Ilir Zherka
utive Director

Ilir Zherka joined the Alliance for International Exchange as Executive Director in early 2016.

Ilir is a life-long human and civil rights leader. He has served as the Executive Director of three other organizations, where he worked on a bipartisan basis to help end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, advance DC representation in Congress, and increase civic engagement. Ilir gained policy and political experience working with Congressman George Miller, serving as an advisor to four presidential campaigns, and as a political appointee in the Clinton Administration. 

Ilir is the author of Winning the Inside Game: the Handbook of Advocacy Strategies. He has testified before Congress and has appeared on a wide-range of television and radio news programs. As a recognized community leader, Ilir has received numerous awards including the Whitney M. Young Jr. Leadership Award and the John F. Kennedy Public Service Award.

Ilir has personal experience with exchange programs. He was an IREX fellow in Albania and helped to create the Hope Fellowship program. Ilir is a graduate of Cornell University and the University of Virginia School of Law.

Ilir is Albanian-American. He immigrated as a child with his family to the United States, speaks Albanian, and grew up in New York City.

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Laine Cavanaugh
 for Public and Member Affairs

Laine Cavanaugh is our Manager for Public and Member Affairs. She joined in June 2016 after graduating from American University with a M.A. in International Communication and a concentration in Transnational Education. During her time in graduate school, Laine completed internships at IREX and World Learning. She also traveled to Kenya to conduct original fieldwork in non-formal schools surrounding Nairobi. Prior to graduate school, Laine participated in City Year, an AmeriCorps program, where she was a mentor for underserved youth in West Philadelphia. As an undergraduate at Ursinus College, Laine had the opportunity to study abroad in Wollongong, Australia while pursuing her B.A. degree in Media & Communication Studies.

Laine is originally from Reedsville, Pennsylvania, and has achieved research proficiency in Arabic.

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Mirchaye Sahlu
Communications Associate

Mirchaye Sahlu joined the Alliance as Communications Associate in September 2017 with more than two years of experience in nationally and internationally recognized organizations. She supports the advocacy efforts of the association by developing and supporting innovative communication strategies that help advance public policies affecting the international exchange community. 

She holds a Master's degree in International Journalism and Public Affairs from American University. She has a strong interest in international affairs and communications experience, previously working at Discovery Communications, the United Nations, and the Public Broadcasting Service.

Mirchaye is originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and speaks Amharic, French, and English.

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Edward Adutwum
Alliance Fellow, 2017-2018

Edward Adutwum serves as an Alliance Fellow. He interned with the Alliance in the summer of 2017. As a Posse Foundation Scholar, Edward attended Pepperdine University on a full-tuition scholarship, where he graduated with a B.A. in Political Science. He also holds an undergraduate Certificate in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution.

During his time at Pepperdine, Edward participated in a study abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina, focusing on Pre-Columbian History and Spanish. He also studied in London, England, where he examined the influence of post-WWII British society on British theater.

Edward served as President of the Student Government Association, where he advocated for programs to improve student life. These efforts resulted in diversity and inclusion training for faculty and staff, funding for general education book reserves, and the revision of the Student Handbook.

He loves to play tennis and draw and hopes to become a diplomat and lawyer.

Edward is originally from Kumasi, Ghana, grew up in Maryland and speaks Spanish and Twi.

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Ranit Schmelzer
Communications Consultant

As the President of Schmelzer Strategies, Ranit advises nonprofit organizations, individuals, and foundations on the development, planning and implementation of comprehensive communications strategies. These engagements most often deal with complex public policy advocacy and legislative challenges. Ranit has more than 25 years of experience at the highest levels of government and in the nonprofit community as an advisor, senior strategist, and spokesperson. Prior to entering private practice in 2011, Ranit led the public affairs office at the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps and other national service programs.

Ranit provides Alliance members with an exclusive opportunity to enhance their communications capacity and external reach by engaging a highly-experienced communications consultant at a cost-effective price. For more information on Ranit's communications services, please contact the Alliance.