Glendale & Memmingen

Alexander Thamm

Alex Thamm is a moderator by passion. He is dedicated to issues of international dialogue, civil society, innovation, and diversity. He was a presenter for a TV show on megatrends for the German television channel ARD Alpha. With Julia Pfinder, he founded They mainly moderate and consult for NGOs, cities, and international government organizations like Engagement Global, the Goethe Institute, and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). The focus of their work is the international role of cities and civil society on topics like sustainability, sustainable development goals, education, and democracy.

In his previous career, Alex worked in leading management positions for major foundations like the Körber Foundation, German Marshall Fund, Bertelsmann Foundation, and others. He created projects on civil society, advocacy, and international relations. He is dedicated to the idea of community organizing and is an active leader of the Berlin community organizations (DICO). Alex studied political science at the universities of Bath, Bonn, Grenoble, and Munich. He lives in Kreuzberg, Berlin, as well as in Kreuth, Bavaria, and loves the outdoors.

Alexandra Hoenscheid

German-American Heritage Museum and Afford Your Travel

Stemming from a lifelong appreciation of diverse cultures and perspectives, Alexandra Hoenscheid has dedicated her career to strengthening citizen exchange programs and extending them to new audiences. Ms. Hoenscheid is the founder of Afford Your Travel, which expands access to travel to underprivileged and underrepresented groups with the aim of enriching intercultural dialogue. She also showcases the contributions of German immigrants at the German-American Heritage Museum. Most recently, she has advanced and promoted German-American exchange as a Kathryn Davis Fellow for Peace at the Middlebury College German School, as a Germany Grant Consultant for Sister Cities International, and as a Program Coordinator at American Friends of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Ms. Hoenscheid graduated summa cum laude as a Washington Scholar from the University of Mary Washington with a B.S. in International Business and a minor in Business German. She also spent a year studying Economics at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

Angela Beaumont

Jefferson Educational Society and Civic Leadership Academy (JCLA)

Angela Beaumont holds a degree in American Studies and Business from the University of Kassel in Germany. Her prior experience includes working for a think tank in Washington, DC, and for DHL in Bonn, where she held various positions in international marketing and business development. In 2009, she moved with her family to the United States, where she worked in Special Education, German language teaching, and logistics. In 2015, she joined the Jefferson Educational Society, a regional think tank for community progress in Northwestern Pennsylvania, where she has worked in different roles. Ms. Beaumont is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Jefferson Civic Leadership Academy and now serves as the Leadership Academy's director and as the organization’s Director of Programming.

Carolynn Welch

Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI)

Carolynn Welch was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and has enjoyed watching it become an even better place to live over the years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from D’Youville University. Carolynn has worked at WEDI since 2017 and was appointed executive director in 2019. Prior to WEDI, she worked at various nonprofits for 20+ years in areas including program management, development, compliance, and administration. In her free time, she enjoys reading. She lives in Hamburg, NY, with her three children. Connection to WEDI’s Mission: “I love seeing the direct impact of our work through the smiles on students’ faces, the success of small business owners, and the satisfaction of both when they achieve their dreams. By working as a partner with our clients we see the best results and are able to meet people where they are to achieve success.”

Diana Sosa

Princeton University

The daughter of Colombian and Ecuadorean immigrants, Diana was born and raised in Northern Virginia. She left the suburbs to attend Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and studied international affairs and development. Following graduation, she taught English in Mallorca, Spain, through the North American Language and Culture Assistantship Program and pursued a Fulbright community grant in Linz, Austria. She will attend Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs in the fall as a Thomas R. Pickering Fellow and will join the U.S. Foreign Service after graduating in 2024. Diana is passionate about improving global labor conditions and loves studying languages, embarking on weekend trips, and dancing bachata.

