Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/04/2016


Hon. Pamela Pepper, Class of 1982
Judge, United States District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin

My strongest memory from my time as a student delegate is having drummed up the courage to ask Ed Asner for his autograph — I still have it somewhere.

I got my undergraduate degree in theater/interpretation at Northwestern University. After graduation, I attended Cornell Law School, where I participated in moot court competitions and was an editor on the law review. After law school, I was lucky enough to clerk for Hon. Frank M. Johnson, Jr. of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Being able to spend a year learning from a giant of judicial integrity, and a historic icon from the Civil Rights era, was a highlight of both my career and my life.

At the end of the clerkship, I joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois — the federal prosecutor’s office in Chicago. It was a wonderful experience. I was in court all the time, both for trials before the U.S. District Court and appeals before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. After four years there, I moved to the United States Attorney’s Office in Milwaukee, and spent three years prosecuting drug- and gang-related offenses. I left government service in 1997, and became a solo practitioner. As a defense attorney, I represented defendants in criminal cases from investigation through appeal in both federal and state court. I also became a frequent speaker on the topic of managing one’s own law practice, and taught legal writing and practice management at Marquette Law School. I also earned a graduate certificate in alternative dispute resolution from Marquette Graduate School.

In July 2005, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals appointed me to a seat on the bankruptcy court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. I served in that capacity for almost ten years, and served as chief judge of the four-judge court from 2010 until December 2014. I served as an editor for the American Bankruptcy Law Journal, a board member of the American Bankruptcy Institute, and a board member and officer of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges. I spoke frequently to bankruptcy bar associations on evidence, and continue to be a faculty member at the Federal Judicial Center. On December 8, 2015, President Obama appointed me to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. I am the first woman to have been appointed to that court.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 12/08/2015


Edward S. Boyden, Ph.D., Class of 2014
Associate Professor, MIT Media Lab
Leader, Synthetic Neurobiology Group
Co-Director, MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering

In 2015, I won the largest scientific prize in the world, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, for my work on developing methods for controlling brain cells with light. These tools, which are known as optogenetic tools, have been widely used throughout biology to study how specific neurons contribute to behaviors and diseases. You can find out more info on the prize here:


…and more info on the optogenetic technology I worked on, here:

In addition, in 2015, my research group at MIT developed a radical new method of imaging complex biological systems such as brain circuits — we take biological specimens, and physically swell them to make them larger. This method is very different from the past 300 years of biological imaging, which use glass lenses to magnify light from biological specimens. By physically swelling the specimens, it is possible to take pictures of them with nanoscale precision, using ordinary inexpensive and scalable optics. You can read more about this technology here:

This method, which we call expansion microscopy, is enabling unprecedented examination of brain circuits and other complex structures.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 07/29/2015

bouletGROUP_500Melanie Boulet, Class of 1977
World History Teacher
New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School

What are my memories of the 1977 Academy of Achievement program in Orlando, Florida? I can remember having breakfast with Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken — he looked just like he did on the store billboard — as he shared his amazing entrepreneur’s story. I remember Alex Haley recounting his investigation into his past, and I savored watching the miniseries, Roots, when I got home. I remember meeting awesome fellow students who were moving on, as I was, to the next step of their education journeys.

I attended Princeton University and then went into the Peace Corps in Paraguay, where I worked with a cooperative of farmers who started a molasses factory. On my way home, I took a teaching job in Honduras and decided that teaching was my calling. I went to Harvard University to get my Master’s in education and a teaching certification. After ten years of teaching, I took a hiatus to raise our three children, to start an environmental AmeriCorps program, and to serve on the Lafourche Parish School Board.

I am now in my 25th year of teaching. I have taught in an array of settings — in a maximum security prison, in a school with Native American students — but mainly I have been teaching in high-poverty urban schools. I am currently in my fifth year as the World History teacher at the New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School. I try to engage my students to pursue historical research, not unlike the kind that Alex Haley did back in the ’70s. My students participate in the National History Day contest, making documentaries and websites, writing plays and research papers. We are currently piloting a local research project into women who have played a part in New Orleans history, in preparation for the tricentennial of the city in 2018. I plan to teach for ten more years and then to get involved again in protecting Louisiana’s wetlands or maybe even take another shot at politics! Who knows?

(Caption: Reaching Sky High at Sci High: My students and me at the National History Day contest.)

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/08/2015

Kamerow-240Douglas B. Kamerow, M.D., MPH,
Class of 1968

Professor of Clinical Family Medicine, Georgetown University
Senior Scholar in Residence, Robert Graham Center

I remember my 1968 trip to Dallas for the Academy of Achievement Banquet of the Golden Plate very clearly, despite the fact that it was 47 years ago. I had just graduated from high school and it was my first plane trip alone and the first time I had ever worn a tuxedo and stayed in a hotel by myself. Very exciting. The dinner was huge and glamorous and I remember being addressed by an astronaut (Jim Lovell), a baseball star (Stan Musial), and a U.S. Senator (Daniel Inouye). Inspiring!

I’ve been very fortunate since then. I graduated from Harvard College, the University of Rochester Medical School, and Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, and I became a family doctor and preventive medicine specialist. I spent most of my career in the U.S. Public Health Service, retiring as an Assistant Surgeon General. While in the PHS I had the good fortune to work on and lead several programs that have helped improve the health of Americans, such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. It makes evidence-based recommendations on which preventive services Americans should receive. I’ve also been a professor of family medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center — where I teach medical students and family medicine residents — a chief scientist at the non-profit research institute RTI International, and a health policy columnist for the global medical journal The BMJ.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/07/2015

freu_500The Honorable Nancy Freudenthal, Class of 1972
Chief Judge, U.S. District Court of Wyoming

Since attending the Academy of Achievement’s 1972 Salute to Excellence in Salt Lake City, Utah as a student delegate, I earned a bachelor’s degree and a juris doctorate, both with honors, from the University of Wyoming. From 1980-1989, I served as Attorney for Intergovernmental Affairs under former Wyoming Governors Ed Herschler and Mike Sullivan, and served on various boards, commissions and task forces. I also taught environmental law as an adjunct professor at the University of Wyoming. Governor Sullivan then appointed me to the State Tax Commission and Board of Equalization in 1989, where I served as Chairman until 1995. In 1995, I joined the law firm of Davis & Cannon and became a partner several years later.

In 2003, my husband Dave Freudenthal was sworn in as Governor of Wyoming. He served two eight-year terms. My time as Wyoming’s First Lady allowed me to focus on family and children’s issues, serving as honorary chair for Family Day and national chair for the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free. In addition to other awards and honors, my husband and I received the Family Values Award from the LDS Church. On June 1, 2010, following my appointment by President Barack Obama and confirmation by the U.S. Senate, I was sworn in as U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Wyoming. I am the seventh federal district judge to serve Wyoming since statehood, and I am the first woman district court judge. I have been Chief Judge of this District since 2011.

My husband and I have lived and raised our four children in Cheyenne. We are the proud grandparents of two beautiful girls, Albany and Emma, and we have three more grand-babies on the way!

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 03/11/2015

white_500Alex White, Class of 2012
Co-Founder and President, The Next Big Sound, Inc.

I participated in the 2012 International Achievement Summit in Washington DC as a delegate. My company was just named to Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Company” list for 2015 alongside Apple, Tesla, Google and others, and I thought it would be a good time to send a sincere thank you for including me in 2012. I still think about it often, and I keep in close touch with many folks I met that weekend. I’d like to share these notes I wrote on the train back from D.C. while the experience was still fresh in my mind:

“I just came back from the four most amazing days of my life. As the public face of Next Big Sound, I attend a lot of conferences. We’ve been recognized as the best music tech company at places from Cannes, France to Toronto, Canada. But this conference was different. I’d been to D.C. dozens of times before — I almost went to Georgetown and my sister and cousins both went to college in the District and live there now — but this trip was different.

“If I had to abstract the short talks from dozens of the highest achievers of our time, from Nobel Prize winners to poets laureate, from the largest hedge fund and private equity managers in the world to preeminent scientists, it would be the following: Every single one of them is in relentless pursuit of Truth. Not “the truth.” Not that which it true, but pure objective Truth. Whether it is seeking alpha and beating the market in the world of finance, describing Truth via poetry, or finding a cure for cancer and HIV-AIDS that works reliably in the lab and real world, all are after Truth. The other abstraction is that even the folks being honored as the top in their field feel like they have not gone nearly far enough, and are not accelerating towards Truth as fast as they could be. They are frustrated with their progress, even though they have made more progress than anyone else in their entire field.

“If I had to encapsulate it in one sentence it would be: Seek Truth in whatever field resonates with you personally, and never be satisfied with what progress you’ve made, because until you find Truth there is still more work to be done.”

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 03/11/2015

kim_500Tae Hoon Kim, Ph.D., Class of 1990
Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
University of Texas, Dallas

It gives me a great pleasure to write this short update on how attending the Academy of Achievement in 1990 has affected my life since then. I was a high school senior when I attended the Summit as a student delegate from Fresno, California. My attendance was sponsored by brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo; for their support, I have been always grateful. My life goal at that time was very modest, reflecting the financial challenges faced by my parents, who were trying to adjust to American life and culture. Only a few years earlier, our family arrived in Los Angeles from South Korea with few resources. The Summit was truly inspirational, highlighting the great human potential reflected in a set of amazing and successful individuals. At the same time, the Summit gave me a greater sense of my own potential than I had ever dreamed of. The experience has carried me through every major milestone in my life ever since:

I received my bachelor’s degree in biology from Reed College in Portland, Oregon. I continued my biological training as a graduate student in molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I obtained my master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard under the tutelage of Dr. Tom Maniatis, a pioneer of molecular cloning. I completed my postdoctoral training with Dr. Bing Ren at Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in La Jolla, California. After my postdoctoral training, I obtained a faculty position at Yale University, as an Assistant Professor and later Associate Professor. After eight years at Yale, I moved to the University of Texas at Dallas, where I am now an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. I am a recipient of the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award in 2004, the Rita Allen Foundation Scholar Award in 2007, the Sidney Kimmel Scholar Award in 2008, and the Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust Fellowship in 2011. I am considered one of the pioneers in the development of genomics technologies for locating and analyzing transcription factors and histone modifications across the entire human genome.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to update the Academy on my life since the summit!


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 03/11/2015

wissner-gross_500Alex Wissner-Gross, Ph.D., Class of 1999
MIT Media Lab and President of Gemedy, Inc.

Participating in the Academy’s 1999 Golden Plate Awards in Washington, D.C., as a high school senior was a tremendous honor and a transformative experience. I fondly remember discussing technology trends with Nathan Myhrvold, brainstorming about biology with Kary Mullis, and singing with Aretha Franklin. Perhaps most importantly, the event reinforced for me the multi-dimensional nature of achievement, and has inspired many aspects of my subsequent career pursuits.

Since attending the event, I have become a scientist, an inventor, and an entrepreneur. I serve as the President of Gemedy, Inc., a pioneering intelligent systems company, and also hold academic appointments at the Harvard Institute for Applied Computational Science, the Harvard Innovation Lab, and the MIT Media Lab. I have received 116 major distinctions, authored 17 publications, been granted 22 issued, pending, and provisional patents. I have founded, managed, and advised 4 technology companies, one of which has been acquired. In 1998 and 1999, respectively, I won the U.S.A. Computer Olympiad and the Intel Science Talent Search. In 2003, I became the last person in MIT history to receive a triple major, with bachelors in Physics, Electrical Science and Engineering, and Mathematics, while graduating first in my class from the MIT School of Engineering. In 2007, I completed my Ph.D. in Physics at Harvard, where my research on programmable matter, ubiquitous computing, and machine learning was awarded the Hertz Doctoral Thesis Prize. A popular TED speaker, my talks have been viewed more than 1.75 million times and translated into 26 languages. My work has also been featured in more than 160 press outlets worldwide including The New York Times, CNN, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek. If other alumni are interested in reading more about my work, they can visit

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/01/2015

shuger-240Dale R. Shuger, Ph.D., Class of 1996
Assistant Professor, Tulane University

The Academy of Achievement Summit in Sun Valley was like a step into an enchanted world, like falling down a rabbit hole and finding myself at a ski resort in Idaho surrounded by celebrities. My family was fairly dysfunctional and solidly middle class, both of which meant we did not take vacations, we did not know celebrities, and we certainly did not go to fancy resorts. The very personality traits that got me invited—the perpetual drive to achieve and accomplish—were the reasons I had never experienced anything remotely like that atmosphere. It was the first time I ever felt like my work had been rewarded with something other than the ability to advance to the next level for more work. I had received plenty of awards and praise before, but I had never been given a weekend to just relax, watch, and listen.

It might seem that the TED talk has made this sort of celebrity access obsolete, but the moments that had the greatest impact on me all occurred outside the auditorium. Seated between celebrities on park benches, I listened to luminaries from different fields talk to each other, sharing insights about the diverse perspectives from which they viewed the world. In high school, where everything was divided neatly into subjects, I had never really thought about the way disciplines speak to each other. And at the same time, I appreciated these icons as people. The President of Spellman College lent a shivering high-schooler her shawl. Amy Tan kept stuffing little pieces of dinner into her handbag. I was wondering whether she had come slightly undone when a little Yorkshire terrier head popped out of her bag, and then another (this was before Paris Hilton made teacup pups a must-have accessory), each licking its chops and requesting more. I may have been invited there for being an over-achiever, but what I most enjoyed was being invisible, being a spectator and an eavesdropper on creative cross-pollination.

Along with what seemed like 95 percent of the students invited my year, I went to Harvard. And I can say—with a little regret and mostly contentment—that my career of over-achievement ended there. If the first 18 years of my life were about accomplishing, the next 19 have been about learning that I don’t need to accomplish to be happy. That in fact, I became immediately happier when I stopped trying to be the best at everything and decided to be curious about everything, passionate about a few things, and to be part of a community, rather than a leader. Perhaps it’s another manifestation of the pleasure I felt in just sitting on a bench and listening to other people talk.

I graduated from Harvard and went on to get a Ph.D. in Spanish literature at New York University. My first job was teaching early modern Spanish at Columbia, but in many ways that was a relapse to the high-pressure, ego-driven achievement track, and I was no longer cut out for it. I have since joined the faculty at Tulane and find the Southern speed of life, New Orleans quirkiness, and the warm weather to be my natural habitat. I have published a book that maybe ten people have read, as we academics do, and am working on another. I have had a series of dogs, none small enough to carry in a handbag but it doesn’t keep me from trying to bring them everywhere. It’s too bad there isn’t a forum for celebrating quiet competence in addition to visionary leadership, but I’m glad I’ve had the chance to be exposed to both. Every now and again I think of that crazy weekend in Idaho and wonder if it really happened. But I have my Golden Plate yearbook as proof.


Letter from Dale Shuger, 1996

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/30/2015

diaz_IMG_1593 Illac Angelo Diaz, Class of 2008
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Liter of Light

My thanks go to Wayne and Catherine Reynolds for the life-changing chance to study at the Kennedy School. Their support gave me the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing people and opened my eyes to so many possibilities. These are gifts that I try to pass on to as many people as possible.

Illac Angelo Diaz participated in the 2008 International Achievement Summit in Hawaii. At the time, Illac’s interest lay in an architectural response to climate change in developing countries, where the poorest sectors of society are most at risk, and least able to adapt to extreme weather events.

During his time at the Harvard Kennedy School, Diaz initiated the global competition Design Against the Elements, asking architects to design a safer habitat for at-risk communities. This initiative has led to almost 300 designs that can serve as a basis for architects to study and improve when they plan in this critical area.

He has gone on to design alternative schools and clinics around the ASEAN Region, using alternative materials such as stabilized soil (adobe), bamboo, plastic crates and recycled plastic bottles, cooperating with communities to lower building costs. ( He recently produced award winning designs at the Shanghai Biennale and in the Philippines.diaz_971824_564831916890978_1863789929_n

In his native Philippines, he created the Liter of Light program, the cheapest imaginable way to harness the power of the sun to light the homes of the world’s poorest communities.  In communities where electricity is unavailable or unaffordable, a recycled plastic soda bottle, filled with water and 10 milliliters of bleach, can be installed in the roof of a dark home, as a makeshift skylight. The bleach-filled bottle diffuses light throughout the room — equivalent to that of a 55-watt electric bulb — without electricity. The money saved on electricity or hazardous kerosene lamps enables most participants to purchase a solar lamp to provide an additional eight hours of light after sunset. These systems can be built with locally sourced materials, and distributed by grassroots entrepreneurs, building skills, livelihoods, and a green economy in underdeveloped communities without relying on imported, patented, expensive solar technology.

