Our Leadership

Education Is Key to Empowering Africa’s Future Female Leaders, Says Honorary Chancellor Joyce Banda

“One of the most critical reasons why I have been able to access positions of leadership throughout my life is because my father valued my education. Without this, I would have been much more susceptible to fall victim to harmful traditional practices, such as early marriage, that plague my fellow women and girls across Africa.

I know firsthand the benefits of investing in young women, and this is why I proudly serve as the Akilah Institute’s Honorary Chancellor, where I am able to advocate on behalf of the 470 students currently enrolled at Akilah.

So why do I share the Akilah Institute’s vision to educate future generations of women leaders and professionals in East Africa? Because this is an urgent need…”

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Our Staff & Faculty

“I’ve always been passionate about inspiring more women to join technology. My biggest challenge is to change the attitude that has been instilled in a lot of women when it comes to technology. Because Information Systems is a technical field, they think it’s not for them. I want to show them that is not the case. At Akilah, I can reach out to more girls, be their example and role model. Show them ‘I’ve reached this level, you can too.'”

Lucy Cherono is the first female Information Systems instructor at Akilah. Lucy is a dedicated champion for women in tech and currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Business IT. Read her ‘Staff Spotlight’ interview here.

“We love what we do, and we go above and beyond every day. There is something about Akilah that attracts the type of people who are always willing to go the extra mile. This is our magic.

Last year, Akilah’s Executive Director, Aline Kabanda, was recognized among Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government by CEO Global, a South African company that celebrates female changemakers across the continent. Read her response to being named the Country and Great Lakes Regional Winner in Education and Training.

“When I first joined Akilah in 2014, it was the first time I had ever heard of a women’s institute training their students in entrepreneurship. Immediately I knew I wanted to be part of this change that I knew was coming. Entrepreneurship is high on the agenda in Rwanda, so it is the perfect place to do this.

I am always blown away by the energy and motivation the students bring to the classroom.”

Stanley Mukasa oversees programming for Akilah’s Diploma in Business Management & Entrepreneurship. He also runs Akilah’s Business Incubation Center, where he coaches students and alumnae on growing their businesses.

Our Board of Directors

Annette Tryde Akman is a photographer and filmmaker focusing on communications and marketing for non-profits, most notably the Akilah Institute for Women in Kigali, Rwanda. Annette has worked with the Akilah Institute since it’s inception in 2005, creating two coffee-table books that feature interviews and photographs of the Akilah students. In early 2016, Annette hosted a photography exhibition and book launch of her book “Educate a Woman, Uplift a Nation: Stories from the Akilah Institute.”

Carolyn is a Managing Director at Elysian Advisers, a boutique impact investing consultancy providing strategic and financial advice. Elysian’s mission is to propose practical, tailored and measurable solutions to help its clients maximize their financial and social returns. Carolyn is also a social impact investor and advisor to early stage companies. Prior to Elysian, Carolyn worked at GoldenTree Asset Management and at Ernst & Young. Carolyn received her B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and MBA in finance from the Wharton School of Business. Carolyn also has a MA, J.D. and L.L.M in Tax. She currently serves on the Hedge Funds Care Grants Review Committee, the Choate Rosemary Hall Alumni Executive Committee and the Board for the Akilah Institute for Women and the Impact Capital Forum.

Amanda is the co-founder and Global COO of Kasha: a mobile e-commerce platform that sells and delivers women’s health products using any type of mobile phone, no Internet or smart phone required. Kasha is a for-profit social business focused on promoting women’s empowerment for health and self-care while providing confidential delivery of genuine quality products. Kasha is currently operating in Kigali, Rwanda with expansion plans across East Africa in 2018. Amanda started her career at Microsoft where she held several positions across finance, strategy, and product marketing. Most recently she worked at Seattle start up Porch.com. She is a supporter of several organizations focused on women’s health, education and empowerment such as Rise Up, SHE CAN and Room to Read. Amanda resides in San Francisco, CA and in her spare time she enjoys traveling, biking and rock climbing.

Anne DiGiovanni is an educator and writer. After fifteen years lecturing at the university level, she developed a mindfulness curriculum, which she teaches in seminars, wellness programs, and as part of private leadership development. She began her career working in job development for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and the United Way. Anne is a recipient of the Catholic Journalism Award, and has written in every genre, specializing in creative non-fiction. She holds degrees in British Literature, Irish Literature and Creative Writing.Anne resides outside Boston with her husband and three children.

