THO Team

Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) , a non-profit organization working to promote discussion and dialogue around issues of importance in the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship as well as Turkey’s role in the international community.

THO Team

Ali Cinar

President, Turkish Heritage Organization

A Turkish American, Cinar has dedicated much of his life to Turkish American causes and joined THO to help advance U.S.-Turkey relations. He has served as the President of the Federation of Turkish American Associations (FTAA) as well as the Northeast Vice President of the Assembly of Turkish Americana. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke praised Cinar’s leadership of the FTAA, noting that under his leadership, “this Federation has become a well-known and respected cultural institution in our community.”

Prior to joining THO, Cinar worked as a businessman and journalist. In his career, Cinar has developed and implemented business programs for top global clients and agent networks. Before joining THO, he held positions with Western Union and Concord Industries. He is a credentialed reporter with the United Nations and the U.S. State Department and has been published in international publications including Hurriyet Daily News and Turk of America.

Over the course of his career, Cinar has earned a number of accolades including Leader of the Year by the Assembly of Turkish American Association, One of the Top 10 Most Successful Young People by  Junior Chamber International (JCI), and one of the 50 Most Influential Turkish Americans by Turk of America Magazine.

After receiving his undergraduate degree from the Istanbul University, Cinar moved to the United States to continue his education. While completing his master’s degree at the University of New Haven, he worked as a Research Assistant atthe Communication Department and Center of Professional Ethics. During that time he also served as thePresident of the International Students Association and was awarded the “Outstanding International Student” Award.

Cinar has earned various executive business certificates from Harvard Univeristy, MIT and New York University.
Yenal Kucuker

Executive Director, Turkish Heritage Organization

Yenal joined the Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) shortly after it was founded in 2015 to develop and lead its programs and activities. Previously, Yenal worked for the Voice of America (VOA) Turkish Service, a U.S. government-funded multimedia news source and the official external broadcasting institution of the U.S., covering the Turkish - American diaspora. In addition to maintaining a blog at VOA, he was a regular contributor to the Turkish Life Magazine.

Yenal has extensive grassroots experience as the former Civic Engagement Director of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA). Yenal ran a nation-wide proactive grassroots initiative in advocacy and Congressional outreach. The initiative, which was run in cooperation with the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), significantly increased the membership numbers of the Congressional Caucus on US – Turkish Relations. 

Prior to his professional career, as part of TCA’s Congressional internship program, Yenal interned with former Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the co-founder and former co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkey Relations and Turkish Americans and Congressional Study Group on Turkey (CGST) of the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress (USAFMC).

Yenal holds an MA in Public Policy from the University of Michigan and completed a certificate program at the Georgetown University upon receiving a National Security Education Program (NSEP) scholarship from the U.S. government. He is also the past president of the Boren Forum, a volunteer, non-partisan, non-profit alumni organization for the scholarship recipients of the National Security Education Program (NSEP). 

Sarah Houston

UK Liason and Fellow, Turkish Heritage Organization

Sarah Houston is a world traveler who is excited to bring her passion for Turkish International Relations and experience as a Fulbright grantee to the Turkish Heritage Organization. During her Fulbright in Turkey, Sarah taught at Balikesir University while establishing a refugee community outreach group that worked with local Syrian and Iranian refugees to facilitate the visa process, preparing them for lives in the US. She also worked closely with the Director of the School of Foreign Languages to create and implement new curriculum, changing the way the University prepares English teachers for future employment.  

Sarah was a Posse scholar at Pepperdine University, where she studied Political Science and Film Studies. As Vice President of the Student Government Association, she founded Pepperdine's first ever Women's Initiative for students, bringing together women's groups from all over campus for speaker events and long term policy change. During her time at University, Sarah was awarded scholarships and grants to study in Buenos Aires, Argentina and work on the ground with widows in India through the White Rainbow Project. 

Sarah’s academic focus is on gender issues and economic development projects for underserved and displaced populations in the Middle East and Europe. In her thesis, What Do Women Get? Measuring Outcomes in a Post-Revolutionary Society, she focused on Egyptian women’s position in society during the Arab Spring. She is very interested in the current refugee crisis and examining obstacles the international aid community faces, specifically focusing on economic development programs implemented in the refugee camps. 