Community Built Solar Bottle Light :

Diaz’s Liter of Light won the 2012 Curry Stone Design Prize.

The MyShelter Foundation has now brought the Liter of Light program to 15 countries.


In January 2015, Illac Diaz received the Zayed Prize at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi for his work with Liter of Light. The World Future Energy Summit is the world’s foremost annual meeting committed to promoting the advancement of future energy, energy efficiency and clean technology by engaging more than 30,000 policymakers and business leaders from 170 countries.

Illac-Award-with-Sheikh-and-Egyptian-Prez_500 ZFEP-Winners-2015_500

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – January 19, 2015: HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice-President Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai (L) and HE Abdel Fattah El-Sisi President of Egypt (C) present the Zayed Future Energy Prize Non-Profit Organisation award to Illac Diaz, Executive Director of Liter of Light (R) during the opening ceremony of the World Future Energy Summit, part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).

(Donald Weber / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi ) ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – January 19, 2015: (R-L, back row), HE Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber UAE Minister of State Chairman of Masdar and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC), HH General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice-President Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, HE Abdel Fattah El-Sisi President of Egypt and Al Gore Former, Vice President of the United States, stand for a photograph with winners of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC). (Front row, L-R) Yoshihiko Yamada of Panasonic, Jesse Moore M-KOPA Solar, a representative from Munro Academy in Canada, student representatives from Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa in Swaziland, a representative from Petru Rares National College in Romania, Illac Diaz from Liter of Light, a representative from Melbourne Girls’ High School in Australia, and Ibrahim Nadheem, from Addu High School in the Maldives.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/29/2015

shepardRyan Shepard, Class of 2011
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Office of the Mayor of Atlanta

In the Spring of 2010, while enrolled at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I was a Reynolds Fellow at the Harvard Center for Public Leadership.

To my great fortune, my Reynolds Fellowship year offered exposure to issues that directly impact education, and to many great leaders who work tirelessly for progress. Among the most formative experiences during my fellowship year was a sponsored excursion to the Mississippi Delta region. Our group saw firsthand the confluence of challenges in economic, healthcare and education outcomes that are largely rooted in historic inequality. As we met citizens and leaders in the area, we also witnessed the possibilities to transform a community that is courageous enough to rally around faith, collaboration, and the pursuit of lofty ideals.

After completing my Ed.M, in 2011, I joined McKinsey & Co. as a management consultant in their Atlanta office. In February of 2013, I joined the office of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed as an internal consultant and Senior Project Officer with the FOR Atlanta team. My team focuses on initiatives that promote the Mayor’s priorities of youth development, fiscal stability, public safety, customer service, infrastructure, and economic development. We aim to influence the Mayor’s agenda by providing results that are informed by robust analytics across city departments, and driven by collaboration between stakeholder groups.

The relationships and experiences that I gained during my time as a Reynolds Fellow are indeed priceless. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity and look forward to furthering the great legacy of service that Catherine and Wayne Reynolds so generously celebrate.



Ryan Shepard’s latest venture is The Human Capital Theory (HCT), a social impact movement that helps local businesses and organizations reach their goals, while challenging them to cultivate talent from communities most in need of economic development. HCT Press Release.Atlanta

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/28/2015


Thomas J. Erbin, Class of 1973
Attorney, Prince, Yeates & Geldzahler

I still remember that weekend in Chicago in 1973. I was lucky enough in my senior year of high school to receive various recognitions, but this event I distinctly recall. At the Banquet, I met Tenzing Norgay (the first man to reach the top of Mt Everest, along with Edmund Hillary) and Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon. The whole weekend was full of bright adults and kids, a great environment. I also remember the kids gathered in the hotel lobby after hours, and that was a blast, too.

As for me, I graduated from Stanford (undergrad) and Berkeley (law school), then returned to Salt Lake City, where I’ve practiced law ever since. I’m mostly a real estate attorney, my clients are banks and owners of real estate, also title insurers who insure good title in real estate sales. I’ve stayed with one firm for my whole career; they’re not wise to me yet! When I’m not practicing law, you can find me on the mountain bike trails of the Wasatch mountains, or at my home-away-from-home, the Alta ski resort.

Thanks again to the Academy for its generosity, and for maintaining this great tradition.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 12/19/2014


Patrick Meier, Ph.D., Class of 2012
Director of Social Innovation, Qatar Computing Research Institute

The 2012 Summit was one of the most unforgettable events I’ve attended in recent years. There were many insights and key messages that I took away from the Summit. One of the distinguished speakers we had the honor of listening to made it clear to us that we each had a lot more to accomplish during the second half of our careers. He warned us not to get overly comfortable or to simply ride out the next wave of our careers based on our initial accomplishments. The difference between future success and extraordinary achievement depended on what we decided to do with the second half of our careers. I was particularly burnt out at the time, so those words were hard to hear. But I knew that the distinguished speaker was right, so I promised myself to revisit these words of wisdom in the near future..

As this year draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the important advice we received at the 2012 Summit. Have I acted on the guidance provided? Well, the past two years have certainly been the most exciting of my career thus far. In partnership with the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations, I’ve been able to pioneer the next generation of humanitarian technologies and apply them to support relief efforts in the face of major disasters across the globe. What makes these technologies part of the next generation? Simple: they combine human computing (crowdsourcing) with machine computing (artificial intelligence) to make sense of “Big Data” generated during disasters. This “Big Data” includes social media, for example, as well as satellite imagery and — increasingly — aerial imagery (captured by UAVs). Thanks to our hard work over the past two years, my outstanding team and I have also seen our work featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wired, Forbes, TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, The Guardian, Nature, New Scientist, Foreign Affairs, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review and National Geographic, as well as on CNN, the BBC, PBS, CBC, NBC, Slate and Mashable amongst other media coverage. Lastly, my book Digital Humanitarians ( — which I had not even contemplated writing before the Summit — will appear in just a few weeks.

So I’d like to think that I’ve given the second half of my career an early boost, thanks to my outstanding team. But now is certainly not the time to ride the wave of accomplishments from the past two years and coast through the rest of this decade with eyes half-closed. Humanitarian disasters won’t be taking a break, so neither must we. And thus I take the spirit of the 2012 Summit to heart and look forward to doing my part to making the world a better place in the years and decades to come.

All the best,

Patrick Meier

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 08/26/2014

scottJennifer Scott, Class of 2008
Director, Strategy, Sunergise

As a Kennedy Memorial Scholar at Harvard Kennedy School, I was invited to participate in the 2008 International Achievement Summit in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. It was the summer between my first and second year at grad school; the first year of my degree had hurtled by, incredibly rapidly, and I was starting to wonder about what came next. Being at that stage of life — open to everything and determined to throw your energies out into the world — the Summit in Hawaii was truly electrifying. I remain deeply grateful for the experience, and to have been able to share it with such an outgoing, remarkable group of peers —friendships and bonds that continue to this day.

There were too many incredible moments from of our time in Kona to mention here. Just a few that come to mind: the hypnotic, ethereal underwater images of David Doubilet; the livening intellect and charisma of Lisa Randall; the passionate, inspiring story of Greg Mortenson; and the insightful, humorous reflections of Frank McCourt. I remember one particular conversation with Nicholas Kristof, talking at length with him about how he had come to form his belief that educating girls and women is the most powerful of all development tools. This resonated with my own experiences in India and the Maldives, and I have thought of his words often since then.

After grad school, pursuing my passion in this area took me to Bangladesh, where I was part of a fantastic team helping to develop safer workplaces and better job opportunities for young female migrants in the garment industry; to Peru, where I had the opportunity to learn from some fiercely determined and successful women entrepreneurs; and to Papua New Guinea, where I have worked with the World Bank to bring literacy, energy and basic health services to indigenous women whose remote communities have been turned upside down by extractive industries.

These experiences were tremendous privileges. I learned a lot, traveled and met some amazing people, and hopefully contributed in a few small but meaningful ways. Yet after a few years, I had a persistent feeling that there was something a bit surreal about my lifestyle. I questioned the itinerancy of it, and doubted the utility of my ephemeral engagement in these complex, intractable contexts. I have always loved poetry, and a few of the words from W.S. Merwin’s marvelous speech had stayed with me from the Summit. I don’t remember the exact phrases, but he spoke of the importance of finding roots in a “place” rather than looking for “situations,” and of his belief that all people should seek vocations that express their singularity, their unique talents and make their own contribution to the world. This reflection inspired me, and I realized I needed to radically change my life.

I was living in D.C. at the time, but I have always felt a strong affinity with nature, having grown up in a fishing village, and have found myself happiest when outdoors and in the ocean on my surfboard. At the same time, the more I traveled in the developing world, the more I came to believe in the power of a commercial approach to service delivery. I’d long been interested in solar energy, and I had a vague idea that I could combine this with my passions for protecting the environment and my interest in an entrepreneurial approach to helping people help themselves.

So I sold or gave away most of my furniture and belongings, left my apartment in the U.S., and moved to Fiji. It was, in all ways, a leap of faith. I knew nobody there, and had no idea how I was going to transition from part-time consulting in international development to setting up a solar company in the Pacific Islands. Yet two years on — through an amazing stroke of luck in linking up with likeminded people, and with a ton of hard work from all of us — that’s exactly what I am doing. The company is called Sunergise, and we are a full-service solar developer, working to bring businesses and communities clean, affordable energy. From December 22, 2012, when our first installation was completed (and then promptly struck by a hurricane — but it survived!) until today, when we have almost 3MW installed, it’s been a wild journey, but I’m grateful for all of it. Participating in the Academy’s Summit, though I didn’t realize it at the time, helped to immerse me in a world of people whose lives demonstrate that almost anything is possible if you commit wholeheartedly. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Catherine and Wayne Reynolds for their generosity and vision in helping to inspire me, and so many others, as we find our places in the world.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/28/2014

Anna Greka, M.D., Ph.D.,
Class of 2003
Harvard Medical School

“One of the most exciting people I met in Washington, D.C. during the International Achievement Summit was Dr. Francis Collins, who was at the time deeply immersed in the Human Genome Project. As a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-funded M.D.-Ph.D. student at Harvard, I was delighted with the opportunity to have a fascinating conversation with Dr. Collins about the enormous potential of sequencing the human genome. Now, more than a decade later, Dr. Collins is the Director of NIH, and I am on faculty at Harvard Medical School. I felt that we had come full circle when, to my great delight, I received notice that Dr. Collins had chosen my work on a potential new treatment for kidney disease to be featured in the tenth anniversary celebration of the NIH Common Fund. I am enormously honored and excited, and can’t wait to remind him of that conversation we had at the International Achievement Summit so many years ago!”

Anna Greka, an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, holds an AB from Harvard College and an M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School. Early in her biology studies, she worked in the field of molecular and cellular neuroscience, publishing two “first author” papers before the age of 21.

As a student in the Harvard-MIT M.D.-Ph.D. program in the Division of Health Sciences and Technology (laboratory of Dr. David Clapham), she explored the role of TRPC channels in neuronal growth cone motility. Her work, funded by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship, was published in Nature Neuroscience, Nature Cell Biology and Developmental Cell.

Upon establishing her independent laboratory, Dr. Greka published a senior author paper in Science Signaling, which was featured on the Science website with an editorial titled “Calcium signals both stop and go” (2010). More recently, her work in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (2013) revealed TRPC5 as the first ion channel targeted therapy for kidney disease, also featured in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery (2014).

Additionally, Dr. Greka has recently published co-senior author papers in Nature Communications (2013) and in the New England Journal of Medicine (2013), the latter highlighted by an editorial titled “A New Era of Podocyte-Targeted Therapy for Proteinuric Kidney Disease.”

Dr. Greka has been invited to lecture nationally and internationally, and is the recipient of numerous honors, including career development awards from the American Society of Nephrology and the American Heart Association, and a 2014 Young Physician Scientist Award from the American Society of Clinical Investigation.

She currently serves as the founding director of Glom-NExT, a Center for Glomerular Kidney Disease and Novel Experimental Therapeutics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/27/2014

payeJohn Paye
Class of 1983
Inductee, Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame

As a California high school senior at Menlo School in the winter of 1983, I had just been named the Offensive Football Player of the Year by a new national newspaper called USA Today. Shortly after this honor, I received an invitation in the mail to be honored as a student delegate at the Academy of Achievement Summit in San Diego. At first, I ignored the invitation because I thought it was just another promotion for a vanity publication. However, soon afterwards my high school athletic director found me on campus to say that he just got a call from the office of William Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, and he wanted to know why I had not accepted my invitation to the Banquet of the Golden Plate that they were helping sponsor with the Academy of Achievement. Immediately upon hearing of Mr. Hewlett’s involvement in the event, I signed up to attend the event and I have been thankful ever since.

At the Academy Summit at the Hotel Coronado in 1983, I was inspired to meet people like Dr. Robert K. Jarvik and Dr. William C. DeVries (who were responsible for the first artificial heart implantation), Burt Reynolds, Joe Theismann, and Donald Rumsfeld. However, it was meeting and developing a personal relationship with the founder of the Academy, Brian Reynolds, and his son, Wayne Reynolds, that was most inspiring for me. Their concept of encouraging and empowering young people to be “great” by exposing them to role models had a lasting impression on me. The Reynolds family invited me to their next two summits as their guest—in Minneapolis (1984) and Denver (1985)—and from that time on I wanted to be involved in similar programs.

While I have not seen or talked to the Reynolds family in the last 30 years, I used my success in sports (I am the only athlete in the world to play with and against Joe Montana, Michael Jordan and Barry Bonds) to be a role model and to produce my own events to inspire young people.

Even though I have earned a Super Bowl Ring with the San Francisco 49ers and have been inducted into the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame, the most rewarding aspect of my last 30 years has been following the lead of Brian and Wayne Reynolds, and developing programs that allow me to see the glow in young people’s faces when they are motivated and inspired.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/08/2014


Peter Greer, Class of 2004
President and CEO, HOPE International

Participating in the International Achievement Summit inspired me to dream big dreams. Truly one of the highlights of my life, the 2004 Summit afforded me the privilege of visiting some of Chicago’s most picturesque spots while developing friendships with world-changers who serve with talent and tenacity. How could our group of student delegates not be inspired to try and follow in their footsteps?

Since graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School and attending the International Achievement Summit, I have served as president and CEO of HOPE International, a global faith-based microfinance network serving some of the world’s most challenging places, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Haiti. Over the past decade, we have increased the number of families served from 5,000 to over 600,000 globally and seen private fundraising revenue grow at a compound annual rate of over 50 percent. As we focus on equipping individuals to work their own way out of poverty, I have been inspired by another group of world-changers: hard-working entrepreneurial women and men who are working with talent and tenacity to escape extreme poverty.

One of the impacts of the Summit was meeting authors I admire who grasp the power of story. Over the past years, I’ve written or co-authored books on the intersection of faith and international development, including The Poor Will Be GladThe Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, Mission Drift, and Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing. Today, I live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with my amazing wife Laurel and our three children.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/08/2014


Ashley Wysong, M.D., MS, Class of 2008
Director of Dermatologic Surgery, University of Southern California

As a Howard Hughes Medical Fellow, I was selected as an Academy of Achievement Honor Delegate at the 2008 International Achievement Summit in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. I was a fourth year medical student at the time of the Summit, and had no idea how integral my fellow delegates and the Academy members would be at such a pivotal time in my life. I was inspired to define my future in a way that would be meaningful to me and would “ignite my passions, rather than doing what is expected,” as suggested by Ken Griffin, the first speaker of the Summit. I went on to graduate as valedictorian of my class at Duke University School of Medicine and continued my residency training at Stanford University in the Department of Dermatology. There, I found the words of W.S. Merwin constantly challenging me to “do that which only you can be doing,” to find my larger purpose and unique place in the world.

As a former NCAA student athlete, I wanted to find a way to combine my passion for athletics with my growing expertise in cutaneous oncology and skin cancer prevention. Enlisting the help of several colleagues at Stanford, we founded SUNSPORT, an educational outreach program dedicated to reducing skin cancer and photodamage in NCAA athletes. I authored the first medical research study quantifying the amount of time spent by the average NCAA athlete in training and competing outdoors, as well identifying predictors and barriers to sunscreen use. Using these data, I worked closely with NCAA leadership to include “sun safety information” as a topic in the 2012-13 NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook. We had officially put sun safety on the radar for NCAA athletes, coaches, physicians, and trainers! Coming full circle with my athletic career, I was recently inducted into the University of Missouri Athletics Hall of Fame. It was truly an unforgettable weekend—over 75 coaches, teammates, family members, and fans from several stages of my life came to cheer me on and celebrate. I was reminded again of the words of Bill Russell: “We are all the result of a team effort Many conspired to get us where we are.” I also remember reminiscing that weekend about something Naomi Judd said at the Summit on the importance of “knowing our own stories and history…” that is, knowing where we came from, “…before we can truly decide on where we are going.”

