Board of Directors
Lauren was born in Costa Rica to an American mother and a Costa Rican-Spanish father, and grew up in Honduras and Ecuador. She received her B.A. in English Language & Literature from the University of Chicago. During her time as an undergraduate, Lauren was certified as an Illinois State Legal, Medical and Crisis Counselor for Survivors of Sexual Assault, which allowed her to volunteer as a rape victim advocate at 17 Chicago area emergency rooms. An additional certification in Sexual Assault Prevention and Education allowed her to participate in the creation of curricula that were used to educate high school and college students about sexual assault in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Lauren received her M.A. in Public Service Management from the School of Public Service at DePaul University. As a student, she participated in a refugee services management course held in Jordan, where she was able to meet with organizations such as UNHCR, IOM, and ICRC, expanding her knowledge of the refugee resettlement process from a non U.S.-based perspective. Her M.A. thesis research was conducted at two Chicago non-profit organizations and focused on determining best practices for internship programs in refugee resettlement.
From 2008 to 2012, Lauren worked for Heartland Alliance’s Refugee & Immigrant Community Services (RICS) in Chicago, an organization that resettles 250-300 refugees per year. At RICS she held several positions, focusing on refugee resettlement and human trafficking, especially in the areas of quality management and assurance; case management; internship program creation, implementation and evaluation; curriculum and module creation for staff competency trainings in confidentiality, cultural competency, human rights, emergency preparedness, and risk management; and curriculum creation in the areas of job development and English as a Foreign Language for refugee program participants. She also provided Spanish interpretation and case management for survivors of torture and victims of trafficking for Heartland Alliance’s Northern-Tier Anti-Trafficking Coalition. From 2010 to 2012, she acted as the Chicago-area refugee services liaison for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program, an ARRA-funded initiative that provided over $35 million in funds to help Chicago families find new homes or stay in their current homes.
Prior to becoming a board member, Lauren provided consulting services to RSN from late 2013 to early 2014. She currently lives in Istanbul, where she is an active volunteer providing medical and social counseling to refugees at a drop-in center.
Laura Garr is an attorney at White & Case LLP in the firm’s Disputes practice group. She received her B.A. from Fordham University with a double major of Philosophy and International Political Economy. She worked for several years in New York City providing case management assistance to persons experiencing homelessness. She thereafter obtained her law degree from Fordham University School of Law with a focus on International Human Rights, Public Interest, and Social Justice. She has lived and worked in Ecuador on poverty alleviation at El Centro del Muchacho Trabajador and on environmental and human rights law for indigenous peoples impacted by extractive industry practices in the Amazon rainforest. With the Walter Leitner Human Rights Clinic Laura traveled to India working on sex-worker rights and most recently to South Africa, with a focus on economic and social barriers to LGBT refugees. She has co-authored several policy reports on international law and human rights, with a focus on refugees and indigenous rights.
Mohamed Mansour is an international banker, having completed two-to-three year work assignments in Dubai, Athens, Istanbul, and currently New York. He received a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance from McGill University in Montreal (having completed a year-long exchange program with Sciences Po in Paris) and subsequently completed his MBA degree at IE Business School in Madrid (during which he completed exchanges with Dartmouth College and Insper in Sao Paolo). Before joining the bank, Mo worked for a micro-finance organization in Alexandria, Egypt where he prepared and presented research reports to measure the impact assessment of Micro Finance Institutions on the users of these micro-loans and their families. More recently he achieved certification in Climate and Renewable Energy Finance from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and has written a peer-reviewed research article for Global Policy Journal on the topic of Financing Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Projects in Egypt. He has a strong interest in refugee advocacy, particularly in the space of climate refugees and environmental migrants.
Deniz is currently working as a humanitarian affairs officer for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. She has extensive experience in the field of humanitarian aid and migration. She previously interned with the Helsinki Citizens Assembly – Refugee Advocacy and Support Program based in Istanbul and with the Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l’Homme, a human rights NGO based in Kinshasa, DRC. Deniz also previously worked as International Programs Assistant for Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights at the Heartland Alliance, based in Chicago, focusing on projects regarding LGBTI rights, gender-based violence, asylum and refugee rights in Turkey and the Middle East. From 2013-2015 she worked for the International Catholic Migration Commission , which runs the U.S. State Department funded Regional Resettlement Support Center in Turkey and the Middle East in Istanbul, Turkey, participating in missions to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Deniz holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, and a Masters in Public Health with a Certificate in Public Health and Humanitarian Assistance from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
International displacement has been intimately woven into Leila’s family story since the time of her birth, giving her a richly personal understanding of both the hopes and challenges that come with global migration. Leila first joined the RSN Board with a professional background in law, migration and policy. She has worked vigorously on refugee protection and legal matters with the United Nations Refugee Agency – UNHCR in the Middle East, Washington, D.C., and in New York. Leila also contributed to appeals of Refugee Status Determination rejections as a legal fellow in Istanbul with the Refugee Advocacy Support Program of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly; and wrote international country updates for the 2008 World Refugee Survey, as a refugee protection researcher and writer for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) in Washington, DC. Leila worked on U.S. Immigration matters domestically in both the private sector at a Manhattan law firm, and in the public sector for the largest property service workers’ labor union in the U.S.
Her passion for understanding the legal underpinnings of migration led Leila to law school. Leila earned her Juris Doctor from the City University of New York in 2013 on a full scholarship as a public interest fellow. In law school, Leila traveled to Haiti twice with the women’s human rights clinic to conduct international legal training and gather field research for a report submission to the U.N. Prior to law school, Leila received her Master’s in International Affairs from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) in France in 2004, with part of her graduate studies in New York as a stipend awardee at Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts, and School of International and Public Affairs.
Recently, Leila’s legal and policy backgrounds have converged with her interest in documenting human stories through new mediums in art, especially film and photography. One of her latest projects is a short video about a Pakistani migrant working in the United Arab Emirates, lighting up the night sky with calligraphy. See leilashifteh.com for more.