression, with a focus on reframing and reclaiming the power of tragedy. He is author of While the Earth Sleeps We Travel: Stories, Poetry, and Art from Young Refugees Around the World (Andrews McMeel), featuring a foreword by actor and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ben Stiller.

On July 25, 2006, Ahmed’s home in Baghdad was bombed by militia troops. He and his family relocated to Syria, where they lived as refugees for over two years before receiving approval to move to the United States. As a teen, Ahmed founded Narratio, an organization and online platform that activates, supports, and highlights the creative expression of displaced young people through fellowships, workshops, publishing, and partnerships. In the summer of 2019, Narratio launched an annual storytelling Fellowship for resettled refugee youth in partnership with Syracuse University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over the past three years, work by the Narratio Fellows has reached over two million individuals worldwide.

Ahmed is the host of Virginia Public Media’s (VPM) Regional Murrow award-winning Resettled podcast, and the co-host of the World Bank’s #Youth4Climate Live Series. He is the former host of the UN Migration Agency’s (IOM) “A Way Home Together” podcast.
Ahmed is the storyteller behind UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage, a multi-media installation that remodels the homes of refugees inside a series of suitcases. UNPACKED is critically acclaimed and has been exhibited at UNICEF House, Harvard Divinity School, Yale University, Juilliard, Iowa State University, University of Chicago, Mississippi State University, and World Bank headquarters. In February 2020, Ahmed debuted four visual works at Educate, an exhibit featuring global emerging artists at Christie’s New York.
Ahmed has addressed the United Nations on more than ten occasions, and his work has been recognized by National Public Radio, Instagram, Buzzfeed, and Global Citizen, among others.

Ahmed received a BA in Anthropology from Wesleyan University and a Master’s in Education from Harvard University. He is the recipient of the Adrian Cheng Fellowship from Harvard Kennedy School, and the Social Innovation Fellowship Fund award from Harvard Business School. He is a National Geographic Young Explorer, and serves as one of 17 UN Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals in the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth. He attended the WYSE sister conference — the Washington Journalism and Media Conference — in 2014.


Dr. Alonso Aguirre


Associate Professor, George Mason University

Dr. Alonso Aguirre heads a program of collaborative research that focuses on the ecology of wildlife disease and the links to human health and conservation of biodiversity.  His research has been instrumental in revealing the impact of emerging diseases of marine wildlife populations. Dr. Aguirre’s international experience brings applied solutions to ecological health issues accomplished through trans-disciplinary teams, innovative research, scientific excellence, and long-term monitoring of sentinel species. Dr. Aguirre served as the Executive Director of the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation and Director of the Mason Center for Conservation Studies.

He has authored three books, published over 160 professional papers, monographs and scientific reports, and advised government agency and NGO leaders of several countries in the Americas, Southeast Asia and Western Europe. He currently serves as co-editor of EcoHealth, Journal of Wildlife Diseases and European Journal of Wildlife Research.


Dr. Jennifer Salerno


Assistant Professor, Environmental Microbiology, Marine Biology, Coral Reef Ecology, George Mason University

Dr. Salerno is a marine biologist and microbial ecologist working at the intersection of science and policy.  Dr. Salerno’s research interests focus on symbiotic and free-living microorganisms and the role that they play in maintaining and destabilizing organism health and ecosystem function. Recognizing the important link between human health and ecosystem health, this research is approached through the lens of seeking to advance basic science, while also developing environmental monitoring tools, practical applications, and policy guidance for environmental resource management and conservation. The Salerno Laboratory is currently working on projects pertaining to coral and fish disease, interactions between microbes and microplastics, and microbes as biological indicators of aquatic health.
Dr. Salerno also engages in science communication and interdisciplinary work at the intersection of science, policy, and diplomacy. She previously worked on coastal and ocean issues in the U.S. House of Representatives as a NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Fellow and served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Office of Economic Policy. In this capacity she advised and coordinated U.S. policy on science and technology, energy, and oceans issues across U.S. federal agencies and in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).


Dr. Daniel Hanley


Assistant Professor of Biology, George Mason University

Dr. Daniel Hanley is Assistant Professor of Biology at George Mason University.  He studies visual perception, cognition, and decision-making in wild birds. By quantifying the diversity of colors found in nature (particularly birds’ eggs), his laboratory addresses fundamental questions about how selection pressures shape the evolution of phenotypes, and how those phenotypes govern species interactions. His work has been published in more than 40 peer-reviewed journals such as Nature Ecology & Evolution, Proceedings of the Royal Society, the American Naturalist, and Biology Letters and is frequently highlighted by the popular press (e.g., as Audubon, the BBC, and Science magazine). In August 2020, Dr. Hanley was awarded Elective Membership at the American Ornithological Society for significant contributions to ornithology and the society.