So where am I going? I am now finishing my clinical fellowship in Mohs Surgery and Procedural Dermatology at Scripps Clinic. In July, I will officially begin my medical career as Assistant Professor and Director of Mohs and Dermatologic Surgery at the University of Southern California (USC). I could not be more excited! At Los Angeles County Hospital, I will be honored to treat and serve people from all walks of life with a variety of cutaneous conditions such as skin cancer, burns or traumatic scars, varicose veins and leg ulcers. At Keck Hospital of USC and the Norris Cancer Center, I plan to build a multidisciplinary care team for high-risk skin cancer patients, as well as to continue my sun safety outreach to athletes and school-aged children. Last, but certainly not least, a significant amount of my energy will be spent training the next generation of dermatologists; we have ten residents and countless medical students who come through the department. I hope to mentor and challenge them in the true Academy of Achievement spirit, to know themselves fully, to follow their passions, and to “do that which only they can be doing.”

Happy 50th Anniversary to the Academy, and thank you for all you have done, and continue to do, in my life!


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/07/2014


Enrique Schaerer, Class of 2008
President, Upswing Law

The summer after graduating from law school, I had a unique experience. As my bar exam approached, I was whisked away from the drudgery of bar prep to a surreal weekend respite in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. As a Student Delegate to the 2008 International Achievement Summit, I rubbed shoulders with remarkable innovators, leaders, visionaries, and artists—folks like Michael Dell, Archbishop Tutu, Mayor Daley, George Lucas, Frank McCourt, and an up-and-coming singer named Taylor Swift.

The Summit was humbling but also deeply inspiring. I may not have realized it at the time, but a seed was planted that weekend. I began to see things as I’ve never quite seen them before. The Summit strengthened my resolve not to follow a safe, well-worn path but to do something truly creative, meaningful and impactful with my life. Someday, I thought.

Well, someday is today. After clerking for two federal judges and practicing law at two big firms, where I learned from extraordinarily accomplished people, I recently decided to strike out on my own—in pursuit of more creativity, greater meaning, and a bigger impact. I’m now a co-founder and president of a legal recruiting startup that uses technology to match lawyers and law firms based on mutual compatibility. I also plan to practice law again soon, this time in a smaller setting and with greater emphasis on the basic legal needs of my local community.

I’m on the road less traveled, and I suspect the Summit played no small part in getting me to this point. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 03/31/2014


Rear Admiral Joseph E. Tofalo, USN, Class of 1977
Director, Undersea Warfare Division (N97)

Rear Adm. Tofalo participated as a student delegate in the 1977 Achievement Summit in Orlando, Florida. He grew up in upstate New York and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. Rear Adm. Tofalo also holds a Master of Science in Engineering Management from Catholic University of America.

A career submarine officer, his at-sea assignments include: division officer in USS Flasher (SSN 613); engineer officer in USS Michigan (SSBN 727); and executive officer in USS Montpelier (SSN 765). His at-sea command assignments were as commanding officer, USS Maine (SSBN 741), and commander, Submarine Squadron Three.

Shore assignments include: U.S. Naval Academy (aide to the Superintendent); Chief of Naval Operations staff (N81 Analyst, and N8 deputy executive assistant); the Joint Staff (J7); United States Joint Forces Command (Joint War Fighting Center); commander, Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet (senior member of the Tactical Readiness Evaluation team, and prospective commanding officer instructor). Following major command, Tofalo served as executive assistant to the commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and as executive assistant to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations.

Selected for Rear Admiral in December 2009, his first flag assignment was as assistant deputy chief of Staff for Global Force Management and Joint Operations (N3B), U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Norfolk, Va. In August 2011 he relieved as commander, Submarine Group Ten, and in January 2014 as Director, Undersea Warfare Division on the Navy Staff in the Pentagon.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 11/15/2013

TUNKEL_IMG_2395Anna Tunkel, Class of 2005
Vice President & Director of Strategic Initiatives, APCO Worldwide

As I look back at my takeaways from the International Achievement Summit I attended in 2005 in New York City, I am reminded what a remarkable four days those were. I have attended numerous global summits and conferences since then, but it was only during the International Achievement Summit that I felt so inspired — by my peers, and by the incredibly approachable leaders and luminaries who took part in the Summit that year.

I owe a great deal of my career journey to the Academy. In a fortuitous turn of events, at a luncheon hosted by Mayor Bloomberg at Gracie Mansion, I found myself seated next to Margery Kraus, the Founder and CEO of APCO Worldwide, a global public affairs, communication and business strategy consulting firm. At that time, I was halfway through my Master’s studies at Georgetown and was familiar with APCO from my internship search. Apparently, she had looked at my résumé earlier and became interested in my Russian-Israeli background, given APCO’s extensive work in Russia, and coincidentally, the opening of its Israeli office that very month.

Following that encounter, I joined APCO’s D.C. headquarters as an intern in my second year of my MSFS studies. I have now been with the company for over eight years. Many observers point to the millennial generation’s restlessness, and suggest that we feel the need to switch jobs every two-to-three years. I feel very lucky at APCO, to have had four different jobs that have taken me around the world and back. At present, I am a Vice President and Director of Strategic Initiatives for the office of the CEO, managing our partnerships with leading international organizations and overseeing a number of global projects for the firm.

The last eight years have been a roller-coaster for me, taking me to almost every one of APCO’s 33 offices in 29 countries, from negotiations in Kazakhstan, to a Deputy Prime Minister’s office in Vietnam, to meetings with some of the world’s most fascinating entrepreneurs and philanthropists, to attending eight Davos conferences, and much more. After my internship, I joined full-time as a special assistant to APCO’s founder and CEO, focusing on global business development, strategic partnerships and a number of special projects. I prepared the CEO’s trips to more than a dozen markets, working closely with the senior management of the company and with APCO’s diverse global team of over 650 consultants. I have had the opportunity to participate in negotiations, and to witness strategy development at the highest decision-making level.

After four-and-a-half years in that position, I was offered an exciting new opportunity with the company — to move to Shanghai and manage a number of our projects in the region, including initiatives around Shanghai World Expo 2010. I have always had a special interest in China (I have studied Mandarin since my undergraduate studies), so I jumped on an opportunity to work in one of the world’s fastest growing markets. In Shanghai, I managed a number of teams and projects, working with fascinating clients: Chinese corporations that were rapidly expanding overseas, and multinational firms seeking to succeed in China. My clients included the world’s second largest telecom company, an emerging market sovereign wealth fund, the world’s leading design and innovation company, and many others.

After a two-year stint in China, I returned to the U.S., and have been promoted to a VP position, leading a number of external initiatives and partnerships for the firm, expanding our work with the World Economic Forum and the Clinton Global Initiative, and managing a number of global client projects.

When I started my graduate degree at Georgetown, my dream was to become a diplomat. During the International Achievement Summit, I saw a variety of impactful career paths with one common denominator – striving to make our world a better place. I have carried that motivation throughout the years, and was fortunate to have a career in business diplomacy, working with governments, private sector firms, foundations and non-profits on some of the core issues on the global agenda today – from water and food security, to renewable energy, to human rights and development.

I want to wish the Academy a very happy 50th Anniversary! You are doing truly amazing work that has touched and inspired so many of us!

I would love to stay in touch – follow me on Twitter @atunkel


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 11/15/2013

raben_Robert-photo-320Robert Raben, Class of 1982
President, Hispanic Bar Association of Washington, D.C.

Robert Raben honed an aggressively bipartisan approach during a highly respected legislative career that began on the staff of Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) and culminated in the endorsement by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) of his appointment to the Justice Department as Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs.

Raben served as counsel to Congressman Frank for seven years, advising Mr. Frank on issues before the Judiciary Committee, and on national civil rights policy. The quality of his work soon carried Raben to the Committee itself, where he served as Democratic counsel for the Subcommittee on the Constitution, and later, the Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property.

Raben built a reputation for collegiality and effectiveness through his collaboration with Republican members and staff on issues including the omnibus patent reform bill, database protection standards, and copyright liability for Internet service providers. His work caught the eye of the White House, and in 1999, he was appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and, subsequently, Assistant Attorney General.

After a unanimous confirmation vote, Raben was charged with overseeing Attorney General Janet Reno’s legislative initiatives.  He dealt extensively with both chambers and both sides of the aisle as chief lobbyist and strategist on a range of issues, including intellectual property, federalism, tort reform and cybercrime.

After graduating from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and New York University School of Law, Raben was an associate with the law firm of Arnold & Porter. Soon after, he joined the faculty of Georgetown University Law School as an adjunct professor, a position he continued to hold until his confirmation as Assistant Attorney General.

Today, Robert Raben is the President of the Hispanic Bar Association of Washington, D.C., and chairs the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Endorsement Committee. He serves on the boards of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 11/04/2013

mcs_ksg_color_headshot-400Maura C. Sullivan, Class of 2009
Commissioner, American Battle Monuments Commission

As a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, Maura Sullivan served as a logistics officer in Fallujah, Iraq, and as a platoon commander and aide-de-camp in military exercises throughout Southeast Asia. She attended Northwestern University on an ROTC scholarship, graduating with a B.A. in Economics and History. She completed graduate studies at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and at Harvard Business School.  On behalf of the American Battle Monuments Commission, she spoke at the Memorial Day Ceremony of the Margraten American Cemetery in Maastricht, the Netherlands, on May 26, 2013. A brief excerpt from her remarks appears below, followed by a link to the compete text of her remarks on that occasion.

I am honored to be with you today representing the American Battle Monuments Commission. Established by the United States Congress in 1923, the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) commemorates the service, achievements, and sacrifice of the U.S. armed forces.”

 “The journey that led me to be with you today began when I was a child-hearing the stories of my grandfathers who both served in World War II.”

“Years later, a summer training program at a Marine Corps base in Virginia would also compel me to follow in my family’s footsteps. The esprit de corps and camaraderie of the Marines were contagious. I couldn’t wait to be a part of the Corps. Eight years later, I left the active duty Marine Corps as a Captain. The opportunity to serve my country alongside her finest sons and daughters has been the greatest honor of my life.”

“You know, we live in a time of uncertainty, yet I remain inspired and hopeful.”

 “First — is America’s next generation of leaders. Just four weeks ago, I traveled to Quantico, Virginia just outside or our nation’s capital and watched 42 new Marine Corps Second Lieutenants raise their right hands and swear an oath to ‘support and defend the constitution of the United States.’ These young Marine Corps lieutenants are no different than… …the others that lie here. They are selfless. They are brave. They are women of conviction and men of integrity. They possess a physical and moral courage beyond which most can fathom. They are Patriots. They believe in a greater good — in a cause much bigger than their individual humanity.”

 “Second is each of you — two and three generations later, the Dutch people adopt graves into your own families, boy scouts placed 8,000 sets of flags on these graves this week, and there remains a wait-list 3,000 long to adopt a grave. Simply put, you have brought those lost from our families into your own and have committed to do so for generations to come.”

 “Those that lie hear are our America’s greatest treasure. Those that raise their right hand today to serve are America’s greatest hope. And you — the people of the Netherlands — are among our country’s greatest friends, and by caring for our fallen, have become a part of our family.”MCS_remarks_Margraten_2013_500

143-DSC_0457_500 Color_Guard (2)

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 11/04/2013

paradis-275Michel Paradis, Class of 2007
U.S. Department of Defense; Law Professor, Georgetown University

In 2007, I was in the middle of my doctoral studies at Oxford when I was lucky enough to be invited to the International Achievement Summit in Washington, D.C. Soon thereafter, I moved to D.C. when the U.S. Department of Defense hired me to serve as legal counsel to the Guantanamo Bay detainees. If there is a worthwhile challenge — be it professionally, morally, or intellectually — it is being appointed to fight day in and day out for the rule of law in a place that many fear has become a “legal black hole.”

I have had my victories and defeats along the way. I have argued landmark cases on the intersection between the law of war and the Constitution. But through the ups and downs and the exhaustion and excitement, I have always tried to remember Archbishop Tutu’s admonition that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. It is a lesson I have tried to impress upon my law students at Georgetown. And it is a lesson that is particularly important for people privileged with talent and opportunity; put another way, the people the Academy brings together each year.

The Summit was a great experience, not least because I got to meet and be inspired by Archbishop Tutu in person. There is a “contact high” from mingling with so many talented and accomplished people at the Summit. It reminds you of what you can achieve, and how far you still have to go. It imbues you with the confidence to earn the opportunities you have been given, by pursuing justice and daring greatly.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 10/15/2013

SaulGarlick_099_350Saul Garlick, Class of 2007
Founder & CEO, ThinkImpact

I remember the 2007 International Achievement Summit like it was yesterday. One evening in the bar of the Hay Adams hotel, I turned around and, embarrassingly, bumped into a lady who was chatting with a friend. I apologized and introduced myself. After a moment of small talk, I learned that I had nearly knocked over the former Secretary of Agriculture and then-Executive Director of UNICEF, Ann Veneman. It was a moment that sparked a friendship, prefaces to books, idea exchanges, speaking events and even board memberships in the years following.

Ann and I became friends at the Academy of Achievement because the event fostered an environment where we were able to share ideas, engage with one another, and think big together. In the six years since I attended the Summit — an event I still speak about fondly — I have built a non-profit organization, which I later bought out in favor of a for-profit social enterprise model. I have led nearly 500 people on global immersion programs, supported the creation of over 100 new micro-enterprises, been featured as an Inc. “30 under 30” entrepreneur, and have been recognized in the New York Times as a provocative social entrepreneur for my decision to create a for-profit, called ThinkImpact, from a non-profit. It’s been a busy half-decade.

The most exciting memories are the ones where my leadership was tested and my interest in politics, leadership and entrepreneurship met. The Academy was a remarkable opportunity for me to learn from others who are leaders in their respective fields. From hearing David Rubenstein of Carlyle Group challenge the entire delegation of young leaders with three simple words “Do not coast,” to hearing about Andre Agassi’s ambitious plans for education, I left inspired, and hungrier than ever to make an impact in the world.

The company I have built over the last several years is dedicated to providing immersive learning experiences around the globe to encourage young people not to coast. Our vehicle is education — not only for the students who travel with us  to Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa and now Panama, but also for the people who live in the small rural villages where we work.

We have spent tremendous time and resources to understand how people learn through experiences and how we can create programs that benefit equally the students and the communities they work with. What has emerged is an offering that guides young people through understanding the assets and resources that exist in a community, no matter how far away from the electrical grid. Our scholars work in teams with aspiring local entrepreneurs who are ready to create a sustainable livelihood, testing ideas for products and services and bringing them to the marketplace. The results have been tantamount to uncovering a bold new approach to learning and growing.

The company has not stopped there. We have now developed a technology platform that brings this process to life for people anywhere. You should not have to attend a top university to gain access to the experiential framework that can create a livelihood that feeds a family, or build an enterprise that enhances life across a country or region. With technology, there are no limitations, and through Unleesh, our newest tool, anything is possible.

Entrepreneurship has taken me on a journey across continents and regions, and has provided me with a microphone for sharing ideas and building a better future for people throughout the world. The Academy of Achievement helped me get started. I am pleased to report that our work has only just begun.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 09/11/2013

george_sandozJeff George, Class of 1999
CEO, Sandoz

In late 2008, I was appointed CEO and Global Head of Sandoz, the world’s second-largest generic pharmaceutical company, with 2012 sales of $8.7 billion and over 26,000 employees in more than 140 countries. Sandoz is a division of the Swiss-based Novartis Group, on whose Executive Committee I also sit. Our product price points at Sandoz are accessible to nearly 90 percent of the world’s population and reached over 420 million patients around the world last year.

Prior to assuming my current position at Sandoz, I led Emerging Markets for Novartis Pharmaceuticals across 65 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Prior to this, I was responsible for Novartis Vaccines in Western and Eastern Europe from the UK to Russia. Before joining Novartis, I worked as a Senior Director of Strategic Planning and Business Development at Gap Inc. in San Francisco, and prior to this, I was an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company, also based in San Francisco.

I received my MBA from Harvard University in 2001 after completing my Masters at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where I studied international economics and the political economy of emerging markets. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, I have been living in Munich, Germany, with my wife and two daughters, for the past five years.

