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CWBI Board

Dr. Sylvester Okere

Dr.-Sylvester-OkereDr. Sylvester Okere is a businessman, community organizer, strategist and political professional in the US and Africa. He spent nearly 14 years of his career with the Nigeria Immigration Department, lived 14 years in Kano state-northern Nigeria. After migrating to the United States in 1999, Sylvester started his private security company in the DMV in 2004. He founded the Maryland

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Gbemi Disu

Gbemi-DisuGbemi Disu is currently the Special Assistant to the President at George Mason University where she manages strategic projects and select communications for the President.

Prior to joining George Mason in 2013, she worked at Thunderbird School of Global Management in a variety of roles including managing three Presidential transitions, supporting the President in pursuing strategic objectives globally , fundraising,  career services management, alumni and donor engagement.

Prior to that, she had worked as Assistant Vice President of Strategic Cost Management and Six Sigma Black Belt at HSBC Bank, Global Management Associate at Chevron Texaco and Appropriations Committee Staff at the Arizona State Legislature. She is also the founder and executive chef of Edibilities Events and Catering as well as the Lead Consultant and owner of Bella by Bames, an image and style consulting company.

A global enthusiast, she is multi-lingual and has lived, worked and travelled to over 70 countries. Her eclectic background has also included opportunities to organize events for notable global leaders such as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor, President Alvaro Uribe, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, President Mikhail Gorbachev, Ambassador Barbara Barrett, members of Congress and the World Economic Forum. A passionate supporter of global prosperity, she has participated in programs that support that such as Project Artemis, Goldman Sachs 10,000 women initiative and MBA Women International. She also founded the award winning program called ThunderCares and sits on the board of Think Global Institute, an organization providing business skills to women entrepreneurs globally.

Gbemi holds an MBA in Global Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management, the world’s top-ranked school of international business, where she was commencement speaker and received the Barton Kyle Yount Outstanding Graduate Award. Gbemi earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and International Business from Arizona State University where she was awarded the Global Excellence Award from the Barrett Honors College.

Dr. Mohammed Abu-Nimer

Mohammed-AbuDr. Mohammed Abu-Nimer is an Associate professor at the American University's School of International Service in International Peace and Conflict Resolution in Washington, DC, and Director of the Peacebuilding and Development Institute. Mohammed Abu-Nimer is an expert on conflict resolution and dialogue for peace. He has conducted research on conflict resolution and dialogue for peace among Palestinians and Jews in Israel; Israeli-Palestinian conflict; application of conflict resolution models in Muslim communities; interreligious conflict resolution training; interfaith dialogue; and evaluation of conflict resolution programs. As a practitioner, he has been intervening and conducting conflict resolution training workshops in many conflict areas around the world, including: Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Northern Ireland, Philippines (Mindanao), Sri Lanka, U.S., and other areas. He has published articles on these subjects in the Journal of Peace Research; Journal of Peace and Changes, American Journal of Economics and Sociology, and in various edited books. Abu-Nimer is the co-founder and co-editor of the new Journal of Peacebuilding and Development. In addition to his many accomplishments, he speaks Arabic, Hebrew and English.

Dr. Eleftherios A. Michael

Dr.-Eleftherios-A.-MichaelDr. Eleftherios A. Michael is an Assistant Professor and Academic Director for the Peace and Conflict Resolution Program at the School of Professional and Extended Studies of American University. He is a conflict analyst and conflict resolution practitioner with 15 years of experience in post-conflict zones. He has trained hundreds of high school students, undergraduate and graduate students with conflict resolution and collaborative problem-solving skills. Since 2007 he has led study trips to Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, and the Balkans (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia and Croatia). His areas of research are in peacemaking and peace-building and the role of civil society in sustaining peace in post-conflict communities.

