About us

Established in 2018 between London and Verona, ITSS-Verona is a regularly licensed, international, interdisciplinary, apolitical, not-for profit, cultural association dedicated to the study of international security. Our mission is to combine the best minds the world can offer to create one of the largest international networks addressing current and future security challenges. 

As former UN secretary Kofi Annan famously stated, mankind increasingly deals with “problems without passport”. Within this picture, not only are we convinced that everything can shape security; we strongly believe that internationalising research and debate is paramount, for these must not be solely relegated to academia.

That is why ITSS-Verona unites outstanding men and women from governments, institutions, civil society, and industry, with the intent to analyse the kind of societal, economic, and geopolitical tensions affecting our times.

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Founding Members

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Dr Michele Groppi

ITSS Verona President

As the first Italian varsity student-athlete at Stanford University, Michele Groppi graduated with ‘Honors’ in International Relations. He then obtained his MA in Counterterrorism and Homeland Security from IDC Herzliya, Summa Cum Laude, and his PhD in Defence Studies from King’s College London whilst finishing his professional volleyball career. Starting 2018,
Michele has been a Teaching Fellow at the Defence Studies Department, KCL, Defence Academy of the UK, focusing on issues of international security. Michele is also an ICT research fellow and Senior Research associate at RAND Europe. Author of several articles published in peer-reviewed journals on matters of terrorism and radicalisation, Michele applies his energies for the internationalization of ITSS-Verona and its network.

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Avv Marta Macaccaro

ITSS Verona Vice President

Born and raised in Verona, Marta Macaccaro graduated in Law in 2012 from Verona University, Summa Cum Laude. She obtained her legal specialization from Verona and Trento University and in 2015 she became a lawyer. Upon her arrival to Como, she has focused mainly on bank law, bankruptcy law, and insurance consulting. Active in Veneto and Lombardy, Marta has opened her own legal firm, where she continues to offer services to insurance companies and multiple firms, including high-quality consultancy on matters related to credit recovery and enforcement procedures. A dedicated professional, Marta is in charge of the Association’s vision and international stance.

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Dr Zeno Leoni

ITSS Verona Executive Director

Zeno Leoni is a Teaching Fellow in Challenges to the International Order at the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London and the Defence Academy of the UK. In addition, he is affiliated with the Lau China Institute of King’s College London and in the year 2020-2021 he paid a visit to the Nebrija University (Madrid). Zeno is an expert in Geopolitics, Globalization, World Order, American Grand Strategy, Chinese Strategy Grade, and US-China relations. In fact, he is also the author of the book American Grand Strategy from Obama to Trump: Imperialism After Bush and China’s Hegemonic Challenge (2021, New York: Palgrave Macmillan). His analyses appeared in The Times, Rai Radio Uno, Corriere della Sera, Limes. In 2020, he was a consultant at the Italian Ministry of Defense for writing the first Future Trends document as part of Innov@Difesa, a civil-military collaboration project. Since its establishment, Zeno has been the heart of ITSS-Verona’s operations, projects, and outreach.

ITSS Verona Leads

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Sonia Martínez Girón
Director of Operations

Sonia is pursuing a Master's degree in International Affairs at King's College London. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Modern Languages from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Professionally, she has been working as an analyst in the private sector. She is a contributor to the Strife Blog and Journal. At ITSS Verona, Sonia covers European Affairs. Sonia is also ITSS Verona communication editor.

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Mariam Qureshi
Members Series Editor-in-Chief

Mariam Qureshi is a PhD Student in Politics at University of Reading. She received her MA in International Affairs concentrating in Espionage and Surveillance from King’s College London. Her research interests include cyber strategy, IR theory and Foreign Policy with a focus on Pakistan. As Lead Editor for ITSS Verona, she coordinates all publications of the Member Series.

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Julia M. Hodgins
Deputy of Research

Julia Hodgins is a Candidate to the MA in International Affairs at King’s College London, holds a BA-Honours in Sociology concentrate in Social Research from UFV - Canada, a Certification in Data Analytics, and a Diploma in Group Dynamics. Her research interests are gender security, cyber security, interculturality, social equality, and decolonization. With working experience in the private, public, and NGO sectors, Julia is part of the “Culture, Society and Security” team in ITSS Member Series, a volunteer radio and podcast producer, contributor to Blogs and publications, and board member in Colectiva Antirracista Disidencia Tusan. At home she cares for a caring husband, both are devoted ‘cat-o-holics’.

