About Us

About Us

 

WAC
WHO WE ARE

For almost a century, World Affairs Councils have spearheaded a nationwide non-partisan, non-profit grassroots movement to foster understanding and citizen engagement in international affairs and as well as involving interested citizens in an exchange of ideas, knowledge and understanding of global issues. Each year, half a million Americans directly benefit from world affairs councils’ programming and events.

WAC Austin exists to serve Central Texas residents of all ages and backgrounds who are interested in the world at large. Our mission is to provide those individuals with top-quality programming and events, and create conduits for interaction with international experts and decision-makers.   The World Affairs Council of Austin focuses on three areas of programming: Culture, Education, and Global Trade.

WACA VIDEO

Mortada MohamedPresident
Mortada Mohamed is the President of the World Affairs Council of Austin, and Executive Director for the Texas International Business Council. Prior to his present positions he was the Regional Trade Director for Europe, Africa, Middle East, for the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Economic Development & Tourism Division. Mr. Mohamed has served as a speaker for the US Department of State International Speaker’s Program throughout North Africa and the Arabian Gulf region. He lectured on doing business with the US private sector and promoted US business in those countries. Mr. Mohamed also serves as a volunteer consultant on behalf of ACDI/VOCA, funded by USAID, to assist in economic development programs for developing countries. This program, which selects experts in various business areas, has taken him deep into Africa, Siberia and Eastern Europe. Mr. Mohamed is an adjunct professor of international business at several Central Texas universities and colleges. and Chair of the World Affairs Council of Austin. He has presented in conferences both domestically and internationally, most recently the International Academy of Management and Business symposium, Istanbul, Turkey and the World Investment Conference, La Baule, France. Mr. Mohamed is on the University of Texas at Austin Center for European Studies Advisory Board, the Board of Governors of North America Small Business International Trade Educators (NASBITE), member of the Texas Economic Development Council, and the District Export Council. Mr. Mohamed has an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona.
Ben RamirezVP & CGT Executive Director
Ben Ramirez III, Vice President and Executive Director, Center for Global Trade at the World Affairs Council of Austin; CEO of Cogitare Global, LLC. Ben has over 20 years of experience assisting the transformation of local companies into global competitors. Ben works with organizations to identify specific business goals and implementation strategies which match their objectives. His expertise is connecting chief executives and their teams to the resources and the tools they need to achieve sustainable growth in a continually changing global marketplace. Ben previously served as the International Economic Development Manager for the City of Austin. His responsibilities in this position included governmental initiatives related to international economic development, foreign direct investment, culture, and education. Ben was also appointed to the U.S. Department of State’s Speaker and Specialist Program where he provided presentations overseas on the economic impact resulting from developing and growing technology industry clusters.

Ben manages Foreign Trade Zone #183 of Central Texas with member companies’ annual exports totaling $250-$500 million.  He was appointed to the Texas Camino Real District Export Council by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.  He is a board member of CleanTX, the economic development and business association for clean technology.  He also is on the board of Austin Sister Cities International.  Ben is an entrepreneur advisor with Tech Ranch and serves as Vice President of the World Affairs Council of Austin and Executive Director of Austin’s Global Trade Center.  Ben obtained a BA in Philosophy and Political Science from the University of Michigan, and a JD from the University of Toledo.

Ana-Barbara LlorenteTreasurer
Ana-Barbara Llorente serves as the Treasurer for WAC Austin. She supervises the bookkeeping and taxes needs for the organization. She implements the accounting procedures needed to assure the transparency and financial operation of WAC Austin. Ana-Barbara is a global auditing executive with finance, management, and public accounting experience in diverse industries in US and EU markets. She is a CPA in the US and its equivalent in Spain. She is the partner of Pendas Consulting, LLC an international accounting and finance firm helping international companies with accounting, taxes and finance services. Ana-Barbara is the Treasurer of the Board of Directors at Austin International School and the president of Bilingual Toastmaster in Austin. She volunteers with Foundation Communities and she is member of different professional organizations. Ms. Llorente has a BA in Business and a Master in Accounting and Auditing from the University of Oviedo in Spain. She wrote a project about Materiality in Auditing as part of her PhD studies.
Katie StewartYouth Outreach Director
Originally from South Carolina, Katie has been interested in international affairs since her father’s career in the Air Force moved her across the world. Eventually landing in Texas, Katie attended the University of Texas at Austin and followed her educational calling: becoming a teacher. Katie joined the Leander ISD Team in at Vandegrift High School. She teaches History and strives to incorporate global subjects and international concerns in all school activities. In the summer, she serves as the Education Coordinator at the American Legion Auxiliary’s summer civics program, Texas Girls State. As Education Coordinator, she works annually with 500 high school senior girls, encouraging legislative participation and civic education. In addition, Katie serves as President of the local American Legion Auxiliary unit. Katie joined the World Affairs Council of Austin in 2015 and works on the Educational and Youth Outreach committee.

