May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month, celebrating the heritage, culture, and contributions of AAPI and Jewish Americans. This month, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs will highlight AAPI and Jewish Americans serving in our bureau and advancing U.S. foreign policy and national security efforts in the United States and across Europe. This effort is a part of a broader campaign celebrating diversity and inclusion as core American values.
Throughout 2021, EUR will highlight the diversity of Americans serving in the bureau. Please check back here throughout the month as we spotlight our outstanding colleagues in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
Dina Abaa-Ogley currently serves as the Deputy Director for the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Section in U.S. Embassy Kyiv, overseeing anti-corruption assistance and criminal justice reform in Ukraine. Dina previously served as the Political-Economic Officer and INL Coordinator in Trinidad and Tobago. She was featured in an episode of National Geographic’s “Chain of Command” documentary which focused on the Embassy’s efforts in countering violent extremism in the country. As an Economic Officer in Malaysia, Dina managed the President’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit promoting innovation, and worked closely with the White House on President Obama’s visit to Malaysia. Dina was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area, to a Filipino mother, whose family taught her Tagalog, a father of Chinese and Italian descent, and has an Autistic older brother whom she communicates with through sign language. Dina has a Bachelor’s from Mills College, CA, studied at Wadham College, Oxford, UK, and has a Master’s from the University of Bradford, UK. Dina is part of a tandem, her husband is a Consular Officer, and they have three wonderful children.
Tamara Alcantara joined the Department of State on April 2, 2018. She is an Office Management Specialist in Baku, Azerbaijan, and previously served in Rabat, Morocco. Prior to the Department of State, she worked at the California Community Colleges, Los Angeles district, and the American Red Cross. She holds a Master of Public Administration, and a bachelor’s degree in Political Economy. A native of Los Angeles and of Filipino descent, she loves having friends over for karaoke and introducing them to delectable Filipino dishes.
Anamika Chakravorty is the Chief of Political-Military Affairs at U.S. Embassy Paris. She previously served as the Senior Desk Officer covering the UK and Ireland at the Department of State. She has also served in Mumbai, India; at the U.S. Mission to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria; at the State Department’s Operations Center; in Kingston, Jamaica; and in Colombo, Sri Lanka. During her 16-year career with the State Department, Anamika has won awards for diplomatic reporting, negotiating Ministerial Declarations in a UN consensus-based forum, and for leadership of teams she has supervised. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, she was a civic educator for the non-profit Close Up Foundation, teaching high school students about the American political system. Anamika holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and a Bachelor’s degree with high honors in the same field from the University of California, Berkeley. Anamika is a first-generation American whose parents both migrated to the United States from India. In addition to English, she speaks Bengali, French, and Sinhala. She is accompanied in France by her husband and their dog, Tiffin, who hails from Mumbai.
Araceli Enano joined the Foreign Service in 2005 as an Office Management Specialist after completing her master’s degree in Hawaii. She worked for various Chiefs of Mission in different parts of the world. Her previous assignments were in Belize/Belmopan, Madrid, Dhaka, Taipei, Tbilisi, and now Paris. She enjoys her work and learning about different cultures. Her hobbies are many and include scuba diving and martial arts.
Nabil Flowers is a political officer serving in U.S. Embassy London’s Economic team as the lead on digital economy, data privacy, competition policy, intellectual property, and telecommunications policy. He is also a founding member of the Embassy’s Diversity and Inclusion Council. Prior to London, Nabil served as a political officer in Brussels, where he worked on Muslim and Jewish affairs and was nominated for the Director General’s Award for Impact and Originality in Reporting for his work on counterterrorism. Before that, he served as the NIV chief at the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Nabil is a second-generation Asian and Arab American who speaks Arabic, French, Spanish, Urdu, and Hindi. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the College of William & Mary in Virginia, the place he most calls home.
Evan Gong is a Spring 2021 intern at the Political section at the US Embassy Berlin. He is a senior at UC Berkeley studying Political Economy and German. He is particularly interested in history, politics, and economics and enjoys learning new languages. After graduating high school, Evan participated in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program. He spent a year in Freiburg with a host family, attended a local gymnasium, and completed an internship at a logistics company.
Salman Khalil serves as a Political Officer and the Human Rights Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany. Prior to his current assignment, he served as an Exchange Diplomat at the German Federal Foreign Office. He was part of the team working for the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. In his prior assignment as an International Relations Officer in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Salman was responsible for the management and coordination of the U.S.-Germany bilateral relationship and policy development on economic and political issues. Before joining the Germany Desk in 2014, Mr. Khalil was an International Relations Officer in the Office of Pakistan Affairs as part of the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He worked on counterterrorism, terror finance issues, hostage affairs, and consular affairs. Salman helped found Mission Germany’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council in 2020. Born in Bonn, Germany, later immigrating to the Washington, DC area, he studied Integrated Studies at Champlain College and spent ten years in the IT sector. Salman joined the Foreign Service in 2008, serving in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Jordan. He speaks German, Pashto, Urdu, and Arabic.