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Esther Brito Ruiz
Deputy of Education

Esther Brito Ruiz is a Master’s Graduate in Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics; specializing in ethnic conflict and women’s rights. Currently, she is writing a book on urban governance at the IESE Business School. She was previously a Global Shaper within The World Economic Forum, where she co-founded the Empowering Diversity in Tech and Entrepreneurship (EDiTS) initiative, seeking to increase diversity in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Esther has lived and studied in 6 countries across 4 continents and is passionate about generating positive social impact.

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Sofia Staderini
ITSS Technical Lead

Post-graduate student in International Affairs with a particular focus in International Security and currently a participant in the 2021-2022 class of the Académie Notre Europe. She graduated cum laude in July 2021 in Philosophy, International and Economic Studies at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice with a dissertation on post-truth politics. She took part in several conferences and study projects in Europe such as the Global Studies at the Institute of Maritime Military Studies of Venice, the Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung’s "War or Peace" program in Berlin, yet ensued by Scuola di Politiche and the Women In International Security Network. Fluent in Italian, French, English, and Spanish. Currently studying German and Russian.

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Alessandra Gramolini
International Security Magazine Co-Editor-in-Chief

Alessandra is a graduate of the Master in Global Affairs Program from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (Spain) and the University of Prince Edward Island (Canada). Alessandra also holds a Law degree with a specialization in International and European Law from the University of Urbino "Carlo Bo". Over the last several months Alessandra co-founded and is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of a new project called the Global Affairs Review. Throughout her academic career Alessandra has developed a keen interest in conducting research, particularly in the fields of International Relations between Africa, China and the European Union.

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Maria Chiara Aquilino
International Security Magazine Co-Editor-in-Chief

Maria Chiara Aquilino is a student in Crisis and Security Management (MSc) at Leiden University, The Hague. She has recently graduated from King’s College London, where she studied International Relations (BA) while developing a strong interest in Security Studies, and particularly in the topic of migration. Her thesis, supervised by Prof. Leila Simona Talani, focused on the strategic use of politics of fear in Salvini’s propaganda, exploring how it targeted southern regions and their perception of migration. Besides, Maria Chiara is a student at Scuola di Politiche, a political mentoring fellowship programme focusing on public policy founded by former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

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Carlotta Rinaudo 
Co-director of ITSS Verona Members Webinar Series

Carlotta Rinaudo is a Master student of International Affairs at King's College London. She has a strong interest in Asia-Pacific current affairs, with a particular focus on the implications of the rise of China.

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Ludovica Aicha Brambilla
Co-director of ITSS Verona Members Webinar Series

Ludovica recently completed her Bachelor degree in International Relations at the Università Cattolica of Milan and will soon start the MA programme in Conflcit, Security and Development at the University of Sussex. Ludovica deepened her curiosity about security studies through extracurricular courses and a Diploma in Geopolitics and Global Security. She is tailoring her academic interests around the interconnections between human security and development with particular attention to urban contexts. Ludovica has always been involved in social work activities in the city of Milan and she is currently collaborating as editress with a municipal project dedicated to the common good of the city.

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Rebecca Pedemonte
Social Media Communication Lead

I’m currently finishing my master’s degree in Human Rights, Migrations, and International Affairs at University of Bergamo. During the past six months I have been writing geopolitical analysis on migrations from West Africa and Human Rights violations. Over the past 4 years I’ve been interviewing migrants from West Africa, to deploy my thesis research. Recently I decided to publish videos in which I try to sensitize people on issues such as discriminations, racism, gender equality and geopolitical dynamics. My main research interests are: migrations; the Sahelian band flows and human trafficking; Lybian detention centres; gender gaps and gender equality; intersectionality.  

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Alessandro Spada
Human Resources Lead

I was born in Castelfranco Emilia, province of Modena, Italy, on January 13th, 1985. Between 2007 and 2014, I've been one of the founders and main activists for Partito Democratico in my hometown. I got my Bsc degree in political science from the University of Bologna in 2016. I wrote my dissertation on the incomplete democratic transition experienced by Russia from the fall of the Soviet Union until Vladimir Putin's presidency. I now live in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Yasmina Dionisi
Admissions Officer

Born in Beirut, Yasmina is an undergraduate in Political Science and International Relations at Luiss Guido Carli University and Rome, exchange student at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) and intern at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), Herzliya. Native French and Italian speaker, she is fluent in English and Spanish and knows Arabic and Russian. Within the realm of international security and affairs, she is interested in Counter-Terrorism, Nuclear Politics and Foreign Policy in the Middle East and Iran.

