Episode 61: Economic Transformation, Demographic Change, and Social Divisions in Buffalo, NY

Deanna Troust

3 Stories Communications

Deanna Troust is an award-winning communications strategist and founder of Truth in Common, a nonprofit that forwards human-centered, pluralistic solutions to the mis-, dis- and malinformation epidemic. She leads workshops for community members and organizations, speaks to professional and parent groups and brings communicators to the table in tackling this foundational global issue. Truth in Common is informed by Deanna’s work in the disinformation research, journalism, democracy and diversity, equity and inclusion spaces, plus best practices for bridging divisions and her 25+-year career in social change. Based in Washington, DC and with roots in western New York, Deanna is a two-time entrepreneur who also helps nonprofits tell their impact stories and develop equity-centered communications strategies as part of her consulting arm, 3 Stories Communications. She serves on the board of DC International School, leads the Inclusion & Racial Justice Task Force at her church and lives in Washington, DC’s eclectic Adams Morgan neighborhood with her husband, two bicultural daughters and a rescue dog named Sweet Pea.

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

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.



Mohammad Khanjar

Scholz & Friends

Mohammad Khanjar is engaged in PR consulting and political communication at Scholz & Friends, Germany’s leading advertising agency. With his project team, he advises EU institutions in PR affairs and coordinates their communication measures regarding political, economic and societal campaigns. Mr. Khanjar obtained a Master’s degree in international relations and security from the University of Westminster and holds a Bachelor’s degree in history, politics and society from the University of Potsdam. He gained interdisciplinary experiences in diplomatic and parliamentary affairs, PR work, and civil society initiatives. His participation in the Fulbright Diversity Initiative program in Texas and an exchange semester in California reflect Mr. Khanjar’s interest in transatlantic relations. IFAIR, a non-profit think tank, has also published his articles thematizing U.S. domestic and foreign policy. As the son of Lebanese immigrants, Mr. Khanjar is involved in Islamic youth work, volunteers as value ambassador for 'InteGREATer e.V.' and participated in a nationwide interreligious dialogue to defend pluralism. For his academic achievements and social commitment, Mr. Khanjar was awarded a scholarship by the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation and other institutions.

On this episode of The Zeitgeist, AGI President Jeff Rathke talks with participants in the AGI project on social divisions in Germany and the United States, which recently visited Buffalo, NY. Deanna Troust, founder of 3 Stories Communications based in Washington, DC; Mohammad Khanjar, PR consultant at Scholz & Friends in Berlin, Germany; and Elizabeth Hotary, AGI Program Officer, shared their impressions and findings. In Buffalo, the participants explored the experiences and challenges of economic and demographic change as well as their impact on society and politics with representatives of local government, civil society organizations, and academic research institutions. Deanna Troust and Mohammad Khanjar discuss the local community engagement initiatives’ creative efforts to serve the needs of diverse communities and help bridge social and economic divisions in Buffalo and explore parallels and divergences between Buffalo and Dortmund, Germany, which the participants visited earlier this year.

The AGI project “Social Divisions and Questions of Identity in Germany and the United States” seeks to establish new connections within and between communities and 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).


Jeff Rathke, President, AGI


Elizabeth Hotary, Program Officer, Foreign & Security Policy and Society, Culture & Politics, AGI
Mohammad Khanjar, PR consultant, Scholz & Friends
Deanna Troust, Founder, 3 Stories Communications

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