Elizabeth is the CEO & co-founder of the Akilah Institute, Rwanda’s first all-female college. 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, began working with business and civil society leaders to analyze the training needs of the Rwandan private sector. They founded Akilah to provide market-relevant education and career development to promising young female leaders. 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. Acumen founder Jacqueline Novogratz named Elizabeth one of The 5 Most Powerful Women Changing The World With Social Entrepreneurship. 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 and Dave live in Kigali with their children Lorraine, Tamsyn, and Elliott.

A Hong Kong native, Dave moved to Rwanda in 2008 and volunteered with a grassroots organization that operates sports teams for street children. Dave runs the Jade Water Group, a property company and investment fund, with offices in Hong Kong and Kigali. Dave is a professional member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and is a graduate of Reading University, Berkshire UK.

Dave lives with his wife and Akilah co-founder, Elizabeth Dearborn-Hughes, and their children Lorraine, Tamsyn, and Elliott.

J. Michael Cavanaugh, a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Holland & Knight, is a lawyer specializing in international energy and logistics project development. He also advises academic institutions on overseas collaborative activities. Mike has advised several African governments and international financial institutions on privatization policy and modernization of laws, has lectured at the Institute for Legal Practice Development in Rwanda, and has assisted clients in more than a dozen African nations. Mike is a graduate of Stanford Law School, and teaches international commercial law as an adjunct professor at the American University’s Washington College of Law. He serves on the Political Science Department Advisory Board at The Ohio State University, where he received his undergraduate degree. Mike is also active in several technology start-up ventures, including a company headquartered in East Africa developing solar power and battery projects, and a research and development project to implement advanced methods for food grain decontamination, also focused on African markets. Mike holds a U.S. patent on advanced methods for seawater desalination. Mike and his wife Susan have four sons and reside in Arlington, Virginia. They are frequent visitors to East Africa.

Jean Mulroy is an independent research and evaluation consultant to nonprofit organizations. Previously she served as a project manager and researcher in Education Development Center’s Global Learning Group. She has participated in capacity-building programs, assessments, and evaluations for a variety of NGOs, as well as the Inter-American Foundation, USAID and World Bank.

Ms. Mulroy holds a B.A. in anthropology from Yale University and an M.A. in international public administration from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. She is the co-author of Togetherness: How Governments, Corporations and NGOs Partner to Support Sustainable Development in Latin America.

Ms. Mulroy resides in Belmont, MA with her husband and two children. She enjoys volunteer work with local educational and ESL organizations.

A Burundian native, Carmen has spent much of her adult life in the UK engaged in academic studies and gained 10 years of work experience in the hotel and tourism industry. She is one of the leading personalities in the development and re-launch of the tourism industry in post-conflict Burundi. She has played an active role in marketing Burundi as a tourism destination at international travel and tourism fairs in London and Berlin. She has published widely on the development of the tourism sector in Burundi, and has run tour operations in Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya.

Carmen holds a BA in Travel Management from the University of Brighton and an MA in Tourism Destination Management from the University College of Birmingham, both in the United Kingdom. She is pursuing a PhD in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson University in the United States with a long term vision of reinforcing human resource development in Burundian tourism. She is currently the Regional Coordinator for East Africa Tourism Platform.

Hank Pariseau is a financial advisor in Bernstein Private Wealth Management’s Tampa office. He advises families and nonprofit organizations on investment management, portfolio allocation strategies, and long-term financial planning. He works with nonprofit boards and trustees to help them to identify their sustainable spending rates and fund-raising needs, given their return goals, risk tolerance, and fiduciary responsibilities. He also works with donors to help them understand their capacity to give and select tax-efficient giving strategies.

Prior to joining Bernstein’s Washington, DC, office in 2011, Hank worked for IXI Corporation where he provided a suite of consumer financial insight services to marketers of finance and insurance companies. Prior to that, he worked in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as an analyst in the Natural Resources division of Accenture.

Hank earned a BA with a double major in economics and Spanish from Wake Forest University.

Amy Pritchard is a political consultant and social entrepreneur. She specializes in strategy and voter contact for electoral, candidates, parties, advocacy campaigns and nonprofit organizations in the United States and globally for political parties, civil society, and socially responsible businesses. She has been a leader in the Democratic and Progressive movement in the US for over 30 years, and worked internationally on democracy and governance for more than 20 years. A native of Massachusetts, Amy rotates living in Cambridge, Washington, DC and Kigali, Rwanda.