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Maria Makurat
Media Relations Lead

Maria Makurat is an M.A. graduate in International Affairs with focus on cyber security from Kings College London. Her thesis centered on to what extent one can evaluate the U.S Cyber. Strategy and deem it effective by looking at case studies from Iran, China and Russia. Additionally, Maria regularly writes articles for the Kings College London Policy Think Tank, mainly on topics related to cyber strategy and how Germany should prepare for the future.Maria holds a B.A. in Sociology with focus on political science from the Ruprecht-Karl. University Heidelberg, writing her thesis on white-collar crime. During her Bachelor, she spent a year researching and documenting the Burundi conflict for the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research, which was published in the 2016 Conflict Barometer. In March 2022, Maria joined the ITSS Cyber Security and AI team and is passionate about themes related to cyber security, international conflicts and strategy.

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 Martina Gambacorta
Internationalisation Lead

I was born in Castelfranco Emilia, province of Modena, Italy, on January 13th, 1985. Between 2007 and 2014, I've been one of the founders and main activists for Partito Democratico in my hometown. I got my Bsc degree in political science from the University of Bologna in 2016. I wrote my dissertation on the incomplete democratic transition experienced by Russia from the fall of the Soviet Union until Vladimir Putin's presidency. I now live in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Anna Lorenzini
Regional Manager

Anna Lorenzini holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Languages, Cultures and Societies of Asia and Mediterranean Africa-Middle East curriculum (Arabic and Turkish)- and a Master’s Degree in Comparative International Relations, both at Cà Foscari University of Venice. During her academic career, she had the opportunity to deepen and cultivate her passion for International Relations, foreign languages and cultural diversity, especially approaching the Islamic one thanks also to a period where she lived in Morocco and attended the EGE. In 2021 she also earned a Master at the SIOI in Communication and Lobbying in International Relations. She speaks 5 languages.

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Zeno Leoni
Lead Project US Department of State on Chinese and Russian Disinformation Warfare

Zeno Leoni is a Teaching Fellow in Challenges to the International Order at the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London and the Defence Academy of the UK. In addition, he is affiliated with the Lau China Institute of King’s College London and in the year 2020-2021 he paid a visit to the Nebrija University (Madrid). Zeno is an expert in Geopolitics, Globalization, World Order, American Grand Strategy, Chinese Strategy Grade, and US-China relations. In fact, he is also the author of the book American Grand Strategy from Obama to Trump: Imperialism After Bush and China’s Hegemonic Challenge (2021, New York: Palgrave Macmillan). His analyses appeared in The Times, Rai Radio Uno, Corriere della Sera, Limes. In 2020, he was a consultant at the Italian Ministry of Defense for writing the first Future Trends document as part of Innov@Difesa, a civil-military collaboration project. Since its establishment, Zeno has been the heart of ITSS-Verona’s operations, projects, and outreach.

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Irene Senfter
US Department of State Project Lead

Irene Senfter holds a BA (Honours) in Business Administration from Bocconi University, and has studied at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and New York University. She has pursued a career in international business development and hospitality management. During her seven years in New York, she became passionate about US foreign policy, which she now covers for ITSS Verona. She is an MA candidate for International Affairs at King’s College London. Her research interests include international order and geopolitics, strategy, regionalism, security regimes, and international institutions. Her dissertation project is exploring how changes in the balance of power will affect Arctic security

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Shahin Modarres
Lead Project US Department of State on Iran

Born in Tehran, Shahin holds a Bachelor's degree in "Politics, Philosophy, and Economics" and an MA in "Government and Politics" with a focus on Security Studies from LUISS Guido Carli University. He has successfully done courses in Counterterrorism Studies, Intelligence, and Diplomacy at King's College London and NATO Defense College. Shahin is a polyglot and he has done an Internship at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an analyst. Shahin's research is mostly focused on Critical Security Studies in Radicalization, Intelligence, and conflicts in the Middle East.

The International Team for the Study of Security – Verona

Villafranca di Verona, Italy
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