Laurel Strategies’ global network includes senior leaders experienced in communications, trade, business, policy, politics, public relations and finance. Our team’s specialities span a wide variety of geographies, industries, and extend deep into the public, private and civil society sectors.
Josh Werman, Senior Counselor
Josh Werman brings broad and diverse experience to Laurel Strategies. Prior to joining Laurel, Josh was an asset manager at Bentall Kennedy, a highly-regarded real estate investment advisor with an established reputation as a global leader in sustainable real estate investing. While there, he managed a portfolio of more than $750M in multifamily assets across the country – directing the execution of major capital projects; crafting detailed operational budgets; and leading cross-functional teams to maximize asset performance.
Prior to his career in real estate finance, Josh was a director at PSB Associates, a strategic communications firm specializing in corporate market research and political polling. Josh oversaw daily operations for the firm’s leading corporate and political research teams. Both roles required the ability to respond rapidly to clients’ needs and a changing situation on the ground, skills that Josh now brings to Laurel.
Josh earned his JD and MBA from American University, and his BA in Economics from Duke University.
David Barber, Senior Advisor
David is a Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies, providing unique perspectives and advice in the food and hospitality sectors, among others. David is co-owner of Blue Hill–a working farm, restaurant, and consulting company supporting agriculture that positively contributes to the world’s food system. The 138-acre farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts has been in the Barber family for four generations. Blue Hill restaurant has locations in Greenwich Village and Pocantico Hills, New York.
David is a founding partner of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Westchester County. This unique nonprofit advances community and ecologically based food production-demonstrating alternative ways to farm and eat. Stone Barns Center works in association with Blue Hill’s second restaurant located on the campus.
Blue Hill (NYC) received the James Beard Outstanding Restaurant Award in 2013. Blue Hill at Stone Barns received the same honor in 2015 and was added to the San Pellegrino World 50 list.
David is an early stage investor in the food and hospitality space through Almanac Investments and advisor to S2G Ventures and Acre Investments. He serves on the Board of BlueCart Corp, and is a Trustee for Stone Barns Center, Caramoor Center for the Arts and the Collegiate School in New York City.
Mark Bezos, Senior Advisor
Mark Bezos, Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies, is the founder of DemoMode Marketing a branding and customer experience consultancy. Previously, Bezos served as the head of communications and events at the Robin Hood Foundation in New York City. Mark has held senior positions at global advertising agencies developing branding efforts for numerous Fortune 100 companies. Mark is the Captain of a volunteer fire company and delivered a talk on the subject at the main TED conference in 2011.
Sam Caywood, Senior Director
Sam Caywood is a Senior Director at Laurel Strategies with a background in communication and public opinion strategy. After graduating from Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, Sam worked on statewide campaigns in Virginia and North Carolina. He has previously worked as an Assistant Analyst at Hart Research Associates and an intern at SKDKnickerbocker.
Adam Chassin, Senior Advisor
Adam is an investor and advisor to technology companies and has spent over 15 years in senior executive roles at leading technology companies in both the US and Europe. As the Head of Business for Uber in Europe, Adam was responsible for all partnerships and investments that supported Uber’s growth In Europe’s major markets. Adam established groundbreaking partnerships with leading financial institutions, credit card networks, mobile carriers, rail companies and airlines to drive Uber’s growth while also establishing partnerships with the largest European automakers to secure access to vehicles at affordable prices for Uber drivers.
Prior to Uber, Adam was the Head of Strategic Business Development at Amazon where he worked across the entire portfolio of Amazon businesses. Adam led the team responsible for the evaluation and incubation of new businesses for Amazon to enter, oversaw the growth of Amazon Prime via strategic partnerships, scaled the distribution of the Amazon Video service via third parties, created the go to market strategy for the acquisition of streaming rights for live sports, as well as helped build out the offering for the Prime Now two-hour delivery service.
Prior to Amazon, Adam held various senior business positions at Yahoo in silicon valley and was a transactional attorney at AOL prior to that. Adam began his career as a banker and M&A lawyer on wall street. He graduated magna cum laude with highest honors from Harvard University and has a JD from the University of Virginia.
Franck Daphnis, Senior Advisor
Franck Daphnis is a Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies and a recognized leader in development finance, bringing his housing finance, microfinance, urban development, housing and infrastructure rehabilitation, municipal services cost recovery, and urban environmental management expertise to Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean and beyond. He has authored and edited two books on housing finance, including the seminal work Housing Microfinance: a Guide to Practice (Kumarian Press, January 2004). He is the President and CEO of Development Innovations Group.
Emal Dusst, Senior Advisor
Emal Dusst brings expertise to Laurel Strategies in the field of education. Previously, Emal was Head of Strategy & Chief of Staff to the Founder, Chairman & CEO of Laureate Education, a global education company and a B Corp with a presence in 25 countries. Prior to Laureate, he was a Director focused on Strategy & M&A at Saint-Gobain, a $60 billion French industrial conglomerate, where he was also on the board of Corporate Ventures group. Emal has also worked in investment banking and private equity. Emal serves on the Board of Coursera.
Emal is on the Board of Trustees of the American University of Afghanistan where he also serves as the Chair of the Audit, Compliance & Risk Management Committee. He is on the Advisory Board of Working Metrics, a workforce analytics company in partnership with the Aspen Institute. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the World Affairs Council in D.C. and on the Board of Advisors of ReCoded, a non-profit coding school for refugees in the Middle East funded by the UN. Additionally, he is a member of the Robert S. Brookings Society at the Brookings Institution.