Our Senior Advisors

Michael Horn is a Senior Partner at Entangled Solutions. He is also the co-founder of and a distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a nonprofit think tank. Michael is the author of the award-winning book, “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns” and the Amazon bestseller, “Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools”. Michael serves on the board and advisory boards of a range of education organizations, including the Clayton Christensen Institute, the Robin Hood Learning+Tech Fund, and the LearnLaunch Institute. He also serves as an executive editor at Education Next and is a venture partner at NextGen Venture Partners. He was selected as a 2014 Eisenhower Fellow to study innovation in education in Vietnam and Korea, and Tech & Learning magazine named him to its list of the 100 most important people in the creation and advancement of the use of technology in education. He holds a B.A. in history from Yale University and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

Our Global Advisory Council

Taryn Bird is the manager of Kate Spade & Co.’s on purpose initiative. Continue reading. In this role, Taryn is responsible for on purpose product development, capacity development in the corporate value chain, factory empowerment programming and supporting the overall on purpose social enterprise business modeling. Prior to joining Kate Spade & Co. in 2013, Taryn headed the women’s economic empowerment and global corporate citizenship programs at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation. During her tenure at the chamber, Taryn launched the international business corps in 2011, a skills based volunteer partnership program for corporate members operating in Brazil. She also studied and visited corporate engagement programs in Haiti, Brazil, Kenya and South Africa. In 2012, she was selected as a supply chain fellow for the social enterprise Indego Africa in Kigali Rwanda, where she managed the local supply chain for brand partners such as Anthropologie, Dannijo and JCrew. Taryn has contributed to various private sector publications on development and business including, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Business Fights Poverty, The Huffington Post Impact Blog, and the US Chamber of Commerce Annual corporate citizenship reports. Taryn has her Masters in Social Enterprise from the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC and her Bachelor of Sciences in Economic and Spanish from Pennsylvania State University. She is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Yulia Bogdanova is the Human Resources Director at the Kigali Marriott Hotel. She started her career with the Savoy Hotel Moscow while studying law at Moscow State Academy of Business Administration. In 2012, she moved to the Seychelles to open the Beau Vallon Beach – Savoy Resort and Spa, before joining the Kigali Marriott Hotel in 2015.

Elizabeth Cabot recently participated in a Fellowship Program with B Lab in New York City, in which she introduced small-to-medium sized businesses in Manhattan and Brooklyn to social and environmental performance measurement and improvement. Prior to her Fellowship, Elizabeth earned her M.B.A from the Yale School of Management in 2015. While at Yale SOM, Elizabeth worked in sustainability and corporate strategy for Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Company, and for Etsy’s Values & Impact Team in Brooklyn, New York. Elizabeth also holds a Juris Doctor and Certificate in Environmental Law from Boston College Law School. After receiving her J.D. in 2011, Elizabeth served as a Judicial Law Clerk for the Honorable Gilbert S. Merritt, Senior Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In that capacity, Elizabeth wrote and edited judicial bench memoranda and opinions addressing complex constitutional, statutory, and common law legal questions. Elizabeth also served as the Middle East Program Coordinator for the Quebec-Labrador Foundation, traveling extensively in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank to run an environmental and conflict fellowship and workshop program. Elizabeth received her B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 2006, where she and Akilah founder Elizabeth Davis were classmates and worked together as part of the leadership team of the Vanderbilt Chapter of Students Taking Action Now Darfur (S.T.A.N.D.).

Gary has lived and worked primarily as a VP Human Resource in most regions globally this last 35-years, from Europe to the Middle East Africa, from the USA to Asia Pacific – with Luxury (Ritz-Carlton Hotels & The Peninsula Group), Full and Limited Service Hotel & Resort brands (Marriott, IHG, Sheraton ITT) and been General Manager of a hotel. His contacts and reach globally are extensive in the USA, South America, The West Indies as well as Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific; as has been in outreach to community work and charities from the Hong Kong Sea School for Boys to Vietnamese Terminally ill children, to Senses for disabled children in Dubai, to the Akilah Institute for Women in Rwanda for whom he is today a Global Advisory Council member. Gary brings first hand knowledge of doing business in most countries in the region, is fully aware of FLS safety and security issues and needs, and worked closely with his companies heads of security and safety over these many years – and represents Safe Hotels in The Americas & West Indies, the global standard of best practice for hotel guest Security and safety. Until year-end 2014 he spent the past 12 years working for The Ritz-Carlton and Marriott Hotels’ Company, as VP Human Resources, MEA leading HR for 160 hotels and resorts, handling openings and major acquisitions, and for the first 7 years, looked after the UK and Ireland and 86 hotels. He’s overseen over 50 openings in the UK, Ireland and the Middle East, the acquisition of 100 hotels in Africa, and 60 in the UK. He’s sat on major international hotel industry boards such as the Global International Reward Group, was Founder and Chair, the MEA HR Council, sat on The British Hospitality Association HR Committee, Chair of the UK Hotel Employers Group, and sits today on the International Labor Relations Group (BEERG Committee), has led University relationships and Youth & Women’s initiatives in the Middle East & Africa. This follows 14 years in VP HR positions in Asia Pacific for The Peninsula Group and it’s owning company, The Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotels Limited, and also grew IHG hotels Asia Pacific from 14 to 45 hotels in 4 years. He is a Globally Accredited and certified assessor of psychometric assessment using the renowned Selby Mills program, which looks at a candidates leadership competencies, behavior in the work place and personality and character. He can usually turn around a report for a client within 24 business hours from completion by a candidate of on-line tests – and will give an accurate take on a candidate. He is experienced at doing so at GM level and above, and Excom level. He has also run his own boutique luxury country house hotel as Owner/GM.

