Friends of The DateKeepers
At The DateKeepers, we believe in the power of collaboration. We all have our own peculiar syntheses of knowledge, experience, passions, and skills—and we all have limitations, too. This is why we invest in each other. Each DateKeepers collaborator brings to the table a unique blend of talents, perspectives, and expertise, strengthening The DateKeepers and drawing strength from us as well. We're proud to showcase them below. We're proud to call them friends.
To contact one of our friends, email us at email@example.com. We will forward your message to them. To propose a collaborative partnership with The DateKeepers, complete our application form here.
Science & Tech Friends
Lígia Fonseca Coelho
Lígia Fonseca Coelho holds a PhD in Bioengineering and Astrobiology and is interested in biosignatures with a focus on biological pigments, extreme environments, and planetary field analogs. In 2022, she earned a Fulbright Schuman scholarship, becoming the first Portuguese national ever to do so, to pursue research at Cornell University and develop database of colorful biosignatures to facilitate searches for extra-terrestrial life.
In addition to these projects, Lígia has also co-authored a series of studies aiming to improve the lives of astronauts in space. These have involved everything from conducting fundamental inquiries into the impact of microgravity on photosynthesis to developing the first fully functional zero-G menstrual cup. On Lígia's watch, payloads supporting these experiments have been deployed on various rockets, including Blue Origin's New Shepard.
Paresh Kumar Samantaray
Dr. Paresh Samantaray is a materials scientist by training with expertise in the synthesis, characterization, and applications of polymers, nanostructured materials, and polymer nanocomposites. He is especially passionate about charting new structure-property-function relationships in synthetic materials chemistry and polymer nanocomposites for diverse application such as Aerospace Shielding Materials, Plastics Packaging, Domestic and Wastewater treatment, Desalination, and Heavy Metal Remediation.
Dr. Samantaray obtained his B. Tech in Plastics Engineering from CIPET, Bhubaneswar and his MSc. Engg. and Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He completed his postdoctoral research at the International Institute for Nanocomposites Manufacturing (IINM), WMG, University of Warwick, and in mid-2021, he joined the California Institute of Technology as a Postdoctoral Scholar Fellowship Trainee with the Fulbright-Nehru Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Caltech Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship. He also serves on the Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars Advisory Board of the American Chemical Society.
Dr. Valeriia Poliukhova is a material science researcher with experience in Ukraine, Luxembourg, Korea, and the USA. She earned her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Micro- and Nanoelectronics from the National Technical University of Ukraine, and her PhD in Nanomaterial Science and Engineering from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Seoul. Following her PhD, she conducted postdoctoral research at the Purdue School of Engineering in Indianapolis and now works on a team at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, exploring bionanocomposites and other nanomaterials.
Dr. Poliukhova's research efforts have contributed to the development of high-performance photocatalyst synthesis targeting water purification and hydrogen production, and to optimizing Mxene synthesis for large-scale manufacturing. When she's not immersed in academic projects, Valeriia savors reading, yoga, hot coffee, and meditation. Her zeal for science is matched only by her love for nature, art, and mesmerizing sunsets.
Dr. Alpha Ousmane Toure
With over 10 years of experience in the lab and field, Dr. Alpha Ousmane Toure has established himself as one of the world's leading experts on industrial waste valorization (i.e. recycling waste back into usable products). His research interests include low-carbon cement, green processes, sustainability, and circular economies. He earned his master's and doctorate from Ecole Superieure Polytechnique at Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar in Senegal and has published over 28 papers in international journals.
Dr. Toure is also a passionate advocate of international education and exchange and has contributed to a joint research project with Howard University at Washington, DC and the National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse in France; participated in COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) with Lehman College at the City University of New York; and been a Fulbright scholar.
Sebastian Giacomino is a biologist and PhD student at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina and a member of the Centro para el Estudio de Sistema Marinos (CESIMAR) - CONICET (National Research Council), Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina. His primary research interest is developing stable carbon and nitrogen isotope landscapes from the pelagic baselines of two commercial and touristic gulfs in the Córdoba region.
Since childhood, Sebastian has nourished an interest in marine life, and now, in addition to his academic pursuits, he is also a passionate advocate for conservation of ocean environments in Argentina and around the world.