Reflecting on the several days I spent at the International Achievement Summit in Budapest in the summer of 1999 brings back fond memories of the terrific people I met and the incredible experience that the Academy of Achievement organized for us in my first visit to Hungary. I am grateful to the Academy for the role it plays in shaping leaders and I look forward to re-engaging with it in the future.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 09/10/2013

et_Ross-Garland-picRoss Garland, Class of 2000
Producer, Rogue Star Films

Towards the end of my post-graduate legal studies at Oxford University, I was fortunate to attend the 2000 International Achievement Summit in London as an honor student delegate. I’m now a film producer based back home in South Africa. My films range from art house films like the musical U-Carmen eKhayelitsha and the drama Confessions of a Gambler, to more commercial films such as the heist film 31 Million Reasons, and three comedies in the Spud franchise with John Cleese. I also have my own litigation practice, specializing in public and commercial law.

My memories of the summit remain vivid. It was a jam-packed few days that served as an inspirational bridge from our student achievements to the beginnings of ours working lives. The stature of the leaders who attended was awe-inspiring. I spoke to Jeremy Irons about the best way to get into the entertainment game (he told me to buy a theater), had lunch with Quincy Jones, and passed time with the only Nobel Prize winner from my high school, Sir Aaron Klug. And of course, the Google guys, Sergey Brin and Larry Page — not much older than most of us honor students — made a lasting impression. My peers were no less impressive, and many have gone on to outstanding careers in their respective fields. The Academy was, in that manner, quite prescient. I am proud to be an alumnus.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 09/09/2013

MR-in-the-UCL-laboratory-polishing-samples-for-research_500Miljana Radivojević, Ph.D., Class of 2007
Institute of Archaeology, University College London

Looking back at summer 2007, I still cannot believe that the Academy of Achievement meeting was six years ago. Many events, people, and stories I heard are still very much alive in my recollections and have kept inspiring me ever since. Back in 2007, and just after the 46th International Achievement Summit, I finished my M.Sc. thesis at University College London’s Institute of Archaeology, in which I presented the earliest evidence for the beginnings of metallurgy in Europe. My data demonstrated that the world’s earliest known evidence for metallurgy does not come from the Near East, as previously thought, but from the Balkans. More precisely, small pieces of the precious evidence, copper smelting slag, originated from a 7,000-year-old village in eastern Serbia that I investigated. These findings opposed the traditional theory on the beginnings of world metallurgy, and as such represented a scientific breakthrough that received significant attention from the academic community, as well as a wider regional and continental audience. The M.Sc. thesis was awarded the highly esteemed Petrie Prize for outstanding research achievement, which led to an offer to conduct Ph.D. research in Archaeometallurgy at University College London (UCL).

The United Kingdom government and the Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Foundation kindly secured more than half of the Ph.D. stipend through my supervisor, Prof. Thilo Rehren. Matching funds were secured through Serbian national institutions, which were approached after a high-impact media campaign I ran to raise visibility for this research. The first research results were published in 2010 in the highly rated Journal of Archaeological Science, and instantly led to cover stories in various magazines such as Science News and BBC History News. For the following two years, it was amongst the most downloaded archaeology papers worldwide. My supervisor and I used this momentum to prepare a grant application for the large-scale investigation of early metallurgy in Eurasia, with a team comprising the world’s experts in archeometallurgy. The UK Research Council granted us more than half a million British pounds to continue research in Serbia, which secured me the job as main project researcher at the UCL Institute of Archaeology. This project is the largest foreign investment in Serbian archaeology to date, as well as the largest archaeometallurgical project in the world today.

I submitted my dissertation in June 2012, and started my job in July 2012. This project will last for three years and produce key publications shedding more light on how and why metallurgy was discovered by prehistoric communities in Eurasia. The earliest copper and tin-bronze artifacts from the Balkans are among the major scientific surprises in the studies of Eurasian metallurgy and archaeology, and have altered the traditional narrative of the development of metallurgy that was once taught to every archaeology and history student.

Needless to say, I am immensely grateful for being able to follow my true passion in life. I feel blessed for the opportunity and unconditional support I keep receiving from my family, friends and colleagues. As a researcher, I am standing on the shoulders of giants, and I can never thank enough those who helped transform my enthusiasm and ideas into scientific pursuit. I feel blessed as well for having been recognized as a young leader by the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. Back in 2007 I felt almost misplaced among peers who were curing sinister diseases, helping impoverished societies, and improving the global economy and communications. The confidence I brought with me from the International Achievement Summit gave me strength and courage to aim higher.

“The worst sin is to be a spectator,” said Ellie Wiesel on that memorable night at the Summit. It still resonates as an inspirational quote that has led me through life’s challenges ever since. These were possible to overcome only with the synergies of many dear people, two of whom have a special place in my life, Catherine and Wayne Reynolds. I humbly thank them for offering me the chance to be part of the Academy of Achievement, and to join the family of the world’s excellence.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 09/04/2013

haft500Nathaniel Haft, Class of 2011
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Foreign Service Officer,
U.S. Department of State

Prior to my studies as a Catherine B. Reynolds Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Peru, advising local farmers and artisans on business development. It was there that I gained a passion to pursue a career in American foreign policy. The Reynolds Fellowship pushed me to think boldly about the traditional role of government in diplomacy abroad. It also allowed me to develop a rich network of innovative thinkers in diverse fields — my fellow Fellows — and connected me with mentors who have led in both government and business.

After completing my fellowship, and while still a Master in Public Policy student at Harvard, I co-developed a model to estimate the carbon emissions of ship traffic along the St. Lawrence Seaway, a key international waterway jointly managed by the United States and Canada.  Our research was presented to the U.S. Department of Transportation, informing key policymakers of the relative environmental benefits of ship transport, and of the ways in which carbon emissions could be further reduced.

Since my time as a Reynolds Fellow, I have also served two tours as a Thomas R. Pickering Fellow with the State Department. In the Office of Combating Terrorism Finance, I worked at the center of innovative business-government cooperation, helping to develop methods to track Somali piracy finance networks. Later, while serving at U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal, I contributed to our efforts to reduce ethnic tensions in the run-up to scheduled national elections and the drafting of a new Nepali constitution.  Over the past six months, I have been studying the Albanian language full-time in preparation for my next assignment as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania.

I am grateful for the support of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation which set me on a path to work at the center of American foreign policy. I look forward to staying connected with the Reynolds network, to incubating new ideas with my dynamic cohort of Reynolds Fellows, and to continuing to think in new ways about American leadership abroad.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 09/04/2013


Santina Protopapa, Class of 2009
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Founder and Executive Director of Progressive Arts Alliance

I was a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship while completing my master’s degree in the Arts in Education Program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Today, I am the Executive Director of Progressive Arts Alliance (PAA), a non-profit organization I founded in 2002 in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. PAA exists to inspire students to reach their full potential by providing unique and relevant learning experiences using contemporary arts and 21st century media. We are working to increase our students’ academic achievement through arts-integrated education.

At PAA I am leading the development of a network of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) schools that are committed to infusing the arts into the project-based learning curriculum for students in grades K-8.  Through this network, our professional artists have become highly effective partners to classroom teachers. This work has invigorated classroom learning as well as expanded the world of possibilities for the students we serve, many of whom live at or below the federal poverty line.  Our mission is to establish best practices in the field of arts education and STEM curriculum design that can be implemented on a national scale.

My work at Progressive Arts Alliance has been strengthened as a result of the time I spent as a Reynolds Foundation Fellow. Following my experiences as a Reynolds Fellow, I returned to my position at PAA with new strategies to make our organization more successful and sustainable. I brought best practices — in financial management strategies, earned income strategies, and scaling an organization — into our strategic planning and we have successfully implemented these practices.

I’d like to thank the Reynolds Foundation for giving me the opportunity to strengthen my leadership and entrepreneurial skills through the rigorous experience of the Fellowship program and the academic curriculum at Harvard. Every day that I serve my community provides another opportunity to share what I learned as a Reynolds Fellow.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 08/28/2013

reichers_hs_250Christina Riechers, Class of 2012
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Evidence Action

Since finishing my dual MBA-MPA degree in International Development at MIT Sloan and the Harvard Kennedy School in 2012 — thanks in large part to the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship — I have been hard at work pursuing the goals that the Reynolds Fellowship inspired me to take on: building a new social enterprise to address poverty internationally with proven interventions!  There is a gap between what research shows is effective in development and what is implemented in practice. I set out to begin to fill this gap. Speakers who came during our fellowship sessions constantly challenged us to take on the daunting big problems. The problem that perplexed me most during my graduate school experience was why, in the face of emerging rigorous evidence, international development programs weren’t incorporating cost-effective interventions that had a proven impact. After graduation, I brought my new academic foundation — as well as past experiences building new ventures in East Africa and India, and time spent critically analyzing strategic opportunities as a Bain & Company consultant — to bear on this question. I joined Innovations for Poverty Action, a world leader in figuring out what works in the poverty alleviation realm through randomized controlled trials. I would help them spin out a new organization focused on implementing and scaling up the proven interventions. I am proud to announce the launch of our new organization, Evidence Action.

Starting with two programs — Dispensers for Safe Water and Deworm the World — which were tested and incubated at IPA and are already serving millions of people, Evidence Action takes proven development interventions to scale, and crafts resilient business models for long-run success. As we build the new organization with a focus on scaling impact, I think fondly on the opportunity the Reynolds Fellowship gave me to hone my skills through academic coursework at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and the exposure to peers and social entrepreneurs who will be an enduring source of inspiration for me on this journey, as we whittle away at the daunting big problems.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 08/15/2013

5_ColleenNLCNov12Colleen Greene, DMD, MPH, Class of 2011
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

I could have never predicted how opportunities in my life would evolve from the beginning to the end of my year as a Reynolds Fellow. Volunteer leadership roles came my way that truly changed the course of my life. A confident and inspiring new network of peers and visiting role models helped me to see risks as chances for growth that I might otherwise have missed. I started the year as a dental student with an interest in public health. By the end of it, I was a health care professional with a national network of likeminded change agents.

Months after starting my fellowship, I became a board member for a professional organization, the American Student Dental Association. Less than a year after my fellowship, I was elected National President of this 20,000-member organization. It was a riveting crash course in politics, organized health professions, ethics, and advocacy. I can thank Wayne and Catherine Reynolds, the Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership and the Harvard School of Public Health for giving me the courage to seek this outlet for the skills and vision I developed as a Reynolds Fellow. 1_ColleenAndPeter

Now, I am working as a dentist in a Midwestern children’s hospital, where I treat children from every walk of life in outpatient and operating room settings. By June 2015, I will be a certified pediatric dentist. My career will remain centered on advocating optimum health and education for all children, whether through direct care, research, association leadership or political action.

I am reinvigorated just by reading the profiles of my friends from our cohort, such as Dory Gannes, Andrew Goldstein, Ryan Shephard and Jamaal Barnes. Privileges such as this fellowship come with a huge responsibility to honor it with continued risk-taking and generosity in leadership. Many thanks to all the Reynolds Fellows for demonstrating that so boldly.


Colleen Greene meets U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, U.S. Rep of Wisconsin at his Capitol office

3_ColleenAGDLobby2013-2Colleen Greene with U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, U.S. Rep. of Ohio and the President of the Academy of General Dentistry, Dr. Jeff Cole


Colleen Greene (center) with U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 08/15/2013

tayagJoe Araya Tayag, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Abt Associates Inc.

The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship provided me with the opportunity to gain my Master’s in Healthcare Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health, and my life has been an adventure ever since.

In the three years since graduating, I’ve worked in 12 different countries in Africa, Middle East, the Pacific and the Caribbean, designing and launching of innovative forms of health financing for marginalized communities. The core of these enterprises (rooted in both the private and public sector), is based on principles of entrepreneurship that I learned during the Reynolds Foundation Fellowship: (1) sustainability is the litmus test for vetting opportunities; (2) low-income consumer are a little understood, but powerful market segment; and (3) the future of the world rests on “the imaginations of unreasonable men” (to quote our fellowship mentor Billy Shore).

After Harvard, I served as a fellow for United Nations International Labour Organization in Tanzania. I led a multi-disciplinary team of managers, business process specialists, and local staff to administer a health microinsurance program with PharmAccess Foundation and the Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union for over 300,000 coffee farmers and their families. This business model is frequently studied as a model for rural health insurance delivery.

I then left the UN to serve as a Microinsurance Expert for the Asian Development Bank in the Pacific Region. I conducted a national study to qualify demand for microinsurance in Fiji, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and Fijian government. My research and design led to the launch of three different microinsurance products that are frequently studied as a case for expanding financial services through innovative distribution channels. My quantitative and qualitative research instruments are now used to evaluate price sensitivity, product preference, and strategic communications throughout Pacific Region countries such as Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Vanuatu.

After working in the Pacific, I returned to the U.S. to join Abt Associates Inc., a research and consulting firm where I serve as the International Health Financing Advisor, implementing multimillion dollar aid projects for the United States Agency for International Development, the British Department for International Development, the World Bank, and other major aid investors. In this role, I lead the design and delivery of business planning, process improvement and actuarial support, as well as monitoring and evaluation process for low-income health insurance programs in Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania. I also deliver technical capacity to the Malawi Ministry of Health and the Catholic Health Association of Malawi, reforming service level agreements for over 80 private facilities that deliver more than 40 percent of all health care in Malawi.

My work has been a blessing and a privilege.

Before the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship and my studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, my imagination was limited to working in California. The fellowship and my graduate education, however, taught me that the world was out there and there was much, much more to contribute.

Here I am addressing Kilimanjaro cooperative members to discuss their new health insurance program (2011):


Working with ILO Microinsurance Innovation Facility, this family became the first policy-holders of the Imani health insurance program in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (2010):


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 08/05/2013

arnoldChristina Arnold, Class of 2012
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow; Founder, Prevent Human Trafficking

Being named a Reynolds Fellow in 2010 was an unforgettable experience. My experience of New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program gave my life a second wind.  Before this lucky break, I had never met so many like-minded people, driven to change the world in different ways. The Reynolds community, and my cohort in particular, energized me with their passion and inspired me to think deeply about what I had been doing since 1999, when I started Prevent Human Trafficking, the second organization in the country created to address a problem that few people believed existed at the time.

Until the Reynolds Fellowship, I had been struggling to be a social entrepreneur, and was exhausted from so many years of trying to make people listen to the stories of victims I had met teaching English in Thai orphanages as a teenager. I lived a very lonely existence working to change U.S. policy and to effect the legislative change known now as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which became law in late 2000. Strangely, as the movement gained momentum, and dozens (now hundreds!) of organizations adopted this issue, I felt burnt out. The only thing that kept me going for the past ten years was remembering the kids I was helping and running the annual anti-trafficking summer program in Thailand.

In my first year at NYU, I began to untangle my thinking and realized that I had been experiencing a form of compassion fatigue. I learned many invaluable lessons from listening to the rich experiences of my peers, most of whom had grappled with the same occupational hazards — the tremendous highs and lows inherent in social entrepreneurship. What a relief! Buoyed by the community, and by the time spent with my amazing cohort, I took a risk and told them about my life and what brought me to this point.

Growing up, I saw a great deal of injustice, suffering and human misery from a very young age.  I was born into a messianic, apocalyptic cult in India and raised in poverty as my family of seven crisscrossed South and Southeast Asia “spreading the gospel.”  I finally managed to leave, and came to the U.S. pregnant and without formal education. After I left the cult, I went to school nearly continuously for 13 years (this fellowship helped me to complete my education), while simultaneously founding and running my nonprofit and being a full-time mom.  Looking back, if I hadn’t been given the respite of my Reynolds Fellowship, I don’t know if I would still be running Prevent Human Trafficking today.

My experience as a Reynolds Fellow allowed me to examine the relationship between the anti-trafficking work I started as a freshman in college, and the oppressive conditions under which I was raised.  The combination of my work and my traumatic upbringing had begun to weigh me down. I had long hidden  my background from the world for fear of what might happen if I revealed how my personal and professional life intertwined. The similarities between life in a cult and life as a trafficked victim overlap in many ways.  Lack of freedom of movement, unrelenting physical and psychological abuse, deprivation and isolation, living in constant fear of consequences to the family of not complying with every cruel command, working long hours without pay, living without money or legal documents, and being terrorized by a sick, controlling leader are just a few examples.

I can talk about all of this now, unashamed, because I have now see integrating my life and work as liberating! Before the Reynolds Fellowship, I lived in fear of my past. I had not considered the damaging effects of my fragmented lives, burying so much unresolved trauma from my work and childhood. Because of the generosity of the Reynolds Foundation, I have a new freedom.  I can advocate for victims and survivors of trafficking in a way that few can, because of my experiences. I remember my life as a slave to a cult leader and I can relate to their victimization, to many of their needs, and to the long and difficult journey to becoming a survivor. Free at last!

