Episode 54: Diverse Communities, Questions of Identity, Polarization of Societies

Dillon Cathro

University of Michigan School of Social Work

Dillon Alexander Methven Cathro provides diversity, equity and inclusion education and training to organizations in the DeKalb region and beyond. His primary goal is to foster connections with various organizations on the corporate and community levels in the region, and to work with them to foster work environments that center diversity, equity and inclusion in their strategic models. The only child of a single mother, and the product of a community-based approach to child-raising, Dillon has a passion for helping community members to seek out and access academic, professional and social resources on and off campus. Coming to NIU with professional experience in education, social work and community organizing, Dillon is clear and transparent in his mission to combat systemic injustices and looks forward to supporting community leaders throughout Dekalb County as they cultivate the skills and tools necessary to instill sustainable and equitable social change throughout their communities.

Elizabeth Hotary

Communications Officer

Elizabeth Hotary is the Communications Officer at AICGS. She creates and implements communications strategies, coordinates publishing activities, and manages media relations. She contributes to AICGS research on workforce education and immigration and integration and has co-led AICGS study tours across the United States and Germany. Before joining AICGS, she taught English at a secondary school in Herne, Germany, as part of the Fulbright Program. During her time as a Fulbrighter, she also volunteered with the U.S. Consulate Düsseldorf’s MeetUS program, where she traveled to schools across North Rhine Westphalia to speak with secondary school students about the United States. She has previous experience at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School’s Office of the Dean and WorldDenver, a nonprofit global affairs organization.

Ms. Hotary received her MA from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, where she was a Marc Nathanson Fellow. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Arkansas with degrees in International Relations, European Studies, and German. She is an alumna of the Aspen Seminar for Young European Leaders "Next-Gen Europe: Leading for Values."


ehotary@aicgs.org | 202-672-1194

Elizaveta Firsova

Institute for Didactics of Democracy

Elizaveta Firsova is a research associate and PhD student at the Institute for Didactics of Democracy at Leibniz University of Hanover. Ms. Firsova holds a Master of Arts in Education Studies from Freie Universität Berlin and has focused on the role of education in combatting social division, especially regarding immigrant communities. After her graduation, she worked for "PROOF: Media for Social Justice" in New York City, on curricula in the field of social justice. Currently, Ms. Firsova is a project coordinator for initiatives funded by the European Union to tackle social divisions on different levels. In one project, she focuses on bringing digital media literacy to schools with predominantly disadvantaged students, and in her second project, she is designing a program to target extremism and conspiracy theories in adult education institutions. In her PhD thesis, Ms. Firsova researches the impact of the Israeli-German youth exchange program on participants' political views regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jeffrey Rathke

Jeff Rathke

President of AGI

Jeffrey Rathke is the President of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

Prior to joining AICGS, Jeff was a senior fellow and deputy director of the Europe Program at CSIS, where his work focused on transatlantic relations and U.S. security and defense policy. Jeff joined CSIS in 2015 from the State Department, after a 24-year career as a Foreign Service Officer, dedicated primarily to U.S. relations with Europe. He was director of the State Department Press Office from 2014 to 2015, briefing the State Department press corps and managing the Department's engagement with U.S. print and electronic media. Jeff led the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur from 2011 to 2014. Prior to that, he was deputy chief of staff to the NATO Secretary General in Brussels. He also served in Berlin as minister-counselor for political affairs (2006–2009), his second tour of duty in Germany. His Washington assignments have included deputy director of the Office of European Security and Political Affairs and duty officer in the White House Situation Room and State Department Operations Center.

Mr. Rathke was a Weinberg Fellow at Princeton University (2003–2004), winning the Master’s in Public Policy Prize. He also served at U.S. Embassies in Dublin, Moscow, and Riga, which he helped open after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Rathke has been awarded national honors by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as several State Department awards. He holds an M.P.P. degree from Princeton University and B.A. and B.S. degrees from Cornell University. He speaks German, Russian, and Latvian.



On this episode of The Zeitgeitst, AGI President Jeff Rathke talks with participants in the AGI project on social divisions in Germany and the United States, which recently visited the German city of Chemnitz. Elizaveta Firsova, research associate and PhD student at the Institute for Didactics of Democracy at Leibniz University of Hanover, Dillon Cathro, Community Research Coordinator for the University of Michigan School of Social Work, and Elizabeth Hotary, AGI Program Officer for Foreign & Security Policy and Society, Culture & Politics shared their impressions and findings. The AGI project “Social Divisions and Questions of Identity in Germany and the United States” seeks to establish new connections within and between communities. In Chemnitz, participants from Germany and the United States met with representatives of local government and civil society organizations to learn about the experience of social and economic changes and the challenges for politics and society. How has Chemnitz tried to attract growth amid loss of industry, demographic decline, and a growing far-right movement in society and government? Elizaveta Firsova and Dillon Cathro discuss initiatives in Chemnitz to promote a diverse and inclusive society in Saxony’s third-largest city.


Jeff Rathke, President, AGI


Dillon Cathro, Community Research Coordinator, University of Michigan School of Social Work
Elizaveta Firsova, Research associate and PhD student, Institute for Didactics of Democracy, Leibniz University of Hanover
Elizabeth Hotary, Program Officer, Foreign & Security Policy and Society, Culture & Politics, AGI

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