2020-2021

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020 – Judd Devermont

Great Power Competition: How does the U.S.’ Africa policy measure up to China/Russia

Judd Devermont is the director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Prior to joining CSIS, he served as the national intelligence officer for Africa from 2015 to 2018. In this position, he led the U.S. intelligence community’s analytic efforts on sub-Saharan African issues and served as the DNI’s personal representative at interagency policy meetings. From 2013 to 2015, he was the Central Intelligence Agency’s senior political analyst on sub-Saharan Africa. Mr. Devermont also served as the National Security Council director for Somalia, Nigeria, the Sahel, and the African Union from 2011 to 2013. In this role, he contributed to the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, signed by President Obama in 2012, and managed the process that resulted in U.S. recognition of the Somali government for the first time since 1991. Mr. Devermont spent two years abroad working at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria from 2008 to 2010.

Mr. Devermont is a lecturer at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs where he co-teaches a class on U.S. intelligence analysis on sub-Saharan Africa. He is also a senior adviser at Kupanda Capital, a pan-African investment platform, and at Fraym, a data analytics firm. Mr. Devermont is a frequent commentator in print, on radio, and on television, and he has testified before Congress. He has published articles in a range of journals, such as Foreign Affairs and African Affairs, as well as newspapers and magazines like Bloomberg, the Hill, Lawfare, and Mail & Guardian in South Africa. In addition, Mr. Devermont hosts Into Africa, a biweekly podcast series on African politics and policy. The views expressed in publications authored by Mr. Devermont do not represent those of the U.S. government. Mr. Devermont has lived in South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire, and he has traveled widely across the continent. He has a master’s degree in African studies from Yale University and bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020 – Jennifer Staats

China – its role and politics, both regionally and globally

Jennifer Staats is the director of East and Southeast Asia Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace. She joined USIP in 2016 as the director of the China Program, and she continues to lead USIP’s work on China and its impact on peace and security around the world. She also oversees USIP’s field office in Myanmar, as well as the Institute’s work on Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.

Dr. Staats previously spent several years working in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where she concentrated on policy issues related to Asia. At the Pentagon, she led the teams that coordinated the Department of Defense’s implementation of the U.S. Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and developed long-term strategies for the Department. She also served as a director in the Cyber Policy Office and managed the Asian-Pacific Security Affairs portfolio for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs. Staats received several awards for her work at DoD, including the Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service.

Before entering government service, Staats was a fellow with the International Security Program at Harvard’s Belfer Center and a research assistant with the Preventive Defense Project chaired by Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry. She has also lived, worked, and studied in both China and Germany.

Staats received her doctoral degree from Harvard University, her master’s from Princeton University, and her bachelor’s from the University of the South (Sewanee). She has been named a Council on Foreign Relations term member, Fulbright Scholar, NSEP Boren Fellow, Javits Fellow, Rosenthal Fellow, NCAA Postgraduate Scholar, and Public Intellectuals Program Fellow and member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020 – Mona Yacoubian

Syria, Iraq (post-ISIS), Lebanon and COVID impacts on these areas

Ms. Yacoubian’s work centers on conflict analysis and prevention in the Middle East, with a specific focus on Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. In 2019, she served as executive director of the Congressionally-appointed Syria Study Group, which USIP was mandated to facilitate. Additional research interests include violent extremism, fragility and resilience.

Mona Yacoubian joined the U.S. Institute of Peace after serving as deputy assistant administrator in the Middle East Bureau at USAID from 2014 to 2017, where she had responsibility for Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Prior to joining USAID, Ms. Yacoubian was a senior advisor at the Stimson Center focusing on the Arab uprisings with an emphasis on Syria. Prior to joining the Stimson Center, Ms. Yacoubian served as a special advisor on the Middle East at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where her work focused on Lebanon and Syria as well as broader issues related to democratization in the Arab world. From 1990 to 1998, Ms. Yacoubian served as the North Africa analyst in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

Ms. Yacoubian was a Fulbright scholar in Syria where she studied Arabic at the University of Damascus from 1985 to 1986. She has held an international affairs fellowship with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and is currently a CFR member. Ms. Yacoubian earned an master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s degree from Duke University.