Zaina Arafat MIA ’09 is a LGBTQ Palestinian-American writer based in Brooklyn. Her debut novel, You Exist Too Much, was published in June 2020 and won a Lambda Literary Award. The novel was also praised by O: The Oprah Magazine, Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, NPR, LitHub, and Good Morning America, among others, and selected as Roxane Gay’s favorite book of 2020. Read a recent profile of Arafat and other alumni authors.
Richard Brookshire MPA ’16 is the cofounder of the Black Veterans Project, which seeks to “deepen public understanding around systemic racial inequities in our nation’s military.” In June 2020 his essay on “Serving in the Army as a Queer Black Man Opened My Eyes to Racism in America” appeared in the New York Times.
Shawn Bush MIA ’17 was named among the Atlantic Council’s 2020-21 LGBTI in Foreign Affairs Fellows. A member of the U.S. Foreign Service, Bush is currently second secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Manama, Bahrain. , He had previously been a contributor at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he supported the launch of “Model Diplomacy,” a simulation of the National Security Council; a foreign policy fellow in the office of then House minority leader Nancy Pelosi; and an aide to then Senate minority leader Charles Schumer.
Mark Jamias MIA ’18 was named to New America’s National Security & Foreign Policy LGBTQIA+ 2021 Out Leaders List. As the international affairs officer for the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command, Jamias crafts strategy and advises the commander, division staff, and field units on global operations, major deployments, and strategic engagement in the Command’s area of responsibility, spanning from the Arctic and the Americas to Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
Karine Jean-Pierre MPA ’03 became President Biden’s press secretary on May 13, 2022. Jean-Pierre is the first Black person and the first LGBTQ person to hold what the New York Times called “one of the most high-profile jobs in American politics.” During the 2020 campaign she served as senior advisor to now President Biden and chief of staff to now Vice President Kamala Harris.
Ryan Kaminski MIA ’11 was named to New America's 2020 LGBTQIA+ Out Leadership List. Kaminski is an LGBTQI+ adviser at USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development. He is also a security fellow with the Truman National Security Project and a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations.
David Young Kim MPA ’18 was named among the Atlantic Council’s 25 LGBTI Next Generation Leaders to Watch in 2019. He is currently a senior strategic planner and deputy team lead for United States Forces Korea (USFK), the joint headquarters for U.S. combat forces in South Korea. Most recently he served as a research analyst at the Henry L. Stimson Center.
Rashima Kwatra MPA ’16 was named among the Atlantic Council’s 2020-21 LGBTI in Foreign Affairs Fellows. As an international advocacy advisor at RFSL (Swedish Federation for LGBTQI Rights), Kwatra manages and executes the organization’s international advocacy portfolio focused on the United Nations. She also leads policy advisory efforts with governments, intergovernmental bodies, and public- and private-sector actors, as well as capacity-building programs for activists from the global south and east.
Claudia López MPA ’03 was elected mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, in October 2019. She is the first woman and the first openly gay person to lead her nation’s capital city. In this 2021 video for SIPA, López commented on how important it is for women to enjoy economic autonomy.
Andrew Lohsen MIA ’15 was named to New America’s National Security & Foreign Policy LGBTQIA+ 2021 Out Leaders List. A foreign affairs specialist with more than 10 years of experience promoting security, governance, and human rights in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, Lohsen spent five years between 2016 and 2021 working in Ukraine for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). He is currently a fellow in the Europe, Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Tyrik McKeiver MIA ’13 was named to New America's 2020 LGBTQIA+ Out Leadership List. In January 2022 McKeiver joined the U.S. Mission to the United Nations as a public affairs specialist. Before that he served most recently as a vice president for Ogilvy, the advertising and PR firm.
Leyth Swidan MPA ’18 was named to New America’s National Security & Foreign Policy LGBTQIA+ 2021 Out Leaders List. A foreign service officer at the U.S. State Department, Swidan began his latest assignment—as a political officer in Copenhagen, Denmark—in October 2021. He previously served as a vice consul at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.
In June 2021 Vladimir Tlali MPA-DP ’19 was promoted to director of the New York State LGBT Health & Human Services Network, a coalition of 70 LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations that provide holistic health care, education, legal and social services to LGBTQ+ communities. The program is administered by the New York City-based Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.
Please send your professional and other updates to Susan Storms, SIPA’s director of alumni affairs.