Maria Figueroa Kupcu is a Partner and Head of the New York office of Brunswick Group, an advisory firm specializing in critical issues and corporate relations. She has anchored Brunswick’s Business and Society offer in the U.S. since 2007 and is a senior advisor to Global 500 corporations, foundations and family offices. Her focus is social purpose campaigning, issues management and stakeholder engagement. Previously, Maria was a Director at the strategy and polling firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates. A seasoned opinion researcher, she has advised a variety of political contests including presidential campaigns in five countries including: Ukraine, Zimbabwe and South Korea. Maria began her career with the United Nations, working to reconcile government, business and NGO positions on environmental and social issues such as water risk, youth and labor rights. She is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School and Tufts University, where she is a board member of the Institute for Global Leadership.

Susan Freeman is an executive coach who utilizes a unique approach to leadership transformation–combining Western strategic discipline with Eastern integrative wisdom techniques. Her clients value her skill in helping them unlock leadership effectiveness, connect strategy to execution, and increase trust and collaboration. Personal benefits include improved relationships, better health and overall life as well as work satisfaction. She combines a thorough and practical approach to strategic change and personal growth, both for individuals and teams. Susan brings to her coaching more than 25 years of corporate, entrepreneurial and non-profit business management and leadership experience. Susan is sought after by investor-owned companies to help them reach the next level of growth and profitability. Areas of specialty interest include strengths and challenges of entrepreneurship in both small and large organizations, cultivation of executive presence, career resilience, effective communication, and accountability. Her facilitation specialties include Strategic Cornerstones: Mission, Vision, Values, Goals and Commitments; Creating an Empowering Culture; among others. Susan received her M.B.A. in Marketing from Columbia University and her B.A. in Psychology from Wellesley College. She is the author of “Step Up Now: 21 Powerful Principles for People Who Influence Others.” She is an accredited coach with the International Coach Federation as well as with Newfield Network, where she received her coaching training. She is also a certified business facilitator with the MSP Institute. Susan is a member of the International Coach Federation and a Professional Certified Coach. Her message has been communicated in many venues as a corporate keynote, event speaker, on television and radio, and as leadership columnist. She volunteers to mentor young women leaders locally and globally. In Africa, she works closely with The Akilah Institute in Rwanda to help empower young women with the skills, knowledge and confidence to become leaders. Her book connects her to the school, where it is used in the curriculum and where she donates all profits from its sales. She visited Rwanda as a Leadership Guest Lecturer in July, 2014. In Tampa, she has mentored young women through the Emerge Tampa program of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Frameworks Tampa Bay. Passionate about education, she has founded or served on several educational boards at the secondary and university levels.

Michael Horn is a Senior Partner at Entangled Solutions. He is also the co-founder of and a distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a nonprofit think tank. Michael is the author of the award-winning book, “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns” and the Amazon bestseller, “Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools”. Michael serves on the board and advisory boards of a range of education organizations, including the Clayton Christensen Institute, the Robin Hood Learning+Tech Fund, and the LearnLaunch Institute. He also serves as an executive editor at Education Next and is a venture partner at NextGen Venture Partners. He was selected as a 2014 Eisenhower Fellow to study innovation in education in Vietnam and Korea, and Tech & Learning magazine named him to its list of the 100 most important people in the creation and advancement of the use of technology in education. He holds a B.A. in history from Yale University and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

