Spotlight: Professional Fellows

Aria Widyanto poses for a picture in the East Room of the White House.
Aria Widyanto poses for a picture in the East Room of the White House.

Mr. Aria Widyanto

Indonesia, HYVE Innovation

Aria Widyanto is a partner for HYVE Innovation and is a business consultant in Indonesia. His business motto is “Let’s Innovate, Indonesia!” His YSEALI Professional Fellows placement is in Iowa City, Iowa with the Office of the City Manager.

What has it been like being placed in the City Manager’s Office?
It has been great. They have included me in all of the weekly meetings, meetings on city business, with the Chamber of Commerce, school board meetings, etc. The school board meeting was particularly interesting, because it focused on issues of diversity that we have faced for a long time in Indonesia.

What surprised you about coming to the United States?
I googled Iowa City when I learned that is where I would be going, and I found pictures of cows. I thought I would be on a farm. But Iowa City is a vibrant city with a lot of young people, a great university, and really interesting activities like the Summer of the Arts program. It is a great place!

What is the long-term project you are developing as a part of the program?
I am actually partnering with three other Indonesian participants on a project. We all come from different backgrounds, and so have a diversity of interests. Joos is with the Ministry of Finance, while Sugeng works in local governance and Ratih works on whistle-blowing issues with the World Bank. I am in the private sector in technology. Together we are planning to build a digital platform that will increase transparency of government for citizens in Indonesia. It will be called “Cross-Platform Collaboration.”

Sek Sovanna, third from the left, takes a moment outside the White House to smile with other YSEALI Fellows from Cambodia.
Sek Sovanna, third from the left, takes a moment outside the White House to smile with other YSEALI Fellows from Cambodia.

Ms. Sek Sovanna

Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Attorney, HML Law Firm

At only 31 years old, Sovanna has been involved in human rights law in Cambodia for 10 years. She started as a volunteer, helping to disseminate accurate information regarding the Khmer Rouge tribunal to people in rural areas. After receiving her law degree, Sovanna worked on many human rights issues, including representing ethnic minorities in land rights cases; using information technology to disseminate information regarding the international tribunals of Khmer Rouge; and conducting a study on the exploitation of women and children migrant workers. Sovanna intends to integrate knowledge about the U.S. judicial system to empower other human rights defenders and develop localized solutions to issues within Cambodia’s judicial system.

Kaewta Sangsuk, center (dressed in pink), has a light moment with her Professional Fellows friends in the Benjamin Franklin room at the U.S. Department of State.
Kaewta Sangsuk, center (dressed in pink), has a light moment with her Professional Fellows friends in the Benjamin Franklin room at the U.S. Department of State.

Ms. Kaewta Sangsuk

Chiang Mai, Thailand
Director, Our Choice, Institute of HIV and Health

Kaewta has worked in the field of HIV/AIDS for nearly 20 years in her hometown of Chiang Mai in a branch of a larger national organization. When funding was cut to her branch in Chiang Mai, Kaewta was so invested in her work that she started her own NGO, Our Choice, to provide patient services and public education that would not otherwise exist. Kaewta and her staff have put everything into this organization to provide services – even forgoing their own salaries to see it succeed. Kaewta will share the skills she gains during this program with her staff, so that they might run Our Choice freeing Kaewta to advocate on behalf of local NGOs at the international level.