Current Kistefos Fellows 2018/2019

Laila Bokhari – MC/MPA 2019

Home Country
Norway

Education
University of Amsterdam, 1997
MA, International Relations

University of Kent at Canterbury, 1996
BA, Development Studies

Background

Laila is an accomplished political scientist, diplomat, and politician. Until October 2017, Laila served as state secretary and deputy minister with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and before that she served as state secretary for the prime minister of Norway. She has conducted research and published extensively on security, terrorism, and international affairs. Her publications include several books, the most recent of which are The Legacy of My Father (2015) and Holy Wrath: My Journey Through Pakistan (2010).

Laila was born in the United Kingdom to a Norwegian mother and Pakistani father, and she spent her childhood between Norway, Pakistan, and the U.K. She has always been inspired by her father—a businessman, philanthropist, and visionary—and, as a child, Laila adopted his dream for a better Pakistan. She reflects: “Throughout my personal and professional life, I have worked to make my multicultural background an asset, not a burden. At the core lies a belief that we are all important members of society [and] our differences will shape a stronger tomorrow. There is a whole generation of youngsters today, many of them minorities with mixed ethnicities, struggling to define their identities. As we are faced with these global issues, we will need some change of action; we will need to become smarter in the ways we address these challenges.”

Future Plans

Three tenets guide Laila’s work and her aspirations for the future: the translation of knowledge into sound public policy, a commitment to value-driven leadership, and a positive vision for the future of our global community. She hopes that the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration program at Harvard Kennedy School will further develop her skills to become a better leader and more engaged citizen, and she hopes that, by interacting with individuals who have different viewpoints, she will be able to develop policies to counter violent radicalization, extremism, and terrorism.

Vibeke Strøm – MC/MPA 2019

Home Country
Norway

Education
Norwegian School of Business, 2016
Master of Management

Liverpool John Moores University, 1998
BA, Performing Arts and Enterprise Management

Background

Vibeke is the founder and director of Teach First Norway (TFN), a program that recruits and trains teachers to serve in underperforming schools. She also has a background in music management. Vibeke found the inspiration for TFN when she was organizing an outdoor music festival in Groruddalen, Norway. With a high immigrant population and many people living below the poverty line, Groruddalen had a huge problem related to student academic achievement. Vibeke had originally intended to couple an educational component with the festival, but, during the course of her research, she discovered an article about Teach First UK.

Several failed attempts had already been made to bring Teach First to Norway. Vibeke learned from these mistakes. Instead of trying to implement the program across the whole city of Oslo, she decided to start in schools in Groruddalen, to focus on math and science teachers only, and to seek funding from one major sponsor. Vibeke also took the unique approach of framing TFN in the context of four national political priorities: immigration and inclusion, declining student performance in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects, a shortage of teachers, and general issues with the levels of student achievement. As she expected, Vibeke faced opposition at the start, but she pushed ahead. TFN is now thriving. Before stepping down from TFN to attend Harvard Kennedy School, Vibeke was responsible for recruiting and training more than 120 math and science teachers to work in some of Oslo’s most disadvantaged schools.

Future Plans

Vibeke plans to continue working in the education sector, developing schools, strengthening leadership and organizational effectiveness, and affecting public policy. She says, “I have not felt the time was right to apply [to Harvard Kennedy School] because of my commitment to Teach First Norway. I feel that this work has reached a stage now where I no longer need to work so closely with the teachers and mentors. The time is right for the next stage of my career, and I am excited that it will be at Harvard Kennedy School.”

Feiruz Yimer Mohammed – MPA/ID 2020

Home Country
Ethiopia

Education
Addis Ababa University, 2007
MS, Economic Policy Analysis

Addis Ababa University, 2005
BA, Economics

Background

Feiruz recalls a transformative moment in her life: When she was in high school, she had the opportunity to hear researchers from the Ethiopian Economics Association present their findings on a number of different policy issues. Their ability to synthesize complex problems and develop policy solutions to address them inspired Feiruz; she realized that she could help her country by using economic data and analytical tools. She decided to study economics in both undergraduate and graduate school, in the latter specializing in economic policy.

Since 2012, Feiruz has worked as a research officer with the International Food Policy Research Institute in Addis Ababa. In this work, she has traveled to rural areas to collect household-level data. She says that during her visits, “I saw what living in poverty constitutes in real life. I repeatedly felt shocked when observing how little food the children had eaten in the last 24 hours.” The reality is that the majority of Ethiopians still live in utter poverty. Feiruz is determined to find solutions to this crisis.

Future Plans

Feiruz is confident that gaining a deep understanding of economic policy is key, and is thus pursuing a Master in Public Administration in International Development degree to acquire this knowledge.

“Currently, a large number of poor, particularly in Africa, are facing food shortages due to fiascos in agricultural production. These incidences highly affect mothers and children. Individuals in these regions must strengthen their capacity to produce food for consumption and, the excess, for market. We must empower mothers and young children to understand food production, to provide for themselves, and to sustain future generations.”

Clarence Kpehe Moniba – MC/MPA 2019

Home Country
Liberia

Education
New Mexico State University:
PhD, Rhetoric and Professional Communication, 2014

MA, Government, 2006
BA, Mass Communications, 2001

Background

When Clarence’s father passed away in 2004, Clarence realized he wanted to do more with his life; not just for himself but, more importantly, for his country. As a result, Clarence has applied his project development and project management skills to directing Liberia’s limited resources to benefit the most people possible.

In 2009, Clarence founded the Moniba Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on providing high school and college scholarships to deserving youth in postwar Liberia. For the past decade, Clarence has held positions with the Liberia Trade and Investment Office, United Nations, African Development Bank, and others. Most recently, Clarence was deputy chief of staff to the president of Liberia and head of the president’s delivery unit with the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs. In this role, he advised the president on, and served as project manager for, all ongoing and planned infrastructure projects in Liberia, including roads, ports, energy, health, and education. He also liaised with ambassadors, foreign aid donors, and multinational organizations to streamline and coordinate government priorities and services.

Future Plans

Throughout all of his work, Clarence has pondered the limitations to Liberia’s national budget, asking, “How are we expected to borrow enough money to make substantial investment in infrastructure so that we, as a nation, can reap benefits and develop?” He is eager to discuss this question and other pressing concerns with the students and faculty at Harvard Kennedy School. He also plans to enroll in courses such as “Economic Analysis of Public Policy” and “Advanced Risk Management and Infrastructure Finance.” On his ultimate goal, Clarence says: “It is often taboo to say ‘I want to be president of my country.’ Nevertheless, for over a decade, every move I have made has been to prepare me for the challenge of not simply running for president but, more importantly, guiding my nation of 5 million people toward prosperity and inclusiveness; be it 10 or 20 years from now.”