Luis Quijano is a Fulbright scholar and PhD candidate in Fashion & Biotechnology at Queensland University of Technology. His doctoral research is situated at the intersection of fashion design and biotechnology with a focus on bacterial cellulose as a biomaterial for the textile industry.
Luis also researches other potential materials and emerging technologies for a sustainable future. His professional affiliations include the International Textile and Apparel Association, ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology, Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion, and Sustainable Fashion Consumption Network.
Sinan Morcel is a software architect, entrepreneur, and Fulbright alumnus. He holds a Bachelor's of Science in Computer Science and a Master's of Science in Robotics Engineering. Instead of pursuing a Ph.D., he disembarked from the traditional academic conveyor belt to work for a few years in the corporate sector as a Software Engineer in Cyber Security. He then went on to bootstrap a software-making business with his brother. They are currently building something massive, which will remain a surprise for the time being.
Sinan's services include mentoring teams, advising clients on recruitment and hiring decisions, providing consultations on which software development methods, standards, and tools to use in greenfield and brownfield development, and offering Chief Technology Officer (Fractional CTO) services to clients interested in launching software-powered businesses. When taking clients, Sinan avoids conflicts of interest and offers flexible, subscription-like contracts.
Languages & Humanities Friends
Ariana Lippi is a Fulbright alum, a master's candidate in Global Environmental Policy and Law at American University, and a continuing master's student of Spanish Language & Literature at Middlebury College. Ariana is a fierce believer in the arts and art's ability to create pause, meditation, meaning, joy, justice, etc., as well as its power to connect people.
Ariana is currently an emerging environmental professional and scholar, passionate about environmental justice and sustainability. They have a combined seven years of experience at non-profit human rights and international sustainability organizations and draws upon international and multidisciplinary experiences to inform their views.
Sarwa Azeez is a Kurdish poet, translator, and Fulbright scholar with an MA in English Literature at Leicester University and an MFA from Nebraska-Lincoln University. Her debut poetry collection, Remote, was published in the UK by 4Word in 2019, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Parentheses Journal, The New Verse News, Writing for A Woman's Voice, Notre Dame Literary, Wingless Dreamer, and elsewhere.
Sarwa's writing draws on her childhood memories of wartime Iraq, where she grew up reading by the flickering light of kerosene lanterns, and searches for the beauty in a war-torn world while seeking to define identity and confront issues of equal gender representation and violence in male-dominant communities. In what little free time she has, Sarwa applies her knowledge of English, Arabic, Kurdish, and Farsi by practicing the subtle art of translating poetry.
Abdelghafour ben Lahbib
Abdelghafour ben Lahbib is a doctoral candidate in the Applied Languages and Culture Studies program at Chouaib Doukkali University in El-Jadida, Morocco, where he is conducting research on Moroccan political identity, Moroccan Anglophone narratives, and Moroccan history and society.
Abdelghafour holds an MA in Cultural Studies and has served as a reviewer for the Journal of North African Studies and a contributing writer at The DateKeepers. His research interests span a range of topics related to cultural identity, literature, and history, with a special focus on representations of Moroccan culture and society in literature and media, identity, power, and representation.
Lily C. Buday
Lily C. Buday holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where she was awarded the Harrison/Whitehead Founders' Fellowship and the James E. & Ellen Wadley Roper Fellowship in Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in Chautauqua Literary Journal, GASHER, Joyland Magazine, and Salt Hill Journal and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
In 2022, Lily received an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council and an Artists 360 Fellowship from the Mid-American Arts Alliance.
Originally from northern Michigan, where she learned to write semi-obsessively about water and lakes, Lily now calls Fayetteville, Arkansas her home.
Tri Murniati teaches English Language and Literature at Jenderal Soedirman University in Banyumas, Indonesia, where she also serves as an administrator. Much of her academic work, including her PhD dissertation, has examined the lived experiences and written narratives of Indonesian domestic workers separated from their families and supporting them by working abroad in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Tri holds a BA and MA in English Literature from Diponegero University in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia and earned her PhD in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, which she attended as a Fulbright Scholar. Tri deserves eternal credit as the matchmaker who brought Itto and Mekiya Outini together.