This year, my organization is celebrating its 13th year, and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Though slavery was abolished so long ago, it still exists in many forms. My new-found freedom has inspired me to continue to work on behalf of human trafficking victims and survivors in new and more creative ways, like this one.  I am so grateful!



Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 08/05/2013

cosmoCosmo Fujiyama, Class of 2011
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Penn Social Impact House

When I applied for the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship more than two years ago, I had just returned to Virginia after living and working in a rural town in Honduras, establishing a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving educational access for Honduran youth. Energized, contemplative, and impassioned to learn how to lead organizations more effectively, I applied to New York University’s Wagner School because of the unique opportunity provided by the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship.

The Reynolds program has changed my life, my career trajectory, the way I see the world and my own role within it. During my time at the Wagner School, my Reynolds colleagues pushed me to pursue my ideas, gave me critical feedback, and provided a support system from which I gained strength, knowledge and wisdom.  Alongside my graduate school work, I worked for Ashoka building a youth entrepreneurship initiative in New York City. I designed and led the Dell Social Innovation Challenge Summer Institute, where I worked with 19 fellows from 14 countries developing social ventures. I also served as President of NYU Bridge, Wagner’s student organization dedicated to social innovation. I soaked up every opportunity to read, write, learn, share, tinker, explore, attend events, listen, meet new people and think.

Currently, I am working with the University of Pennsylvania to design and build their first social impact accelerator program to train the next generation of social innovators. The Penn Social Impact House will take place in the Berkshires August 12 – 25th, 2013 with 22 fellows and more than 60 mentors engaged in social innovation globally. Furthermore, I am currently a Fellow at the Governance Lab at NYU, where I am building a free, online community for those interested in teaching and learning how to work collaboratively to solve public problems and improve people’s lives.

My vision is to re-think the way we understand learning. I am committed to working with the next generation of collaborative problem solvers. Words will not suffice for the gratitude I feel towards the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. The Fellowship has meant the world to me and I am grateful for the tremendous opportunity to improve my skills and change the way I approach my work and the world.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 08/05/2013

Dory-head-shotDory Gannes, Class of 2011
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, United Nations’ Girl Up

During my tenure as a Reynolds Fellow at Harvard, I began working with Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that provides a platform for youth to raise awareness, advocacy and funds for some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls. After graduation, I left Boston and moved to Washington, D.C. to join the campaign full-time. During the next year and a half, I developed the campaign’s grassroots engagement strategy and led the campaign’s signature Teen Advisor program and Unite for Girls Tour event series. The movement is now 330,000 constituents strong and has nearly 400 Girl Up Clubs in 35 countries around the world. In my current role, I work with AT&T, Dell, Intel, Girl Rising and others within the private, public and NGO sectors to design and manage innovative partnerships. Through such partnerships, Girl Up is able to build a stronger global constituency, deepen their domestic programs and fund efforts to better the lives of girls in countries such as Guatemala and Ethiopia.

I am still involved with The Olevolos Project, a nonprofit I established in 2007 to meet the educational needs of disadvantaged children in rural Tanzania. We have built a donor and support network that has raised more than $500,000; more than 60 people have joined me on international service trips to Tanzania. I return annually to visit with students and staff while monitoring and evaluating progress.

Thinking back on my Reynolds Fellowship experience, I am most thankful for the network of friends and partners I acquired. Jen Firneno with the Center for Public Leadership has been a wonderful mentor and advocate for me. I am regularly in touch with Reynolds Fellows; I see them whenever I’m able and we exchange emails throughout the year. As I am now living in Washington, I look forward to connecting with Wayne and Catherine Reynolds on a more frequent basis. Given the impact they have had on my life and the opportunities they have enabled, I would be happy to assist them in any way I could be helpful.



gannes-1 gannes-2 gannes-3 gannes-4

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 07/18/2013

leverenz1Zach Leverenz, Class of 2009
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, CEO, EveryoneOn

I’m extremely grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds for the incredible experiences they afforded me as a 2009 Reynolds Fellow, both at Harvard and beyond. Today, I serve as the CEO of EveryoneOn, a national start-up social enterprise on a mission to eliminate the digital divide by providing free and low-cost Internet, computers, and training to the nearly 100 million unconnected Americans.

On March 21, 2013, EveryoneOn launched nationally with the following core services — based on what over a decade of research has defined as the primary barriers to technology adoption in the U.S.:

High speed home Internet service for $10/month:  Through partnerships with FreedomPop (Sprint & Clearwire), Cox, Comcast, Microsoft and others, we offer 70 -75 percent discounts on Internet service and computers to over 60 million qualified Americans. We are constantly searching for new partnerships that deliver the best quality product at the best value to our constituency. (See partner portfolio here).

Free basic digital literacy training: We partnered with over 21,000 libraries and nonprofits to provide free computer and Internet training across the country. As a call to action from the media campaign, we built a locator tool — accessible by phone, text, or web — that provides users with the closest free Internet and computer training to their area.

National media campaign on importance of digital literacy and being connected: We won a three-year, multi-media Ad Council campaign that targets unconnected Americans and communicates the value in being online for education, employment, and health care. Check out one of the TV PSAs below.

We’ve built a great deal of momentum to date, including coverage in USA Today, The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times, among other local and national outlets. Regardless of race, age, or socio-economic status, every American deserves access to the tools  that will allow them to be successful. This core principle was born from my own experience growing up on the wrong side of the opportunity divide. It was my time as a Reynolds Fellow that provided me with the skills and resolve to act upon these principals. For that, I am forever grateful to the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation!


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 07/17/2013

AG-VS_etVarun Sivaram, Class of 2012
Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University

Life after the Academy of Achievement Summit has been an incredible journey, and I want to express my sincere gratitude to Wayne and Catherine Reynolds for making this possible.

At the International Achievement Summit in October 2012, I noticed Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa across the room at the State Department, and I beelined over to have lunch with him. Since 2005, the Mayor has tirelessly crusaded against climate change and expanded renewable energy in L.A. Since my Ph.D. research at Oxford is on the physics of solar panels, I was deeply inspired by the Mayor’s efforts.

Miraculously, after that conversation, the Mayor offered me a position on his senior staff to advise him on energy and water policy and to oversee the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the largest municipal utility in the nation. I immediately took a leave of absence from Oxford and served in his Administration until he stepped down in July 2013.

Executing the Mayor’s vision, I strove to secure three aspects of his environmental legacy. First, L.A. signed contracts committing it to end consumption of coal power by 2025, the first large city to do so; second, LA inaugurated a Feed-in Tariff incentive program for solar power, which at 150 MegaWatts is the largest urban program in the nation; and third, L.A. settled a century-long dispute over the Owens Valley, which supplies water to Los Angeles.

Day-to-day, I staffed the Mayor at an exciting variety of events and organized his appearance with former Vice President Al Gore, who declared that L.A. had taken its place among “the five greatest cities in the world where combating climate change is concerned.” I researched policy alternatives, led negotiations, investigated organizational inefficiencies, and secured $40 million of funding for a Cleantech Incubator.

Today, I can confidently say that my future lies at the nexus of policy and technology. I believe our energy future requires decision makers with an intimate understanding of the technical challenges posed by replacing century-old power infrastructure. I’m thankful to the Mayor for trusting me with so much responsibility, and I’m indebted to the Academy of Achievement for enabling me to find my passion.

AV-VS-2_etLessons from LA-Powering a Megacity with Renewable Energy

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/17/2013

LeidermanDJM_500Jared Leiderman, Class of 2009
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
Director of Finance & Administration, Juma Ventures

As a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, I was extremely fortunate to be part of the International Achievement Summit in 2009. It was an eye-opening experience, a whirlwind of inspiration from leaders in and out of government, across the political spectrum, all focused on bettering the world in their own way. In particular, a comment from General Colin Powell has stuck in my mind: “You’re here because you succeeded in the first third in your life, the third where you prepare. But now you need to succeed in the second and third parts, the ones where you do the work and give back.”

With that inspiration, I’ve been excited to “do the work” on the ground with Juma Ventures. Juma is a national nonprofit that helps youth from low-income backgrounds obtain a college education. We provide academic support and employ our youth, selling concessions at sports stadiums. The best social program is a good job, and youth are much more likely to succeed in college if they have built the responsibility and drive that comes from employment. Finally, we provide matched savings accounts to ease the financial burden of college, and our youth save thousands of dollars by the time they enter college. The mix of academic support, employment, and asset building allows our students to get through college, not just into it. Last year, our high school graduation rate was 100 percent and college persistence rate was 85 percent — far above their peers.

As the head of our back office, I’ve driven growth in new cities and states. In the last seven months, we’ve opened operations at the New Orleans Superdome and Arena, as well as at Seattle’s SAFECO field, Key Arena and CenturyLink Field. My team administers over 1,200 savings accounts, and we plan to transform those services into another social enterprise that employs our college youth. During this expansion, we’ve reduced our average cost per youth, increased our percent of income due to sales, and passed over $1,000,000 to our youth through wages and savings in 2012 alone.

During my years as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, I learned a great deal about using entrepreneurial models for social impact. I’m excited to say I think about these ideas daily, developing new and sustainable models to meet our social needs. I’m extremely grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds for the phenomenal experiences they offered me in Cambridge, Washington D.C., and New Orleans. Reading these updates has been humbling, and helps me recognize how fortunate we all are to have had these incredible experiences. In my personal life, I’ve also been wonderfully blessed. Soon after graduation in 2010, Emily and I got married; we are now blessed with a giggly, bright-eyed one-year-old girl, Hazel.

So next time you find yourself at a game for the Giants, A’s, Mariners, Saints, Chargers, 49ers, Raiders, Seahawks, or a whole bunch of others, buy some ice cream or coffee from Juma — and don’t forget to tip well!

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/17/2013

et_PeterBio-1Peter Bisanz, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, World Economic Forum

Thanks to the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship, and the Center for Public Leadership, Peter Bisanz earned his Master’s of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2009.

While studying at the Kennedy School, he completed a feature length documentary on the shared values of the world’s religions, Beyond Our Differences (  He has sold this film to PBS and created a pilot educational program to support its release.

As an extension of this work, he carried out an independent study project with David Gergen at the Kennedy School, analyzing and interpreting U.S. foreign policy in the Muslim world over the last 30 years, and its potential ramifications for the future.

He is now at work on a second documentary, Islam and the West: Creating Peace in Our Time.  The film will provide a platform for leading Islamic and Western voices to explore this complex relationship and promote a new spirit of understanding (  To date, he has filmed over 50 interviews for this film, with key leaders from all over the world.

During his time at the Center for Public Leadership Bisaz remained active as one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, and continued his Participation in the Forum’s Global Agenda Councils.  In 2009 he was a member of the Global Agenda Council on Faith, and after graduation became a member of the Global Agenda Council on Values — where he created a series of films on Values in Business (

Linked to his work with the Forum and the Kennedy School, after graduation he helped the Women and Public Policy Program create a film on the business case for closing the gender gaps (

In 2012, he was invited to join the World Economic Forum and the Global Agenda Council as an Associate Director for Outreach and Communications.  He has produced the Survey on the Global Agenda (, and Global Agenda Outlook (, released at Davos in 2013.

He has since taken charge of the Communications Team for the Risk Response Network within the Forum and the launch of one of the Forum’s flagship reports (, also released at the 2012 meeting in Davos.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/15/2013

HSU_500Esther Hsu Wang, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Founding Partner, IDinsight

The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation provided me with the opportunity to study at the Harvard Kennedy School, collaborate with lifelong friends, and engage with some of the most accomplished people of our time. I will always be thankful for these myriad opportunities. I loved being part of the Center for Public Leadership and was honored to join the unforgettable Academy of Achievement Summits in South Africa and Washington D.C.

Since graduating from Harvard in 2010, I shored up my private sector roots at Bain & Company, and launched IDinsight with three other Kennedy School classmates (Andrew Fraker, Neil Buddy Shah, and Paul Wang, who is now my husband). IDinsight’s vision is to improve millions of lives by transforming how the social sector innovates, learns, and improves. Our mission is to partner with our clients to generate and use rigorous evidence to improve their social impact. Depending on client needs, we help diagnose systems, design and test potential solutions, and operationalize those solutions found to be most impactful. We believe that client-centered, rigorous, and responsive evaluation is essential to help managers maximize program impact. I believe we are filling a gap in the social sector that spends hundreds of billions of dollars per year trying to fight the world’s intractable problems for the poor and disadvantaged.  Our clients include national governments, global foundations, NGOs and social businesses.

I have moved to Zambia (after several months establishing in Cambodia and India) and with my co-founders, are building IDinsight offices in Zambia, Uganda and India, plus activities in Cambodia and Kenya. We are continually learning from each of our projects — in water, sanitation, governance, health and agriculture — and refining our approach and our model. We’ve benefited from other networks such as the Echoing Green Foundation, but I believe the seeds of our work were sowed during our precious time at the Kennedy School. It’s been an exciting ride so far, full of lucky breaks and lessons learned. In a typical day, I can be negotiating car insurance for the office, or having a tête-à-tête with a director in the national government. Each day is a surprise, but such is the life of a young start-up… in the social sector… in a developing country.

As a Reynolds Fellow, I was inspired by the many social entrepreneurs who blazed trails before us, and my fellow classmates, who were constantly challenging each other to stick to our visions and make the world a better place. I still think fondly of the group of five Fellows with whom I met weekly, acting as sounding boards and advisers, to push each others’ ideas forward. Several of my Reynolds classmates sit on IDinsight’s Board of Directors (Arun Gupta and Jacob Donnelly) and we are honored to have them with us. A special “shout out” to my friends David Noah and Keren Raz, whom I met at the Achievement Summit in South Africa, and who have provided valuable legal counsel for IDinsight.  Thanks to the Reynolds Foundation and all the amazing people I’ve met on this journey.  Please give me a shout if you pass through Zambia!


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/14/2013

Ward_300Kelly Ward, Class of 2006
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Executive Director, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

It is unbelievable how quickly time goes by! It seems like just yesterday I was at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, attending seminars and workshops with the other Reynolds Fellows. That “yesterday” was actually more than seven years ago, when I was honored as one of the inaugural recipients of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship.

There are very few moments in life when a new, unexpected opportunity sets you on a completely different course. For me, receiving the Reynolds Foundation Fellowship was one of those moments. The Fellowship introduced me to the world of social entrepreneurship and the impact we can have when we foster and invest in innovative, high-impact solutions. It taught me that there are fantastic solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, and that finding, developing and scaling these solutions is the key to large-scale change.

During my Fellowship and my time at the Kennedy School, I focused on the connection between public policy, social innovation and growth capital. Specifically, how can we leverage government funding as growth capital for social entrepreneurs? Can government investment bring social innovation to scale instead of stifling creative solutions? These were new and intriguing questions at the time, and the Reynolds Fellowship and Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership were integrally involved in the development of these new ideas.

It was through the Reynolds Fellowship that I met New Profit, a top-notch venture philanthropy fund in Cambridge. I worked with them on my graduate thesis, and was exposed to a plethora of inspiring entrepreneurs and innovative ideas. They were on the frontlines of redesigning government funding to work for social entrepreneurs — providing matching funds instead of grants, growth capital instead of piecemeal investments. It was exciting to be a part of it.

When I graduated from the Kennedy School, I managed a congressional campaign and then ran a small advocacy nonprofit in Arizona, but I was drawn back to New Profit to help bring the ideas they were developing to fruition. I moved back to Boston to head up their America Forward effort, a national coalition of nonprofits working to develop and push a policy agenda with the 2008 presidential candidates. We met with every major presidential candidate, and our ideas were received with great interest. Barack Obama’s campaign, in particular, embraced the notion of social entrepreneurship, and once he was elected, many of our ideas were incorporated into the “Serve America Act,” the most bipartisan piece of legislation to pass during President Obama’s first 100 days in office. It was so inspiring to see our new President surrounded by the country’s leading social innovators, committed to investing in their work as part of his vision for improving the country.

I am now back in the political world, running a special election Senate campaign in Massachusetts. For the last three years I have served as Executive Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C. Our job is to elect Democrats to Congress. Our goal is a Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives. At same time, ,

One of the most critical elements of the Reynolds Fellowship was leadership development. In addition to fostering the innovative ideas of the Fellows, the Reynolds Fellowship also invested deeply in our overall development as leaders. While my current job is more political than entrepreneurial, I use the lessons I learned as a Reynolds Fellow every single day.

