Board of Directors (USA)
Tenda Teachers Committee Chair
Sponsorship Committee Chair
Board of Directors (Tanzania)
Program Volunteers & Consultants
Dr. Nelson Nkoma
Laura Wangsness Willemsen
Karen M. Stupic
Sabina Mugassa Bingman
Board of Directors - USA
Diane Ruonavaara: Diane was the Program Manager for the Michigan State University (MSU) Tanzania Partnership Program (TPP) for 10 years. Her work in Tanzania builds on many years of experience in international community development, participatory research, and evaluation. In her work, Diane is committed working with marginalized groups of people, especially women and indigenous groups. She has studied, taught, and conducted research and evaluation in Tanzania, Mexico, Ecuador, Belize, Vietnam, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Argentina, and the United States. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Resource Development at MSU in 2000 with specializations in International Development and Latin American Studies. Prior to coming to TPP, she worked with Michigan State University Extension as an evaluation and fund development specialist.
Diane is an avid organic gardener and loves wilderness canoeing in the Boundary Waters and Quetico. She has three children, 10 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren – all the joy of her life.
Lisa Goochee: Lisa comes to us with over 15 years of experience in K-12 education. She brings a wide range of knowledge and skills as a former teacher, school leader, and non-profit project manager. After completing her student teaching in downtown Philadelphia, Lisa took her first teaching position in rural Alaska and spent subsequent years teaching and travelling around the world. She comes to us after focusing on graduate studies and education reform efforts in the Bay Area, California. Lisa holds a Bachelor's in Education from Pennsylvania State University, a Certificate in Educational Leadership from SUNY Buffalo, and a Masters in Learning, Design, and Technology from Stanford University.
Dan McIntyre: Dan is a retired research scientist from 3M Company who became involved with a different Tanzania partnership in 2006 and has travelled to Tanzania every year since. He taught Computer Science at University of Iringa in 2010 and 2011 and has been active in supporting secondary education in Iringa region. He also serves on the board of St Paul Partners, which develops water projects in rural villages, and Shoulder to Shoulder, which supports Ilula Hospital and Nursing School, all in Iringa Region. He traveled to the Project Zawadi model schools in fall 2018 to promote hands on science activities and technology and was asked to join the Project Zawadi board in 2019. Dan holds a B.A. degree in Chemistry from St Olaf College, a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from California Institute of Technology, and a MS in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota.
Ronald Aminzade: Ron is a retired emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. He has been doing research in Tanzania since 1995 and has published a book and several articles on the impact of neo-liberal economics and democratic political reforms on citizenship, race relations, and nationalism in Tanzania. He has recently been doing research on Tanzanian agricultural policy debates. During his thirty-six years at the University of Minnesota, he trained many African Ph.D. students who are now professors in Tanzania, Uganda, and South Africa. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of Books for Africa.
HT Fish: HT Fish has spent the past 25 years leading teams that build and transform large, global businesses primarily at McKinsey & Company and Cargill, Inc. HT became actively involved with Project Zawadi in 2016 and joined the Board in December of 2017; he currently serves as Chair of the Finance and Funding Committee. HT also serves on the Board of the Minnesota Children’s Museum (MCM), where he is on the Executive Committee. HT earned a BA in Chemistry from the University of Colorado, and a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Stanford University. He and his wife, Kathryn, live in St Paul, MN.
Alison Ford: Alison is Vice President of External Affairs at KIPP Minnesota Public Schools. In this role, she manages fundraising, communications & marketing, partnerships, and volunteer engagement for the region. Previously, she worked in higher education as a software consultant, trainer, and technical recruiter. Ms. Ford earned a Bachelor’s in Education and a Master of Public Administration with a focus on education policy and school finance, both at Cornell University. As the descendant of a long line of teachers and educators, Ms. Ford is committed to engaging key stakeholders, changemakers, and the community to advance educational equity for all. In her spare time, Ms. Ford enjoys spending time with her two children, reading, biking, gardening, and traveling.
