2018 Summer Interns


Jena Al-Barzinji is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, where she majored in Middle Eastern Studies and Economics. She wrote an honors thesis analyzing how current representations of Muslim and Arab characters in television arise from and extend a long genealogy of demeaning, stereotypical portrayals within the broader contexts of Islamophobia in the West. Jena is a second generation Arab American and she is deeply passionate about research topics such as Arab American identity. While at UVA, she studied Arabic for four years and was an event/content planner for the Arabic Conversation Club. She is of Iraqi-Palestinian heritage and she is interested in learning more about the Arab Israeli conflict. Jena is an external intern with Churches for Middle East Peace.


Mollie_Headshot.jpgLayla Hazaineh is a student at Swarthmore College where she majors in Peace and Conflict Studies, and minors in History and Arabic Literature, with a concentration on the Levant. Her interest in politics and social justice began early, as she grew up in Jordan with a Palestinian refugee status. Layla attended UNRWA schools for nine years, then King’s Academy where she had the opportunity to study in the United States as a first-generation student. Layla has been active in advocating for women’s rights in the Arab World on social media for the past two years, and has a growing following base on Facebook. Her videos have tackled issues related to “honor” killings, domestic abuse, child marriage, and male-guardianship. Layla aspires to get a Masters degree in International Humanitarian Law, and hopes to have a career promoting women’s rights and the Palestinian cause. Layla is an external intern with the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival.


Lea Kayali is a rising senior at Pomona College where she studies Public Policy Analysis and Anthropology, focusing on the Middle East. On campus she is involved in Mock Trial and human rights activism, and hopes to pursue a career in the intersection of advocacy and law. Lea is also a senior editor for the Claremont Journal of Law and Public Policy, where she has published on the civil rights implications of gerrymandering. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Lea is a Palestinian-American who is dedicated to bringing candid discussions of issues facing Arab-Americans to a broader sphere. She hopes to bring her interests in law, civil rights, and community together in her ongoing research on the implications of government surveillance policy. Lea is an external intern with the Brookings Institution.



Lela Ali is a proud immigrant from Egypt and a current graduate student at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, specializing in International Development Policy and Middle East Studies. Her research focuses on social network analyses of local Muslim-led networks in the south and transformative social change through community intervention. For the past year, Lela has served as the Graduate Team Lead of the Duke Bass Connections Research Team and Duke University, Networks of Cooperation and Conflict in the Middle East, where she leads a social network analysis project on the network of Muslim-led organizations and institutions in the Raleigh-Triangle Park area of North Carolina. Her passion for community building and transformative justice led her to start Muslim Women For, the first-ever Muslim, women-led community organization to launch in North Carolina that works to empower and uplift the stories and experiences of Muslim women and femmes and women and femmes of color. In all of her work, Lela aspires to use research and data in social justice advocacy and direct action in order to create policy spaces that recognize the most marginalized of our communities. Lela is AAI’s Field Intern.

Mollie_Headshot.jpgKhadija El Karfi is from Rabat, Morocco, and is a rising senior at Mount Holyoke College where she studies International Relations with a focus on Middle Eastern politics and Francophone literature. Khadija received the Olayan-Xefos Scholarship, awarded each year to a student with a strong academic record from the Arab world. She has had the opportunity to get governmental experience as an intern in U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office, where she assisted staff members in a variety of duties serving as a liaison between constituents and federal agencies. While interning at the Massachusetts Trial Court, she was able to use her fluency in French and Arabic to aid litigants with their legal paperwork. She spent last summer working at the Jerusalem Fund & Palestine Center in Washington D.C. where she studied the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, helping to deliver reliable and accurate information about the Palestinian political experience to American policymakers, students, and the global public. Her scholarly interests and research focus on the Middle East and North Africa, the history, literature, and languages of these areas; and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Khadija is an external intern for No One Left Behind.

Mollie_Headshot.jpgMahdi Fariss is a rising senior at Rice University majoring in Economics and spends most of his time engaged in various community organizing endeavors both on and off campus. A first-generation immigrant, Mahdi organized Rice’s involvement in the National Immigration Day of Action, managing volunteers and coordinating with community activists to help students concerned with Trump’s dangers immigration policies to call or write their congressional representatives. Mahdi also works with Rice’s STRIVE Coalition as a College liaison, ensuring that victims of sexual assault understand the various options allotted to them and using primary prevention methods to foster a culture that rejects sexual violence. Fascinated by the U.S. legal system and strongly considering a career in law, Mahdi interned last Spring as an assistant clerk to Chief Judge Lee H. Rosenthal of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Mahdi is an external intern with Muslim Advocates.

Mollie_Headshot.jpgRand Jibril is a junior at Middlebury College, where she is majoring in International Politics and Economics, and minoring in Global Health. At college, she joined the Media Portrayals of Minorities Project 2018 with Professor Erick Bleich, where she is conducting qualitative and quantitative data analysis of digital news utilizing lexical sentiment analysis, python coding, Stata, and Lexis Nexis to evaluate the portrayal of various minorities in the media. Rand is currently working on the development of a book about how the media covers Muslims and drives of negativity compared to other minorities. She also conducted on her own research study titled, “U.S. and U.K. Media Portrayal of Refugees and Asylum Seekers” with a fellow student. After graduation, she hopes to use her background in activism, politics, economics, and public health to work to with Palestinian political prisoners and victims of war in Gaza. Rand is an external intern with the Truman National Security Project. 

Mollie_Headshot.jpgBlaise Malley is a rising junior at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, where he is a government major with a particular emphasis on US electoral politics and US foreign policy in the Middle East. During his time at Claremont McKenna, Blaise was a staff writer for the student publication the Student Life and the head of the foreign policy desk at the school’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute. He will be spending the fall 2018 semester studying abroad in Rabat, Morocco. Blaise is AAI’s government relations intern.



Mollie_Headshot.jpgAllison Ulven is a sophomore at the Pennsylvania State University where she is majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Digital Media Trends and Analytics, Spanish, and International Studies. At school, Allison is the Assistant Audience Engagement Manager for the Daily Collegian, Penn State’s student newspaper, where she is in charge of tracking the paper’s circulation and engagement through Google and Twitter analytics, managing the social media accounts, and planning on-campus events for students and community members. As a member of the Penn State College Democrats, she has assisted in voter registration drives and campaigned for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. Allison has also participated in fundraising events for Penn State’s THON, the world’s largest student-run philanthropy, which donates millions of dollars every year for pediatric cancer. Allison is AAI’s Communications Intern.