Program connects students with thought leaders in Miami, D.C.

FIU kicked off the first year of the Capital Leadership Experience program this March with a cohort of students versed in a range of fields — from STEM education to global communications to policy-making. The program offers participants hands-on leadership, research and professional development experience in both Miami and Washington, D.C.

The inaugural group includes both undergraduate and graduate students from various disciplines who will collaborate to amplify FIU’s national strengths and answer the challenges of our time. They will connect with thought leaders in Miami and the nation’s capital to springboard FIU’s successes further into the national conversation.

“FIU has provided me countless opportunities for service-learning experiences, such as  Alternative Breaks and Peace Corps Prep,” said Victoria Mendez, Capital Leader and sophomore at FIU majoring in international relations. “I’m thrilled to apply the attributes I have gained to the Capital Leadership Experience and help pave the way for my fellow Panthers to become the changemakers of tomorrow in Washington D.C.”

The experience grants students the opportunity to hone in on areas of interest while positioning them for full-time internships and career opportunities in Washington, D.C. through networking events, alumni mentorship and career development activities. The students will also be able to showcase their talents through briefings with high-profile leaders and online spotlights.

On March 18, President Mark B. Rosenberg hosted an inaugural reception for Capital Leaders at the Frost Art Museum. The event was sponsored by the Office of Engagement. The Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs Founding Dean John F. Stack and State Department Diplomat in Residence Catherine Rodriguez were among guests who met with the group.

Meet the spring/summer 2016 Capital Leaders:


Shahed Altammar is a doctoral candidate in international and public affairs at FIU. Growing up in the Middle East, she experienced the need to raise social awareness, and co-founded a non-profit organization that focuses on training young and mid-career professionals in all aspects of life—from education to employment.


Victoria Mendez is a sophomore in international relations at the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs. She has participated in Alternative Breaks and Peace Corps Prep.


Alina Rafikova is a graduate student in Global Strategic Communications, a Fulbright grantee, and an independent scholar who studies place branding and intercultural relations. She aspires to work for the United Nations.


Christian Ilarraza-Colon is a junior studying international relations in the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs. Having studied abroad in Turkey, he aims to change Americans’ perception of countries in the Middle East and help to influence cyber security policies for foreign diplomats.


Joanne Ling is a freshman majoring in public administration with a focus on Asian language and culture. She is a member of the FIU Model United Nations team. Her interests include advocacy for disenfranchised groups, LGBT rights and public health concerns in the United States and abroad.


Galina Abdelaziz is a sophomore studying international relations. She aims to use the knowledge from her studies to create documentaries and short films on the plight of the voiceless to spur change. Abdelaziz is a nationally-ranked videographer and a delegate of FIU’s Model United Nations team.


Jonathan Mahadeo is a published graduate student with FIU’s STEM Transformation Institute. His research focuses on uncovering students’ computing identity via nationally representative surveys to examine the effect on students’ STEM career choices.


Michelle Rodriguez is a junior studying psychology with an interest in international relations and public policy. She is a member of the FIU Model United Nations team. Michelle spent a volunteer year in Peru working with impoverished populations.

If  you know a student interested in interning in Washington D.C. this summer, please email FIU/CHLI Internship & Career Success Manager Ethan Starkey at

via FIU News

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