Lauren Lovelace has nearly 15 years of experience in the financial services industry, serving foreign financial services companies with US operations, as well as domestic entities with offshore operations. She has extensive experience with inbound and outbound international banking tax issues, including cross-border planning to maximize income tax efficiency (e.g., in response to regulatory changes), financial product income sourcing and taxation, withholding tax and treaty matters related to permanent establishment matters and Article 7 profit attribution, interest deductibility analyses, FIRPTA considerations and reporting, and transfer pricing. She also assists clients with meeting their quarterly and annual US tax compliance obligations. Lauren frequently instructs at internal and external training sessions covering topics in banking and capital markets and inbound/outbound international tax. She coauthored an article in 2006 concerning the implications of factoring transactions to US controlled foreign corporation look-through treatment. She holds a Masters of Accounting degree from Kenan-Flagler Business School, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and French from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She is an Enrolled Agent with the Internal Revenue Service.

Fran Pastore is a devoted catalyst for women, families and communities with an emphasis on economic self-reliance through small business training, financial education and professional development. Specialties: Creating and promoting a vision that people invest in; Building and inspiring dynamic teams who deliver exceptional results; Identifying and overseeing new initiatives; Building a brand, creating and implementing marketing initiatives and public relations campaigns; Advocacy and lobbying.

Cynthia A. Phillips is the Founder & CEO of The Disruptive Factory, a new consultancy and accelerator for technology and innovative start-ups, change makers, and growth stage companies. Phillips is an economist & business consultant to corporations as well as for-profit and social enterprises with over 20 years of experience in the areas of strategic planning, marketing, branding, analytics, big data, business development and global expansion. Former Director of International Marketing & Risk Management at American Express, she currently consults with technology companies such as Cisco Systems and Riverbed. Phillips holds a doctorate and degrees in agricultural economics, economics and statistics from University of Michigan and Michigan State University. She currently serves as the Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer for Ascalon, LLC, a disruptive consumer and commercial products company. Phillips sits on several nonprofit boards and advisory boards of start-ups including OROECO and accelerators such as Think Beyond Plastic. As social entrepreneur, Phillips is the Founder of 90/10 Advisors, G Media Partners, and Disruptive Spirits.

Bryan Setser serves as the Principal at rpk GROUP. Bryan partners with the team to develop the overall firm strategy and lends his expertise to higher education, strategic partner development, and emerging technology solutions for the industry. Bryan’s work in higher education has included leading the higher education practice at 2Revolutions, a leading national design firm where his portfolio included multiple foundations, universities, HBCUs, membership organizations, and community colleges. Bryan’s entrepreneurial models work has included clients such as the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Davidson College and Edx, Building a Culture of Innovation for Higher Ed with EDUCAUSE, Change and Innovation Labs for the American Council on Education, and a Breakthrough Models Incubator with NGLC. Bryan has also personally launched a statewide virtual school, a consulting practice, and helped three organizations navigate through merger and acquisition of their models. In his his third decade of innovative leadership for results in the education sector, Bryan has been a Chief Quality Officer, a Chief Design Officer, and CEO of the nation’s 2nd largest virtual school in the k-12 sector as well. Dr. Setser is also a national Baldrige examiner for the United States Department of Commerce, and his award winning career has included being selected by three different Governors for e-learning and school technology commissions. He was instrumental in the development of North Carolina’s Learn and Earn Early College efforts online, and has served as an adjunct professor to masters and doctoral students in e-leadership theory and practice at North Carolina State University.

Vibeke Brask Thomsen is Danish-born but raised in Monaco. After graduating with a Master in Public Policy and a Master of Russian and East European Studies from the University of Michigan, she moved to Bruxelles, where she worked for think-thanks and NGOs on arms control, disarmament, security and defence, and on policies to protect women in conflict zones. In 2011, she returned to Monaco where she founded GenderHopes. The non-profit aims to empower girls and women through education and to raise awareness about the International Day of the Girl. GenderHopes also aims to combat gender-based violence and discrimination by raising awareness, informing policy-makers and the general public and by highlighting negative stereotypes that promote gender-based violence and discrimination.

Wendy Wheeler is a technology executive with experience in high growth start-up and public companies. She began her career in sales with IBM, and them moved into marketing for smaller firms. She led marketing programs in small and large companies across a variety of technology sectors, including hardware, software, telecommunications and big data. Most recently she ran marketing for a data analytics firm which was acquired by IBM where she transitioned to directing marketing programs for IBM’s data analytics business. She holds a degree in modern language and literature from Trinity College in Hartford CT and has traveled extensively for business and pleasure. Volunteer activities include leadership roles as treasurer and warden for her church. She has also been a coach and mentor for organizations that sponsor women entrepreneurs and low income scholars.

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