Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes
CEO & Co-founder
Elizabeth moved to Rwanda a few days after graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2006. After volunteering with grassroots projects, she co-founded the nonprofit Amani Africa to provide scholarships to street children, support an orphanage in Kigali, and organize reconciliation and conflict resolution conferences for genocide survivors. In 2008, Elizabeth and her husband Dave Hughes developed the idea for Akilah after witnessing the lack of opportunities for young women in higher education, and the disconnect between the education system and employment needs of the private sector. Newsweek and The Daily Beast recognized Elizabeth as one of the 125 Women of Impact. She was recognized as one of the World’s Most Influential Female Social Entrepreneurs by Forbes Magazine, and she has been featured in Marie Claire magazine. Elizabeth received the Woman of Peace award from the Women’s Peace Power Foundation in October 2009. Akilah has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, GOOD Magazine, ABC News, the Council on Foreign Relations, HuffPost Women, Hope Magazine, the Tampa Bay Times, and more. Elizabeth was selected as a Praxis Fellow in 2014.
Full bio here.
Karen Sherman is President of the Akilah Institute for Women and a Senior Associate at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. Throughout her career, Karen has combined her expertise, passion, and transformative leadership skills to affect lasting economic and social change for women around the world. Karen served as Chief Operating Officer and then Executive Director for Global Programs at Women for Women International (WfWI), an organization that enables women war survivors to restart their lives, where her work resulted in measurable impacts on women’s income, health, decision-making, and social networks. Before joining WfWI, Karen served as Executive Vice President at Counterpart International.Karen has served as a thought leader and spokesperson on global women’s issues through the media, public appearances, and diverse social media platforms, including as Executive Producer of The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope, published by National Geographic. Karen holds a Master’s Degree in Russian and East European Studies from The George Washington University and a Bachelor’s Degree from University of Oregon. She serves as Board Chair of FAIR Girls and on the Board of Trustees of Mary Baldwin College.
Full bio here.
Rwanda Country Director
Aline Kabanda is the Country Director of the Akilah Institute for Women, in Rwanda. Aline received her initial training in the medical field, and completed her Masters of Science in Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. She then worked as a lecturer in the College of Medicine and Health Sciences for 5 years. Committed to make a positive contribution in her community, Aline co- founded Ishyo, a Rwandese non-governmental organization that operates as a platform for professional artists, cultural experts, creative entrepreneurs and art lovers with the main objective of making culture accessible for everyone.
Chief Academic Officer
Rick Daniels has been involved with the Akilah Institute leadership since February 2010 when he was first appointed to the Board of Directors. He served six years prior to accepting the responsibilities of his current role as Chief Academic Officer. He has been teaching in higher education for over twenty years with a focus on competency based learning in hospitality management and leadership studies. He has over thirty years experience in the hospitality industry and is a subject matter expert in meetings, event and conference planning, travel tourism, food and beverage management and hotel lodging management and leadership studies. Prior to joining the Akilah team full time he was employed for over 20 years with Johnson & Wales University at the Providence campus supporting the admissions initiatives and instructing students in event planning, food & beverage management and guest relations.
He holds the prestigious certification from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and the Teaching Excellence credential for Johnson & Wales University. Rick’s expertise is also deeply rooted in the DECA national student organization as an adviser for the Rhode Island state chapters and serving as a judge for the International Career Development Conference. He is also a life mentor and inspirational speaker who has presented to various audiences during the past eight years. Rick resides in both the United States and Rwanda overseeing all academic initiatives relating to the Akilah Institute. Most of all he is a proud father to his twin sons Austin & Tyler Daniels who are both firefighters in their home town.
Director of Communications
Lauren joined the Akilah Group in 2015 as the Editor-in-Chief for MindSky, where she implemented a content marketing strategy that included growing MindSky's Career Magazine and managing over 30 freelance writers. Prior to Akilah, Lauren was the News and Features Editor for Poets&Quants, a website for MBAs, and the Managing Editor for Poets&Quants' iPad magazine. She started her communications/writing career as the Nairobi-based online editor for allAfrica.com.
Lauren holds a bachelor's in history from Trinity University and a master's in journalism from Northwestern University, where she completed fellowships with the BBC News Magazine and the Medill National Security Project. Her writing has appeared on the BBC News website, allAfrica.com, The Washington Post, CNN Money/Fortune, The Guardian, and The Sunday Times Travel Magazine. She also wrote the first chapter on Rwanda for "Fodor's Travel: The Complete Guide to African Safaris."
