Nazanin Ash, Deputy Assistant Secretary
Nazanin Ash is currently Deputy Assistant Secretary of
State, Near Eastern Affairs, responsible for assistance and partnership
initiatives. Prior to this role, she
served as a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff from June
2007 to April 2012, responsible for foreign assistance, political and economic development,
and aid effectiveness issues; most recently with a strong focus on U.S.
Government policy and strategy responses to the Arab Spring. Previously,
she served as principal advisory and chief of staff to the first Director of
Foreign Assistance and Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International
Development, developing and supervising the implementation of key strategies
and tools for achieving the goals of U.S. foreign assistance reform and allocating
U.S. foreign assistance resources. In
2003, Ms. Ash was appointed by the President as one of 12 White House Fellows,
serving her term at the Department of State.
Prior to joining the State Department, Ms. Ash was a program officer for
ActionAid-Kenya, one of the largest NGOs in Kenya and a leading advocacy and
local capacity-building institution.
Ms. Ash received her B.A. in political science from Bryn Mawr College, and her Master in Public Policy, concentration in political and economic development, from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she was awarded a Public Service Fellowship, an Imagitas Fellowship, and a Sheldon Fellowship. In 2003, in recognition of her work in Kenya, she received Harvard Kennedy School’s Rising Star Award, awarded annually to two alumni selected by peers from among the previous four classes of Kennedy School graduates. She is married to Timothy Ash, and they are the proud parents of three children.
Tom Vajda, Director
Tom Vajda is the Director of MEPI and provides policy direction and operating guidance to MEPI’s Washington headquarters and to its regional offices in Tunis and Abu Dhabi. Prior to this assignment he served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Rangoon, Burma, where he helped oversee U.S. policies and assistance programs promoting democracy and human rights. He has also served overseas in the Balkans and in South Korea and Germany. In his Washington assignments, Tom has worked on North Korean nuclear issues; Japanese affairs; relations with Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, U.S. humanitarian demining efforts. Tom also spent one year working in the private sector as part of the State Department's Corporate Placement Program. He joined the Foreign Service in August 1991. Tom received a B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is married to Amy Sebes; they have two daughters.
Catherine A. Bourgeois, Deputy Director
Catherine A. Bourgeois is a Foreign Affairs Officer and the Deputy Director of MEPI. Before assuming this role, Ms. Bourgeois was the Division Chief for MEPI's Policy and Programming Division (February 2009 – August 2010) and oversaw the design and management of all of MEPI’s programmatic activities. From June 2003 – February 2009, she was the head of MEPI’s Education Pillar, responsible for MEPI’s education initiatives and projects.
Prior to joining MEPI, from September 2000 – June 2003, Ms. Bourgeois served as the Department of State’s Public Diplomacy Officer responsible for the Levant countries of the Middle East. During this time, she also served as the Acting Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem (Summer 2001). From June 1993 – September 2000, Ms. Bourgeois managed international science and technology policy and programs in the Middle East and North Africa, including bilateral programs funded at over $200 million, in the Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES). While in OES, her portfolio also expanded to include environmental issues and the regions of Africa and South Asia. Before this, Ms. Bourgeois worked as a clerical support staff person in the (former) Bureau of Communications and Information Technology. Ms. Bourgeois began her State Department career in 1992. During her career, she has been recognized with numerous performance-based awards.