When I think back about the overall experience, especially attending the 2006 International Achievement Summit in Los Angeles, it seems so surreal — I have to remind myself that it actually happened! I’m so grateful for the opportunity and so excited for the new people who get to share in the experience.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/14/2013

bardhan300Sonny Bardhan,
Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation

The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship provided me with the incredible opportunity to earn my Master in Public Administration at Harvard, specializing in International Development. The fellowship provided weekly co-curricular events, providing an excellent forum for the fellows to exchange ideas and meet with inspirational leaders. This generosity of Catherine and Wayne Reynolds was instrumental in completing my transition from the private sector to the world of international development.

Since graduating from Harvard, I have been working at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), based in London. CIFF is an independent, philanthropic organization that aims to demonstrably improve the lives of children in developing countries by achieving large-scale, sustainable impact.

The approach used throughout is highly analytical. The latest development research is used to help identify where the principal bottlenecks and highest impact opportunities exist in the sectors of interest for the foundation.  Extensive due diligence is conducted on high potential opportunities prior to determining whether to make an investment, which would generally be in the form of grants of several million dollars over multiple years. Finally, an engaged management approach is used over the course of the multi-year investment, so that plans are adapted and improved, based on regularly measured performance data. While the investments do not seek financial returns, they are rigorously measured on a handful of key parameters, including social impact and cost-effective use of philanthropic dollars.

My role as an Investment Manager is to develop strategy for the foundation to best meet its goals, and to identify, design and advance specific opportunities for it to deploy its resources. Once I have identified an opportunity with good potential, I lead a multi-disciplinary team over several months to develop and conduct due diligence for the concept. If we believe the fully developed proposal is promising, I make the case to the Board of CIFF to seek final approval.

My role at CIFF has led me to work in India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique, in sectors including nutrition, water, and hygiene, and to form partnerships with the governments of these developing countries, as well members of the private sector, academia and NGOs, and with other donors. The work has been diverse, interesting and often very challenging. Recent investments have included a large-scale hygiene program to improve hand-washing behavior in rural India, and funding systematic research to develop lower cost formulations of products used to treat and prevent malnutrition. Next stop: Ethiopia!


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/13/2013

Goldstein_500Andrew Goldstein, M.D., Class of 2011
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
Founder, Frontline Health Worker Network

After finishing my Reynolds Fellowship year I returned to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine to finish my medical school training.  I continued my work with Tiyatien Health, spending two months in Zwedru, Liberia working on strategic planning, organizational process improvement, and the planning and design stages of a brand new community health worker program to serve “last mile” villages with no access to the existing health infrastructure. This Frontline Health Worker (FHW) program was initiated in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative and the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, among others. I continued working for Tiyatien Health after my return to the United States by recruiting and managing a team to write the first draft training curriculum for the FHW program.

I have learned that many similar organizations and governments find the concept of FHWs appealing, but have been left to create programs de novo, as the field is underdeveloped and fragmented. With this in mind, I founded the FHW Network (, a non-profit start up that crowdsources knowledge of existing FHW programs, research, and tools; and advances the sector by easing communication and collective action.

I have now finished my intern year of internal medicine training at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, with an emphasis on primary care and general internal medicine. While here, I have focused on knowledge management and workflow improvement within our program. I have entered my fifth year as a board member of Princeton AlumniCorps, an alumni-driven effort to engage our alumni community in public interest work.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/12/2013


Ellyn Goldberg, Class of 2009
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Brown University,
United Providence!

My time as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education during the 2008-2009 academic year had a profound impact on the trajectory of my life and career. I have had the opportunity to apply what I learned about social entrepreneurship to diverse settings: public education, faith-based community outreach, and higher education. I have the utmost gratitude to Catherine and Wayne Reynolds for this incredible opportunity; I am not the same person I was before.

After graduation, I held fast to my belief that access to a quality education is the nation’s most important social justice issue. I moved to Providence, Rhode Island to accept a newly-created position as a Quantitative Reasoning Specialist at the MET, a state-funded public school district that focuses on individualized learning to empower students. As one of six pioneers of the “QR” Team at the MET, I was able to help define what the position would entail. In addition to developing more hands-on look and feel for mathematics instruction, I created and implemented the “Adopt-a-Mathlete” program, mobilizing the entire school community to supporting students to do their best on the high-stakes exam that will impact their future. It worked; the students did better than ever before in the history of the MET and I received the Raytheon MathMovesU Math Hero Award in the fall of 2011. President Obama praised the MET in a speech that year urging schools to “…follow the example of places like The MET Center in Rhode Island, that give students that individual attention while also preparing them through real-world, hands-on training for the possibility of succeeding in a career.”

In addition to applying my knowledge of entrepreneurship to help students, I have had the opportunity to work with teachers as well. In 2010, I collaborated with a team at the Education Development Center in Waltham, Massachusetts , to author a course entitled “Developing Math Practices in Algebra for Grades 4 – 10,” which focuses on helping teachers to incorporate the eight Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice into their teaching. This course is the first of its kind in the nation; in addition to working on its development, I have facilitated the course several times, with groups of teachers and administrators throughout Massachusetts.

In 2011, I felt a calling to leave my full-time position and work for a year as an “urban missionary,” serving my local church in a role I designed with my Pastor, developing ministries and outreach to the Providence community. Our work had four focuses, summed up by the acronym ABCD: Alvarez High School (a low-performing public school near our church), the Burmese refugee community, the local Community Center, and the Downtown homeless population. I am most proud of a weekly outreach we set up in conjunction with a homeless shelter; a group of us traveled to the shelter every Friday night to meet with residents, get to know them, and try to meet their needs in whatever ways we could. The year culminated with a week-long mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti.

After this missionary year, I realized I could best serve the community by utilizing my background and skills in education. I currently serve in two capacities: as Adjunct Lecturer in Education at Brown University and Director of Secondary Mathematics Education for Brown Summer High School; and as the Senior Mathematics Specialist for United Providence!, a start-up non-profit organization designed to manage the turnaround process in three of Providence’s lowest-performing schools. In all of these roles I am bringing to bear my experience as a Reynolds Fellow. This is the first time in its 45-year existence that Brown Summer High School will have a mathematics component! As one of six founding members of the UP! team, I have applied first-hand some of the “lessons learned” by social entrepreneurs I met during the fellowship year. UP! hopes to serve as a national model for collaboration between labor and management. Interestingly, one of our schools is Alvarez, the school we focused on during my year as an urban missionary. I could not be more grateful for my time as a Reynolds Foundation Fellow. My life has been quite a journey, and I look forward to many more adventures in leadership and entrepreneurship thanks to the generosity of Catherine and Wayne Reynolds.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/12/2013

catone300Keith Catone, Class of 2006
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University

My year as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2005-06 was an important turning point in my professional, academic, and activist career.  Not only was I afforded the opportunity to connect with many amazing people through the fellowship program, I was also able to take much needed time and space away from the incredibly busy life of a public school teacher to think about how best to continue my efforts to effect social justice in the world. Since 2006, I have continued my academic journey as a doctoral student in education at Harvard. In October, I plan to submit my dissertation, exploring the lives, political trajectories, activism, and teaching practices of four teachers in New York City. In addition to my doctoral studies, I have been busy professionally, and continue to be committed to the education justice community.

In 2008, I joined the advisory board for the Education for Liberation Network (EdLib), and have served as a leader and organizer for the Free Minds Free People (FMFP) conference since 2009.  EdLib is a national coalition of educators, activists, researchers, students, and parents who believe a good education should teach people — particularly low-income youth and youth of color — how to understand and challenge the injustices their communities face.  FMFP occurs every other year as a national conference, gathering hundreds of EdLib network members and allies to build a movement promoting education as a tool for liberation. Serving as one of the co-leaders of the host committee for the 2011 FMFP conference in Providence, Rhode Island was an amazing and humbling experience, as I was able to meet and connect with people doing liberatory education work from all around the United States.  We continue to grow as a movement and a community, and are looking forward to this year’s FMFP conference in Chicago.

In addition, I currently work as a Principal Associate for Community Organizing and Engagement at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR) at Brown University.  I manage AISR’s technical assistance and capacity building support for community organizing and engagement in the New England/Northeast region. We support community-based organizations to build power and relationships by organizing parents, youth, and other community leaders, with the goal of ensuring that public schools are held accountable to serving communities’ best interests.  Since joining AISR in 2011, I have worked directly with youth and parent organizations in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Pennsylvania. I continue to be inspired by the people I meet through my work, and by their vision, energy, and hope for a more just and equitable education system.  I experienced similar feelings of inspiration while listening to speakers at the Academy of Achievement in 2006.

While those invited to speak at the Academy had accomplished work with a much higher profile than the work of those with whom I interact in my work, the connective tissue between these experiences is the human drive for goodness and justice that I have the privilege of witnessing on a regular basis. Whether learning from Archbishop Desmond Tutu (and his moves on the Academy dance floor!), being inspired by the philanthropic spirit of George Lucas, or more recently, gaining energy from the passionate activism of teenagers in Philadelphia who are fighting for their public schools, my own life experiences have kept me refreshed and renewed at every turn.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/03/2013

family-pic-with-hJenny DuClos, Class of 2009
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Harvard University

In 2008-2009 I was a recipient of a Catherine Reynolds Foundation Fellowship for study at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). I applied for the Fellowship after spending two years in post-Katrina New Orleans, where I served as the Assistant Clinical Director of the largest school-based mental health initiative for children and families affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It was an honor to work in a community so steeped in cultural pride, with such resilience and determination to put back the pieces after long-term displacement, loss and grief. Catherine and Wayne Reynolds’ generous gift allowed me to further study the effects of PTSD, chronic stress, and poverty on the development of children and their learning. While at Harvard, I focused on learning to mitigate the effects of stress and trauma on children and adolescents. While in my Master’s program I worked as an infant mental health clinician, and as a parent educator for families who had lost custody of their children due to abuse and neglect.

After graduating form HGSE, my husband Justin and I spent the summer in rural South Africa, rehabilitating a dilapidated preschool building, outfitting it with books and educational supplies, and training early childhood educators to lead Project Joy (a play therapy intervention). The needs of this community were made known to us by our friend and fellow Reynolds alumnus Craig Paxton. A number of children in that particular village in the Eastern Cape had lost parents and loved ones to HIV-AIDS. We have since raised funds to help outfit a second preschool in a neighboring village.

Upon returning to Boston, I worked as a School Therapist and for three years as the Director of Community and Family Engagement at Uncommon Schools. Uncommon is  a charter management organization devoted to closing the achievement gap and making college admission and graduation a reality for low income students. For the past two years, we have also served as Officers, Resident Tutors, and Public Service Advisers at Harvard College. After our son Haven was born in February of 2012, I took some time to savor his first year while continuing to work as a counselor, and helping my husband establish a law practice ( that concentrates on the environment, new media and social justice.

The friendships we formed, and the doors of opportunity that opened because of the Reynolds Fellowship are priceless. Our family will continue to keep social entrepreneurship at the core of our work, and we look forward to what the years ahead will bring. We promise to keep in touch!

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/30/2013

Lubell---HeadshotDavid Lubell, Class of 2009
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Founder and Executive Director, Welcoming America

Since attending the 2009 International Achievement Summit, I have graduated with an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership, where I was a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. I am now Executive Director of Welcoming America, a national, grassroots-driven organization I founded, that works to promote mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and native-born Americans. We are unlocking the full potential of communities by helping them understand how and why the U.S. can find pride in upholding its welcoming traditions, at the community and individual level.

Through our work we are engaging nontraditional allies and supporters including local governments, embassies, businesses, faith leaders, law enforcement officials and prominent civic leaders to address the fears of U.S. born residents regarding the country’s fastest immigration growth rates since the early 1900s.

Welcoming America was born out of my time as a Reynolds Foundation Fellow. With the help of other Reynolds Fellows, I wrote the Welcoming America business plan for the Harvard Business Plan Competition. As it turned out, we had too much money to win the HBS prize, but the work was not for naught — the plan landed Welcoming America its first major funder.

At Welcoming America we recognize that change is never easy — not for immigrants, and not for communities asked to welcome newcomers whose language and culture they may not understand. I established Welcoming America to build a robust “receiving communities” movement and create an enabling environment for more people and institutions to recognize the role everyone must play in furthering the integration of recent immigrants in the fabric of the United States. With affiliates in 21 states across the country, we are facilitating open dialogue — and counteracting the biased, negative messages that community members may hear about their new neighbors — by disseminating factual, positive messages through group gatherings and all forms of media, thus building mutual respect and understanding. These efforts have been proven to cause a positive shift in the perceptions of residents towards immigrants.

Together, we are sharing a simple message, “Immigrants make us stronger.”

From my new home in Atlanta, Georgia, where I live with my wife and two young sons, I can see more than ever that a global perspective is an empowering perspective. I am grateful to the Reynolds Foundation for giving me the leadership and entrepreneurial preparation to gain this insight, and to guide others into a welcoming way of enriching our communities. I’m all the better for the experience.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/30/2013

kimble375Jessica Lin Kimble,
Class of 2008
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
The World Bank

At the 2007 Academy of Achievement in Washington D.C., I was able to meet and interact with current and future leaders of the arts, industry, technology and government. I never imagined that so many of my role models would be so accessible. It was during the summit, while interacting with Bishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, Suzan-Lori Parks and others, that I realized how much of an effect each one of us can potentially have on society.

I have been committed throughout my career to improving the plight of the impoverished, particularly in the Caribbean, through technological development. I started a number of small firms in consulting and private equity prior to graduate school, but realized during the Summit that while I could probably build my own business to a certain size, I had the opportunity to effect change through policy at a larger organization. After graduating from the Harvard Kennedy School, I joined the World Bank to incubate new energy technologies Although I have remained committed to social entrepreneurship, I chose to work within a larger organization to broaden my potential impact.

Since 2007, I have supported technology innovation globally, and specifically within the Caribbean region, through funding, program development and policy change. I’ve also conducted research which quantifies the financial benefit of socially responsible investing and the impact of climate change on energy systems.

I am grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds for their generosity and support of my education. I am thankful for the opportunities afforded through the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship and remain impressed with the accomplishments of my fellows and peers from the Academy of Achievement. They have changed my view of the world and my vision for my future. As I look into the eyes of my six-month-old son, I am also grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds for their time and effort, dedicated to cultivating this international cohort of like-minded peers who are committed to making a better future for the next generation.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/30/2013

Barnes2_HarvardJamaal Barnes, Class of 2011
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Assistant Director of Admissions, Harvard Graduate School of Education

It has been nearly two years since my time as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. My time as a fellow was a life-enhancing experience and provided me with an opportunity to enlarge my network of friends and thought-partners.

After graduating as a Fellow with an Ed.M. in Prevention Science from Harvard, I continued my work with the eastern Massachusetts-based youth development nonprofit Crossroads for Kids. There, I provided strategic consulting in the development of scalable assessment and evaluation strategies for the Boston-based team, as well as for teams in Austin, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.

Following my passion for access and equity in education, I made the transition to graduate school enrollment in 2012. I currently serve as an Assistant Director of Admissions and Manager of Multicultural Recruitment at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and as a Proctor of Harvard College.

In my personal time, I proudly support the work of the Maryland-based nonprofit Touchstones Discussion Project, as a member of its board of trustees, and the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, as a member of its Alumni Advisory Board.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/30/2013

paxton-with-teacherCraig Paxton, Class of 2009
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
Executive Director, Axium Education

My experiences at Harvard as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow and Fulbright Scholar profoundly shaped my thinking about education and social change, and continue to influence the way I approach the complex challenges facing South Africa’s education system.

In my final semester as a Reynolds Fellow, my wife and I launched Axium Education, a nonprofit organization aimed at improving the quality of schooling in rural South Africa. We are based in Zithulele Village in the beautiful Eastern Cape Province and work with around 30 schools in the surrounding area. The region’s educational outcomes are among the worst in the country. Only a handful of students graduate from high school with any chance of pursing higher education, so it’s a useful place to be if we hope to learn anything about wider scale improvements. We use a three-tiered approach to school change, working with school leaders, with science, English and math teachers, and with high-potential students in Grades 7 – 12. We’re also a pilot site for a number of technology projects, including the Khan Academy and MiXit.