Friedrich Opitz

German-American Institute Saxony (DAIS)

Friedrich W. Opitz fosters exchange between global and local perspectives, currently as deputy director at the German-American Institute Saxony in Leipzig (DAIS). This means moderating dialogue at the intersection of academia, politics, and civil society, and Friedrich hopes to promote inclusive structural development that incorporates the perspectives and experiences of residents in regions on both sides of the Atlantic. Friedrich holds an M.A. in International Relations with a focus on International Economics from Technical University Dresden, and a B.A. in American Studies from Leipzig University. For researching the interplay of economic transformation and populist movements in the past decade, Friedrich spent extensive time in Ohio, the French Alsace, and Central Germany. He has previous experience with the Berlin-based think tank Das Progressive Zentrum.

Itzel Hernandez

U.S. House of Representatives

Itzel Hernandez has dedicated her career to public service through roles in community organizing, education, and government. She currently serves as a staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives. As a board member of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association, she seeks to build a workforce that reflects the diversity of the American people. Itzel is a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants and is a first-generation graduate of the University of Utah. She is an alumna of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and Trabajadoras Fellowships.

Kevin Curran

Curran Counsel

Kevin Curran is a lawyer in private practice and a volunteer in the special needs community. Kevin is dual-qualified in the United States as an attorney-at-law in three states and as a patent attorney before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Kevin’s private practice serves clients in various civil matters, including civil litigation, business, patents, and trademarks. Kevin previously worked as in-house counsel at German software and healthcare conglomerates SAP and Bayer. Kevin began his legal career as an associate at a large law firm in New York City handling pharmaceutical patent litigation. Kevin has lived, studied, and worked in Germany for several years over three residencies and is fluent in German. Kevin earned a Juris Doctor in Law and a Master of Arts in Political Science from Loyola University Chicago. Before that, Kevin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University, upon completion of degree requirements in Math, German, and Integrated Science.

Maja Bogojević

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and erklär mir mal…

Maja Bogojević is a feminist social scientist, anti-discrimination trainer, and founder of the digital empowerment and education platform “erklär mir mal…”. Since completing a master’s degree in Human Rights at the University of Vienna, Maja was granted a Mercator Fellowship on International Affairs and, in this context, deals with the implementation of intersectional anti-discrimination measures at UNESCO (Paris, France) and the European Commission (Brussels, Belgium). In addition, Maja provides companies and initiatives with anti-discrimination strategic advice. Their thematic focus lies on social and educational injustice, allyship, classism, and anti-racism.

Melanie Mello

Educational Consultant & Specialist for German

Melanie Mello has been teaching English and German as a Foreign Language in the United States and abroad since 2008. In 2019, Melanie was one of the five finalists for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages' Teacher of the Year Award, after being chosen as the Teacher of the Year by both the Southwest Conference on Language Teaching and the Arizona Language Association. In her roles as GAPP/GAVE and SPARK coordinator, German Educational Multiplier and coach in the Goethe-Institut’s Coaching Program, and Past-President of the Arizona Chapter of AATG and the Arizona Language Association, she promotes and supports the teaching and learning of world languages and their cultures, customs, and traditions.

Monica van der Haagen-Wulff

University of Cologne

Monica van der Haagen-Wulff, Doctor of Creative Arts (DCA), is an Associate Lecturer at the Chair for Education and Cultural Sociology in the Department of Education and Social Sciences at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Cologne. Her teaching and research interests include cultural- and postcolonial studies, migration, intersectionality, post- and decolonial feminist theories, globalization, global cities, affect theory, embodiment, fictocritical writing, and critical heritage/memory studies. Monica has a transcultural dance and performance background, and her main research focus is on how practice and theory can be merged to create new knowledges and in so doing decenter Eurocentric knowledge constructions. She is an active member of the German Network for Anti-Racist School-Pedagogy (Netzwerk Rassismuskritische Schulpädagogik), as well as a founding member of the Forum Decolonizing Academia at the University of Cologne. Her teaching is inspired by bell hooks’ concepts of engaged pedagogy. She has published in international academic journals.