Rwanda Team: Administration
Director of Finance and Operations
Daniel has eleven years experience in finance and administration, of which seven were spent working with international organizations at a management level. His expertise lies in management of project funds, project execution, financial management, operations, and general administration. Before joining Akilah, Daniel worked at Swisscontact Rwanda, John Snow, Inc., Rwandatel Service Provider, InterContinental Hotels, among others. Daniel has a Bachelor’s in Finance from the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology and is currently pursuing certification with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. Daniel is passionate and committed to contributing to women’s economic and professional empowerment in the region.
Dean of Students
Daniel completed his Diploma in Education from Kyambogo University (Uganda). He then studied English Language and Literature at the Uganda Christian University. His passion for education motivated him to pursue a Masters Degree in curriculum development. Daniel provides consultancy services for different organizations, where he provided his expertise in the development and design of modules for English training. Daniel originally joined Akilah as English Instructor before becoming Dean of Students in 2015.
Talent & HR Manager
Mike Mulindwa Ssempa
Deputy Director of Recruitment & Admissions
For the past eight years, Mike has worked in education and education-related fields. He began teaching math and economics at a high school in Uganda. He then joined the African Leadership and Education Initiative in Southern Sudan to help young Southern Sudanese girls achieve their life aspirations. He spent four years worked as an expert tutor under the Ministry of Education of Rwanda helping to transform the teacher training curriculum and the transition from from French to English. He has also lectured at the Kigali Independent University in applied mathematics, quantitative methods, and statistics. Mike holds an MBA with a marketing major from Nkumba University Kampala, a Bachelor of Science with Education in Mathematics and Economics from Kyambogo University, and certificates in project monitoring and evaluation and statistical data analysis from Makerere University. He is passionate about using the power of knowledge and skills to motivate and transform people’s lives and the wider community.
Esther Bugaiga holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences from Makerere University. She previously worked as a Communication and Advocacy Intern at Icon/Women and Young People’s Leadership Academy. Esther believes community empowerment leads to social change and this has motivated her to volunteer with a community based prenatal and post natal clinic in Nyabisindu (Rwanda). Esther is passionate about women/girls social, economical and political empowerment in order to fulfill the third Millennium goal of Rwanda. Being part of Akilah Institute for Women as part of the Admissions team fulfills her passion and thus brings satisfaction to her heart.
External Relations Officer
Nadine graduated from Akilah's Hospitality Management program in 2013. As an Akilah student, she had the opportunity to represent the institute in Rwanda as well as abroad. During a foreign fundraising event in Hong Kong and a global conference in Malaysia, she strengthened her passion for women's empowerment and met women leaders from around the globe, helping her understand the value of female role models in Rwanda. She joined the Akilah Team as Communications Associate shortly after graduation before moving into development and recruitment. Nadine has previously worked with Star Quest International,Terra Incognita, and National Geographic as a tour guide and translator, and as an Executive Director assistant at La Fertilite Limited. She received training in hotel management at prestigious international hotel chains, including the Kigali Serena Hotel and the Marriott in Hong Kong.
Information Systems Officer
Nathalie graduated from the National University of Rwanda with a Degree in Computer Science. She then worked for different companies providing IT support and database management expertise. Nathalie is passionate about the use of ICT as a central engine to drive Rwanda’s transformation to knowledge based economy. She recently joined the Akilah team as Information Systems Officer.
Ernestine graduated Akilah in 2012 with a Diploma in Leadership and Hospitality Management. While working full time at Akilah, Ernestine is pursuing her Bachelor’s in Business Information Technology from Mount Kenya University. Ernestine attended various professional trainings aimed at building her professional skills and expertise in the hospitality industry, and through those trainings became ever more interested in using technology. She loves working in Excel and also serves as campus photographer, both of which give her ample opportunity to practice using computers and software. Ernestine is passionate about equipping people to believe in themselves the way she did.
Triphine graduated from the Akilah Institute for Women with a Business Diploma in Leadership and Hospitality Management. Her experience includes event planning and management, sales, and marketing. Her desire to give back to the community has directed her steps to the Akilah Institute for Women, where she works managing the campus. Triphine enjoys praying, singing and helping people who need it most.
Campus Support Staff
Yvonne, who goes by her last name Mutoni, was born in Uganda. She returned to Rwanda in 1995 after the genocide and worked as a builder at the Green Hills Academy school in Kigali during her teenage life. After the construction work was completed, she went back to her village in eastern Rwanda. Since she could no longer support herself, she decided to get married hoping that things would get better. She gave birth to three children but the financial situation did not improve. She continued looking for work until she found the job at Akilah in 2013.