In 2012 I was honoured to be included in the Mail & Guardian’s annual list of “200 Young South Africans.” I’m currently midway through a Ph.D. dissertation examining rural school improvement, and I’m hoping this will add to the growing national conversation around the equity and quality of South Africa’s schools.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/30/2013

shinAndrew Shin, Class of 2008
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation

The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship program at Harvard University brought together dozens of graduate students with diverse experiences, united by a passion to improve the lives of our communities here and abroad.  Through the Fellowship, I was able to share my personal commitment to improve our nation’s health care system, so that the most vulnerable can have a high quality and affordable system to rely on when they need it most.

More importantly, the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship was an incredible opportunity to learn from current and past fellows and mentors who believed that for every problem, an innovative solution was possible.  These solutions often required synthesizing perspectives and methods across disciplines, ranging from the secondary education field, business, government and policy, to public health.

With this arsenal of experiences and perspectives, I sought appointment as a Congressional Fellow and was assigned to the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.  Working with one of the main committees with jurisdiction over health care in the U.S., I had the opportunity to help write national health reform legislation.

Afterwards, I came to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, in the Department of Health and Human Services.  This center was created by the new legislation to identify, test, and eventually scale health care innovations that improve quality, while also lowering costs to ensure a sustainable system for generations to come.

As Director of Stakeholder Engagement, I am tasked with building coalitions among clinicians, hospitals, technology entrepreneurs, employers, patient groups and others, to on find private-public solutions to our greatest health system challenges.   Armed with $10 billion in funding over the next decade, and a unique authority to rapidly scale successful innovations, the opportunity has never been greater for disruptive innovators to create a safer, more equitable, and sustainable American health system.

The perspective I’ve gained from my time with the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship has become a guiding principle of achieving social good through a diversity of means.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/29/2013


Bina Valsangkar, M.D., MPH, Class of 2008
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Community Empowerment Lab

I was fortunate to be the recipient of a Reynolds Foundation Fellowship while pursuing a Master’s at The Harvard School of Public Health in 2007-2008. The fellowship came at a crucial time in my career development. I became a fellow three years after founding and developing a public health nonprofit organization during my medical education. The organization, The Quito Project, works in collaboration with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Health and local public school systems to develop, test, and scale programs in health and education for vulnerable populations. Although my colleagues, professors and mentors were always extremely supportive of my work in Ecuador, my passions fell outside the mainstream of medical education, and I felt a sense of relief and exhilaration to be surrounded by fellow social entrepreneurs as a Reynolds Fellow. For a student of medicine and public health approaching graduation, this feeling was invaluable and gave me the strength and courage to continue pursuing my passions.

Since graduation from Harvard and the University of Michigan Medical School, I completed pediatrics residency training at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where I had the opportunity to gain intensive training in general pediatrics, and continue to pursue my work with The Quito Project, which continues to grow and make an impact in under fresh leadership.

Immediately after completing residency training and marrying my husband Nicolas, we moved to India, where we both now work for a public health start-up called Community Empowerment Lab.  Our lab is situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where one in ten newborn deaths in the world takes place.  I joined as a research scientist and project manager, helping lead a scale-up of essential newborn care to a population of 75 million. My job requires merging scientifically proven essential newborn care practices, such as exclusive breastfeeding, umbilical cord care, and skin-to-skin care, with a cultural approach to relevant rural Uttar Pradesh. This experience has been tremendously challenging and rewarding.  I also serve as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at George Washington University, which gives me the opportunity to mentor students and trainees interested in global health, and create a supportive, like-minded environment, similar to the one that the Reynolds Foundation provided me.

I am grateful to the Reynolds Foundation for giving me the courage to pursue a less-traveled career path for medical doctors.  It strengthened and validated professional inclinations that I had felt early in my education and training, and has allowed me to use my skills for the greater social good.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/29/2013


Christina Lagos Triantaphyllis, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, The Bridgespan Group

While a graduate student at the Harvard School of Public Health, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Academy of Achievement’s 2010 Summit in Washington, D.C. This meaningful experience renewed my interest in public service, and in the intersection between political processes and social enterprise. I am deeply grateful to Catherine and Wayne Reynolds, whose generosity and dedication to Academy of Achievement program participants has planted the seeds of potential social change in each of us.

Since my participation in the Reynolds Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship, I have had the opportunity to advise pioneering social sector organizations as a consultant with the Bridgespan Group. I was first drawn to Bridgespan when its co-founder, Jeff Bradach, spoke to the Reynolds group about the interesting challenges facing social entrepreneurs and the organizations they lead.

Applying best practices from the for-profit sector, I have worked with multi-million dollar foundations, new philanthropists, direct-service providers, and international NGOs to address society’s most pressing issues in global development, public health, and youth development. In the process, I have recognized the importance of a broader problem. Government and other funders fail to focus on high-return investments in proven social interventions that disrupt intergenerational cycles of poverty. This issue is one that I hope to address throughout my career.

In the meantime, the non-profit I co-founded continues to grow and flourish. PAIR (Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees), which focuses on the educational advancement of refugee youth, now serves over 300 students. A Reynolds Fellowship trip to the Rio Grande Valley helped to broaden and deepen my familiarity with issues affecting both immigrants and refugees in the United States, and the skills I have developed at Bridgespan have enhanced my contributions as a PAIR board member in a variety of ways.

In reflecting on my time since the Reynolds Fellowship, I am reminded of a grounding belief I developed in those formative two years that remains fundamental to my personal theory of change: that those of us who have been blessed with certain opportunities, circumstances, and experiences are uniquely positioned to address important societal problems. The Reynolds experience has set me on a path of applying results-oriented approaches to social challenges —one that I hope continues to intersect with the inspiring work of other Reynolds Fellows and Academy alumni.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/29/2013


Amanda Epstein Devercelli, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, The World Bank

The 2010 Academy of Achievement Summit in Washington, D.C. was an incredible end to the year I spent as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, being inspired by colleagues and friends, learning and thinking about what I truly wanted to do with my life. Hearing from so many creative, committed and effective social entrepreneurs and public servants in only two days inspired me to think differently about making an impact. Although my husband and I carry out our work on two continents, we have found a way to make our careers work for our growing family. We spend most of the year in Lima, Peru, with frequent travel to Washington, D.C. and various countries in Africa. We’re both doing work we love and believe in, and are enjoying life. Our son is nearly two years old and Baby Devercelli number two is due in December!

I have been working in the education sector at the World Bank for the last three years. In November, I accepted a new assignment, coordinating the Bank’s Early Childhood Development activities in Africa through an initiative called the Early Learning Partnership. The returns on every dollar invested in young children in low and middle-income countries are estimated to be between $7 and $16 — yet most countries significantly underinvest in their youngest citizens. Research tells us that if we improve development opportunities for children in their early years, we can improve their academic performance and reduce drop-out rates.  By increasing the amount of time they spend in school we can stimulate the formation of critical thinking skills that employers are looking for, and enable more women to enter the workforce if they choose.  Through the Early Learning Partnership, I’ll be leading a team to promote early learning opportunities for young children, and strategies to engage families, communities and the private sector through public-private partnerships and better use of public resources.

The Reynolds Fellowship not only propelled my career, but my husband’s also. He attended many of the Fellowship and Center for Public Leadership events. In March 2011, he launched an after-school program called Pasala! (Pass It On), which combines soccer instruction with literacy development activities for children. Two-thirds of all 15 year-olds in Peru can’t read well enough to understand the meaning of a basic sentence. Pasala! is a social enterprise designed to get kids excited about reading and writing, and improve their reading comprehension using a curriculum built entirely around sports.

I’m grateful to still keep in touch with Reynolds Fellows who are all over the world doing incredible things. If there are Academy of Achievement alumni events planned for the future, please sign me up!

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/29/2013

casey300Catherine Casey Nanda, Class of 2006
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
Director of Global Expansion and Country Operations, Acumen

I currently direct global expansion at Acumen — a nonprofit that raises charitable donations to invest in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty. To date, we have invested $83 million in 73 companies. I’m responsible for setting strategy, building teams, fundraising and investing in new regions. I’m also responsible for leading operational excellence across Acumen’s 5 regional offices in Kenya, Ghana, India, Pakistan and Colombia.

Most recently I launched Acumen’s West Africa office, based in Accra, where I built regional operations from scratch, established an investment pipeline, and made our first three investments. Today, I’m focused on replicating that success in new regions, with an immediate focus on Latin America and Southeast Asia.  I also serve as a Board Member of GADCO, an African food production company.

I first met with Acumen on a Reynolds Fellowship visit to social enterprises in New York. I’m so grateful for that connection, and for all the ways the Fellowship experience continues to shape my life — including by introducing me to some of my closest mentors, colleagues and friends. The Academy inspired me to be more audacious and deepen my commitment to public service, all while having a lot of fun. I’ll never forget Robin Williams rapping alongside Sheryl Crow, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu jumping up to dance (truly a once-in-a-lifetime moment!) I look forward to growing with — and contributing to — this community in years to come.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/29/2013


Erika Strand, Class of 2006
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Chief of Social Policy, UNICEF Mexico

I continue to be incredibly grateful to the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation for supporting my Master’s degree in international development at the Harvard Kennedy School, and for including me in the 2006 Academy of Achievement. To this day, I will meet people who at some point in time attended the Academy as well, and it has been nice to have something unique in common with amazing people around the world to break the ice.

Immediately after graduating, I moved to Madagascar to manage a project for the World Bank, providing management tools to improve the use of resources and planning at all levels of the educational system. I then returned to UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) headquarters to develop new policy advocacy tools for situations requiring policy advice from UNICEF, such as the impact of the food prices crisis on children and the importance of child-friendly social protection.

For the past three years I have worked as the Chief of Social Policy at UNICEF Mexico.  We urge the government to adopt social programs that target children living in extreme poverty, and advocate for more transparency in public spending on children.  Working with the Ministry of Finance at the federal level, I led a strategy to catalogue spending on children as part of the federal budget for the first time.  This budget was approved by Mexico’s Congress in 2011.

While some may think that working in a bureaucracy such as a UN agency — and in partnership with so large an institution as the Mexican federal government — would not provide conditions for innovation, I disagree. Changes at this level may be harder to realize than within a smaller organization, but when we are able to make an improvement in federal programs that reach millions of families, as is the case in Mexico, the impact is incomparable. I hope to be given more and more responsibility within UNICEF in the years to come, so that I can realize results of increasing importance in the lives of children


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/29/2013


Laura Bacon, Class  of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Omidyar Network

Thanks to the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship, Laura Bacon earned her Master’s of Public Policy degree from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2009.  While studying at the Kennedy School, she served as an advisor to Liberia’s Ministry of Gender and Development and to the Liberian Women’s Legislative Caucus.

After graduation, Laura was appointed by President Obama to serve as a White House Fellow for 2009-2010. Assigned the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Laura helped design and launch a Women and Clean Energy initiative that has since expanded into an international program. She also designed a multi-stakeholder cyber security summit, prepared policy memoranda, presentations, and briefing documents for DOE’s leadership team, and coordinated the Operations Management Council, a decision-making forum for DOE’s top leadership.

After the White House Fellowship, Laura became the Associate Director of Innovations for Successful Societies, a research program at Princeton University. In this capacity, she helped develop a strategic plan and multi-year agenda for the program’s activities, and directed the production of nearly 80 case studies on public sector reform in challenging contexts.  At this writing, Laura is moving to London, England to serve as Policy Principal on the Omidyar Network‘s Government Transparency team.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/24/2013


Diane Geng, Class of 2007
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Rural China Education Foundation, NYU Shanghai

My passion is improving the quality of education for children in rural China. As a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in China, I co-founded the Rural China Education Foundation (RCEF), with Wei Ji Ma and Sara Lam, two overseas Chinese who, like me, have roots in rural China. Our mission is to promote education that helps students develop the analytical thinking skills, self-confidence, and empathy that can prepare them to solve problems in their own lives and in the communities to which they belong.

I am grateful for the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship in Social Entrepreneurship that made it possible for me to obtain a master’s degree in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While still a Reynolds Fellow, I was named a 2007 Echoing Green Fellow to launch RCEF’s first full-time programs in China. Upon graduation from Harvard, I moved to a village in northern China and worked there for three years, helping to co-manage an experimental rural elementary school and set up professional development programs for teachers. Today, RCEF is sharing our experiences, teaching methods and curriculum with teachers, schools and NGOs across China.

In addition, I have expanded my efforts in education reform to higher education — specifically NYU Shanghai, a comprehensive liberal arts and sciences research university in the heart of Shanghai, the first Sino-American degree-granting liberal arts college in China.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/24/2013


Steven Ballantyne,  Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Program Director, Project Realize

First, I would like to thank Wayne and Catherine Reynolds for their generous support, which allowed me to pursue an MPA at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Since graduating, I have been able to combine my for-profit and not-for-profit interests in a unique way. I manage a program called Project Realize, funded by Vista Equity Partners founder, Robert Smith.  We help companies grow to the next level by implementing proprietary business intelligence systems and standards of operations.  In a way, we are proving that businesses need human capital more than financial capital.  It’s a different way of thinking, and of giving back. We are “teaching a man how to fish,” and the long-term impact is indefinite.

When selecting companies to adopt, apart from looking for visionaries, we look for community-minded management.  We aim to transform the business, and in turn, the surrounding community.  By helping the business grow, we are building the community, through job growth and an increased tax base.  As they grow, the businesses we help are able to increase their involvement in community programs.  In partnership with the Chicago-based chemical manufacturer Cedar Concepts, Project Realize has the ability to continually grow, and to increase its impact on the community year after year.

I love my job, and Robert Smith has big plans for the future.  I will make sure to keep you abreast as we grow.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/22/2013

dunigan_250Nathaniel Dunigan, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Founder of AidChild

My experience as a Reynolds Fellow and as an alumnus of the Academy of Achievement continues to inform my practice and my scholarship in significant ways.  The rich engagement with presenters and colleagues at the International Achievement Summit provided me with the tools I needed to elevate my own leadership capacities.

During our dinner at the Supreme Court, I have a vivid memory of Justice Sotomayor looking into the eyes of each of us at my table, and saying, “Stay connected with the people at this table.  These relationships are what will guide your success for years and years to come.”  I believe that to be true, and am especially grateful for this fact.  (For another Academy memory, see a recent blog post here:

During the nine years prior to my tenure as a Reynolds Fellow, I lived in Uganda, East Africa where I founded AidChild, the first organization in the country (and among the first in the world) to provide free antiretroviral therapy to children living with HIV/AIDS.  The organization currently earns about 70 percent of its budget through businesses I created under our corporate label in Uganda.  Last year, in partnership with celebrity chef Brian Malarkey, we opened yet another business, a restaurant and lounge called Olubugo.

I am currently the Dammeyer Fellow in Global Education Leadership at the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, University of San Diego.  My Ph.D. research has taken me around the world as I work with a team to create learning-and-teaching training modules for leaders in the affordable private education sectors of the emerging world.  (The photo at right was taken during classroom observations in Ghana.)  My dissertation is focused on the social construction of masculinities across three generations of Ugandan men.  It is my intention to combine my years of on-the-ground experience, insights gained at the Academy of Achievement, and my emerging scholarship to effecting change across Sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2012, I also had the honor of being named a Cordes Foundation Fellow at the Opportunity Collaboration in Ixtapa, Mexico.

I am enormously grateful for the experiences provided by the Academy of Achievement, and I look forward to one day being in a position to offer something back.  There is so much to do.  Onward!

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/22/2013


Maria Fernanda Levis-Peralta, Class of 2006
Catherine B. Reynolds
Foundation Fellow
CEO, Impactivo Consulting

The International Achievement Summit of 2006 changed my life.  Each person I met was more talented than the next, and the message was overwhelmingly clear: “Believe in the beauty of your dreams, dare to make them happen and don’t be afraid of failure.”  I will never forget one of my personal idols, the Honorable Desmond Tutu, looking straight at us saying “You are no chickens, you are eagles. Fly!”  And that is a mantra I have taken with me.  Just yesterday, I was sharing that sentiment with a talented young lady who works in my office.  She was asking me how she could improve, and à la Academy of Achievement, I urged her to dare to take risks. These lessons have served me well.

After graduating from the Harvard Kennedy School and School of Public Health as a Reynolds Foundation Fellow, my husband and I decided to move back home to Puerto Rico.  Our son was six months old and we were committed to giving back to society.  After our return, I founded Impactivo, a social impact consulting firm that specializes in the fields of health care, childhood, education and philanthropy. These fields are plagued with market failures, and we’ve found that our approach of incorporating systems research, policy, strategy, and funding methodologies has been particularly successful.  To date, we have worked with local health care payers, providers and public officials to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Affordable Care Act for improving our people’s health. Among other initiatives , we helped a community health organization design and procure full financing for the first women’s health center in an impoverished area of southeastern Puerto Rico, and worked with another community to develop a comprehensive plan for the development of integrated and effective early childhood development (ECD) policies and programs, including strategies and financing systems.  This year we are happy to announce that we will be working with the World Forum for Early Childhood Care and Education, to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2014.