Layne Marshall


ORISE Research Fellow, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Layne Marshall is an ORISE Research Fellow supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Trash Free Waters (TFW) Program.  Within her role at the EPA, Layne works to reduce the volume of trash entering our waterways and oceans. Layne engages with on-the-ground partners to implement collaborative solutions that target land-based sources of litter and manmade, ocean-bound debris. Her work portfolio includes outreach and communication, stakeholder engagement, research, and project management. Layne earned her Masters of Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School, where she specialized in environmental law and policy.


Jazmin Golden


Junior Environmental Consultant, SIA Solutions LLC

Jazmin Golden is a junior environmental consultant, supporting environmental documentation and environmental condition proposals for Army Reserve Centers across the U.S. Jazmin’s current focus includes environmental policy research with a heavy interest in environmental education and environmental justice.  She recently completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science with a concentration in Environmental Health, and a minor in Public Policy and Management. During her undergraduate career, Jazmin also served as an on-campus tour guide, and was a member of George Mason University’s Women’s Track and Field team as a 400-meter hurdler. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University. Jazmin is also a 2014 WYSE alumna and former WYSE JFA. Outside of work and school, Jazmin enjoys running, watching/playing sports, and any outdoor activities.


Andrew Garavito


Beekeeper, Honey Bee Initiative, George Mason University

Andrew Garavito has been a beekeeper for 10 years.  He completed his Masters in Entomology at the University of Maryland in the vanEngelsdorp Bee Lab where he studied the effects of pesticide exposure via pollen consumption on honey bee health. After completing his Masters, he stayed on with the vanEngelsdorp Bee Lab, serving as the Apiary Manager where he maintained 200 hives for the various research needs of the lab. Andrew joined the Honey Bee Initiative at George Mason University in the spring of 2021.


Dr. Michelle Ryan


COO, Federal Health and Civilian at NTT DATA Services

Michelle Ryan (GMU PhD 2015) is the Chief Operations Officer for NTT DATA’s Public Sector Federal Health and Civilian Division where she overseas daily operations of 60+ federal contracting information technology (IT) engagements with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  She has worked and led systems engineering teams delivering solutions for large government information technology projects for the past 20+ years to include environmental IT projects and engagements. Michelle received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Franklin and Marshall College in Economics and Government. In addition to her graduate studies in environmental science at GMU, she also holds graduate degrees from George Washington University (MBA) and Virginia Polytechnic and State University (Masters in Natural Resources). Her professional work experience also includes providing subject matter expertise on environmental engineering and science projects, and she has volunteered for many environmental science initiatives within the region.


Dr. Paul Lewis


Director of the Food and Disclosure and Labeling Division, US Department of Agriculture

Dr. Paul Lewis is Director of the Food Disclosure and Labeling Division at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Fair Trade Practices Program.  As Director, Dr. Lewis manages the implementation and enforcement of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard and the Country of Origin Labeling program. Dr. Lewis has held a variety of leadership positions at the United States Department of Agriculture, United States Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health focusing on science policy development, risk assessment, and research management addressing agriculture, the environment and public health. Dr. Lewis is also a Lecturer at The Johns Hopkins University, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Advanced Academic Programs, teaching a graduate level course in environmental health.
Dr. Lewis earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy from George Mason University, a Master of Public Administration from The George Washington University, a Master of Science in Plant Pathology from Oklahoma State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Plant Science from the University of Rhode Island.


Dr. Changwoo Ahn


Professor in Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University

Dr. Ahn is currently a Professor in Environmental Science and Policy, and an affiliated faculty member in Civil, Environmental & Infrastructure Engineering, Biology, Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Food Studies, and the School of Art.  He served as a University Life Faculty Fellow (2013-2018) and became a Faculty Research Fellow appointed by Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship (School of Business). At Mason, Dr. Ahn teaches Wetland Ecology and Management, Ecosystem Modeling and Analysis, Ecological Sustainability, Ecological Engineering and Ecosystem Restoration, and Urban Ecosystems and Processes. Ecological Sustainability (Mason Core, Capstone) and Urban Ecosystems and Processes are both R&S (Research and Scholarship) intensive courses for undergraduates sponsored by the Students as Scholars program, through the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR). This program is Mason’s award-winning undergraduate research and creative activities initiative. His most recent new course, EVPP 381: Nature and Culture in Global Wetlands has been designated as Mason Core for Global Understanding, which will be taught starting in the Spring 2022 semester.
Dr. Ahn was a recipient of both Mentoring Excellence Award in 2016 and Teacher with Distinction in 2017. He is dedicated to developing and innovating methods of teaching that will incorporate strong research experiences into undergraduate science education.