KAEF Program Overview

Program Quick Facts

Here are some interesting facts about the KAEF Graduate Fellowship Program since it was established in 2004


Host Universities




Overall GPA

KAEF Program Administration

The KAEF Fund is administered by American Councils for International Education, a not-for-profit organization that believes by investing in outstanding individuals and their educational journeys, we can create long-term, equitable, and sustainable development for societies around the world. American Councils has nearly thirty years of experience in administering graduate-level educational exchanges between U.S. universities and the countries of Eurasia. The organization's expertise ensures the success of the program in the following ways:

  • Impartial Selection
    American Councils has unmatched experience in advertising and administering a fair, impartial selection of candidates for graduate-level exchange programs. Our selection efforts ensure that the KAEF Graduate Fellowship Program is a fair and transparent competition.
  • Cost-Efficient Program Administration
    Through our relationships with over 400 U.S. universities, American Councils generates tuition cost share from university partners exceeding 50 percent of total tuition costs. This affords us the ability to extend KAEF's financial resources even further.
  • Targeted Placements
    Because of our extensive experience in working with U.S. institutions of higher education and students from abroad, we have an excellent understanding of universities' strengths and weaknesses, and we place students in programs that match their goals.

KAEF Committee

KAEF is administered by American Councils with the guidance of an advisory committee consisting of individuals based in Kosovo and in the United States. The KAEF Committee is made up of academics, businessmen, civic leaders, and KAEF alumni, with knowledge of Kosovo and/or the American higher education system. The KAEF Committee oversees the general direction of the program, fundraising and the management of the KAEF endowment.

The KAEF Committee is comprised of the following individuals:

Ms. Atifete Jahjaga - Honorary KAEF Committee Member

Atifete Jahjaga served as the fourth, and the first woman President of the Republic of Kosovo, elected by the Parliament of Kosovo for a five-year mandate (April 2011-2016). Jahjaga is Kosovo’s first non-partisan candidate, the first female head of state in the modern Balkans and the youngest female world leader to be elected to the highest office.
During her presidency, Jahjaga worked diligently to bring women to the forefront of Kosovo’s political, economic, and social life as a means of ensuring a long-lasting democracy. In this context, in 2012, she hosted the International Women’s Summit "Partnership for Change—Empowering Women," which was attended by 200 leaders from all over the world. This led to the creation of the ‘Prishtina Principles’ which affirm the rights of women to political participation and representation, economic resources, and access to security and justice and calls for actions to make these principles a reality.
President Jahjaga led institutional efforts to rehabilitate and reintegrate survivors of sexual violence from the war with Serbia. In March 2014, she established the National Council for Survivors of Sexual Violence During the War in Kosovo, a body consisting representatives of key ministries, civil society, and international partners, to provide legal remedies to survivors of war-time sexual violence.
Prior to her election as the President of Kosovo, Jahjaga had been the Deputy General Director of the Police of Kosovo from February 2009. She had served as a police officer since the establishment of the Kosovo Police in early 2000, and raised to the rank of General Lt. Colonel within Kosovo Police, progressing to responsibilities at a regional level and then to General Headquarters. She completed her studies at the Faculty of Law of the University of Prishtina, in 2000. In 2006-2007, she attended a postgraduate certification program in Police Management and Penal Law at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom and a Postgraduate Certification in Crime Science at the University of Virginia in the United States in 2007.
Jahjaga is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders since 2012 and is recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Durham (2013), the Leadership in Public Service Award from the Clinton Global Initiative (2014), and the honorary degree of Doctor of Law from the University of Leicester (2015).

Mr. Michael Hora - KAEF Committee US Co-Chair

Michael Hora is a University of Illinois Engineering graduate and holds an MBA from Chicago's Loyola University. Mr. Hora was a Senior Global Managing Partner of the international Management Consulting firm, A. T. Kearney and he is active on non-profit boards having served/serving on more than 15 over his career. Mr. Hora serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of the American Councils for International Education and he is the U.S. Co-Chair of the Kosovo American Education Fund. Mr. Hora and his wife are blessed with 5 children. He enjoys reading, running and hunting.

