Sherry Zalika Sykes


I am a career diplomat with the U.S. Department of State undertaking a sabbatical year of research, writing and activism on violence. The Department of State, in concert with the Uma Chapman Cox Foundation, granted this sabbatical fellowship based on my proposal to better understand what is happening in the U.S. to counter the plague of violence.  Violence of all sorts impacts so many of us, including my own son who was killed on July 4, 2013 in an armed robbery that occurred across the street from his school, Howard University in Washington, DC. My project began in August of 2014, and lasts one year. I and a team of five students from across the U.S. are investigating the policy and programmatic work of organizations that have been effective in diminishing violence, and I began formal study and teaching with Yale University’s Violence and Health Group in January. 

I have served in Tanzania, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, South Africa, and Mozambique as well as in Washington, DC where I engaged in oceans diplomacy. Before joining the Federal Government, I was an organizer and leader in community development organizations involved in the provision of fair and affordable housing, educational opportunities, entrepreneurship development, and leadership development and mentorship. After graduating high school in a Chicago, I earned an undergraduate degree at Stanford University and a masters degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

The Uma Chapman Cox Foundation Sabbatical Leave Fellowship Program recognizes, rewards, and encourages senior and mid-career career members of the Foreign Service.  The one-year program is designed to enrich the participants’ careers, sustain their professional development, provide opportunities to stimulate public awareness of the Foreign Service, and ultimately to support and strengthen the Foreign Service of the United States.The program enables the selectee to pursue activities that will be beneficial and enriching to both the employee and the Foreign Service.  The sabbaticals, as envisioned by the late Mrs. Uma Chapman Cox, allow selected officers to reacquaint themselves with the United States, and reaffirm their personal commitment to the Foreign Service.

Everything in this blog is personal and may not be attributed in any way to the U.S. Department of State.

Amy Chang


My name is Amy Chang, and I am a junior undergraduate student at Yale University, currently studying the unlikely combination of Global Affairs and Biomedical Engineering.  Throughout my time in undergraduate, I’ve been heavily involved in journalism, writing and editing the past few years for the Yale Politic and now leading the Global Health Review. I’ve also been involved in IR instruction to local high school students, program development with NGOs, and neurobiology research at the medical school on campus. After spending a semester in Morocco conducting field research and visiting Israel/Palestine as part of a program seeking to understand the nuances of the region’s political and security situation, my main research interests are in policies and programs concerning migration, humanitarian assistance, and conflict resolution.

Engaging in various ways with violence and conflict during eight months abroad piqued my interest in understanding sustainable strategies in violence prevention, the crux of this project.  I look forward to expanding my understanding of these issues and sharing some of my thoughts throughout this year.


Ché Nembhard

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My name is Ché Nembhard, and I am a senior undergraduate student at Howard University, majoring in Political Science with a concentration in International Affairs and minoring in Anthropology. Over my academic career at Howard I have experienced both amazing and trying times that have brought me here to the person that I am proud to be today. A highlight of my experiences, for example, was being a part of the narrative steering committee for President Obama’s White House Initiative, ‘My Brother’s Keeper.’ I’ve had multiple internships and partnerships, some more exciting than others, that have widened my horizons specifically around how the globalization of daily communication have affected the social interactions of individuals and groups for both better and worse. I have a love for language and for people more than anything. I have about four years of experience with Japanese and two or so with Spanish.
What I love about this project is that at its core it will show what works in the vast array of diplomatic tools used  to combat violence and conflict. I have an immense interest in figuring out what makes for policy and community education that can be able to  stand the test of time; actions taken now that not will only benefit our contemporary society, but have positive effects that reverberate through generations to come. I look forward to sharing my research and thoughts with all of you.


Melissa Pavlik


My name is Melissa Pavlik. I’m currently an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago studying political science and statistics. My primary research interests are international security issues, including violence against women. I’m political at heart, and I intend to spend a career dedicating myself to crafting & presenting research-based policy approaches to international issues–my goal is to help implement policy frameworks that address violence worldwide. I’ve previously experimented with work in PACs, congressional offices, courtrooms, the federal bureaucracy, and non-profits, so I have a wide array of perspectives gained from working hard (if for brief intervals) in a wide array of places.

I grew up in Detroit, and now go to school on the south side of Chicago–a move that would make it impossible not to notice the  devastating effects violence has on communities, as well as the disparities and bitterness that often underlines the gap between high violence and low violence areas. Such observations sparked my interest in this project, and in violence prevention in general.


Amy Sereday

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My name is Amy Sereday. I am currently a graduate student at Columbia University pursuing a MS in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.   I also have a BA in Communication from Western Connecticut State University and a post-grad certificate in Paralegal Studies from the University of Hartford.  As a mid-career professional in the legal field, I returned to academia seeking new direction in my career and an infusion of inspiration in my life. My studies are currently focused on mediation, restorative justice, trauma healing and public policy.

On a personal note: In 2010, I was the victim of gun violence when I was injured in an accidental shooting. I was very fortunate that my injuries were not life threatening but it was a life changing experience nonetheless. The themes of violence, mediation and trauma are very close to my heart and give me great passion for the work. The subject of violence is vastly important but incredibly polarizing.  It is crucial for us to embrace complexity and do our part in preventing the national and global discussion from remaining a zero-sum contest.  I look forward to sharing this journey with all of you.



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