Rohat Akcakaya

Peking University and London School of Economics

Rohat Akcakaya is a student in the double degree program "Public Administration & Government" at Peking University and the London School of Economics and Politics. As the son of two hearing-impaired parents and with his Turkish and Kurdish migration history, he took responsibility for his family and his home region at an early age and got involved socio-politically in student groups, a soccer club, and religious institutions. In addition to his experience abroad in foundations and universities in Beijing, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, and London, he also founded his own sports clubs and community initiatives and worked as an advisor to local authorities and associations to promote an inclusive society.

Sheba Wiafe

University of Hamburg

Sheba Wiafe studies political science in a master’s program focused on international political theory. Her research centers on Black studies, political movements, and critical theory. As a freelancer, she works as a political educator and empowerment trainer. She facilitates workshops, organizes community events, as well as participates in and moderates panel discussions. Sheba specializes in working with BIPOCs (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). One of Sheba's bigger projects was the Black Gurl Magic festival in 2021. It was the first one of its kind in Germany, a day program for Black girls* between 8 and 18 years old with safer spaces, creative and active workshops, performances, and local community organizations that presented their work. Sheba has already begun planning for 2022’s Black Gurl Magic festival.

Sonya Ouertani

German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation

Sonya Zayneb Ouertani studied international politics and public administration in Germany, France, and Canada. She has various working experiences in the field of international cooperation with German governmental and EU institutions in Thailand, Burundi, Jordan, North Macedonia, and Pakistan. She currently works in the field of international rule of law promotion, access to justice and human rights. Additionally, Sonya is socially engaged in different fields, mainly in Jewish-Muslim dialogue formats and in strengthening a diverse Muslim community in Germany based on an anti-patriarchal and gender-inclusive approach. She analyzes current political developments in critical, decolonizing, and intersectional ways and creates spaces for active solidarity among marginalized groups.

Tülay Ates-Brunner

Tür an Tür Integrationsprojekte gGmbH

Tülay Ates-Brunner is the managing director of the non-profit organization Tür an Tür Integrationsprojekte gGmbH, which focuses on local, national, and international programs in the areas of migration, asylum, and participation. This organization works in strong networks with governmental and non-governmental institutions to improve the living and working conditions of people who have immigrated to Germany. In her position, she pursues professionally what she is also passionate about in her private life: How does a diverse society function? What political, social, economic, and individual conditions and structures improve social coexistence? Tülay Ates-Brunner has a master’s degree in economics and is a selected member of the EU Commission's expert group on the views of migrants. She lives and works in Augsburg, Germany.

Virginia Sun

U.S. Department of the Treasury

Virginia Sun is an economic analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department, where she conducts macroeconomic analysis of Caribbean countries. Virginia hopes to leverage her background in international development to promote inclusive, democratic urban planning in emerging cities. She graduated from the University of Richmond with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and a minor in Luso-Brazilian studies. Her research, conducted with University of Richmond funding and as part of a NASA/USAID grant, focused on Latin America, post-colonialism, and urban design. Virginia also previously served as a State Department Youth Ambassador in Berlin.

Reflections on Social Divisions & Questions of Identity in Germany and the United States

In September 2022 and March 2023, the third cohort of the AGI Social Divisions and Questions of Identity program convened in Glendale, Arizona, and Memmingen, Bavaria, to explore communities, cultures, and group dynamics in these sister cities. The below StoryMaps, written by the participants in the project, share the group’s observations and insights about challenges these cities face now and their outlook for the future.

The StoryMaps reflect the diversity of challenges these twenty-first century cities face, the actors working to address those challenges, and the initiatives that bring communities together. They place the two cities in their historical and national contexts to better understand current social divisions, and they also connect local issues to national and global challenges like migration and climate change. Explore the topics below to read the group’s impressions and reflections of their exchange.

Memmingen and Glendale History and Geography

Economic Development Housing

Education Community-Led Initiatives

International City Diplomacy Transportation

Migration Climate Change and Sustainability

Indigenous Communities Government

City Events

The project Social Divisions and Questions of Identity in Germany and the United States is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany, funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.