Ms. Jeta Zagragja - KAEF Committee Kosovo Co-Chair

Jeta Zagragja is a technology entrepreneur, a startup mentor, and an education advocate. Jeta brings almost a decade of practical experience in successful startups, financial industry, and non-profit sector in Kosovo and USA. Currently, she’s a co-owner and Chief Operating Officer at UCX Kosovo, a global, innovative, and lean technology company. She’s formerly held positions as the former Chief Business Development Officer at Cacttus JSC and Chief Business Development Officer at Gjirafa.com.
With her passion for innovation and demonstrated management skills, Jeta is a natural leader who pushes for workplace development, operational excellency, and business growth. She sets stretch goals and organizes resources to achieve the commercial, operational, and strategic initiatives. She’s a successful networker and relationship manager who leverages contacts to support business and philanthropic initiative and produces strategic execution plans that align with engagement or client objectives. Understanding that great achievements require team effort, she loves to mentor and empower teams, companies, and individuals develop.
Jeta’s education background includes a B.A. in Applied Sciences from the Rochester Institute of Technology, NY, USA and an M.B.A. in Strategic Management from Roosevelt University in Chicago,IL,USA.
Jeta is the co-chair of the Board of the Kosovo American Education Fund, a mentor at the Innovation Center of Kosovo, and a mentor at Krypolabs in Abu Dhabi.

Mr. Erëmal Bajrami - Alumnus and Committee Member

Erëmal graduated with a BA in the American University in Kosovo before spending two years in Risk Management at ProCredit Bank as a Market Risk Officer. After receiving the KAEF Scholarship, Eremal spent two years at Bentley University for his MBA in Entrepreneurship. Upon returning to Kosovo, Erëmal joined KAN shpk, a company that holds the franchise license of KFC for Kosovo and Macedonia. After spending 24 months as an Operations Manager, in February 2018 Erëmal was appointed as General Manager of the company. Currently, KAN shpk employs over 300 people in Kosovo throughout 12 restaurants. They also operate in North Macedonia with 5 restaurants currently employing over 100 people. Starting from 2020, KAN shpk has received the franchise rights to develop the KFC brand in Northern Greece, and they are committed to build over 20 restaurants in the next 5 years.

Dr. Dan E. Davidson - Committee Member

Dan E. Davidson, Ph.D., is the co-founder and president emeritus of American Councils for International Education and emeritus professor of Russian and second language acquisition, Myra T. Cooley Lectureship, at Bryn Mawr College. He has been the director of American Councils Research Center (ARC) since 2017.
He is the author/editor of 24 books and 65 scholarly articles in the fields of language, culture, and educational development, including a major twenty-year longitudinal analysis of adult second language acquisition during study abroad.
Dr. Davidson was named in 2015 to the Commission on Languages, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is an elected foreign member of the Russian Academy of Education, the Ukrainian Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, vice president of the International Association of Teachers of Russian (MAPRIAL), and past chair of the College Board World Languages Advisory Committee, the Joint National Committee for Languages, and the Alliance for International Education Exchange.
Dr. Davidson completed his Ph.D. in Slavic languages at Harvard University.

Mr. Gazmend Gjonbalaj - Committee Member

Gazmend Gjonbalaj serves as VP of Development Systems at WeWork. He managed Research and Development for Bloomberg L.P., where he served as the Director of Product Applications for Bloomberg Law. Leading by example on multimillion-dollar projects, he managed to motivate his staff and excel at the toughest tasks his division faces. Gjonbalaj’s subordinates refer to him as “a friend,” “an excellent manager,” and “a rare engineer with a great business mind.” His successful career in the corporate world and financial success has enabled him to give back to the Albanian American community. Today, he works at one of the best companies in the world, and he lives on the Upper East Side of New York City, one of its most prestigious and influential neighborhoods. However, just a decade ago, things were very different.