Mutoni now lives in Kigali with her family and provides housekeeping and support duties to the Akilah community. Mutoni really loves working at Akilah and is happy to be part of a fast-growing institution with compassionate and understanding coworkers and students. Mutoni barely spoke a word in English before joining Akilah, but because she's now immersed in English all around her, she has managed to pick up a few words!
Jacqueline, a Rwandan mother, married, with two kids, is a familiar face on Akilah’s Kigali campus. She keeps the classrooms clean and orderly, which helps to provide a fresh working environment for students and faculty. Always passionate about her work and about the students of Akilah, Jacqueline has a strong work ethic that compliments the culture of the school. Her role at Akilah gives her the stability to support her family while also having the opportunity to be part of the Akilah family, for which she is grateful.
Rwanda Team: Faculty
Lisa Doherty is an English/EFL instructor, teacher trainer, TESOL consultant, and curriculum and program developer. She has worked in such exotic locales as the Bronx and Namibia. She recently returned from Guatemala where she was working as the English Language Technical Coordinator for the U.S Embassy. Ms. Doherty developed curriculum and designed and led teacher training programs for the Ministry of Education and the largest English Access Microscholarship program in the Western Hemisphere. She has been a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Hungary and an English Language Fellow. Lisa has presented at international ELT conferences in Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica. Her Master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages is from Hunter College.
Hospitality Management Program Manager
Terry graduated with a Bachelor's in International Business in Hotel and Tourism Management from the Cesar Ritz Colleges in Switzerland. She has worked with several hotel brands in Switzerland, Kenya, and Rwanda and brings with her a wide range of experiences in training and development, rooms division, guest service, and hotel operations. Terry loves hospitality management and is excited to teach it in a country where she can witness first-hand how the industry is changing the economy. Terry hails from Nairobi, Kenya.
Entrepreneurship Program Manager
Stanley holds a Master’s in Economic Policy Management from Makerere University in Uganda and a Bachelor’s in Education from Kyambogo University in Uganda, along with several certificates in community development and research. Stanley has worked in various institutions as business department head, academic dean, vocational trainer, and as a secondary school teacher. He has done worked as a consultant and an M&E capacity building specialist, which led to an interest in empowering women to build their capacity to lead organizations. He is excited for this opportunity to prepare young East African women for the knowledge age and a competitive job market.
CORE Program Manager
Before joining Akilah, Paul was the Head of Languages and Patron of the Media Club at Riviera High School in Kigali, Rwanda. Paul has a Bachelor’s in Education and a Diploma in Education from Makerere University and Kyambogo University, respectively, and brings over 15 years of teaching experience to Akilah. Paul has previously served as a teacher trainer, a leader and trainer of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award for Young People, and as coordinator of the Mehta Group of Companies award program. Paul is excited to teach at Akilah because of the opportunity to inspire, mentor, and empower young women to achieve their full potential and impact Rwandan society and the entire world in a positive way. Paul is a trained change agent for adolescent reproductive health and HIV/AIDS counseling, and also loves creative writing and contributes to the Education Times Magazine of the New Times newspaper in Rwanda. He hopes to pursue a Master’s in Mass Communication in the near future in order to serve Akilah better.
Stella received her Master’s in Literature from the Uganda Christian University in 2011, where she earned a Bachelor’s in Education in 2007, focusing on English language and literature. She also completed a five-week online course in teaching English as a foreign language from the University of Oregon. Stella has been teaching English at the Uganda Christian University for the past seven years and has also taught business English for the S7 Project in Uganda. The S7 Project empowers the less unfortunate and helps them realize their full potential by preparing for the competitive job market in Uganda. Stella found the work with S7 Project very fulfilling and sought similar opportunities that combine teaching with empowerment and purpose. At Akilah, Stella is proud to be part of a vibrant staff that shares her goal and vision. She loves teaching English and is thrilled to join a team that is helping young women adapt to the changing education and language system in Rwanda.
Jacqueline N. Semakula
Originally from Kampala, Uganda, Jacqueline graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Leisure and Hospitality Management Degree, and a Diploma in Business Administration from Makerere University. Later, she pursued an online course in Innovation and Creativity Management with the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies (Denmark). After moving to South Africa where she worked as the General Manager for Mangwanani African Spa in Johannesburg, Jacqueline also provided consultancy services focusing on hospitality service delivery at the Thousand Sands Palazzo.
