Next Generation Leaders

Next Generation Leaders Program
2021 Applications and Nominations Open

Applications and nominations for the 2021 Next Generation Leaders Program are now open through February 7, 2020. The McCain Institute’s flagship Next Generation Leaders program is designed to identify, train, network and empower a diverse group of emerging, character-driven leaders from the United States and around the world. We offer emerging global leaders a fully paid program of targeted professional and personal leadership development. Ideal candidates are mid-career professionals who are already leaders in their respective fields and stand to contribute even more significant roles in their society in the future.

Below are the target countries and sectors for the 2021 program. For this 2021 program year, we are especially interested in political leadership. The Institute also welcomes applicants from any geographic region or sector who exemplify extraordinary character and leadership promise.

Target Countries:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Estonia, Greece, Honduras, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Mauritania, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Somalia, South Korea, Sudan, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe

Target Sectors:
Political Leadership; Countering Extremism; E-Governance; Climate Change; Anti-Human and Labor Trafficking; National Security; Public Health; Freedom of the Press; Migration Issues; and Anti-Corruption

To apply or nominate a leader, visit

McCain Institute for International Leadership Next Generation Leaders

Today, even highly successful modern democracies such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, are in need of strong, character-driven leadership to meet aggressive challenges to democratic societies the world over.  In its mission to strengthen U.S.- Baltic tries, the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation (BAFF) has established a partnership with Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership in supporting such leadership development.

Each year since 2017, BAFF has sponsored an established mid-career leader from either Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania to participate in the highly-acclaimed McCain Institute Next Generation Leaders (NGL) program.

The NGL Program at the McCain Institute empowers emerging global leaders through the Institute’s tailored professional development experience. The program offers a unique blend of professional development, exposure to top-level policymakers and formal training in leadership. At four junctures throughout the year, the program provides hands-on training focused on values, ethics and leadership, media and communications skills, and best practice examples of American business, political, and civic life. The highly-selective program carefully screens and admits up to 20 participants annually out of hundreds of applications.

A key aspect of the program is each NGL’s preparation of an individual Leadership Action Plan (LAP). Aimed at defining the tangible steps and actions the NGLs will take to bring about positive change in their home communities, the LAP becomes the central project of the development year.  LAPs represent the character-driven leadership vision of each individual NGL and do not reflect positions of the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation or the McCain Institute.

Marija Dautartaitė

2019-2020 Fellow

Marija Dautartaitė served as an adviser to the President of the Republic of Lithuania on social and cultural affairs between 2014-2019.  Since 2016, she has been coordinating the largest and most prominent social-national campaign, “For a Safe Lithuania,” initiated by the President. There are four main pillars in this campaign: decreasing suicide rates, providing efficient help to victims of domestic violence, preventing bullying, and ensuring that the best practices of foster care are applied in Lithuania. As a coordinator of the campaign, she has initiated innovative solutions that have led to genuine and tangible results in less than 3 years.

Before joining the President’s team, Dautartaitė was a career diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, working in a specially selected team in the Department of Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013. Her personal interest in the matters of culture and history were best put to use by leading the program that represented Lithuania in more than 50 countries. Post-college, she has been actively participating in and initiating various activities directed towards underprivileged young people in her home town. Throughout her studies, she has continued volunteering in educational projects and focusing on the best practices for empowering and inspiring young people to change their lives. She has an MA in Comparative Politics and seeks to ensure that the best practices become effective social policies.

In recent years, Dautartaitė has become a public speaker advocating for public awareness in areas of bullying, domestic violence, and a lack of social skills. It is the silence and passivity of the witnesses that enable malpractices to continue, so the only way to end these acts is to build awareness and begin creating change. Her message is clear: one does not have to be a social worker to make social change.

Dautartaitė seeks to implement early intervention plans and prenatal support in the
educational system to break the cycle of poverty.

Liisa Past

2018-2019 Fellow

Liisa Past is the Chief Research Officer at the cybersecurity branch of the Estonian Information System Authority. She is a cyber defense and strategic communication professional whose current work focuses information security, and the social and political impact of technology, including risk and vulnerability management. In particular, Liisa designs, leads and carries out analysis related to cyber security, including threat and impact assessment. Recently, her comprehensive risk assessment was the basis of inter-agency cooperation on election security in Estonia. Liisa Past leads a pan-European initiative to provide guidelines for cyber security of election technology.

Liisa’s past assignments include Head of Communications for the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a Tallinn- based cyber security think tank and training facility. This included the launch of the Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the applicability of international law to cyberspace and leading the volunteer StratCom team at the world’s largest international technical cyber defense exercise Locked Shields. In the latter capacity, Liisa recruited and managed the team that advanced the exercise scenario by simulating the media and a number of political players. For two years, she was also in charge of the external communications of the exercise, increasing its media coverage 30 times.

Liisa has contributed to a number of non-profit causes, particularly in the areas of democratic education and human rights. As a member of the advisory board of the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations since 2014 she offers strategic counsel as well as advice on communication and leadership. She has been deeply involved with the global debate movement and advised NGO-s ranging from the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association to the Roundtable for Development Cooperation and Chamber of Disabled People. In particular, Liisa is proud to have been part of the team that lobbied for the passing of the gender-neutral partnership bill in Estonia.

Liisa Past holds a BA from Barnard College, Columbia University in Political Science and a MA (cum laude) in Media Research from Tartu University. She has taught courses in rhetoric, public relations and communication strategy, media and minorities and political culture at a number of universities and spent research time at the University of Oslo.


2017-2018 Fellow

Vinkele is a former member of Parliament of the Republic of Latvia and the former Minister of Welfare. She is passionate about promoting democratic values and reducing inequality.

Vinkele has implemented several significant public sector reforms, such as raising the retirement age, reforming mental-health institutions and defending the rights of LGBT individuals. She chairs the Education, Culture and Science Committee, where she works to amend higher education laws. With political participation low across Latvia, Vinkele seeks to engage more citizens in the nation’s political process.



For further information about BAFF – ASU McCain Institute Leadership Development partnership contact:


Ilze Doskina
Regional Program Director, Baltic States
Baltic-American Freedom Foundation
CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange
Valdemara Centrs
21 Kr. Valdemara Str. Riga, LV-1010, Latvia

Tel: +371-67035370

Laura Lyons
Director, Enterprise Foundations
Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)
300 Fore Street, Portland, ME 04101 USA

Tel: +1-207-553-4130

The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University

Rachel Hunkler
Program Manager
Phone: +1 202 601 4298