Ian Keith: Ian is an elementary school teacher in the St. Paul Public Schools and a former President of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers. He achieved National Board Certification in Literacy: Reading-Language Arts in 2012. As the co-director of the Tenda Teachers Program at Project Zawadi, he has spent 3 years collaborating with Tanzanian educators and others to train teachers in best instructional practices and to create English language classes for students entering secondary school. He helped organize an alliance of teacher training organizations and NGOs in Tanzania to promote teacher professional development in the country. He holds a B.A. in Politics from Princeton University, a Masters degree in Elementary Education from Antioch University in Philadelphia and is a graduate of the Policy Fellows Program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
Annie Kneedler: Annie has more than 20 years of experience at the intersection of business and social impact. Her career at Cargill has spanned multiple businesses and functions including corporate strategy, sales, supply chain, operations and corporate responsibility. Annie has worked at both the corporate level and within Cargill’s Animal Nutrition and Health business where she served as the U.S. Business Operations and Supply Chain Director. Prior to joining Cargill, Annie worked to connect farmers to markets across various supply chains in Africa including coffee in Rwanda and horticulture in Ghana. She is also a proud second-generation Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Guinea.
Annie holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College and an MBA from the University of Michigan with a focus on international business and Base of the pyramid business models. Annie and her husband live in Takoma Park, Maryland with their two sons.
Mgizi Mbelwa: Mgizi started serving on the PZ Board in 2014. She is an accounting and finance professional with 10 years of experience in a Fortune 500 company where she’s held a number of roles. Mgizi received her BA from the University of Saint Thomas. She also volunteers at her church.
Bette Merchant: I began my career as a Peace Corps teacher at Bwiru Girls Secondary School in Mwanza, Tanzania in 1964. I subsequently taught for 34 years in Pakistan, Egypt, New York, Virginia and Minnesota in both secondary and elementary positions. I also worked for the Program of East African Studies at Syracuse University and the Pakistan Investment Advisory Center.
While I have traveled and lived in many states and countries, Tanzania has always drawn me back. For seven years I also sold baskets sent to me by a secondary school teacher, Magnus Kiswaga, from Njombe. The profits enabled the village to purchase a milling machine, pay school fees for all of the children and put tin roofs on all of the houses. Tanzania has been an important part of my life and I am thrilled to be back on the PZ board.
Ever Mkonyi: Ever is pursuing her Ph.D. degree in Evaluation Studies after completing her Master's in Evaluation Studies with a minor in Public Health, both at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Organization Leadership and Policy Development. Ever also has a Master's in Demography and a Bachelor's in Sociology both from the University of Dar es Salaam in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology after which she worked for four years as a Research Manager and Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator at the Population Service International (PSI), Tanzania. During that time, Ever was intensively involved in a variety of health projects which ignited her passion for researching and evaluating public health and education issues. She realizes the importance of empowering staff with proper knowledge and skills on how to conduct self-evaluation; therefore, her dissertation topic focuses on "Promotion of Evaluation Capacity Building (ECB) in Public Health Organizations in Tanzania." She believes that evaluation helps to ensure accountability and provide evidence-based data that can be used to inform policy in order to bring about social change.
Scott Moore: Scott is a senior executive with experience at companies ranging from startups and midsize companies like Fallon and Augeo to Fortune 100 companies such as Best Buy and Wynn Resorts. He has a life long commitment to education reform beginning with his service as a Teach For America Corps Member, a founding Board Member of KIPP/MN, and as Board Member of the Best Buy Children's Foundation. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and their St. Bernard, Albus, and has two children in college. Scott serves on the Tenda Teachers Committee.
Fran Vavrus: Fran Vavrus is a professor at the University of Minnesota, where she specializes in the study of education in sub-Saharan Africa. She has been a secondary school teacher and university lecturer in Tanzania, and has been working with a community on Mount Kilimanjaro for more than twenty-five years. She has published numerous books and articles on schooling and teacher professional development in Tanzania, and she works closely with Project Zawadi's Model School and Tenda Teachers programs.