Emal has published a book and writes for The Brookings Institution on global education trends. Emal holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from UCLA and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Lauren Fernandez, Director, Office of the CEO
Lauren Fernandez is a Director at Laurel Strategies. She has experience in social media content creation, marketing, upper-level restaurant management, event planning, and museum visitor services.
Before joining Laurel, Lauren worked with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Architect of the U.S. Capitol, and as the Director of Social Media and Marketing at a historic DC restaurant, contributing to her love of service orientation.
Lauren is a proud graduate of George Washington University, where she studied anthropology and American studies, fostering her passion for museums and content interpretation. In her free time, she can often be found wandering the halls of a Smithsonian, or checking out the latest movies at the theater.
Daniel Fersh, Senior Associate
Daniel Fersh is a Senior Associate at Laurel Strategies who brings extensive experience in speechwriting, strategic communications and education to the Laurel team. Upon graduating from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2011, he worked as a Senior Associate at executive communications firm Inkwell Strategies, and then as a Communications Specialist at political communications firm New Heights Communications. Danny spent three years in Spain teaching English to both primary and secondary school students, as well as business leaders in the cities of Madrid and Seville. He is fluent in Spanish.
Joseph Graham, Director, Office of the CEO
Joseph Graham is a Director at Laurel Strategies who brings extensive experience in international affairs, intercultural communication, public and cultural diplomacy, media relations, and social media strategy. Before joining Laurel, Joseph worked with the Embassy of France, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the U.S. Department of State. A proud graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he studied English and served as the institution’s youngest Student Body President for two inconsecutive terms. In addition to his graduate studies, Joseph studied abroad at Science Po’s Paris School of International Affairs. More recently, Joseph graduated from American University’s School of International Service where he received an M.A. in Intercultural and International Communication. In his spare time, Joseph plays tennis and discovers new brunch spots around Washington D.C. with his friends.
David M. Gruppo, Senior Advisor
After a career in investment banking and technology, David founded Indigo Capital Management & Strategy in 2015 to provide capital and advice to early-stage companies, primarily in the technology sector. As a Google Ideas Fellow in 2015 and 2016, David was an entrepreneur-in-residence to Alphabet’s in-house think tank.
Between June 2010 and January 2015, David was a Managing Director and Head of Latin America Corporate and Investment Banking for the Japanese banking group, MUFG, one of the largest financial institutions in the world. David was hired to develop and execute a strategy for the Bank to expand its business in Latin America. Under David’s leadership, revenues increased approximately eight-fold, the portfolio grew to approximately $20 billion, net revenues to over $250 million, and the team to over 90 professionals based in NY and seven regional offices in Latin America.
David joined MUFG from IBM where for 8 years he was involved in corporate strategy and business development for the healthcare and telecom industries, among other responsibilities.
Prior to IBM, he spent over 12 years in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Santander, building those firms’ businesses in Latin America. Earlier in his career, David was named a Henry Luce Scholar and spent a year working in Tokyo as a legislative assistant for a member of the Japanese Diet.
David began his career as a corporate lawyer with Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett in New York. David earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Wesleyan University, and a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University. He has lived in Argentina, Brazil, France, and Japan and speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English. He is a member of the New York State Bar Association and has Series 79, 24, and 63 Finra licenses.
David is a life member of The Council on Foreign Relations.
Eva Hicks, Executive Assistant
Eva Hicks is the Executive Assistant to the CEO at Laurel Strategies. She has extensive experience supporting executives in the public and private sectors, managing and advising on key priorities and coordinating logistics and preparation for principals and their staff.
Eva previously served as Executive Assistant at Brunswick Group where she supported multiple Partners, including the Global Lead for the firm’s Digital practice. She was previously Scheduler and Legislative Correspondent for Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV).
In addition to providing executive support, Eva has experience conducting qualitative and quantitative research and program evaluation for federal grant programs.
Eva graduated with distinction from Colorado College where she double majored in Sociology and Political Science. She participated in the WeLEAD Women & Politics Institute at American University, and volunteers with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Democratic National Convention. She is an avid soccer player, skier, and traveler.
Ankur Jain, Senior Advisor
Ankur Jain is a Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies and an entrepreneur who focuses on leveraging innovation and entrepreneurship as a means to solve global problems. Ankur is the co-founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based technology company Humin, which was acquired by Humin in 2016. Ankur is also the founder and chairman of the Kairos Society, an organization of young entrepreneurs working to create billion-dollar solutions to global challenges. Over the years, the Kairos Society has helped launch and grow more than 100 innovative technology companies tackling problems in mobile healthcare, education, clean water, and more.
In 2010, Ankur was selected as one of 80 students worldwide to participate in the Singularity University Graduate Studies Program, an interdisciplinary program based at the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley. He has been recognized as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum, a Leader del Futuro by the Ambrosetti Forum, and as a Young Leader by both the World Foresight Forum and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. In 2011, Inc. magazine named Ankur the “Best Connected 21-Year-Old in the World” and named him to its “30 Under 30” list. In 2012, Ankur was named “30 under 30: Solution Broker” by the Christian Science Monitor. In 2013, he was elected to the Innovation Board for the X-Prize Foundation. And in 2015, Forbes also named him to their “30 under 30” list. Ankur graduated from the Wharton School of Business in May, 2011.
Matt Kennedy, Senior Advisor
Matt Kennedy is a Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies and a founder of Kennedy Merchant Partners (KMP) and has worked in over 20 countries on six continents. Previously, Matt served in senior roles in the Obama Administration at the Department of Commerce, Department of the Treasury and the White House. He is a board member of the John F. Kennedy Library and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights.
