Before joining the Wilson Center, John Thon was a contractor at the U.S. Department of State where he helped develop strategic outreach plans for global alumni and managed special projects at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. From 2007 to 2009, he managed a multi-country portfolio of State Department grants at the Council of American Overseas Research Centers. In 2006, he coordinated global outreach for the USAID-funded Diaspora Skills Transfer Program for South Sudan, leading to the return of over 100 skilled professionals to the region to help with post-conflict reconstruction efforts. In 2004, he was a congressional intern for Arizona Congressman at the U.S. House of Representatives on Capitol Hill.
A former refugee, John Thon was born and raised in South Sudan, and lived for 13 years in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya before coming to the United States in 2001 through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. He has written articles and served on panels about refugee camps; global refugee crisis; refugees and national security; refugee resilience; protracted refugee situations; and resettlement and integration, among other forced migration issues.
John Thon holds an MPA in public administration from George Mason University, with a focus on public management and international development. He graduated with honors from the University of Arizona where he received a bachelor of science magna cum laude in public administration, double-majoring in public management and policy, and health and human services administration. He wrote his honors thesis on globalization and human rights. He speaks English and Dinka, with basic knowledge of Arabic and Swahili.John Thon speaks on the global refugee crisis at the Society for International Development Annual Conference (May 2016)