Yuri Kim arrived in Tirana as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Albania in January 2020. A career diplomat, Ambassador Kim has worked on key foreign policy and national security challenges across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. She was director of Southern European Affairs, responsible for Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, and the broader Eastern Mediterranean region, as well as director of the Office of European Security and Political-Military Affairs, responsible for NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). She was also previously Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary of State and director of the Center for the Study of the Conduct of Diplomacy. Earlier in her career, she was Special Assistant to Secretary Colin Powell as well as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Overseas assignments include Turkey, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Japan, and China. Yuri Kim holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.Phil. from Cambridge University.
Renée Knepper is a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. She coordinates educational, cultural, and professional exchange programs for the Europe and Eurasia region. Renée is also one of the current co-chairs of the bureau’s Public Diplomacy Diversity Working Group. She previously served in the Office of English Language Programs in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Her Vietnamese heritage sparked an early interest in language and culture, leading her to pursue undergraduate degrees in International Studies and French from Virginia Commonwealth University; and a graduate degree in International Communication from American University. Renée enjoys hiking, baking, and arts and culture.
Ms. Lee is the current U.S. Consul General in Thessaloniki, Greece. She is a career member of the Foreign Service with fourteen years’ experience as a foreign policy leader, manager, and negotiator on a diverse range of regions and issues, including the United Nations Security Council. Previous assignments include Seoul, Baghdad, Jerusalem, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City, and the Israel and Palestinian Affairs Desk at the State Department in Washington DC. Ms. Lee holds an M.A. degree in Public Policy and International Affairs from Princeton University, a law degree (J.D.) from the University of Minnesota, and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Grinnell College. She is proficient in Greek, Korean, and Hebrew, and has studied Arabic and Spanish. She is the proud daughter of Korean American immigrants, hails from California, and is accompanied by her Golden Retriever, Pumpkin, aka Kolokithoula. She was the President of glifaa (LGBT+ Pride in Foreign Affairs) from 2018-2019.
Bic Leu is a career Foreign Service Officer, who currently serves as the Financial Management and Human Resources Officer in Tirana. Previous tours include the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in Washington, DC, as well as Kabul, Rio de Janeiro, and Rangoon. Before joining the State Department, she worked at The Museum of Modern Art in New York and researched Nollywood films on a Fulbright in Lagos.
Ajay Rao serves as Assistant Public Affairs Officer at U.S. Embassy Copenhagen, Denmark. He joined the Department in 2011 and has previously served as Public Affairs Officer at U.S. Consulate Peshawar in Pakistan and also within the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs in Washington, DC. Before becoming a Foreign Service Officer, Ajay taught English-language composition and conversation to university students at Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea. Ajay has a Master of Fine Arts in English and Creative Writing from Mills College and B.A. from Dartmouth College. He speaks Hindi and Danish.
Steven Tagle has served as the speechwriter at U.S. Embassy Athens since 2019, after receiving a Fulbright U.S. Student Program creative writing research grant to Greece in 2016.
Victoria Taylor arrived at U.S. Embassy Zagreb in September 2018 and has served as Chargé d’Affaires since January 2021. Ms. Taylor joined the Department of State in 2003 and is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. Previous assignments include Deputy Director for Western Europe; Director for Balkans, Caucasus, and the Black Sea Affairs at the National Security Council; Political and Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia; and International Affairs Fellow in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC. Ms. Taylor has also served at U.S. Embassies in Tunisia and Pakistan and at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan. In Washington, she managed the nonproliferation and Iranian foreign policy portfolio in the Office of Iranian Affairs and worked as the Turkey Desk and Southern European Economic Affairs Officer in the Office of Southern European Affairs. Ms. Taylor, who hails from Springfield, Missouri, holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She grew up in a multicultural household as the child of a Chinese immigrant from Taiwan and a native Missourian, spurring a lifelong interest in other languages and cultures. She speaks French, Mandarin, Russian, and Urdu.
Originally from the New York/New Jersey area, Ken Toko is Consul General for the U.S. Consulate General in Leipzig, Germany. Previously, Ken served as Acting Deputy Director and Senior Germany Desk Officer of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Western European Affairs, Deputy Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, and Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Ken has also served as Special Assistant in the Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research and as Consular Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai and the American Institute in Taiwan. Prior to joining the U.S. Department of State in 2003, Ken worked in External Relations at the Sony Corporation in Tokyo. He holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies from Columbia University. He speaks Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin), German, and Ukrainian.
Sonia Wettstein currently serves as the Vice Consul at U.S. Embassy Prague and will soon rotate to the Human Rights Officer position this summer. Her first tour in Freetown, Sierra Leone, was an eventful one, tackling challenges such as fraudulent international adoptions and reuniting Americans with their loved ones following a devastating mudslide. Sonia left a rewarding career in NYC government to join the Department in 2017 and holds a M.A. in International Education and Development from NYU. She is half-German, half-Indian, and a native New Yorker first and foremost.