Delila Khaled, Senior Advisor
Delila Khaled, Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies, brings 25 years of experience as an executive manager, business owner, and technical expert in the international development and foreign policy arena. She has worked with governments, NGOs, and the private sector in more than 20 countries across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Ms. Khaled is an urban development specialist with diverse, cross-sectoral expertise in the design and implementation of multi-million dollar programs focusing in development finance and economic growth, inclusive governance and municipal service delivery, as well as gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
Deborah Lehr, Senior Advisor
Deborah Lehr, Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Basilinna, a strategic business consulting firm focused on China and the Middle East. In addition, Deborah is a Senior Fellow of the Paulson Institute, a think tank founded by former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson located at the University of Chicago. Deborah previously managed a successful consulting business, representing Western and Chinese companies such as Tory Burch, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, and Boeing. She was also President of Stonebridge China, a global consulting firm, overseeing offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and a partner at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, a top global law firm. Deborah also served in the US Government as a lead negotiator at the Office of the US Trade Representative for China’s WTO accession, and a Director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council. She is a founder and Chairman of the Antiquities Coalition, which combats the looting of cultural heritage by organized crime and terrorists, with a focus on the Middle East.
Matt Lindgren, Strategic Advisor
Matt Lindgren is a Strategic Advisor at Laurel Strategies. Matt brings to Laurel a diverse set of experiences in law, business, and international affairs. Prior to Laurel, he worked at the American Cancer Society, U.S. Department of Justice, a major law firm, the Texas Attorney General, and a healthcare technology company. Matt also co-founded and served as COO of Outway, a software technology startup focused on improving outdoor recreation.
Matt earned his J.D. from Emory Law School, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Emory Bankruptcy Developments Journal, the only student-run bankruptcy law journal in the United States. Matt earned his B.A. in International Relations & Global Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and completed an honors thesis on UAV proliferation. During college, Matt spent a semester at Sciences Po, in Paris, studying international law, security, and strategy. In his free time, Matt enjoys hiking “fourteeners” in Colorado, skiing, and learning about wine.
Jake Maccoby, Senior Advisor
Jake Maccoby is a speechwriter and communications strategist, and the founder of JDMaccoby Strategies.
Following four years working in Massachusetts state government and in public affairs at SKDKnickerbocker, Jake served on President Barack Obama’s debate preparation team during the 2012 presidential campaign. After the election, Jake worked at the U.S. Department of Justice as Chief Speechwriter and Strategic Communications Advisor for Attorney General Eric Holder, and later for Attorney General Loretta Lynch. He was a policy advisor on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, participating in debate preparation and speechwriting, and developed and led a media company focused around former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara – with properties in podcasts, text, video, and live events – before founding JDMaccoby Strategies in 2018.
Today, Jake works with national nonprofit, corporate, and political clients, advises communicators, and assists public figures across the country. He has appeared regularly on cable news channels including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, HLN, and CNBC.
Robert C. McNally, Senior Advisor
Robert C. McNally is a Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies and the founder and President of The Rapidan Group, an independent energy consulting and market advisory firm, and has served in senior financial market and official posts spanning economic, security, and environmental aspects of energy market analysis, strategy, and policymaking. Under President George W. Bush, Robert served as the top international and domestic energy adviser on the White House staff, holding the posts of Special Assistant to the President on the National Economic Council and, in 2003, Senior Director for International Energy on the National Security Council.
Michael Melamed, Executive Vice President
Michael has extensive domestic and international experience consulting leaders, businesses and organizations on the development and implementation of new initiatives, products, and ideas. Most recently, Michael worked in the World Bank’s education practice, helping to expand the reach of the Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) initiative across global development and education communities. Before joining the Bank, Michael worked with the global corporate affairs team at Anheuser-Busch InBev, where he developed and launched a new, internal research assessment tool. Michael has experience working with a national non-profit organization, and served two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural El Salvador. He received his BA in international relations from Macalester College and his MA in international relations and economics from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Michael is fluent in Spanish.
Jake Melville, Director
Jake Melville is a Director at Laurel Strategies. He has extensive experience in speechwriting and executive communication strategy, as well as a deep understanding of the principles of cross-cultural communication.
Previously, he served as the Speechwriter and Special Assistant to the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States, where he helped shape and develop the Ambassador’s messaging with the US public, media, and government counterparts, as well as advised on the Embassy’s overall communications strategy.
Prior to that, Jake taught English to elementary and middle school students in South Korea and contributed to a local English-language magazine. He also worked as a Speechwriting Associate at West Wing Writers.
Jake is a double graduate of the George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs (B.A. 2008 & M.A. 2016).
Nelson Ortiz, Senior Advisor
Nelson Ortiz, Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies, has more than three decades of leadership experience in the financial services and private equity arenas, and is recognized as one of Latin America’s most successful investors and respected thinkers on regional and global economic policy. Nelson is founding partner of Incus Capital, a private equity fund specializing in distressed assets in Spain and Portugal, with more than 500 million euros in assets under management. He is also a founding partner of Fondo de Valores Inmobiliarios, a real estate fund that manages over $400 million in assets in Latin America, and serves as an advisor to Oaktree, a California-based fund with over $80 billion in assets under management. Between 2000 and 2007, Nelson was president of the Caracas Stock Exchange, where he oversaw the performance and operations of one of Latin America’s largest exchanges in terms of daily trading volume and market capitalization. Nelson has on two occasions served as Technical Secretary for Venezuela’s Economic Cabinet. He has also been a member of the President of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Advisory Board for Private Sector Issues, and worked extensively with the Latin American chapter of the World Economic Forum.
Dan Prieto, Senior Advisor
Daniel B. Prieto is Director for Cybersecurity Policy at the National Security Council since September 2014.