Enes BilginBusiness Outreach
Dr. Enes Bilgin serves in the Business Outreach Committee of WAC Austin. Although trained as an engineer, Dr. Bilgin’s interest in global affairs and political issues started in his early ages since his family members were active in various political organizations in Turkey. Since then, he has maintained his interest in those areas through his readings and the classes he took on foreign policy and political science. Dr. Bilgin firmly believes in the importance of engaging public and the youth in global affairs, therefore he very much enjoys being part of WAC Austin. In addition to his work at WACA, he voluntarily mentors high school students in national and international science project competitions. Dr. Bilgin received his B.S. in Industrial Engineering in 2010 from Bilkent University in Turkey and his Ph.D. in Systems Engineering in 2014 from Boston University. He is currently working as Operations Research Scientist at Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
Raye Elizabeth WardWorld Spins Series Director
Raye Elizabeth Ward is Principal of Chrysanthemum Marketing. Raye is the force behind the World Affairs Council of Austin’s innovative “World Spins” series, which explores the intersection of technology and policy through discussions led by Austin-based thought leaders in climate change, U.S.-China policy and emerging technologies such as blockchain. She proposed and organized the organization’s first discussion of women in international business. The “Bridging the Atlantic” panel at the 2019 Texas-EU Summit spotlighted women leaders from across the working spectrum – a CEO, an entrepreneur, a senior manager from a Spanish consultancy, an attorney, and an outsourcing specialist –  in an “if I can do it, you can do it” examination of careers and geography.

An Austin-based  homegirl, Raye is a communications and marketing professional with a broad base of experience in the private sector (IBM), with public-private partnerships (International SEMATECH),  venture-funded startups and marketing agencies (Edelman).

Dan HamiltonMedia Productions Specialist
Native of Katy, Texas Dan Hamilton enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school. Over five years of service deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, Dan also had the honor of serving in a presidential level security unit. After enlistment Dan sought to blend his experiences in the services with an education in government and his passion for communications. As a student at The University of Texas, Dan hosted ‘The Nation Tonight’ on KVRX, was president of the Student Veteran Association, and a Clements Center for National Security Undergraduate Fellow. He looks forward to contributing an entertaining and enlightening dialogue on world affairs to viewers in central Texas.
Pana Salta
Pana Salta graduated with Honors and a BA in Political Science from Baylor University, and also holds a MA in International Political Economy from University of Kent in Brussels, Belgium. Pana grew up in a multicultural background, so was raised from an early age with a keen interest in different cultural perspectives. Her thesis work included papers on the Kurds and modernization in the Middle East, and innovation across different economic structures.

Professionally, she applied her knowledge of culture, diplomacy and economics to working with Fortune 500 healthcare companies doing research and consulting, and most recently, with healthcare startups building out business development and sales processes to produce multi-millions in results. Pana enjoys working with startups that use technology to challenge traditional healthcare models.

In her spare time, she enjoys dancing, learning about business and traveling. She enjoys living in Austin with her 2 dogs.

 

Zoya ZiaYoung Professionals Network Program Coordinator
Zoya Zia is a senior studying International Relations & Global Studies as a Liberal Arts Honors student at the University of Texas at Austin. Through her academic and extracurricular work, Zia seeks to contextualize current realities with human history. In this way, she seeks to better serve communities around the world. She hopes her time with WACA can stimulate a broader discussion about world issues and connect Austin with the rest of the world. In the future, she hopes to promote children’s rights to education and freedom from violence.

Tanya RaghuAcademic WorldQuest Competition Intern
Tanya is a Plan II Honors, Economics, and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures major at the University of Texas at Austin. She serves as a volunteer mentor at a KIPP Austin school and is involved with a variety of organizations on campus including Minority Women Pursuing Law and the International Business Student Association. In Summer 2018, she lived in Jordan for six weeks to begin learning Arabic through the U.S. State Department NSLI-Y (National Security Language Initiative for Youth) Program. She strongly believes and looks to contribute to WACA’s mission to promote international awareness and understanding and in her free time, enjoys working out and writing. 
Fahad AlshammariAssistant Trade Specialist
 Fahad is a soon-to-be graduate from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. His area of study is Political Science with a minor in International Business. Fahad is passionate about increasing the success of global-focused organizations by providing them with his experience and skills in leadership, communication, and negotiation. With a professional background in human resources, informational technology, management, and finance, Fahad brings forth an extensive amount of qualifications and experience. In addition to his work experience, Fahad is also fluent in both Arabic and English, possessing an engaging personality that easily opens the door to strong client relationships amongst diverse cultures. Fahad is currently in search of an opportunity that will allow him to enhance the success of a company through the utilization of his education, experience, and specialized skillset.
Janet Abou EliasMembership and Communications Intern
Janet is studying International Relations and Global Studies as well as Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of Texas at Austin. She enjoys having insightful conversations on current foreign relations issues and emphasizes the importance of seeking a deeper understanding of historical political events. Janet is enthusiastic about the opportunity to engage in community wide discussion about the economic, political, and cultural happenings in the world in order to foster in the individual an ability to view the world from a different perspective as this is critical for diplomacy. She also spends her time practicing wushu and learning Turkish.
Mahalet KefyalewInternational Visitors Intern
Mahalet Kefyalew is a current student at St. Edward’s University studying Global Studies with a focus on conflict, security and Middle Eastern Studies. Beyond this, she is minoring in Political Science and Communication. Mahalet’s research endeavors and extracurricular volunteer work inspire her to develop holistic understandings of foreign affairs, more specifically, how global relations affect local communities across the world. As a part of the Ethiopian diaspora she is particularly passionate about migration in regard to displaced refugees and asylum seekers. As a firm believer in the power of a connected and educated community, Mahalet is always looking to contribute, as well as enhance her skills in advocacy, writing and research for the betterment of local communities, and eventually the global community at large.