Alexandra Schaerrer

Alexandra-SchaerrerAlexandra Schaerrer received her Bachelor of Arts from Washington and Lee University in 2005, graduatingsumma cum laude with a degree in Political Science and German Literature. In 2007 Alexandra earned her first Masters in Comparative and International Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH). She subsequently spent three years in East Africa working for various NGOs in the conservation, education and development field. In 2013 she earned a double Masters via The University of Malta’s MEDAC program on Mediterranean Security Studies and George Mason University’s S-CAR program on Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Conflict mapping in Eastern and Central Africa remains the primary focus of her academic and research interest, especially as pertains to perceived regional outlier cases and the added value that potentially unexplored and/or omitted variables exposed by comparative case studies may add to the theoretical frameworks employed by policy makers. Alexandra is currently a PhD student at George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

Lakshitha Saji Prelis


Saji is currently the Director for Children & Youth Programs at Search for Common Ground where he has the opportunity to support programs in over 30 countries.  He co-leads several policy-level platforms including the UN Inter-Agency Sub Working group on Youth Participation in Peacebuilding and the Global Partnership to enable children and youth participation in peacebuilding for societal transformation. He served as a co-founder and Associate Director at American University's Peacebuilding & Development Institute in Washington, DC and is currently one of the founding members and chair of the board for PDI-SL in Sri Lanka, an internationally recognized South Asia focused training and research Institution.  He has over fifteen years experience working with youth, youth movements and youth focused organizations in various conflict and transition environments.  Some of the experiences include addressing alternatives to gang life in Los Angeles, developing programs for street children from Northern Uganda, and enhancing youth capacities in Nepal to assessing Thai-Burma border issues for youth, training in youth leadership in Georgia and Abkhazia to researching motivating factors for children and youth to join armed groups, gangs and cults in North and South of Nigeria.  He has over eighteen years of combined developing country experience from Africa to South and Southeast Asia. Saji has dedicated his academic and professional career to strengthening youth capacities for peace, and providing technical expertise in inter-generational peacebuilding and conflict-sensitive development practice in conflict and disaster settings. His more than eleven years of experience at American University have resulted in the development of over 100 academic training courses covering gender, media, monitoring and evaluation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Outside of his work at the university, Saji has served as an adviser to governments and governmental agencies from countries such as Nepal, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Indonesia, Haiti and Uganda, developing training programs, drafting policy frameworks, and designing community participation programs. He also has over ten years experience working with donor and non-profit organizations to focus on coordination, beneficiary accountability, conflict sensitive humanitarian practice, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Mr. Prelis spoke at the United Nations around Peacebuilding and Peacekeeping for UN and UN affiliated NGOs as part of the UN Day 2009 to acknowledge 61 years of UN Peacekeeping.

He most recently was one of the key note speakers at the Nobel Peace Forum in Minnesota, USA and at the Empowering Youth Conference in Oslo, Norway co-sponsored by the Crown Prince of Norway. He also was a panelist at the World We Want People’s Voices Series in September 2013 focused on the importance of Peace in the Post 2015 process. Mr. Prelis is a Sri Lanka national who obtained his Master's Degree in International Peace & Conflict Resolution with a Concentration in International Law from the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC.

Dr. Michael Shank


US Foreign Policy; Economic, Energy, and Environmental Policy; Central, South and Southeast Asia; Horn of Africa; Middle East; Latin America; Poverty, Income Inequality and Violence

In-Country Work:

Afghanistan, Australia, Cameroon, Cuba, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Somalia, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Turkey and Venezuela.


Michael Shank, Ph.D., is the Director of Foreign Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington DC. Michael is also Adjunct Faculty and Board Member at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Board Member at Communities Without Boundaries International, Senior Fellow at the French American Global Forum and the Just Jobs Network, and Associate at the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict. Prior to joining FCNL, Michael served for nearly four years as a congressional staffer, working as US Congressman Michael Honda’s Senior Policy Advisor and Communications Director.

Michael’s career over the past 20 years has involved UN, government and non-governmental organizations in the US, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America, as an adviser on diplomatic, economic, energy, and environmental security and policy initiatives.  Michael’s Ph.D. from George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution focused on Climate Conflict.

Michael writes regularly for the Washington Post, FOX News, CNN, The Guardian, US News and World Report, Financial Times, USA Today, Politico, Roll Call, The Hill, Huffington Post, among others. Additionally, Michael is a frequent on-air analyst for FOX News, CCTV News, Current TV, Al Jazeera, Russia Today, CTV News and Voice of America.

Contact Information



Phone & Email:
Mobile: 202.607.3944
Email: michael.john.shank (at)