He served as the Director of Cybersecurity and Technology, and as the Director of the Defense Industrial Base Cybersecurity and Information Assurance (DIB CS/IA) Program in the Office of the Department of Defense Chief Information Officer (DoD CIO).
Dan previously served as a vice president for IBM Global Business Services, Public Sector, in Washington, D.C. from 2007 to 2013. In that role, he led a strategy consulting practice and directed thought leadership on a range of issues including information sharing, critical infrastructure protection, cybersecurity, and IT transformation. Dan also served as IBM’s senior executive for work in Afghanistan with the DoD to identify, train, and develop Afghan technology and business entrepreneurs in Herat and Kabul.
Dan has been published widely on national and homeland security issues. He holds an M.A. degree in international economics and international law from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington D.C., and a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.
Dan Restrepo, Senior Advisor
Dan Restrepo is a Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies. Dan has built a career crafting strategies and solving problems at the intersection of policy, politics, communications, and law in both the private and public sectors. In the private sector, he has worked on behalf of a wide range of clients including multinational media and technology companies, independent energy producers, private equity funds, major consumer products companies, and global law firms, among others. In government, he has served at the highest levels of all three branches of the US Federal government.
Prior to joining Laurel Strategies, he founded Restrepo Strategies LLC, which provided counsel to those engaged in or exploring opportunities in the Americas and Spain. He is an on-air analyst for CNN/CNN Español, a columnist for Latin Trade and CNNE Opinión, a regular conference speaker, and has served on the board of directors of a publicly traded Fortune 1000 company.
Dan served as the principal advisor to President Obama on issues related to Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada, serving as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council. Previously, he served on the professional staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, as well as a Law Clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and has worked in a variety of roles in each of the past 5 U.S. presidential elections.
Dan is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, practicing at the law firm of Williams & Connolly, LLP. Dan, his wife, and their two children live in Washington, DC.
Jeff Rosenthal, Senior Advisor
Jeff Rosenthal is Co-Founder of Summit, a cutting-edge organization best known for hosting global ideas festivals and events, and is the owner/designer/developer of Summit Powder Mountain and Powder Mountain ski resort in Eden, Utah.
He is also Co-Director of Summit Action Fund, which makes investments in startups that drive innovation and positive market disruption, such as Uber, Warby Parker, Katerra, Clover Health, Classpass, Ready Responders, Rubicon Recycling, Change.org, among others.
Jeff and is a Founding Partner at the Drawdown Fund with Paul Hawken, and a Senior Advisor to TPG Rise, one of the world’s largest Impact Funds.
Jeff is a founding board member of the Summit Institute, as well as the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and currently serves on the boards of Beyond Conflict and Street Soccer USA, and the Leadership Council at Conservation International.
Stephanie Rudnick, Senior Advisor
Stephanie Rudnick is a Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies and a seasoned brand management and communications strategist with over 20 years’ experience working across numerous industries – sports, entertainment, lifestyle, technology, travel, luxury, advertising, experiential and marketing. Rudnick previously ran global communications for Wasserman Media Group. A native of Chicago, Rudnick is a graduate of the University of Southern California and lives in New York City with her two children.
Ben Samuels, Senior Associate
Ben Samuels is a Senior Associate at Laurel Strategies with a background in journalism and media. He spent six years as a senior editor at Haaretz, one of Israel’s most renowned news publications, where he spearheaded coverage of elections and international crises. Ben graduated from Tulane University with a B.A. in Political Science and earned an M.A. in Public Policy from Tel Aviv University.
Ralph Simon, Senior Advisor
Ralph Simon is a Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies and one of the founders of the global mobile & social media industry, a visionary & innovator popularly known as “the father of the ring tone”. An expert on smartphone lifestyles, multi-screen creativity & a specialist in providing mobile health delivery systems, he founded the world’s first international global commercial ring tone service in the Europe, Africa, North America, the UK & Australasia. One of the world’s top 50 mobile executives since 2005, Ralph relentlessly searches the world for the smartest new mobile & wireless apps, mobile health platforms, Virtual Reality, mobile business creativity & ‘positive disruption’ strategies. His expertise & companies are experts in mobile social media, mobile health & wellness, mobile games & VR, global mobile business strategies, ‘positive disruption’ strategies for large companies & effective mobile execution. He knows that the future belongs to “Screenagers” everywhere, & expertly advises large companies on best commercial application of mobile multi-screen & smartphone implementation & strategic use. Mobilium recently launched Africa’s first-ever mobile health delivery network, working closely with the African Leadership Network in Africa to grow mobile health & connected health tech across Africa. Mobilium is also involved in: Mobile Games – making the first-ever John Lennon mobile Virtual Reality experience, Sports: developing the 1st-ever British Professional Basketball League in the UK; Positive Disruption for Companies: Building specialised “Positive Disruption” strategies for large companies, through their Helsinki, Finland company. He’s responsible for curating & programming some of the world’s most important start-up & future tech gatherings worldwide, including : the Pioneers (Future Tech Festival), Vienna; The African Leadership Network in Africa ; The Mobile World Congress keynote stage, CTIA’s Mobile Convention, Las Vegas in the USA, The “All That Matters” annual digital & mobile convention in Singapore. He is a Global Judge & board member of the United Nations’ World Summit Awards, the world’s leading mobile apps competition. Known internationally as a prominent & provocative public speaker & moderator, & developer of start-ups & innovation initiatives, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in the UK, a member of the National Academy of Recorded Arts & Sciences in the USA & CEO/Founder of Mobilium Global, the international mobile cool hunters. Ralph is based in London, or on a plane to where ground-breaking mobile innovation calls for discovery, development & investment.