Dara Yin is the Chief of the Internal Unit in the Political Section at U.S. Embassy Warsaw. He grew up in Oregon, developing a love of the outdoors, the Portland Trail Blazers, and craft beer. Dara served in the U.S. Army and worked in local government before joining the Foreign Service. In addition to Poland, he has served in North Macedonia, India, Colombia, Vietnam, and Washington DC. Dara is married to another Foreign Service Officer and has three children. He studied at Portland State University, the George Washington University, and the Marine Corps University. Dara tries to play the guitar, with a concentration in 80s and 90s rock, and enjoys living and traveling throughout the world.
Tao Zeng was sworn in as a Foreign Service Officer in 2016. He previously served in the Political Section at the U.S. Embassy in Paris where he covered issues relating to Human Rights, Religious Freedom, and Trafficking in Persons. His first tour in the Foreign Service was at the U.S. Consulate General in Hermosillo, Mexico, where he worked in the Consular Section. Prior to his diplomatic career, Tao worked for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a bank examiner specializing in large financial institutions. He and his wife met as Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Turkmenistan. His wife is also a Foreign Service Officer currently serving in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Tao was born in Hebei province in China and holds a B.A. in Economics, Statistics, and Philosophy from Columbia University.
Gillian Apfel is the Country Fraud Prevention Coordinator for Mission Italy, working from Embassy Rome. Her first assignment was a consular tour in Kingston, followed by a rotation as Human Rights Officer and Immigrant Visa Chief in Bangkok. Gillian has also served as the Refugee Coordinator for Admissions in Baghdad and the American Citizens Services Chief in Vancouver. Domestically she has worked in Crisis Management Training at FSI and Crisis Management Support in the Operations Center, as well as the CA LNA Coordinator in HR/CDA. She has served as an EEO Counselor since 2009. Gillian is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School. Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 2006, she practiced law in Seattle as a corporate litigator and worked for the International Rescue Committee, assisting refugees, asylees, and victims of human trafficking. She loves her Foreign Service lifestyle even more now that she shares it with her tandem spouse, stepdaughters, and son. A native New Yorker, Gillian’s Judaism and commitment to tikkun olam (the fixing of the world) and social justice is central to her identity. She looks forward to further connecting the Foreign Service and the Jewish American community during her upcoming year as a Una Chapman Cox Foundation Sabbatical Fellow.
Sergeant Etan Busse is a Marine Security Guard (MSG) at U.S. Embassy Tbilisi. Prior to Tbilisi, Sergeant Busse served as an armory maintenance chief in California, where he supervised ground ordnance repairs on electro-optics and infantry weapons systems. He also spent two years in Okinawa, Japan conducting intermediate repairs on electro-optics in support of III Marine Expeditionary Force. Sergeant Busse is a native of Denver and enjoys playing guitar, exercising, and the outdoors.
Craig D. Goldstein first walked through the doors of the Harry S Truman building 19-years ago in April 2002. A native New Yorker, Craig received an invitation to join the 65th Basic Special Agent Class of Diplomatic Security (DS) one month after the events of 9/11. Listening to Secretary of State Colin Powell inaugurate his foreign service class into the Department, Craig made a commitment to the United States to ensure that the integrity of diplomacy prevailed, and he dedicated himself to building a more resilient State Department, regardless of adversity. Since that day, Craig has had the privilege to serve in some of our most interesting geopolitical posts while learning about foreign cultures and what makes the world go round. These tours include Assistant Regional Security Officer (ARSO) Moscow, ARSO Jerusalem and, RSO Sydney. He arrived in his current assignment as RSO Yerevan, Armenia shortly before the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Supervisory Special Agent Goldstein fondly recalls one of his most rewarding tours being a three-year assignment as Task Force Officer to the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York City, the flagship office for Counterterrorism in the United States, where he worked closely with foreign law enforcement officers and U.S. based agencies to investigate and mitigate threats to the United States. Fun Fact: Craig has a core cleared travel acoustic guitar in his office.
Andrew Shepard is the Global & Security Unit Chief at the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and is a founding member of Tri-Mission Vienna’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. He has also served in Islamabad, Hong Kong, and Hanoi, and was a State Department Presidential Management Fellow. In his previous life, Andrew taught English in Japan, was a human rights advocate in Thailand, and worked at law firms in both countries. He has degrees from the University of Michigan, the University of Sheffield, and Emory University. Andrew is a native of South Florida, and he and his wife are proud parents of two active little boys.
Jason Ullner joined the Foreign Service in 2005. He has served overseas in Tel Aviv, Baghdad, Jerusalem, and London, along with two tours in Washington as NEA Staff Assistant and Algeria desk officer. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Jason was a corporate attorney in New York City. He graduated from Northwestern University with a major in Political Science and a minor in Art History, and has a JD/LLM in International Law from Duke University School of Law. Jason is fluent in Hebrew and conversational in Palestinian-dialect Arabic. He is an avid skier, distance runner (having completed 16 marathons), and a massive Chelsea fan.