Dr. Elsa Talat Khwaja is currently a Senior Development Officer at the American Councils for International Education Strategic Development Department. She received her PhD in Public Policy at the George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government.

Dr. Khwaja’s research involves international development policy and aid effectiveness in fragile and conflict-affected conflict zones. Exploring the cases of Afghanistan and Pakistan through an enhanced understanding of the social capital-aid effectiveness-fragility nexus, her main concern is how material and/or non-material exchanges among social networks of international donor agencies and recipient organizations potentially help or hinder aid-delivery processes in fragile and conflict-afflicted spaces.

Previously, Dr. Khwaja worked at Chemonics International, an international development consulting firm in Washington, DC, as a New Business Associate in the Southern Africa Division, and a Project Management Associate in the Afghanistan and Pakistan Division. In the AfPak Division, she supported the Pakistan FIRMS project, a USAID private sector development initiative to improve government service delivery and develop dynamic, internationally competitive firms in order to strengthen the economy, by accelerating sales, investment, and job growth, and to undercut the basis of extremism.

Prior to that, Dr. Khwaja was a Brent Scowcroft Award Fellow at the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Strategy Group. She also worked at the Embassy of Pakistan as a research assistant to the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States. She received her Masters in Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), where she was awarded the Fred C. Bruhns Nationality Room’s scholarship to conduct research on gender-based violence and gender disparities in development of Pakistan. For her research she worked at two NGOs in Karachi, Pakistan: the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA) and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Dr. Khwaja received her Bachelors at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a double major in Global Studies and Political Science.

Dr. Khwaja is a member of the American Pakistan Foundation’s National Leadership Council. 

Dr. Khwaja also holds membership with the International Studies Association, Association for Public Policy and Management, American Political Science Association, International Public Policy Association, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, Women in International Security, Society for International Development, American Institute of Pakistan Studies, and the American Insitute of Afghanistan Studies.

Dr. Khwaja’s research interests and specializations include:

  • Foreign policy
  • International Development
  • Human Security
  • Fragile and Failing states
  • Post-conflict reconstruction
  • Gendered Disparities and Impacts on Development
  • Social Capital
  • Social Network Analysis
  • Qualitative Methods

Dr. Khwaja’s regional specializations include the Middle East and South Asia.

She has various proficiencies in Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, and Spanish.