Leslie Gray Streeter, Senior Director
Leslie Gray Streeter is an accomplished author, journalist, and speaker bringing nearly 30 years of career experience in storytelling and crafting strong, relevant messaging to Laurel Strategies.
Leslie has won numerous national and regional awards for her work in journalism, primarily for her work at the York Dispatch in York, PA and at the Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, FL. Her memoir, “Black Widow: A Sad/Funny Journey Through Grief For People Who Normally Avoid Books With Words Like ‘Journey’ In The Title” was released in March 2020 and has been named a top pick by Glamour, The New York Post, and others. She and her work have been featured on the “Today” show, NPR, Katie Couric’s “Wake-Up Call” newsletter, and more.
Leslie is a proud native of Baltimore, MD and a graduate of the University of Maryland’s Merrill College of Journalism. She currently lives in Baltimore with her son, Brooks.
Gracie Sun, Senior Advisor
For the past 15 years, Gracie Sun, Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies, has represented and advised multinational corporations on market access, intellectual property, and investment issues in China. Prior to her work with Laurel Strategies, she was Managing Director for China with Stonebridge International, a consulting firm headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former U.S. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger. During her time at Stonebridge, she served as China Representative to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and represented major U.S., European and Chinese firms in the market. She also worked for MBP Consulting, a consulting practice of Mayer, Brown, a Chicago-based law firm. Gracie lives and works in Shanghai.
Susan Toffler, Senior Advisor
Susan Toffler is a Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies and a leader in the field of communications consulting with more than 25 years of booking guests for CNN, ABC News Nightline and Good Morning America and nearly a decade of working with the nation’s top CEOs on messaging, training, crisis strategy, coaching and broadcast placement.
Ryan Velasco, Senior Vice President
Ryan Velasco brings more than 16 years of experience in strategic communications, advising a range of public and private sector clients; from crisis messaging and brand reputation to stakeholder engagement, government relations, and public-private partnerships.
Ryan has worked at the forefront of risk communications. As Vice President at Ogilvy, he led elements of a $130M communications contract supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). His private sector portfolio included the development of an executive visibility program for a major agriscience company. Ryan helps organizations think about how they improve alignment of communication objectives to customer experience and opportunities to leverage technology to drive social change and innovation. He served in the Obama Administration at the White House Council on Environmental Quality as a Deputy Associate Director on the Land and Water Team, leading a key initiative of the President’s Climate Action Plan.
A graduate of the College of Charleston, Ryan holds a BA in Historic Preservation and Community Planning. Ryan is passionate about urban design and historic preservation.
Leigh Wedell, Senior Advisor
Leigh Wedell is a Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies and a veteran facilitator of U.S.-Chinese business relations. She most recently served as Chief Sustainability Officer at The Paulson Institute, a think tank encouraging US-China collaboration on economic and environmental challenges, founded by former US Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson. Leigh has advised U.S. and Chinese companies on market access, profile raising, and government relations for the past decade, working with more than forty companies from twenty business sectors. She has served as Vice President for Albright Stonebridge Group, a leading global consulting firm, and Managing Director for MBP Consulting, a consulting practice of Mayer Brown, a top global law firm. Prior to her consulting work, Leigh was the Deputy Director of the Hong Kong‐U.S. Business Council, a private‐sector initiative administered by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She began her career at the International Republican Institute (IRI), working to implement programs related to China’s political and economic reform.
Isaiah West, Director
Isaiah West is a Director at Laurel Strategies. He has extensive experience researching, developing, and writing about solutions for complex business challenges. Before joining Laurel, he was promoted from Research Associate to Senior Analyst at Advisory Board, a health care best practices firm, and later served as a consultant to a financial wellness start-up.
He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Emory University, with a major in Psychology and minor in Predictive Health. He is an avid traveler and fitness enthusiast who also enjoys learning about the inner workings of the universe.
Elisha Wiesel, Senior Advisor
Elisha Wiesel is a Senior Advisor at Laurel Strategies. A former Wall Street executive, Elisha retired from a twenty-five year financial markets career at Goldman Sachs at the end of 2019 and has since dedicated his time to his entrepreneurial, consulting, and philanthropic pursuits, primarily at the intersection of technology and finance.
While on Wall Street, Elisha raised millions of dollars for New York’s neediest through “Midnight Madness”, a puzzle contest he rebooted and grew at scale beginning in 2012. Midnight Madness convened hundreds of finance professionals for an all-night event on the New York City streets, solving elaborately designed puzzles and raising over $3.1 million for Good Shepherd Services. Sponsored by Goldman Sachs Gives, proceeds from the event supported the construction of a state-of-the-art community center in East New York that serves over 1,000 families with programs and services to strengthen the Brooklyn community.
Following his retirement from Goldman Sachs, Elisha volunteered to lead a technology team at Hawkfish, the digital arm of Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign.
Elisha is a board member of Zioness and the Elie Wiesel Foundation. After his father, Elie Wiesel, passed away, Elisha realized the continued impact his father’s legacy could have, and how many others missed his voice. As opportunities present themselves for impact, Elisha spends his time speaking on his father’s legacy and message and how these carry into the present day.
Andrew Wong, Associate
Andrew Wong is an Associate at Laurel Strategies. He has experience in public relations, international business, legislative advocacy, and online education. Before joining Laurel, he worked at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Fiona Hutton & Associates, and Wai Tan Education. Motivated by a passion for international relations and driving change across industries, Andrew joined Laurel to provide counsel to visionary global leaders and support their strategic initiatives.