Christian is a native of Gicumbi District in the Northern Province of Rwanda. He obtained a Degree of Bachelor of Arts with Education with majors in English and Literature with Education from the former Kigali Institute of Education. Prior to joining Akilah, Christian was working for Kigali Independent University (ULK) an English Part-time Lecturer. Christian enjoyed six years of experience as an English language teacher, 3 years as both the Executive Director and National Executive Secretary for two local NGOs (COFORWA and ARDE/KUBAHO) and 1 year working at Water For People-Rwanda. Christian also worked in the Parliament of Rwanda in the Senate as the Parliamentary Hansard Editor. He is very passionate about serving an institute that hopes to graduate 1000 young women by 2020.
Alain 'Christian' Majyambere
Alain received his Bachelor of Science in Math Physics and Education from Kigali Institute of Education in 2006. He also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Information Technology/Management from Adventist University of Central Africa in 2007. He is currently pursing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and Information Technology from Kampala International University. He has worked as a Math Instructor at College St. Andre, and has done ICT Consultancy at Central Africa Vision. He also served as the Head of the ICT Department at Nyagatare School of Nursing and Midwifery.
Before joining Akilah, Cyriaque was the ICT Instructor at the Computer Hands on Training Centre of Kampala International University, Uganda. Cyriaque has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Information Systems from Kampala International University. Cyriaque previously worked as a teacher in various schools and was a leader in Rwandan local government for 18 years. The experience he acquired from those two positions of employment made him believe that education is one of the most critical areas of empowerment for women. He also believes that offering technology education to girls is one sure way of giving them much greater power to enable them to make genuine choices concerning the kinds of lives they wish to lead.
Dieudonne graduated from Kigali Institute of Education in March 2009, with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics-Physics. He is currently pursuing a Masters program in Economics. Dieudonne attended various professional trainings aimed at building his teaching skills and expertise. His passion for teaching and empowering women led him to the Akilah Institute for Women, where he works as mathematics instructor.
IS Program Manager
Faustine graduated with a Bachelor's in Computer Science from Makerere University in Uganda. Passionate about teaching and sharing his knowledge, he began work as a lecturer at St. Ann’s College Kisii, a small school in collaboration with St. Paul’s University in Kenya. He later moved to Rwanda where he taught information technology to secondary school students. He also worked at the Open University of Tanzania in Kibungo, Rwanda as ICT officer and ICT trainer. Currently, he is pursuing his MBA specializing in Finance at the Open University of Tanzania in Kibungo, Rwanda. He believes that, given the opportunity and with proper training, girls can compete extremely favorably in the ICT sector and accelerate Rwanda’s growth as an ICT hub in the region. This belief led him to explore opportunities in organizations that advance women, landing him at Akilah.
Robert holds a Masters degree in Governance from the University of the Free State in South Africa. He has more than 19 years of experience as a Lecturer in various countries including Uganda and Lesotho. Robert has trained students at different levels of education and has extensive teaching experience in various disciplines comprising Political Science and Public Administration courses and Languages (English and French). Back in Rwanda, Robert worked as a Lecturer at Kigali Independent University (ULK) and Mount Kenya University (Kigali campus). He also worked in the Public sector at the National Decentralization Implementation Secretariat (NDIS) heading Governance and Service delivery unit. He then joined the present Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) assuming new responsibilities as a Civic Participation promotion specialist. Robert is passionate about women empowerment and is a strong adherent of the belief that women are the drivers of social change, hence the reason for joining the Akilah Institute for Women.
Samiah hails from Kenya and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts with Education from Makerere University Kampala, where she studied English Language Teaching, Literature, and Education. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Project Management. She has been in the education field for the last seven years and has worked in Uganda with the St. Lawrence Schools and Colleges at the Paris Palais and Horizon campuses as a Girls’ Administrator. She was charged with counseling, orienting the girls into the Institution’s culture and philosophy, and training them in social, cultural, and life skills. Most recently, she served as English Language Tutor at Kigali Independent University, where she also helped design English Language modules, train the staff, mentor students for debate forums, and manage the activities of the University’s Center for Languages. Her passion to continue working with girls, helping them overcome challenges, and achieve all that the world has to offer led her to Akilah.
English & Leadership Instructor
Paulin is a Rwandan native whose passion is to contribute to girls’ education in Rwanda. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Kigali Institute of Education, with a focus on teaching English and French. After six years of teaching experience, he is currently writing a thesis for a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. On his teaching career journey, he received various trainings in teaching English both to students and teachers of English. He was also trained in teaching TOEFL and SAT by the US Partners of his previous employment, where he also worked as the Academic Dean at Gashora Girls Academy. Paulin was selected as one of the 14 Award Winners of the 2015 Innovation in Education Contest organized by the Ministry of Education in Rwanda. Paulin is passionate about inspiring young ladies towards success, and he is joining Akilah team with his favorite quote in mind: If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far go together.