Board of Directors - Tanzania
William Philemon: Willy Philemon has been a safari guide since 2003 and has been with the Access 2 Tanzania team since 2010. Willy has taken on the leadership role representing the company's philanthropic mission on the board of Project Zawadi (Tanzania). Willy's vast experience, advocacy and care for the students and youth of Project Zawadi is representative of all of those on the Access 2 Tanzania team.
Sweetbert Dagobert: Registered with the National Board of Accountants and Auditors (NBAA) as a certified public accountant in public practice. Sweetbert has been providing accounting services to Access 2 Tanzania and Project Zawadi for over a dozen years.
Stella Makundi: Stella provided guidance and support to early cohorts of Project Zawadi sponsored students based in Arusha, Tanzania. Working as the Reservations Manager for Access 2 Tanzania, Stella remains connected and committed to the Project Zawadi mission.
Adam Mataso: One of the first Project Zawadi sponsored students and our first college graduate. Adam holds a Bachelors of Arts in Public Administration from Kampala International University. Adam worked as a Counselor for Project Zawadi for a year after graduation and currently works as a program coordinator for the Rehema Project in Arusha while pursuing a masters degree.
Lucas Richard: One of the first Project Zawadi sponsored students based in Arusha. Lucas currently is an IT professional with more than 10 years of experience.
Program Volunteers & Consultants
Helen Chang: Helen is currently the VP of Marketing & Growth at TaskRabbit, where she is responsible for all aspects of marketing, including brand building, PR, customer acquisition, engagement and retention. Previously Helen ran marketing teams at major consumer companies such as eBay, as well as at startups, including helping to take Coupons.com public in 2014. With twenty years of marketing and technology experience, Helen brings a strategic mindset to her marketing approach in scaling any organization by focusing on long-term sustainable tactics while balancing the short-term organizational needs. In her spare time she enjoys travelling, yoga, hiking, and learning about different cultures through culinary experiences.
Nicole Halabi: Nicole Halabi recently retired after 34 years as a public school teacher, principal, director and assistant superintendent. She received her BA from Augustana University, M Ed University of MN and postgraduate in Educational Administration Hamline University.
Nicole has been with Project Zawadi volunteering in curriculum develop, instruction and head teacher training for the English Bridge program since 2018.
Dr. Nelson Nkhoma: With a PhD. in Educational Leadership Policy and Development from the University of Minnesota, Nelson is currently working as a research fellow at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. Nelson is providing evaluation services to the Tenda Teachers Professional Development Training Program and Model Schools programs.
Karen M. Stupic: Coming Soon!
Laura Wangsness Willemsen: With a Ph.D. Educational Policy and Administration from the University of Minnesota, Laura is currently an Assistant Professor of Education at Concordia University in St. Paul. Focusing on inequalities, equity and education, she has a special interest in gender and development. Laura has spent several years living in Tanzania, including studying at the University of Dar es Salaam, teaching secondary school in Monduli, and researching girls' education in southern Tanzania.
Linda Webster: Linda is an education consultant specialising in primary education, language and literacy. She is a key contributer to the development of the Tenda Teachers Professional Development Training Program curriculum and e-modules. She has worked as a teacher and consultant for organizations of all sizes both in her home country of the United Kingdom and internationally in countries including Tanzania, Kazakhstan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Sabina Mugassa Bingman: Sabina is an experienced IT professional and author of a children book “Sanda: The Girl with the Magical Smile”. Born and raised in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, she moved to the US in 1999 and graduated from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul with a master’s degree in Management Information Technology. She enjoys writing, reading, and running, she also volunteers at her local church.
Neria Atieno: Neria served on the front lines of Project Zawadi’s sponsorship program for more than five years. She currently volunteers helping with data entry and communication between schools, teachers, and PZ staff.
Board Emeritus (USA)
Jay D. Cohen
Katie Graham Shannon
Karen M. Stupic
Dr. Matthew Thomas
Laura Wangsness Willemsen