Andrew graduated from George Washington University with a BBA in International Business and a minor in International Affairs. In his spare time, Andrew loves to cook foods from a variety of cultures, play guitar, and explore the outdoors with friends.
Nefertari Carver, Vice President
Nefertari Carver is a Vice President at Laurel Strategies. She has extensive experience in external affairs, strategic communications, and public-private partnerships. Most recently, she served as an Assistant Vice President at the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) a national non-profit organization which develops national programs for candidates pursuing architectural licensure and helps architects expand their professional reach. At NCARB, she developed a national campaign to develop a more diverse pool of candidates for Governors to appoint to licensing boards. Prior to NCARB, she worked at AARP’s Public Policy Institute where she developed a national coalition of philanthropic, business, and non-profit organizations to advocate for legislative and policy changes to advance the role of nurses in health care delivery. Nefertari has also managed national media outreach at Donna Brazile and Associates, LLC and served in the offices of Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
Nefertari holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Public Administration and Certificate in non-profit management from Villanova University. Nefertari lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and two daughters.
Alix Boulud, Senior Director
Dylan Hunt, Senior Associate
Dylan Hunt is a Senior Associate at Laurel Strategies with experience spanning public and private lobbying, defense research, and nonprofit advocacy, and deeper interests specifically in international trade, business, and policy.
Dylan is a graduate of the University of Maryland where he earned his Master of Public Policy, as well as an undergraduate degree in Economics and Government & Politics and a graduate degree focusing on International Security & Economic Policy. In his free time, Dylan enjoys cycling in rural parts of Maryland, reading a new book on economics, and spending time with his wife.
Everett Rosenfeld, Vice President
Everett Rosenfeld brings a diverse array of experience in media and public policy to Laurel Strategies, having previously managed journalists, editors, and content producers around the world.
Everett previously led CNBC’s Asia Pacific digital journalism, overseeing staff in Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Guangzhou, and freelancers throughout the region. As the network’s Singapore-based Asia Pacific Editor, he steered all digital journalism worldwide during Asian business hours. During his career as a reporter, he focused on the US-China relationship, international economics, trade policy, US politics, and finance while appearing on TV, podcasts, and the web.
Everett previously wrote for Time Magazine from New York and Hong Kong, and for German newswire Deutsche Presse Agentur in Berlin after winning an Arthur F. Burns Fellowship from the International Center for Journalists. While based in the UK, Everett consulted for major international firms on digital taxation, Brexit, China, and trade policy.
Everett was born and raised in Baltimore. He graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, and he earned a Master of Public Policy degree with top honors at the University of Oxford. Everett is currently working on an Executive MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Dan Kaplan, Senior Advisor
Dan Kaplan brings to Laurel Strategies over 25 years of digital strategy, content development, and marketing experience.
Most recently, Dan was the Managing Director of Corporate Communications for IMPAQ International, a 400-person public policy research and data analytics firm, where he oversaw all aspects of branding, marketing, internal communications, events, publishing, public relations, and corporate social responsibility. Through his wide-ranging career, Dan has been a college writing instructor, travel writer, fundraiser, Federal program manager, entrepreneur, and owner of a digital marketing agency.
Dan is a graduate of the University of Maine (MA, English) and the University of Maryland (BA, English & Business). Dan lives in Baltimore with his wife and three children, has visited 40 countries, and in his spare time raises money for breast cancer research by climbing mountains.
Connor James, Senior Associate
Connor James is a Senior Associate at Laurel Strategies. Connor has experience in international relations, policy, and public affairs. Connor has worked for a governor, a congresswoman, and a political consulting firm. He also co-founded a bipartisan news service that ran for four years. Before joining Laurel, Connor was working at the National Security Policy Center at the University of Virginia while pursuing his graduate degree.
Connor graduated summa cum laude from the George Washington University in 2019 with a B.A. in Political Science while competing as an NCAA Division 1 athlete on the Cross Country and Track teams. He will graduate from the University of Virginia with an M.A. in Foreign Affairs in 2021. Connor’s graduate research focused on improving the effectiveness of U.S. coercive threats. In his spare time, Connor enjoys running, surfing, and paddleboarding.
Steven Lloyd Parker, Managing Director
Steve Parker is a Managing Director at Laurel Strategies. An experienced advisor, Steve brings to Laurel a proven record of excellence under varied, unstructured, and adverse conditions around the world, leveraging over two decades of executive leadership and program management experience in the US military, the federal interagency, and national nonprofit organizations.
Previously, Steve was an Army Operations and Foreign Area Officer, he has deep experience in change management and in motivating a diverse workforce.
Steve helped launch WorkMerk, a privately-held, software-as-a-service company focused on helping digitize workflow for the deskless, remote, and disconnected frontline workforce.
Steve has worked in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East; in US embassies in Zimbabwe, Djibouti, and numerous other countries across Africa, including service as a United Nations Military Observer, monitoring the cease-fire conditions between Morocco and Western Sahara. A direct advisor to the US Ambassador in Djibouti, Steve helped establish the only permanent US Military installation in Africa, and served as the Aide and Deputy Exec to Africa Command’s first, four-star Commander. He was selected as a White House Fellow and worked in the office of First Lady Laura Bush; then served as a speechwriter for the 35th Chief of Staff of the Army.
Previously, Steve commanded Soldiers from the Army’s famed 10th Mountain Division, Light Infantry; during year-long combat operations in Iraq. After nearly three years as Chief of Operations, Plans and Simulations for Fires Center of Excellence, Steve returned to Washington DC to work for First Lady Michelle Obama and (then Second Lady) Dr. Jill Biden as Executive Director of the White House Veterans & Military Family initiative, Joining Forces. Steve was Senior Advisor to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies and Director of the State Department’s Africa Military Education Program with responsibilities across 25 countries.