Moses holds a Masters degree in Finance Management from Amity University-India, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Makerere University, and a Diploma in Education. He most recently worked at Nu-Vision High School in Kigali, Rwanda. He taught Computer Science and Applied ICT for 3 years, and was also the head of the ICT department. Previously, he worked with Cyber School Technology Solutions as a Regional Training Manager and SBF Systems as an Operations Manager. He joined Akilah because he is passionate about creating positive change in the lives of women through ICT innovation and empowerment.
Associate Director of Development
Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, Merrin began her career with Akilah as a Development Intern in 2010 on the very first Metropolitan Safari, Akilah's annual fall fundraising tour. After attending the University of Florida and graduating with a B.A. in History from the University of Tampa in 2011, she worked as a Development Assistant at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn, New York. Working at NYU, a global university, in an office of 20 individuals dedicated to fundraising and development, she honed her skills in different departments including working under the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations as well as the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Events. With two visits to Akilah's campus in Kigali, Rwanda under her belt, she is thrilled to be back on the development and fundraising team and living in New York City.
Development and Operations Manager
Connor joined the Akilah team after graduating from Vassar College in 2014, where he studied religion and art history. Before coming to Akilah Connor worked with the Vassar Office of Alumnae Affairs and Development to oversee the 2014 Student Gift and was a member of the Vassar Annual Fund committee. Connor was greatly influenced by attending a historically women’s college and believes that women’s education initiatives are among the most salient strategies for international development. At Akilah Connor oversees all technology employed to facilitate academic management, development operations, and organizational efficiency. Out of the office, Connor spends his time watching Grey’s Anatomy reruns, writing robot apocalypse movies, and hunting for the best frozen margarita in Brooklyn.
Senior Development Associate
Whitney most recently worked as the Development Associate for Summer Search New York City, a youth development nonprofit, focusing on database management, event planning and grantwriting. Prior to that, she attended New York University, earning her bachelor's degree in African Studies. During her time at NYU, she spent a semester in Ghana studying and working with an NGO providing HIV/AIDS prevention education.
Tanya Diallo Welsh
Tanya most recently worked as the Asia/Near East Geographic Analyst for AMEX International, a sub-contracting firm for USAID's Food For Peace Program, where she focused on database management and partner contracts for approved Title II and emergency programs. She obtained her Masters in International Affairs from the New School, during which time she consulted for several organizations, producing grants and designing logical frameworks to help them improve the effectiveness of the programs they were implementing. She spent a few months in Mumbai, India conducting research and working with the women community leaders in urban settlements. Outside of the office, Tanya is a certified yoga and meditation teacher and a doula, advocating for self-care and reproductive health rights in Brooklyn and her surrounding community.
As the Executive Assistant to the CEO, Chris is responsible for Elizabeth's calendar maintenance, managing correspondents, coordination of travel and meeting arrangements and providing general administrative support.
Chris started his professional career as a full time tennis player. After 3 years playing on the tennis circuit, he decided to go back to school where he graduated from Loughborough University in 2009. Since finishing University, Chris has worked in a variety of project management and community engagement roles which has allowed him to move from England to Hong Kong.
Chris still enjoys playing social tennis, but also spends as much time as possible sailing and travelling.
Director of Business Systems
Natalie was MindSky's first Director of Business Operations. She previously served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar, where she worked to develop Sahalandy, a women's silk-weaving cooperative. She holds a master’s degree in International Development from the New School and is passionate about socioeconomic development. Natalie has lived on six different continents but currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.
Hong Kong Team
Pristine Remolona Lampard
Special Projects Manager
Pristine joined the Akilah team in 2016. Prior to joining the Akilah Institute for Women, Pristine worked as a software consultant providing accounting solutions to midstream gas companies in the US. She also worked in asset management, developing detailed financial models for high net worth individuals in Hong Kong.
In addition to her work with the Akilah Institute, Pristine organizes fundraisers and outreach programs for Enrich, a non profit organization that provides financial literacy training to migrant women in Hong Kong. Pristine is also a communications volunteer for DEFT Community, a non profit dedicated to educating local communities in safe and sustainable construction techniques.
Pristine studied economics and mathematics at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. She loves to travel, cook, and blog about her adventures.
Maria joined the Akilah team in 2015, after graduating from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She has worked with ABC News both in Washington, DC and Tokyo. Maria also worked with the team MAKERS at AOL, a digital platform and network sharing the stories of trailblazing women, like Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, and Hillary Clinton, through one-on-one exclusive interviews. At Akilah, Maria manages all digital and non-digital communications for the organization.