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The elected members of the Advisory Council (fltr): Vivian Valencia, Imran Simmins, Elizabeth Maloba, Ivana Ponjavic.

Together with the Founding Partners, the Dean and the Secretariat, the Advisory Council has the task to conceptualize the labs and to shape the future of the platform. The Advisory Council is composed by one representative of each partner institution, the Dean, the Secretariat and four elected members.

In September 2017, two new members of the Advisory Council were elected online by GDL members. The four elected members are now Elizabeth Maloba, Ivana Ponjavic, Imran Simmins and Vivian Valencia. Imran Simmins and Vivian Valencia will be replaced after the 9th Global Diplomacy Lab in Chicago.


Dean: Ruprecht Polenz

Ruprecht Polenz was a member of the German Parliament from 1994 to 2013 as representant of the City of Muenster. He was the Chairman of the German Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs from 2005 to 2013. He is currently special envoy of the German Government for the negotiations between Germany and Namibia about the colonial past.  The focal points of his work are foreign and security policy, with regional emphasis on the Middle East, in particular Iran and Turkey and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is following the political effects of Islam both in this region and beyond with particular interest. Good transatlantic relations with the USA are especially important to him. Polenz became senior member of the CDU party on April 10, 2000 under the presidency of Angela Merkel. From April to November 2000, he was the Secretary-General of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Ruprecht Polenz holds a number of voluntary positions: President of the German Association for East European Studies (DGO), German Co-Dean of the Turkish-Europe-Future-Forum (a common Enterprise of the Mercator-Foundation and TÜSIAD), Senior Adviser to the Bosch-Alumni-Program with the USA, member of the board of trustees of Grünhelme e.V. (“Green Helmets”, a humanitarian agency), member of the board of trustees of Münster University of Applied Sciences, member of the advisory council of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Elizabeth Maloba

Elizabeth Maloba has worked as an organisational change and business growth facilitator since 2002, and has extensive experience in capacity building, knowledge management, facilitation and conflict resolution.

She works to provide support to organisations to enable them to achieve their objectives by supporting them in making decisions, solving problems, exchanging ideas and information, and learning. She has considerable entrepreneurship experience, having started her own business and invested in a couple of small businesses over the years. This experience allows her to combine entrepreneurial and management skills where needed. She also provides training on entrepreneurship and leadership.

She is currently studying for her master’s degree in organisational development. She lives in Nairobi and has worked in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Somalia and Benin. Her personal interests are travelling and reading.


Ivana Ponjavic

Ivana Ponjavic studies Executive Master of Public Administration at Hertie School of Governance in Berlin since September 2016. She has been Communications Officer of the Head of the Negotiating team for accession of Serbia to the European Union since 2013.

From 2007 until 2013, she worked as Public Relations and Project Manager at the European Movement in Serbia. She led the media team of the international conference Belgrade Security Forum from 2010 to 2013.

As a participant of the “Fellowship Programme for Young Government Officials from Western Balkans”, organised by the European Fund for the Balkans, she was an exchange civil servant of the Training for International Diplomats department at the German Federal Foreign Office in 2015.

She is a graduate of the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade and of the Diplomatic Academy at Serbia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Imran Simmins

Imran is a South African diplomat in the process of completing his MA in International Relations and World Order through the University of Leicester online, with a focus on the impact that Technology is having on International Relations. He is currently an official in South Africa's Foreign Ministry, covering issues related to South Africa's position on science and technology in a multilateral organisation such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). Prior to this, he served as First Secretary (Political) at the Embassy of South Africa in Berlin, Germany, from 2014 to 2017.

Since January 2005, he previously served as Desk Officer for the National Office for Coordination of Peace Missions, as well as on the USA Political Bilateral Desk.

He served his first diplomatic posting as First Secreatry (Political) at the South African Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, from June 2007 to July 2011, where he dealt with a range of issues from serving on the secretariat of the South African Mediation Team to dealing with the land issues in Zimbabwe as it affected South Africa.

Throughout his teenage years he took up various leadership positions as a student activist in organisations that stood up against apartheid and any other forms of injustice. To this day, he holds and maintains these values.

Vivian Valencia

Vivian is a Research Fellow in Agroecology and Food System Sustainability at the University of Michigan. Her current work investigates relationships between policy, agricultural practices and socioecological resilience of food systems for the family farming sector in Brazil.

In 2015, Vivian received her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Columbia University in the City of New York where she investigated the environmental sustainability of shade-grown coffee.

As part of her doctoral work, she lived in remote rural communities in Mexico where she learned first-hand about the challenges encountered by farming communities in making a livelihood while facing external pressures to conserve natural areas.

Vivian obtained a Master’s in Health Science from Johns Hopkins University in 2007, as well as a BS in Biology and a BA in French from University of Florida in 2006.


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