He is a graduate of West Point and Yale. An avid mountain biker, Steve lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and their 3 sons. His daughter Zoe is an Environmentalist in Austin.
Jacob Link, Senior Associate
Jacob Link is a Senior Associate at Laurel Strategies. He has experience in political organizing, journalism, public messaging, and legislative affairs. Prior to joining Laurel, Jacob was a Field Organizer at Biden for President, working in five U.S. states during the 2020 presidential primary. He later worked as a Regional Organizing Director at the Texas Democratic Party.
Jacob graduated from Harvard University, concentrating in History with a secondary concentration in Russian Studies. During college, he also served as an Associate Managing Editor at the Harvard Political Review. He enjoys reading, shooting sports, cooking, and board gaming.
Rafael Cestero, Scheduler to the CEO
Rafael Cestero is Scheduler to the CEO at Laurel Strategies. Before joining Laurel, he worked at the Personal Office of Barack & Michelle Obama, Voice of America, various political campaigns and the American University Sine Institute. Additionally, Rafael was very engaged on campus, while a student at American University, working on issues of diversity and inclusion, as well as running the School of International Service’s Model G20 Program.
Rafael graduated from American University with a bachelors in International Relations and a minor in music. In his spare time, Rafael loves to travel, sing, and explore the DMV with friends.
Grace Cabuena, Senior Associate
Grace Cabuena is a Senior Associate at Laurel Strategies. Before joining the Laurel Strategies team, she interned with the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, working on issues related to national security and foreign policy in East Asia. She has also worked previously with the National Defense University and the Beijing Yilian Law Firm.
Grace graduated from American University with a BA in International Relations and a minor in Mandarin Chinese. During her time at American University, she also served as the Honor Chairwoman and first Diversity and Inclusion Chairwoman of Phi Mu. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, exercise, and cooking.
Suta Kavari , Director, Research
Suta Kavari brings broad and diverse experience situated at the nexus between politics, economics, and sustainability to Laurel Strategies. Prior to joining Laurel, Suta conducted research for Oxford University’s Net Zero Initiative, tracking global progress in the implementation of net zero commitments. He has previously helped clients in the financial services sector develop processes identifying the sustainability issues relevant and material to their operations and stakeholders.
Suta previously served as special assistant to the Minister in the Namibian Presidency, where he provided evidence-based advice and briefings on a broad range of public policy issues. He also served as an adviser to the delegations to the UN General Assembly, G20, and other high-level international forums, preparing policy papers and background briefings. He has in previous roles, including with WPP Government & Public Sector Practice, analyzed global macro trends and risk concentrations, and built collaborative relationships across sectors to influence policy development. He was an associate lecturer in sustainable development at Stellenbosch University’s School of Public Leadership in South Africa. He has in previous roles
Suta holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Oxford. He received his bachelor’s in Economics and Risk Management from the North-West University, South Africa and earned a graduate degree in Sustainable Development with top honors from Stellenbosch University. Suta grew up in Namibia and is currently living in the UK with his partner.
Jessica Carmona , Director, Office of the CEO
Jessica Carmona is a Director at Laurel Strategies. She has experience in stakeholder management, project management, and nonprofit advocacy.
Before joining Laurel, she served as a Member Board Relations Manager at the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), advocating, and promoting the organization’s architectural standards, programs, and services to its various stakeholders. Before NCARB, she worked at the National League of Cities, an organization representing over 2,000 cities across the nation, forging and nurturing impactful corporate partnerships to develop fundraising opportunities and enable public-private partnerships. Jessica also worked for the City of Huntsville, Texas, City of Eden, Texas, and interned at the United States Department of State in the Office of Civil Rights.
Jessica earned a Bachelor of Arts from Sam Houston State University and a Master of Public Administration from Virginia Tech. Jessica was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and currently resides in Washington, D.C.
Brooke Drake, Associate
Brooke Drake is an Associate at Laurel Strategies. Before joining the Laurel Strategies team, she worked at Credit Suisse in the Equity Research Compliance department. She has also interned previously with Bank of America Securities in the Public Finance Investment Banking division, the Ayco Company, and the Executive Office of the President.
Brooke graduated from Georgetown University with a B.S. in Finance and Management and a minor in Art History. During her time at Georgetown University, she also served as the President of the Georgetown Scholars Program and was a recipient of the Lena Landegger Award for Community Service. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, visiting National Parks, and watching football with her husband.
Luca Ferincz, Administrative Assistant
Luca Ferincz is an Administrative Assistant at Laurel Strategies. She has experience in supporting roles in both public and private sectors. She worked closely with the Art History Department at Lake Forest College for her undergraduate years, as well as maintaining various positions within organizations on campus.
Luca graduated from Lake Forest College with a double major in Communications and Art History. In her free time, Luca loves trying new restaurants and attending yoga classes.
Noah Ramsey, Associate
Noah Ramsey is an Associate at Laurel Strategies. A graduate of Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, Noah completed a dual-degree program to receive both a B.S. in International Politics and a M.A. in Security Studies where he focused extensively on the transatlantic defense relationship.
Justine Adelizzi, Senior Advisor
Justine Adelizzi is an award-winning speechwriter, executive communications strategist, and the founder of FEARLESScomms.
Justine has served as a trusted advisor to executives at the highest levels of the public and private sector, including the International Finance Corporation, VMware, The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. She has written for national and international audiences, prepared speakers for events at SXSW, Aspen Ideas, and the National Press Club, and had her work recognized by USA Today and Vital Speeches of the Day.
