2020 Speaker Biographies: People Power

Elena is a volunteer for Conversations with the Courageous (CwC), a group of HongKongers and allies that raise awareness of and support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement through human interactions with Bay Area locals via leafleting and outreach in public spaces, as well as collaborating with local organizations. Past endeavors have included co-organizing the Hong Kong: The Unspoken Expo, participating as panelists in SF Urban Film Fest, presenting to private school audiences, as well as collaborating with Resistance SF for project protest art and slogans in public spaces.

Sofia Barahona-Mena collaborates with the education division of Red de Estudios para la Profundización Democrática (RED), a foundation whose purpose is to collaborate with the political, cultural, social and economic transformations that Chile is facing and will face in the coming years. She is currently working as Development Coordinator at Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC) in San Francisco. In 2017, before moving to the U.S., she was President of PUC Chile's student union (FEUC) and a spokesperson for the Chilean Student Confederation (CONFECh).

Alan Y.C. Cheng is a Hongkongnese American democracy advocate, and by profession, Venture Partner at Farron, Augustine & Alexander Investments and Private Equity, focusing on financing early-stage technology companies. Prior to private investing, Alan served his native Hongkongnese people in the Administrative Service of the Hong Kong Government at the Office of the Chief Executive and in the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. Alan holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Julia Choucair Vizoso is editor and translator at the Beirut-based independent media organization The Public Source, and leads the Program on Sustainable and Inclusive Environmental Policy in the Middle East and North Africa at the Arab Reform Initiative. She is also an adjunct professor at IE's School of Global and Public Affairs in Madrid. She holds a PhD in Political Science from Yale University and an M.A. in Arab Studies/B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. She has served as Vice-Chair of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (2016-19), Fellow at Stanford University (2014-16), and as Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington D.C., where she was also Editor-in-Chief of the bilingual monthly Sada. 

Aaron Freundschuh is Director of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor of History at The City University of New York, Queens College. He holds a PhD in History from the University of California, Berkeley, and has taught modern European and U.S. history at universities in France and the United States. He was the recipient of a 2015-16 Queens College teaching award. His research deals with urban history, criminality and policing, with an emphasis on contemporary Paris.

Alan Karras is Associate Director of International and Area Studies. In his more than twenty years at Berkeley, he has taught courses on world history, classical political economy, Caribbean history, and the history of transnational crime—among others. His research interests are in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, and global interactions more broadly, especially as they relate to transnational transgressions like smuggling, fraud, and corruption. He is the author of Smuggling: Corruption and Contraband in World History (2010), Sojourners in the Sun: Scots Migrants in Jamaica and the Chesapeake, 1740-1800 (1993), and the coeditor, with John R. McNeill, of Atlantic American Societies: From Columbus through Abolition, 1492-1888 (1992). He also has co-edited a book, Encounters Old and New, with Laura Mitchell, that makes a case for historians to engage more with the public. He served as one of the editors for the forthcoming Cambridge Dictionary of World History and was on the board of editors for Cambridge University Press's multi-volume Cambridge World History.

Padraic Kenney is Professor of History and International Studies and Associate Dean for graduate Education and for the Social and Historical Sciences. He holds degrees in History and in Russian Studies from Michigan, Toronto, and Harvard. He is the author of six books, including most recently Dance in Chains: Political Incarceration in the Modern World (Oxford, 2017). An earlier series of books (including A Carnival of Revolution: Central Europe, 1989 and The Burdens of Freedom: Eastern Europe Since 1989) examined the fall of communism across Central Europe and elsewhere. His work has been translated into seven languages. In 2016, he served as President of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies.

Claudia Lo is a design researcher, currently working for the Wikimedia Foundation's Anti-Harassment Tools team. Born and raised in Hong Kong, she is currently based in Oakland. Her main research interests are in online volunteer community governance. Prior to this, she completed a master's degree in Comparative Media Studies at MIT.

Vasundhara Sirnate is a political scientist and journalist. Her research areas include counterinsurgency in South Asia, insurgent group dynamics in India, gender justice, and societal violence. Between 2013 and 2017, she worked as the Chief Coordinator of Research at The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy in Chennai. She was also a Non-Resident Fellow with the Atlantic Council, Washington DC between 2015 and 2017. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Masters and M.Phil degrees from the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has appeared in The Hindu, The Telegraph, The Indian Express, Foreign Affairs, The Wire, The Book Review, Mainstream, Economic and Political Weekly and The Washington Post. She is the director of research at The Polis Project.