CCS Welcomes 2023-2024 Class of the Climate and Security Fellowship

By Brigitte Hugh

The Center for Climate and Security (CCS) is pleased to announce the 2023-2024 class of the Climate and Security Fellowship. 

Extreme weather, food and energy crises, and global competition over clean energy are increasingly underscoring the security implications of climate change, prompting a recognition among U.S. policymakers that climate change must be at the center of U.S. national security and foreign policy. To meet this goal, there is a need for increased integration and capacity in  the U.S. security and climate workforces. The Climate Security Fellowship creates a space for mid-career professionals to explore the impact of climate on security and security on climate while building a network of professionals working at this nexus. 

The 2023-2024 class of 12 fellows comes from a diverse set of backgrounds and expertise critical to advancing a whole of society response to climate security risks. During their term, they will have opportunities to engage with expert speakers, discuss a syllabus of key climate security topics, and build relationships with the CCS network and one another. The CCS team looks forward to collaborating with them over the next nine months. 


Julia Bontempo is a resiliency professional who has worked with communities across the country to understand the extent of climate-related threats and realize inclusive, resilient, and sustainable development. As a member of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, she collaborated with some of the city’s most vulnerable communities to stay safe during heat waves and collaborated on multidisciplinary teams to brainstorm and develop plans for mitigating extreme heat in creative, sustainable, and accessible ways. Through her work as an Associate at Karp Strategies, Bontempo builds supply chain and public support for renewable energy infrastructure through community, workforce, and economic strategy. 

Claire Coffey is a Technical Account Manager at Windward, where she supports U.S. government partners in analyzing national security issues in the maritime domain. Prior to Windward, Coffey was an analyst at C4ADS where she tracked unsustainable natural resource supply chains. She also worked as a Senior Analyst at Panjiva, a global trade intelligence company. At Panjiva, Coffey helped lead the government relations team and conducted open-source research to augment the evaluation and loading of semi-structured, multilingual transaction-level customs data. 

Maddie Craig-Scheckman is a PhD student and research assistant at Northeastern University’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, where she specializes in equitable renewable energy solutions in Southeast Asia. She holds a Master’s degree from The George Washington University, where she studied climate security, U.S.-China relations, and conducted field research on Thai solar energy development. Previously, Craig-Scheckman helped manage the development of large community solar projects in Washington DC at the DC Sustainable Energy Utility. 

V. Page Fortna is the Harold Brown Professor of US Foreign and Security Policy in the Political Science Department at Columbia University, and the Director of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. Her research focuses on terrorism, the durability of peace in the aftermath of both civil and interstate wars, war termination, and increasingly on the international politics of climate change. Fortna was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021 and received the Karl Deutsch Award from the International Studies Association in 2010.  Fortna holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University. 

Kelsey Harpham is currently the Water Tracker for National Climate Planning lead at the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA), where she is directing a global effort to increase coherence, efficacy, and ambition in Nationally Determined Contributions and other climate planning instruments. She previously worked at the International Centre for Environmental Management in Hanoi, Vietnam, leading climate resilience, disaster risk reduction, and watershed management projects across Asia. Harpham is a civil engineer by training and has held roles with major U.S. engineering firms facilitating close collaboration with communities for infrastructure design. She holds an MS in Water Resources Engineering and certificate in Water Conflict Management and Transformation from Oregon State University and BA in Urban and Environmental Policy from Occidental College. 

Benjamin Huynh is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His work lies at the intersection of AI, climate, and public health. He and his research group develop data science approaches to address public health issues pertaining to natural disasters and environmental injustices, both locally and internationally. He obtained his PhD in Biomedical Data Science from Stanford University, and a BS in Statistics from the University of Chicago. He has previously worked in data science roles at the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières.

Ans Irfan, MD, EdD, DrPH, ScD, MPH, MRPL is a multidisciplinary global climate health expert with over a decade and a half of experience as a global health equity strategist, both domestically and globally. He currently serves as a professor at Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, where his teaching and applied research portfolio focuses on social, racial, and health equity intersecting with climate justice and climate innovation. His second academic appointment is at Harvard University as a Religion and Public Health Fellow with the Harvard Divinity School, where he explores the complex intersection of religious moral philosophy, social ethics, and public health policies.

Laura Leddy is a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO, where her work focuses on energy system security and resilience. Prior to joining NREL, Leddy earned a Master of International Affairs degree at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government & Public Service and completed a climate security internship at the DC-based American Security Project. She also holds undergraduate degrees in History and Russian Studies from the University of Virginia.  

Nadia Seeteram is a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Climate School. Her current research is focused on understanding multi-sectoral policy solutions for reducing climate risks across U.S. housing markets. She received her Ph.D. in Earth Systems Science at Florida International University and has held research positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. Seeteram also received an M.S. in Environmental Studies from Florida International University and a B.S. in Psychology and Environmental Policy from Fordham University. 

Audrey Thill is currently a research assistant for the Fourth Freedom Forum, contributing to the Advancing Humanitarianism through Sanctions Reform (AHSR) project. She holds a Master of Global Affairs degree from the University of Notre Dame where she concentrated in international peace studies and climate change. For her capstone, she analyzed patterns of illicit trade in conflict-affected climate-critical minerals supply chains. Prior to graduate school, Thill worked for six years with Mennonite Central Committee in Cambodia and Myanmar, coordinating environmental peacebuilding and conflict response programs. She also conducted research on land disputes and illegal deforestation and supported grassroots human rights campaigns in Cambodia. Thill holds a BA in Sociology and Peace and Conflict Studies from Goshen College.

Olivia Urbanski is a Water Security and Foreign Affairs Officer in the Office of Conservation and Water at the U.S. Department of State. She recently joined the Water Team after over three years in the Office of Global Change working directly with the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (SPEC). While on the climate team, Urbanski specialized in international climate policy, negotiated on behalf of the United States at the two most recent UNFCCC COPs, and coordinated the team’s bilateral and regional engagement in Africa. She also led engagement on climate security issues, youth, and the nexus of climate and gender. Urbanski holds a dual degree in Global and International Studies and Environmental Studies from Loyola University Chicago.  

Ashley Woodson serves as faculty associate and the Emergency Management & Resilience (EM&R) functional area deputy in the Practice and Capabilities Division of the Institute for Security Governance (ISG). In her current role, she is building the climate security portfolio and supports the planning and facilitation of international disaster preparedness and response engagements, and post-event evaluation and assessment. Prior to this, Woodson served as the Associate Operations Manager for the Joint Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Program at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). Woodson holds a Master of Arts in Security Studies with a focus on Stabilization and Reconstruction from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from the California State University of Monterey Bay.