Dr. Abol Jalilvand - Committee Member

Abol Jalilvand is a seasoned academic leader with over 35 years of global administrative experience, having served as dean of business and senior scholar at major public and private universities with strong traditions of liberal arts education in both the U.S. (Loyola University Chicago) and Canada (Concordia and Dalhousie Universities). He is the founding director of the Quinlan Series on the Future of Business Education, Loyola University Chicago, providing a national forum dedicated to a dialogue among bestselling authors and thought leaders on the challenges and opportunities facing business schools and business education in the 21st century. His scholarly work on corporate debt policy, organizational risk management, behavioral economics, sovereign debt, restructuring, and governance continues to be widely published and has been supported by major external research grants.
In 2009, in recognition of his leadership in ranking Loyola’s business ethics program 1st in the nation, Ethisphere Institute, New York, selected him as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics. Dr. Jalilvand received his Ph.D. in Finance from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, MBA from Oklahoma State University, and Bachelor of Arts from the Iranian Institute of Banking. Formerly, he held the Herbert S. Lamb Chair in Business Education at Dalhousie University. He currently holds currently the Ralph Marotta Chair in Free Enterprise at Quinlan School of Business, Loyola University Chicago.

Ms. Drena Kusari - Committee Member

Drena Kusari is currently serving as the first-ever General Manager of Bumble. In this role, she manages the app's global business across its dating, friendship, and business features. Prior to joining Bumble, Drena was the Head of Lyft's Service Network, where she revolutionized transportation through technology, overseeing product roadmap, growth strategy, marketing, and operations. With over 10 years of experience in the tech-enabled field, Drena has worked for Infusionsoft, Goldman Sachs, and McKinsey & Company, where she advised Fortune 500 companies.

Drena is also an influential leader and mentor, serving as a judge for the Venture Madness pitch competition and volunteering on multiple boards. She supports the advancement of children and women and is involved with Junior Achievement, Fresh Start, and Arizona Women's Education and Employment (AWEE) organizations. Drena also mentors young girls interested in STEM and technology careers and is a mentor and advisor at GjirafaLabs, one of the leading technology incubators in the Balkans.

Drena's outstanding leadership has been recognized through numerous awards, including the Young Professional ATHENA, Phoenix Business Journal's 40 Under 40, Mentor of the Year, and Outstanding Woman in Business. She graduated with dual honors and a double major in Economics and Diplomacy from Occidental College and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in Boston.

Mr. Valdrin Lluka - Alumnus and Committee Member

Valdrin Lluka is a politician and executive with more than 15 years of experience in public and private sector development, management, management consulting and leadership development. Lluka was a scholar of the Kosovo American Education Fund (KAEF) and holds an MBA degree from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management (2007 – 2009) and BA degree in Economics and Information Systems from the American University in Bulgaria (2002 – 2005).
Valdrin Lluka served as the Minister of Economic Development in the Government of the Republic of Kosovo (2017 – 2020), responsible for the development of the energy, mining and ICT sectors and the supervision of all public enterprises in Kosovo.
Before he was nominated as a Minister, Lluka led a chain of production facilities for fresh and processed food products, employing more than 200 employees and exporting 100% of its production (2015 – 2017). Earlier on, he worked for Deloitte, Carlson Consulting Enterprise and mobile virtual network operator Z mobile (2005 – 2010).
During his professional experience in the public sector, Lluka demonstrated the ability to develop, implement, and oversee innovative promotional activities to attract foreign investment into Kosovo and promote local products abroad through the Kosovo Investment and Enterprise Support Agency, a Government Agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry where he served for 4 years as the General Director (2011 -2014). Lluka led the National Council of Economic Zones as appointed by the Cabinet of the Government of Kosovo and served on several economic development boards in and outside of Kosovo.
Lluka volunteered as the co-chair of the Kosovo American Education Fund (KAEF) Committee (2014 – 2017) and is currently serving as a member of the KAEF Committee.
Lluka is married and has two children.

Dr. David Patton - President, American Councils for International Education and Committee Member

David P. Patton, PhD, became President and CEO of American Councils in August 2019, following his tenure as acting president since March 2019. Previously, Dr. Patton served as an executive vice president, with primary responsibility for the oversight of American Councils' regional offices, higher education portfolio, and development efforts. In 1993, Dr. Patton joined American Councils to serve as the New Independent States (NIS) regional director in Moscow. He was named the vice president for field operations in 2002, overseeing more than 50 field offices in 15 countries in Europe and Eurasia. Earlier in his career, Dr. Patton served as deputy director of the NIS Exchanges and Training Project, a major USAID-funded program for short-term professional development for NIS citizens. He also worked as the assistant director of The Ohio State University Center for Slavic and East European Studies. Dr. Patton also serves as the president of the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research.
He has studied and worked in the NIS region and Central Europe since 1983. He completed his PhD in Slavic linguistics at The Ohio State University. His dissertation is on analytic development in the modern Russian language. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Russian studies at the University of Oregon.