In 2021, Justine founded FEARLESScomms, a coaching, consulting, and communications firm dedicated to creating better leaders and better leadership storytelling. She prides herself on helping executives and entrepreneurs find their voice and become the most confident, authentic, and effective versions of themselves.
Evan Fallor, Director
Evan is a Director at Laurel Strategies. He previously spent nearly a decade as a reporter in financial and community journalism, most recently as a global markets and trade policy reporter for S&P Global Market Intelligence. His writing included coverage of the financial fallout and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as on-the-ground coverage of the USMCA negotiations and the South Dakota v. Wayfair Supreme Court case.
He has won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for coverage of a local tragedy in Connecticut as well as an Azbee Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for coverage of the Trump administration’s controversial tariffs on China.
Evan holds a Master’s Degree in International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies as well as a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University. He also earned a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Outside of work hours, Evan runs competitively for the Georgetown Running Club and patrols the sidewalks of Arlington with his Great Pyrenees-Retriever mix, Penny.
Adam Basciano, Senior Associate
Adam Basciano is a Senior Associate at Laurel Strategies with experience spanning social innovation, philanthropy, and foreign affairs.
Most recently, he served as Co-founder and Director of IPF Atid, an international network of millennial leaders advocating for Middle East peace and security through the Israel Policy Forum. His writings have appeared in numerous outlets, and he was recognized as a “36 under 36” by the Jewish Week for his advancing support for the two-state solution. He has consulted for social start-ups and previously interned for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Mayor of Tel Aviv, and as a researcher on the book, “Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World.” He is involved as a volunteer leader with the Millennial Action Project and Heart of a Nation.
Adam received his B.A. in International Relations from Colgate University and his Master’s in Global Business Administration from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. He enjoys traveling, backpacking, and playing amateur baseball in his free time. Adam was born and raised in New Jersey and currently resides in Washington, D.C.
Jaren McKinnie, Associate
Jaren McKinnie is an Associate at Laurel Strategies. Prior to joining Laurel, he served as a healthcare paralegal and a legislative intern in the New York State Senate and the U.S. Senate. Jaren graduated with a B.A. from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and with a certificate in French Language and Culture. In his spare time, he enjoys stargazing, cooking, and watching the Cleveland Browns.
Alexandra Hubbard-Gourlay, Associate
Alexandra is an Associate at Laurel Strategies. Before joining Laurel, Alexandra helped build Slide, a SaaS technology startup, as the company’s Chief Financial Officer and a leader within the company’s Sales and People teams. Alexandra previously served as Chief Financial Officer of the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union, and has a deep-seated passion for public service.
Alexandra graduated Cum Laude from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 2021 with a B.S. in International Politics. She additionally minored in French and Francophone Studies and earned an Honors Certificate in International Business Diplomacy. In her spare time, Alexandra enjoys long distance running, cooking, and hiking.
Oliver Couttolenc, Associate
Oliver Couttolenc is an Associate at Laurel Strategies. Oliver brings a broad range of experience in both academic and commercial research. Prior to joining Laurel, he worked for a Washington D.C.-based investigative research firm, and a behavioral science consultancy. Oliver has also conducted research surrounding artificial intelligence and environmental law.
Oliver graduated with distinction from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, with a B.A. in Political Science. There, he was an editor for the McGill Political Science Association Journal and helped organize an international conference on responsible artificial intelligence. Oliver was raised in Canada and is currently living in London. During his free time, he enjoys cycling, sailing, and visiting the British Museum.
Josh Horen, Associate
Josh Horen is an Associate at Laurel Strategies. Prior to his joining Laurel, he attended the University of Maryland where he graduated with a B.A. in Government and Politics and Family Science. Josh has served on a communications team for a political campaign, interned at Children’s National Hospital, and worked in various child-development research settings. In his spare time he enjoys fly fishing and reading.
Morgan Adderley, Senior Associate
Morgan Adderley is a Senior Associate at Laurel Strategies. Morgan is an experienced journalist and policy analyst whose work and studies have taken her across the United States, the Caribbean, and the United Kingdom.
Most recently, Morgan served as a consultant in the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in The Bahamas. In this role, she assisted the Office of the Prime Minister with the identification of the government’s key priority areas and the establishment of precise goals, targets, strategies, and performance indicators. Morgan held primary responsibility for health, particularly national COVID-19 response plans, and inner-city development, supporting efforts to rebuild major islands devastated by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
Prior to joining the Delivery Unit, Morgan worked as an economics researcher and policy consultant for the BE-Lab, a research group headed by Harvard University professor Dr. Peter Q. Blair. She previously also worked as a journalist covering issues relating to the development outcomes of the Bahamas, wider Caribbean, and Latin America, including climate change, healthcare, criminal justice, education, migration, and women’s rights.
Morgan holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Oxford. She graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs with minors in Political Science and English.
Thor Valdmanis, Executive Vice President
Thor is an adviser to global CEOs with more than two decades experience as a senior corporate communications executive, following an award-winning career as a financial journalist and war correspondent.
As EVP, Thor leads client engagement teams in financial services, energy and technology. Prior to joining Laurel, Thor advised the CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal, served as managing director at FTI Consulting in New York and South Africa, and helped Lloyd’s of London in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Thor was a reporter and financial commentator on USA Today and London’s Evening Standard, and was a regular guest on CNBC, PBS and CNN. After 9/11, Thor traveled with Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance to liberate Kabul.
Thor serves on the advisory board of Reporters Without Borders, the Speaker’s Committee of the Metropolitan Club of New York and as a youth rugby coach. He lives in Portland, Maine with his wife and two children.
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