Prior to joining THO, Sarah acted as Political Director for David Trone’s Congressional Campaign, where she developed an overarching political outreach plan, establishing a diverse network of community, labor, and cultural organizations to solidify key constituency networks. Growing up in the DC area, Sarah also offers extensive non-profit and government experience on the Hill with American Psychological Association, Congress, and DC Public Schools Central Office.
Audrey Williams

Program Coordinator, Turkish Heritage Organization

Audrey joined THO to help cultivate mutual American and Turkish understanding of the importance, breadth, and potential of U.S.-Turkey relations. During her Fulbright research fellowship at Ankara University’s Center for African Studies, she studied the role of non-state actors in Turkey’s relations with Sub-Saharan African countries. For her research, she conducted expert interviews with government officials, academics, business professionals, and civil society leaders. She also conducted a weekly academic writing workshop at Ankara University.

Prior to her Fulbright fellowship, Audrey was a Program Associate at Partnership for a Secure America in Washington, D.C., where she helped coordinate an international working group study exploring non-traditional funding for the IAEA’s nuclear security and technical assistance programs. She also helped coordinate a series of briefings on conflict resolution for Congressional staff in partnership with the U.S. Institute of Peace. Audrey first came to D.C. in 2013 as a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow; during her fellowship, she supported the work of the Stimson Center’s Managing Across Boundaries Initiative, where she authored a report on the IAEA’s technical cooperation program titled, “Beyond Boundaries: The Role of the IAEA in Balancing Security and Development Priorities in the 21st Century.”  

Audrey’s interest in Turkish foreign policy and U.S.-Turkey relations is informed by her academic and professional experiences in Turkey. In addition to her Fulbright year, she spent a semester at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul as an exchange student, where she improved her Turkish and conducted interviews for her undergraduate thesis on Turkish counterterrorism policy. Audrey graduated in 2013 from the University of Iowa with majors in Political Science and French.
Caysie N. Myers

Coordinator, Turkish Heritage Organization

Caysie comes to THO with a passion for international relations and Turkish foreign relations. Having studied abroad for a semester at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, Caysie seeks to incorporate her knowledge of international relations with her growing interest in Turkey and Turkish foreign affairs. She studied security and diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa, in which she did extensive study on Iran’s nuclear development program and the sanctions in place in 2014, for her senior Capstone.

While in Istanbul, Caysie interned at the American Studies Center at Bahcesehir University, where she did research on Middle East current affairs and the U.S.’s reactions. She also had the opportunity to intern at the International Center of Syracuse, where she helped coordinate itineraries and welcome foreign visitors to the city of Syracuse to learn more about their respective fields of work. Caysie graduated from Syracuse Univeristy in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations.
Maria Jonafe Aguila

Graphic Designer, Turkish Heritage Organization

From her previous experiences, Maria is no stranger to international affairs, designing for international institutions and non-profit organizations based in Washington DC. Maria is currently a student at George Washington University under the Corcoran School of Art and Design pursuing her bachelor's in graphic design. With a focus in advertising, Maria plans to use her skills and knowledge to create materials that will communicate to a vast audience globally. 

As a designer, Maria has worked with BAU International University in Washington DC and Mentora College, both under the BAU Global Network. She also collaborated with Global Policy Institute (GPI), a non-profit organization on global affairs. 

With her growing interests in international news/topics and expanding her ability to visually market to a wider audience, Maria hopes to offer her skills to design materials for THO, where she hopes to inform others about Turkey and its foreign relations. 

Alexander Snow

Research and Editorial Intern

Alexander comes to THO by way of Geneva, where he recently completed a master’s degree in International History from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.  During this time, he also worked at the Geneva Centre of Security Policy as a Junior Programme Officer, where he helped coordinate seminars on the geopolitics of space, the future of A.I., and the neurophilosophy of governance.

His interest in Turkey dates from a 2003-2005 stint in Ankara.  Alexander subsequently attended Vassar College, writing a history dissertation which focused on Turkey’s second president, Ismet Inonu.  As the recipient of Vassar College’s Ann Cornelisen Fellowship, he lived and studied in Istanbul over the 2013-2014 academic year.   His academic interests center on the Republic’s history with democracy, minority rights, and education.  A Maryland native, he has prior experience in teaching and accounting.