Leadership Team

Dr. James Zogby


Dr. James J. Zogby co-founded the Arab American Institute in 1985 and continues to serve as its president. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee and was twice appointed by President Obama to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2013. In addition to writing a weekly column published in 12 countries, Zogby is the creator and host of the award-winning call-in political television show “Viewpoint,” and is frequently featured on national and international media as an expert on Middle East affairs. In 2010, Zogby published the highly-acclaimed book, Arab Voices. His 2013 e-book Looking at Iran: The Rise and Fall of Iran in Arab Public Opinion and "20 Years After Oslo" are drawn from his extensive polling across the Middle East with Zogby Research Services.

Maya Berry

Executive Director

Maya Berry is Executive Director of the Arab American Institute, steering the Institute's policy agenda. In 1996 she established AAI’s first Government Relations department, which she led for 5 years before becoming Legislative Director for House Minority Whip David Bonior, where she developed policies on international relations, human rights, trade, and immigration. Berry started her career in public service working for ACCESS, the nation's oldest and largest Arab American human services non-profit. Berry is also the founder of MidAmr Group, a private consulting firm dedicated to enhancing US-Arab economic, political, and cultural cooperation.



Ali Albassam

Government Relations Associate

Ali_Headshot.jpgAli Albassam is the Government Relations Associate at the Arab American Institute. Ali received his B.A. from Florida International University where he double majored in International Relations and Political Science, with a focus on Middle Eastern Studies. During his undergraduate studies, Ali founded a student-run clean water project that provided clean drinking water in Haiti and Cambodia by using cost effective portable water filtration. He received his M.A. in International Studies from the University of San Francisco and wrote his master’s thesis which assessed the factors preventing a coordinated EU response to Europe’s refugee crisis. Before joining AAI, he worked with Ploughshares Fund, and served as an executive intern for Miami Dade County Mayor Jimenez and as a Security with Human Rights intern for Amnesty International USA. 

Maha Elsamahi

Programs Associate


Maha Elsamahi is the Program Associate at the Arab American Institute. Prior to joining AAI, she worked at the Center for International Private Enterprise, an NGO dedicated to promoting democracy through market-oriented reforms. Previously, she has interned at InterAction and was a Programs Intern at AAI in the Spring of 2015. She is a graduate of George Mason University where she received her B.A. in Global Affairs with a concentration in International Development and minored in French. Maha is an Egyptian-Syrian American born and raised in the Washington, DC area. 



Joan Hanna

Community Relations and Programs Associate

Joan_Hanna.jpgJoan Hanna is the Community Relations and Program Associate at the Arab American Institute. She received a B.A. from American University in Washington, D.C. in International Relations, with concentrations in the Middle East and International Business fields, and a minor in Arabic. Prior to joining the AAI team, Joan was the recipient of the 2008 Arab League trip to Jordan provided by AAI. In 2010, Joan studied abroad at the American University in Beirut through the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies Arabic Language Program. While at American University, she interned on the hill for a Senator and was a member of Phi Sigma Pi, a co-ed National Honor Fraternity, where she was a part of the Social Committee. She is a proud Syrian-American with roots in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. 


 Elizabeth Johnson

Finance Manager

Elizabeth Johnson is the Finance Manager at the Arab American Institute.  She received a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from Saint Leo University.  She has been with the Arab American Institute since 2009.

Rawan Elbaba

Digital Media Associate 

Rawan Elbaba is the Digital Media Associate at the Arab American Institute.  She received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a concentration in Media Production and a double minor in Journalism and Graphic Design from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.  Prior to joining AAI, Rawan interned with both BBC and Al Jazeera in their news production units. She is also the co-founder and Executive Editor of Layali Webzine, a digital lifestyle magazine for millennial Muslim women.   

Margaret Lowry

Special Projects Manager

Margaret_Lowry.jpgMargaret Lowry is the Development and Research Associate for the Arab American Institute. Before joining AAI, she worked with the development and operations team at Just Vision, an organization committed to telling the stories of Israeli and Palestinian nonviolent activists through film and media. Previously, she helped to develop databases cataloging the production of knowledge on the Middle East in different forms of media including books, television and film for the Arab Studies Institute. Margaret is a former Board Member of the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival and works as the festival’s Fundraising Committee Chair. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received her B.A. in Foreign Affairs and French Literature.


Heba Mohammad

Field Organizer

Heba_Headshot.jpgHeba Mohammad is the Field Organizer at the Arab American Institute. A native of Wisconsin, Heba received her B.A. in Political Science and History from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Before joining the AAI team, Heba worked for non-profits in Green Bay, WI, spending one year in the AmeriCorps VISTA program. In 2016, Heba expanded her political experience by running for City Council in Green Bay and by working on a multi-candidate coordinated campaign through the state Democratic Party. Heba is passionate about social justice issues generally, and is particularly invested in social justice as it relates to Palestine & refugees. Heba proudly identifies as a Palestinian-American. 



Meredith Pahowka

Executive Assistant to President 

Meredith.jpgMeredith Pahowka is the Executive Assistant to Dr. James Zogby at the Arab American Institute. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Middle East Studies from the George Washington University and took 4 years of Arabic language classes. In 2013, she was an intern in Manama, Bahrain, where she taught entrepreneurship and leadership skills to students. She has worked for various nonprofits and her interests include women's issues and intercultural communication.




 Jennifer Salan

Communications Director

Jennifer Salan is Communications Director at the Arab American Institute, a position she returns to after ten years of producing award-winning television for Al Jazeera English. As Senior Producer and then Executive Producer of the network’s groundbreaking social media show, The Stream, Salan oversaw the show’s daily live production, focusing on issues of social justice and under reported stories. Salan’s work with The Stream was recognized with an Emmy nomination, Gracie Award, Royal Television Society award in addition to several Webbys.  Prior to her time at Al Jazeera, she spent eight years with AAI starting as a public affairs associate before eventually being promoted to Communications Director. During that time she produced Dr. Zogby’s award-winning show “Viewpoint with James Zogby” for Abu Dhabi television.