2019 Fellows

  • Posted on: 27 October 2019
  • By: minnesotangos

The MINN Fellowship program seeks to foster diverse viewpoints in our community, provide professional enrichment and networking opportunities, and build a long-lasting relationship between traditionally underrepresented communities and the Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN). Learn more about the Fellows program.

2019 Fellows

Ever Mkonyi is a PhD student in Evaluation Studies at the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on Evaluation Capacity Building with a focus on sexual health. She holds two masters degrees; (MA Demography and MA Evaluation Studies). She worked at PSI-Tanzania as a Research Manager and Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator for four years, before she moved to the US where she worked for another four years as data management and handling expert at the Minnesota Population Center (MPC) of the University of Minnesota. While in Tanzania, she was intensively engaged in a variety of health projects which ignited her passion for researching and evaluating public health issues. She is currently coordinating a five-year grant project which focuses on the promotion of sexual health in Tanzania. This is a collaborative project between the University of Minnesota and Muhimbili University of Allied Sciences (MUHAS) in Tanzania. She likes swimming, dancing, and exercising.

Halimo Ismail is a public health specialist with Ramsey County. She recently received her Master of Public Health from St. Catherine University and received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Minnesota. Over the years Halimo has been involved in working with humanitarian organizations such as ALIGHT, American Red Cross, and Minnesota Council of Churches. Halimo hopes to continue working with refugees globally and being an advocate for immigrant communities.


Maakwe Cumanzala is an Economics Research Specialist in the Economics and Political Sciences Department at St. Catherine’s University and has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Mathematics. She is passionate about dismantling inequalities perpetuated by the inefficient distribution of power and natural resources, particularly in developing countries. She is currently in the process of setting up a non-governmental organization that focuses on empowering tribal minority women in Zimbabwe, her home country, to claim their voices, find professional networks and be proud of their cultural identity.


Mai Sia Yang is a bilingual Hmong American woman who graduated from Augsburg College with a Bachelors of Arts in International Relations. Her experience studying and traveling abroad has aided in her investment and involvement in International Development. She has served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the country of Mongolia where she taught English and organized community building projects. She worked alongside community members and fellow Peace Corps Volunteers on creating a platform for the disabled community. Most recently, Mai Sia has been a successful Government Affairs Coordinator for Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Minnesota. 


Sylvie Guezeon worked as an attorney in an International Law Firm based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast from 2008 to 2017. Sylvie also worked for the Ivorian Refugee and Stateless Persons Aid and Assistance Office (SAARA) in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) as one of their on-site representatives for activities related to the resettlement of refugees in the United States. Following her graduation from the University of Pittsburgh, PA in 2014 with a Master of Laws (LL.M.), Sylvie interned with the international Institute of Minnesota in their immigration services. Upon her return to the U.S in 2017, Sylvie was a French Interpreter/Translator for the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and she is currently an Immigration Court Observer with the James H Binger Center For New Americans, University of Minnesota. Sylvie will be taking the Bar Exam in the U.S. and plans on working in the Healthcare Industry and/or immigration employment-based field. She is currently contracting as a Bilingual Business Analyst at UnitedHealthCare.


Sagal Hussein holds a Master's Degree in Comparative International Development Education from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor’s Degree in Global Politics from Washington State University. Her experiences include working and volunteering in organizations focused on community outreach, education, educational technology, youth empowerment and immigrant services. Sagal is passionate about inclusive policy and development; and strives to create effective, efficient and equitable social policies and programs. She believes that opportunity and access are imperative; and envisions a world where organizations are responsive to the needs of all people. With experience in both the private sector and public, she is working toward a career in international development and hopes to work overseas empowering and developing organizations in advancing their work in removing barriers for marginalized communities.

Nishank Varshney was born and raised in India, where he pursued a degree in Engineering and Mathematics from BITS Pilani. An internship project on decriminalization of Indian politics, and master’s thesis on implementation of Right to Education (RTE) Act, got him interested in the development field. After briefly working as a Business Analyst with Dell International Services, he went on to work full-time as a Research Associate at IIM Ahmedabad on the implementation and evaluation of the RTE Act in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan for which he was selected as one of the ‘30 under 30 leaders’ under ‘Community Service & Social Entrepreneurship’ category. Nishank joined the Humphrey School to pursue a master’s degree in Public Policy in 2016 and subsequently joined the Ph.D. program in 2018. He currently works at the Human Capital Research Collaborative on interventions in early childhood education.

Lacy Myrman has a range of international experience rooted in her upbringing in Brooklyn Park, MN. As a student, Lacy planned events with the Alliance Française, catalogued New Tactics in Human Rights for the Center for Victims of Torture, and assisted the American Refugee Committee with its I Am a Star Campaign for Somalia, in addition to promoting global citizenship amongst youth via Model UN programs. Lacy received her Bachelors in Africana Studies and International Affairs, concentrating in Conflict Resolution at The George Washington University. She has given motivational talks across Western Kenya, taught French literacy classes to immigrants in Marseille, France, and interviewed Burundian refugees living in Kigali, Rwanda. Most recently, Lacy was a Fulbright Scholar serving as an English Teaching Assistant in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire. She currently works as a ConnectZ Program Coordinator at Girl Scouts, providing culturally relevant, in-school Girl Scouts programming to girls with a variety of access barriers. 

Jennifer Bubke has worked in the international development sector for seven years with the UN Migration Agency - International Organization for Migration (IOM). She has experience in both South Asia and Africa and focused on both migration development and political/transitional development. While she has worked in different positions, her specialty is in grants management and compliance. She has a MA from American University in International Relations with a focus in International Organizations. Jennifer recently relocated to the Twin Cities and is excited to engage with the international development sector in the area.

Christina (Tina) Rucci is a peacebuilder & human rights activist, with a professional background in immigration services and refugee resettlement. She recently graduated from the Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego with an MA in Peace & Justice. While working toward her degree, she focused on immigrant and refugee rights, gender equity, and social innovation. She attended the 63rd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and took a course in Rwanda called Social Innovation in a Post-Conflict Setting. This course ignited her passion for finding new and creative ways to influence social impact and address the world's most pressing issues, and she is especially passionate about furthering international development initiatives through cross-sector peacebuilding efforts.