Mr. Ermal Sadiku - Committee Member

Ermal was one of the team members that laid the foundations for LinkPlus IT back in 2013 and is currently involved in managing LinkPlus as its CEO. Ermal is also an entrepreneur by day and an engineer by heart. He founded companies like ZagApps, Datalab Kosovo and EVAcc. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Applied Sciences Offenburg, Germany. Ermal is passionate about technology and helping new generations of young engineers to achieve success in the technology realm with a primary focus in software. He is a lecturer in "Universum" College teaching two programming courses and also a board member at STIKK for the last 5 years.
With more than 15 years of professional experience, in companies like Assecco, TIG and Datalab, he brings a lot of know-how in fields of IT, business analysis and project management. During four years of managing LinkPlus, the company has grown from a small startup to one of the biggest software development companies in Kosovo. Projects have been developed for airline companies in USA, telecom companies in Canada and automotive companies in Germany.
He has interviewed, tested, trained or prepared more than 800 developers and engineers in Kosovo and the region with more than 200 of them getting employed in different companies.
Ermal speaks fluently English, Serbian and Macedonian besides the native Albanian language. Can communicate in German also.

Mr. Dan Sundell - Committee Member

Dan is an experienced global executive and leader working for a global fortune 50 company with sales and operations in almost every country in the world. Most recently Dan ran the Caterpillar global business for medium speed and gas engines out of Germany, with operations and sales in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He had responsibility for the global business, from operations, including purchasing and manufacturing strategy, sales, marketing and aftermarket. Dan had sales and support teams in multiple countries, as well as customers from around the world. With his knowledge of global business needs and trends, Dan will be a great asset to the board in helping forge a strategy giving insights into corporate global resource challenges and opportunities.

Dan holds a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from Bradley University and a bachelor’s degree in computer science with minors in business and mathematics from Western Illinois University. He completed Duke Executive Leadership Program, Oxford University Strategic Scenario Planning, and Northwestern University eBusiness Strategies.

Mr. Mark Taplin - Committee Member

Mark Taplin is a retired senior Foreign Service officer and American Councils board member.
His last assignment at the U.S. State Department was as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), American Councils’ largest funder. In that capacity, he also served as acting Assistant Secretary until August 2017.
Mark joined the Foreign Service in 1980 and held a variety of domestic and overseas assignments, including as Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. embassies in Paris and Bucharest. Prior to that, he served in public diplomacy positions in Ukraine, Russia, Brazil, Haiti and Mauritius. In Washington, he was the State Department’s Director for Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus from 2002-04. From 2008-10, he taught and conducted research at the George Washington University as a Public Diplomacy Fellow.
Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in humanities and international affairs from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the University College of Wales (Aberystwyth). He is the author of Open Lands: Travels Through Russia’s Once Forbidden Places (Steerforth Press, 1997).

Ms. Zana Zeqiri Rudi - Committee Member

A graduate of Harvard Kennedy School, Zana Zeqiri Rudi served as the first Ambassador of Kosovo to Panama City, Panama. During her six years in Panama, she went on to become Kosovo’s Ambassador to Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Guyana.

Her education and experiences having once served as advisor to the Foreign Minister of Kosovo, contributing to the formation of Kosovo’s foreign policy goals and institutional efforts to strengthen Kosovo’s international image and standing in the world and her two earlier engagements with the UNHCR in New York and the World Bank in Pristina, Kosovo, equipped her to carry out such an important role for Kosovo.

A mother, a daughter, a wife, and a devoted senior career foreign service officer, Zana has defended the interests of Kosovo abroad with diligence and passion for public service. For her meritorious engagement and contribution to the society Ambassador Rudi was recognized by the University of Graceland and received an Honorary Doctorate by Graceland University in April 2017.