Om Ash has lived and worked in four countries, Morocco, Malaysia, Turkey, and Romania, teaching English as a second language to children and adults of all ages and grade levels.
She speaks fluent English, French, Standard Arabic, and all regional Arabic dialects and offers translation services on a freelance basis. We’re grateful to have Om as our social media manager.
Touria Fdilat holds a BA in English Literature from Moulay Ismail University in Meknes, Morocco. She speaks English, French, Standard Arabic, and Moroccan Darija and currently serves as a dispatcher at Hôpital el Idrissi in Kenitra.
In addition to providing translation services for The DateKeepers, Touria also serves as a scout, connecting us with stories and subjects based around Morocco. When she's not working or studying, she enjoys reading for pleasure, especially about linguistics, history, and cultural studies.
Arts & Design Friends
Geghie A. Davis-Tillie
Geghie Davis-Tillie holds a BFA in Graphic Design with a minor in Entrepreneurship from the University of Tennessee and an MA in Design with a specialization in UX/UI from Northumbria University, where she studied as a Fulbright scholar. Her expertise includes UX and UI, digital art, web-building, multimedia design, research, branding, and motion design.
Geghie serves as President of Fulbrighters with Disabilities, to which she brings a strong commitment to accessibility and inclusivity. Her advocacy, like her artistic practice, is informed by her lived experience as a woman with multiple invisible disabilities, which has taught her empathy and awareness of the unseen challenges that lie beneath the surface of so many lives, and by her Appalachian heritage, which has invested her with a deep appreciation for storytelling, community, tradition, and human connection.
Leila is a Fulbright scholar and graduate student in architecture at the University of Oregon, Eugene. During her studies at the National School of Architecture in Rabat, Morocco.
Since graduation, Leila dabbled in several lines of work including graphic design, exhibition scenography, and audiovisual production before making her way back to architecture through a Master's program with a focus on sustainable building technology and buildings' life cycles. She speaks English, Arabic, and French and hails originally from Rabat, Morocco.
Pauline Eveillard is the founder and president of Soukra, an e-commerce platform dedicated to showcasing Tunisian designers, artisans, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs. This business was inspired by the year Pauline spent in Tunisia as a Fulbright scholar, studying ancient Roman mosaics and cultivating lifelong friendships.
Pauline holds a BA in art history from Tufts University and an MA from the University of Chicago and and has worked for the World Monuments Fund. A mother of two, Pauline splits her time between Manhattan and San Francisco and makes regular trips to Tunisia.
Jamila Morcel is an artist, illustrator, graphic designer, and creator of the DateKeepers logo. In addition to book illustrations and covers, she's worked with a wide range of media, designing everything from woodcarvings and furniture to dresses and curtains.
Her passion for book illustration, grounded in her 13 years as a kindergarten teacher, has since grown to encompass graphic design, logo design, UX, design, and digital illustration. She now works as a freelancer providing all these services and more to clients around the world.
Amy Pedid is the founder and sole proprietor of The Sage Mages, a small business that supports individuals and organizations of all shapes and sizes. Her services include branding, visual art, template design, and web design.
Amy studied graphic design at the Dale Jackson School in Dallas, Texas and holds a BA in Communications Design with a specialization in Art Direction from the University of North Texas. Born and raised in Dallas, she now lives with her husband and daughter in Northwest Arkansas.
Social Science & Policy Friends
Leila ben Gacem
Leila ben Gacem is an Ashoka Fellow, Fatma Fehri Awardee, social entrepreneur, and city councilwoman in her hometown of Béni Khalled, Tunisia. After earning her degree in biomedical engineering from Boston University and working for ten years at a series of multinational corporations, Leila pivoted to her true passion: social entrepreneurship.
Since 2006, Leila has launched and contributed to numerous initiatives, from her company Blue Fish to the Digital Citizenship project to the Dar el-Harka co-working space in the Medina of Tunis and more, to make Tunisia's cultural heritage more sustainable and economically resilient and restore the faith and confidence of the Tunisian people in their culture and homeland.
