Daniel Wehrenfennig, Ph.D. is the executive director of the Olive Tree Initiative. He also directs the Certificate Program in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at the University of California, Irvine. He has produced a documentary film for civic education in Malawi/Africa. His recent work has been published by Peace Review, Communication Theory, the University of California Press, Lexington Books and Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism.
Director at UCI
In her capacity as OTI’s Director at UCI, Susan oversees the OTI HQ office staff to sustain OTI’s day-to-day operational requirements. She mentors and trains staff and OTI Students, oversees regional directors, coordinates with other OTI campuses, organizes national and local OTI Board meetings and programming, and represents OTI at community and speaking engagements throughout Orange County. Susan also serves as a leader on both the Student and Community OTI trips to the Middle East and other conflict regions. Prior to moving back to California, she worked as the Director for the Middle East and Africa at the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment.
Sean graduated from UCLA in 2013 with a BA in History and has been involved with the Olive Tree Initiative since 2012. After being inspired by the work and and members of OTI, Sean regularly traveled throughout Europe to work with various peace building NGOs. He promoted these initiatives by utilizing new media in the form of blogging, video, and freelance writing for youth oriented websites. Before joining the OTI team, Sean stayed active as an alumni by participating in the Northern Ireland Community trip in 2017, and as a trip leader for the first OTI alumni trip to Northern Ireland in July of 2018.
Middle East Program Coordinator
Timna received her BA in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine in 2014. She joined OTI as a student in 2010 and now oversees the Middle East program. Among her travels to the Middle East, Timna spent 9 months in Egypt where she studied and conducted research on leftist youth. She is now based in Jerusalem where, in addition to her work with OTI, she is volunteering in the non-profit sector.
Misbah is a Ph.D student in the Political Science department at UCI, studying membership politics of religious minorities in South Asia and the Middle East. She has been involved with OTI since entering graduate school at UCI in 2016. Prior to attending UCI, Misbah was an adjunct professor at St. John's University in New York, teaching the politics around and experiences of the Muslim community in NYC; this class incorporated experiential learning trips around the city into its core curricular goals. She also received her M.A. from St. John's in International relations (with a concentration in International Law and Diplomacy) in 2014. For her thesis, she evaluated refugee protection mechanisms for individuals who worked for an opposing power in a conflict. For Misbah, OTI has beautifully married her passion for not just researching the intricate dynamics within conflict analysis but also teaching them to enthusiastic students through the power of experiential learning.
Laila is a fourth year student at the University of California, Irvine. She is double majoring in Cognitive Sciences and Religious Philosophy and is pursuing a minor in International Studies. She served as the Internal President of the Olive Tree Initiative chapter at UC Irvine for the past two years and is currently conducting research on definitions of peace in the Middle East with an emphasis on conflict and dispute resolution. She has spent time in Morocco, Turkey, Iran, Israel, Palestine, and Germany where she was able to do aid work in Syrian refugee camps. She hopes to one day obtain a PhD and JD in international law and continue with her research that aims to provide aid and resolution to conflict areas in the Middle East.
Katarina is a fifth-year undergraduate student pursuing a BA to MA in European Thought and Culture at UC Irvine. Immediately after high school she spent several years traveling around the South Pacific, living immersed in the various cultures of the region. Katarina's interest in international relations was sparked by the Model United Nations program at her junior college. She immediately became heavily involved and served as the school chapter's president, winning several delegate awards along the way. Upon transferring to UC Irvine she developed an interest in political dissent in the post-soviet sphere, particularly the use of literature to influence revolutions. After graduate school, she plans to continue her research within academia and contribute to our understanding of the relationship between art and politics.
Shelby is a third year student at the University of California, Irvine currently serving as the Internal President of the Middle East chapter of the Olive Tree Initiative. She is pursing a degree in Social Policy and Public Service focused on Education with a minor in International Studies. Within her studies she is currently conducting research on education in Arab-Israeli schools inspired by her previous experience interning at a California-based teacher training institute for educators from the Middle East. Shelby aspires to continue research or meaningful work in the field of international education in the future with the hope of making a meaningful impact in children’s futures.
Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Healing Ambassador Program Manager
Elizabeth graduated from UC Irvine in 2015 with a BA in Philosophy and a minor in Psychology Social Behavior. She has been a member of OTI since 2013 and participated on the Middle East trip. She is humbled to have received the 2013-2014 Dalai Lama Scholarship and Fellowship with her project partner, Blanca Castro. As OTI Project Manager, she adds to fundraising support, organizing two annual fundraisers, in addition to developing the programming and managing the logistics for OTI pre-trip preparation “Bootcamp” and the annual OTI Leadership Conference.
Alumni Program Coordinator
Kevin is a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Riverside where he studies political theory with special interests in conflict resolution and cosmopolitanism. He received his B.A. in political science in 2010 from UC Irvine where he participated in a trip to the Middle East with the Olive Tree Initiative in 2009. After graduating from UC Irvine, he taught English in Vietnam for one year. In 2011, through a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, he lived in the Netherlands and completed a M.Sc in Conflict Resolution and Governance at the University of Amsterdam. He has given presentations about the Olive Tree Initiative to many Rotary Clubs and universities throughout the Netherlands, Egypt and the U.S. He aims to be a professor and to expand the model of education used by the Olive Tree Initiative.