Gaurav Misra is India's first UN-recognized life skills coach, with a professional interest in gamification and a passion for helping young people transform themselves into productive, successful, and employable human beings. Through his affiliation with the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Misraspatti, India, he has contributed to the School of Life, an innovative program aimed at teaching university students practical life skills such as leadership, collaboration, interpersonal communication, and social responsibility.
Gaurav has mentored, coached, and trained corporate leaders, university graduates, and grade school students on every inhabited continent. He is a Fulbright scholar, a Global Leaders for Innovation & Knowledge (GLIK) scholar, a three-time Blackboard Award winner, and a two-time winner of the Fulbright in the Classroom grant, under whose auspices he conducted cultural exchange programs for K-12 students in the US in 2021. In addition to studying Life Skills at the University of Montana and earning a diploma from the Indian Society for Training and Development, Gaurav holds a degree in English literature, which enriches his understanding of humanity and informs his passion for his work.
Sara Lynn Thelen
Sara Lynn Thelen is a freelance sign language interpreter from Grand Ledge, Michigan who holds a BEI II certification with medical and mental health endorsements. She interpreted in medical, mental health, and higher-education settings from 2017 to 2022 and worked for the Social Security Administration between 2014 and 2017.
She is currently an operations manager at a global security think tank in Washington, DC, and continues to offer online interpretation services using VRS (Video Relay Services). She is fluent in French and ASL and proficient in Spanish and Persian.
Maria Teresa Lago Lao
Maria Teresa Lago Lao holds three Master's degrees (in Clinical Neuropsychology, Research in Psychology, and Project Management and Planning in Developmental Contexts) and has spent decades working to empower people with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities around the world. Most recently, she's served the United Nations Development Programme as a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist.
When she's not putting her knowledge of psychology, hands-on experience with project development, and multilingualism to use in the field, Maria Teresa spends her time with her husband and young son, whom she's raising to be a citizen of a world more diverse and inclusive than the one into which she was born.
Legal Services Friends
Taylor Farr is an attorney at Conner & Winters, LLP in Northwest Arkansas, where he specializes in corporate transactions and litigation. He also maintains a pro bono practice consisting mainly of immigration law, assisting clients with asylum and green card applications as well as other matters. Before joining Conner & Winters, he worked for the Honorable Bobby E. Shepherd at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and assisted clients with mergers and acquisitions in Dallas, Texas.
Taylor earned his Bachelor's in agronomy and crop science and his Doctorate of Law with a specialization in food law and policy, both at the University of Arkansas, where he also served on the Arkansas Law Review. He enjoys outdoor activities, roots for the Razorbacks, and attends Chiefs games with his fiancé, Danica.
Ellen Weintraut is an immigration attorney, licensed in Oregon and currently practicing in Northwest Arkansas. She owns Northwest Immigration Law and has over seventeen years of experience working in immigration law. Her primary focus is family immigration, but she also regularly handles citizenship cases as well as asylum and humanitarian immigration cases.
In addition to accompanying clients to their USCIS interviews, she defends clients in removal proceedings and assists with immigration appeals. She is admitted to the Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals. She currently serves as the AILA Liaison with the USCIS Field Office in Fort Smith, AR. She speaks English and Spanish.
Dom Caristi is a Professor Emeritus of Media at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where he lives with his wife, Kim. He holds a PhD in journalism and mass communications from the University of Iowa, serves on the Board of Directors of the Indiana Chapter of the Fulbright Association, and is a co-author of the book Communication Law: Practical Applications in the Digital Age (3rd ed. 2022), alongside William Davie and Laurie Thomas Lee. In 2023, he received the Distinguished Education Service Award from the Broadcast Education Association, of which he has been a member for more than 30 years, and on whose Board of Directors he served from 1997 to 2002, including a term as its Vice President.
Additional honors that Dom has accrued include the Outstanding Faculty Service Award from Ball State University (2020), the Outstanding Faculty Member Award from Ball State (2012), Fulbright Professorships in Greece (2009) and Slovenia (1995), the Distinguished Service Award from the Iowa Broadcasters Association (1998), and several fellowships with the Radio Television Digital News Association and the National Association of Television Program Executives.