Last month, Impactivo became the first BCorp (a certified sustainable enterprise) in Puerto Rico, joining the global movement to re-define business success. We are also working to help others through accreditation. We believe that social needs are just as influential on markets as conventional economic needs and built Impactivo to help communities thrive by placing social impact at the center of our work and using market forces to improve people’s lives.  Our company has grown 200 percent at a time when the local economy is facing negative growth, proving that an investment in your community is an investment in yourself.

Thanks to Wayne and Catherine Reynolds for believing in me and for the amazing opportunities you have afforded me.  In your honor I will make sure to pass them on.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/10/2013


Justin Pasquariello, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Children’s Health Watch

Attending the Academy of Achievement in Washington, D.C. in March 2010 was an incredible experience, near the end of an amazing fellowship and graduate program. Before going to graduate school, I founded Adoption and Foster Care Mentoring (AFC), a Boston-based organization that empowers foster youth to flourish through committed mentoring relationships and the development of critical life skills.  Having been a foster youth myself, before being adopted at age nine, I knew personally the importance of that work.

After six years of building that organization, I remained committed to helping youth in foster care, but I also wanted to reduce the need for child welfare by helping a broader population, and to do my part to make this a more peaceful, happy, and sustainable world.  As I sought to determine what path to take, the weekly co-curricular sessions I experienced as a Reynolds Fellow were a perfect place to consider multiple approaches to social change.

The International Achievement Summit provided a capstone for that exploration.  So many of the leaders who addressed us inspired me with their humility and approachability. I was particularly inspired by Andy Stern’s efforts to provide hardworking people in lower wage professions with a platform from which to advocate for themselves.

To build my skill set, and diversify my work experience, I became a Consultant with the Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit consulting firm in Boston.  I worked with a great group of committed people there, including several who had been Reynolds Fellows with me.

I am now the Executive Director of Children’s HealthWatch, a research and policy group that identifies and shares information about children’s health and development policies.  Billy Shore, who oversaw the co-curricular program during my fellowship, was a very helpful adviser as I made the decision to join Children’s HealthWatch.

Since 1998, Children’s HealthWatch has been collecting research about the positive impact of programs that help families meet their basic needs for food, shelter, and energy, and sharing these findings with leaders and policy makers at the local, state and federal level. In recent years, there have been more than 30 citations of our work each year in local and national media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, The New York Times and The Washington Post.  Our founder has been called “the woman who saved SNAP,” the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.  Our principal investigators have won a variety of awards, and delivered important testimony; one played a prominent role in the recent documentary A Place at the Table.  I feel truly privileged to lead this group in work that furthers my goals of helping society’s most vulnerable, increasing their happiness, and their chances of success.

I am currently working on a book about my experiences in foster care and how the system can work, when everyone works in the best interest of the child.  I continue to serve as Board Chair of AFC, the organization I founded, and am thrilled to see the organization’s continued growth under a great leader.  I live in East Boston, one of my favorite places.  I am very fortunate to have a wonderful wife, and great family and friends—including several with whom I was a Reynolds Fellow.  I am very thankful for the myriad ways in which the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation and the Academy of Achievement led me to the work I am now doing.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/26/2013


Erika Hval, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Scholar, Tufts University Medical Center

Erika Hval graduated from NYU in 2011 with a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. As an undergraduate, Erika was inspired by the interdisciplinary focus of the Academy of Achievement and the Reynolds Foundation Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship. Through these associations, she realized it would be necessary to reach outside her chosen field of nutrition to change it from within. Thanks to the preparation and the network of collaborators that the Academy and the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation provided, she now views policy, law, business, agriculture, and the arts as key elements to achieving her goals in nutrition and public health.

Erika is currently a master’s student at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, at Tufts University in Boston, and a dietetic intern at Tufts Medical Center. Her dual degree program at Tufts is training Erika as a registered dietitian, and guides her through the community, the inpatient hospital setting, and outpatient counseling centers, to improve the eating behaviors of neighbors, patients, and clients.

Since moving to Boston, she has interned with the Boston Public Health Commission’s Intergovernmental Relations Department to design and implement citywide health promotion projects, and advise the federal government on nutrition-related legislation. She serves as Vice President of the Massachusetts Student Dietetic Association and as Communications Director for Jumbo’s Kitchen, an after-school nutrition and cooking program for low-income elementary school students. Erika ultimately hopes to leverage her education in nutrition and healthcare to influence food and nutrition policy and achieve systemic public health change.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/17/2013


Matt Sisul, Class of 2009 and 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
Principal, Sisul Consulting LLC

After attending the 2009 International Achievement Summit in South Africa and the 2010 Summit in Washington, D.C., I was inspired to view my own area of expertise with fresh eyes, and to re-define my goals in my personal area of interest, infrastructure in developing countries.

Upon completion of my Master’s program at New York University in 2011, I took a job with YCF Group S.A. in Port au Prince, Haiti, and contributed to the rebuilding effort after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010. YCF Group is a local business, run by Yves Francois a Haitian-American who returned to the country of his birth after a long career in corporate architecture in the US.

The company was a good fit, as it was important to me that my efforts contribute to a local business. In Haiti, and in my experience elsewhere, I all too often see that building and infrastructure service delivery are dependent on a foreign advisor; though the project itself may be a success, the reliance on foreign expertise is not diminished. YCF Group is predominantly Haitian, employing local engineers, architects, foremen, masons, carpenters, steel workers and drivers. As an outsider, the learning curve was steep, but I had some excellent help from my colleagues. After successful completion of a few projects, I was able to build relationships of mutual trust with my coworkers. Over time, as my command of Haitian Creole improved, I could see the direct impact of my efforts, through improved building practices, site supervision, and the acquisition of more complex projects.

In my 15 months with YCF Group, I worked on a variety of projects, as lead structural engineer, construction manager, project manager, and quality control supervisor. I managed over $4 million in construction funds. Our projects included: four primary schools for Finn Church Aid; three fire stations for the U.S. Navy; four capital expansion projects at a nursing school for the Episcopal Church, funded by a USAID ASHA grant; and a new cholera treatment center for the health non-profit, Gheskio, designed in collaboration with MASS Group architects.

Since returning to Brooklyn in September, I’ve started a new consulting firm, Sisul Consulting LLC. The firm specializes in providing engineering and construction services to local construction companies in developing countries, to help them compete with international firms and organizations for international contracts. The guiding philosophy behind the venture is that developing nations require a strong foundation in local infrastructure services and project delivery. To achieve this, countries need to develop their own professional class of laborers, superintendents, engineers and architects. Sisul Consulting LLC works with established local contracting firms to help them learn by doing, working together on contracts to build internal capacity. I continue to work closely with partners in Haiti and have recently completed a market research trip to South Sudan.


Last year, I presented a webinar related to my thesis topic and my general approach to international development. I continue to refine my theory of change, as applied to infrastructure in developing countries. I am hopeful that I can continue to do so for many years to come.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/15/2013


Amita Swadhin, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
Los Angeles Executive Director, Peer Health Exchange

The invitation to the 2010 International Achievement Summit came at a crucial time in my life. I had taken a huge leap that year by creating Secret Survivors (, a theater project telling my story and the story of other survivors of child sexual assault/abuse with the avant-garde New York City theater group Ping Chong & Co. ( I was in graduate school studying public policy at the time, and some of my professors cautioned me against such a personal and risky move. Yet at the Summit, I heard one trailblazing speaker after another attribute their success to making bold choices and advise all of us to follow our hearts and our passion. I’ll never forget the words of wisdom shared by Jacqueline Novogratz, Anthony Romero, Michelle Rhee, Congressman John Lewis and Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I know it was an experience of a lifetime to have dinner at the Supreme Court and to have conversations in such intimate settings with CIA Director Leon Panetta and General James Jones. Of course, one of the biggest highlights was deepening my friendships with so many of my peers – relationships I know will last a lifetime – and being able to cement those friendships on the dance floor (in the company of Wolf Blitzer, no less!). The Summit gave me the confidence to continue my work with pride, no matter how far off the beaten path it takes me.

Since the Summit, I have graduated with an MPA from the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, where I was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. In 2011, Secret Survivors premiered to a live audience of over 400 people at El Museo del Barrio in New York City. We have since created a documentary based on the show, expanding the number of survivors and advocates in the project to ensure that we illustrate the scope of the endemic violence of child sexual abuse (in the US, the CDC has demonstrated ( that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted/abused by the age of 18). Drawing from my background as an educator and trainer, I have also written a toolkit and curriculum guide to accompany the DVD, and hope this project will equip many individuals and organizations to take the crucial step of talking about this taboo but all too common violence. I gave my first talk about Secret Survivors at a TEDxYouth conference ( in 2010, and continue to give presentations about ending child sexual abuse, including at the upcoming National Sexual Assault Conference ( The Secret Survivors project continues through Ping Chong & Co. I performed again with the rest of the original cast in a festival at the off-off Broadway venue La MaMa in October 2012 (, and the company is now creating additional works and hosting writing workshops with child sexual abuse survivors in communities from the Bronx to Minnesota to Michigan to Oregon.

A year ago, I moved to Los Angeles after three years of bicoastal living with my partner, riKu. I’ve been so lucky to find the perfect job for me – I’m now serving as the Los Angeles Executive Director of Peer Health Exchange (, a national nonprofit that gives teens the knowledge and skills to make healthy decisions. We do this by training college student volunteers to present health workshops in public high schools that lack comprehensive health education, and in which a majority of students are from low-income families. I was especially drawn to this role because our curriculum not only addresses the subjects one might expect in a health class – STI/HIV prevention, pregnancy prevention, nutrition, physical activity, and substance abuse prevention – but also includes workshops on healthy relationships, abusive relationships, rape and sexual assault, and mental health. Our curriculum is bookended by workshops on decision-making and communication skills. Our program truly empowers young people to make informed decisions about what choices are best for them. Moreover, every topic we teach addresses a health risk or challenge that survivors of child sexual assault/abuse are at disproportionate risk of experiencing. I am grateful to be leading a talented team of staff members, and 250 college student volunteers who reach 2,900 ninth grade students across 22 public high schools throughout L.A. County.

In my personal time, I enjoy giving back to my communities as a member of the Liberty Hill Foundation’s OUT Fund (, and Peace Over Violence’s Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Advisory Council (, and as a founding member of South Asians for Justice (

In 2011, I participated in the School for Creative Activism ( and GLAAD’s National People of Color Media Institute (, and have since had the opportunity to publish and perform  essays and poetry on various issues of social injustice that keep me up at night. I co-host and co-produce Flip the Script (, a weekly radio show on Pacifica’s KPFK.

The rest of my time goes to thoroughly enjoying my new life on the west coast, including things the New Yorker in me only dreamed of doing (like raising a puppy, composting for a home garden, hiking every week, and watching the sun set over the mountains). Life is good, and I’m very grateful for all of the support I’ve had to get here!

Secret Survivors Documentarysecret-survivors-poster

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/13/2013

Goldstein_500Andrew Goldstein, M.D., Class of 2011,
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow

After finishing my Reynolds Fellowship year I returned to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine to finish my medical school training.  I continued my work with Tiyatien Health, spending two months in Zwedru, Liberia working on strategic planning, organizational process improvement, and the planning and design stages of a brand new community health worker program to serve “last mile” villages with no access to the existing health infrastructure. This Frontline Health Worker (FHW) program was initiated in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative and the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, among others. I continued working for Tiyatien Health after my return to the United States by recruiting and managing a team to write the first draft training curriculum for the FHW program.

I have learned that many similar organizations and governments find the concept of FHWs appealing, but have been left to create programs de novo, as the field is underdeveloped and fragmented. With this in mind, I founded the FHW Network (, a non-profit start up that crowdsources knowledge of existing FHW programs, research, and tools; and advances the sector by easing communication and collective action.

I have now finished my intern year of internal medicine training at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, with an emphasis on primary care and general internal medicine. While here, I have focused on knowledge management and workflow improvement within our program. I have entered my fifth year as a board member of Princeton AlumniCorps, an alumni-driven effort to engage our alumni community in public interest work.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/11/2013

edwards jose

Jose Edwards, Class of 2006
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
Chilean Congressman, Araucania Region, District 51

Three years after attending the Academy of Achievement, I was elected to Congress, represent Chile’s only minority-majority district. Gaining the hearts of the Mapuche people has proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

For many years, the Mapuche people have not enjoyed equality of access to education, justice, or public benefits. As a result, they make up one of the neediest groups of our society. As a Congressman, I have worked with Mapuche communities and the Chilean government to design public policies that help resolve their challenges in a culturally sensitive way. I have spent a great part of my time addressing issues such as the lack of access to clean water, rural public transportation and economic development.

In Congress, I sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee and chair the Economic Committee. Working in tandem with the executive branch, we have passed legislation that enables Chileans to start a company in a single day, reduced the maximum interest rate that banks and financial institutions are allowed to charge borrowers, and created a new consumer protection division for defending the rights of financial service customers. We are now discussing a bill to protect personal data, and to regulate the relationship between airlines and their passengers. On the Foreign Affairs Committee, I have devoted much of my energy to the Alianza del Pácifico. The member states of this alliance—México, Perú, Colombia and Chile—are achieving a degree of integration that is unprecedented among Latin American countries.

Events in life resemble a chain: one action, thought or deed leads to the next. Volunteer work helped me become a social entrepreneur, co-founding Un Techo para Chile (UTPCh). My years in UTPCh, building emergency shelters, led me to Harvard and the Reynolds Fellowship. Failing to capture the hearts of Harvard’s diverse student body led me to lose an election at the Kennedy School of Government, but gave me valuable insight into the nature of diversity. This experience, together with learning from living examples of success in gatherings such as the International Achievement Summit, were key to winning election in Chile´s most diverse district.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/11/2013


Jill Baumgartner, Ph.D.,
Class of 2006
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Assistant Professor, McGill University

Attending the 2006 Academy of Achievement Summit in Los Angeles was an experience beyond anything I could have imagined — unforgettable sessions on politics, religion and science with world experts and leaders, swapping Peace Corps stories with Chris Matthews, and hitting the dance floor with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I am very grateful to Catherine and Wayne Reynolds for that opportunity.

Since the Summit, I have finished a joint Ph.D. in Population Health and Environment and Resources, and led a project at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, researching the connections between energy, air pollution and climate in China. I am excited to be starting as an Assistant Professor at McGill University this summer, jointly appointed in the Institute for Health and Social Policy and in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health. My research group in global environmental health aims to understand the impact of environmental pollution on human health, and identify interventions to address these problems. I’m privileged to collaborate with incredibly smart and dedicated scientists and practitioners from around the world through a variety of applied research programs. Amidst dissertations and field projects, my husband Brian and I also welcomed our curious and energetic 3-year old daughter, Oriane, into our family.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/10/2013

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Jessica Ann Mason, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, YouTube for Good

Jessica Ann Mason is interested in using technology to alleviate poverty and encourage economic development. She currently works on the YouTube for Good team, developing tools and services for nonprofits, educators, and activists.

Prior to joining YouTube, Jessica worked for a New Zealand based NGO, directing their disaster relief program in Haiti. She also traveled to more than 80 schools and universities across the U.S. to raise awareness and funds for nonprofits working to combat extreme poverty.

Jessica graduated with high honors from New York University with a B.S. in Social Work and a B.A. in History. She was the recipient of numerous scholarships and awards during her time at NYU, including the Catherine B. Reynolds Scholarship in Social Entrepreneurship and the Grand Prize in Ashoka/Youth Venture’s “Be a Changemaker Challenge” for her work with homeless youth. At NYU’s 2010 Commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium, she was invited to give the student commencement address on behalf of all graduating students. She spoke about trying to view the future in terms of value rather than success.

Jessica was recently named a Marshall Scholar; she will move to England in September 2013 to study at the London School of Economics and the Oxford Internet Institute.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/08/2013


David Russell, Class of 2008
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
CEO, Survivors Fund (SURF)

Since participating at the 2008 International Achievement Summit, I have graduated with an MPA from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, New York University, where I was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. I am now Chief Executive of Survivors Fund (SURF), the principal international organization representing and supporting survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. SURF partners with survivors’ organizations in Rwanda to build their capacity to advocate, fundraise, manage, monitor and evaluate programs encompassing healthcare, home building, education and entrepreneurship.

Our principal program, funded by the UK Department for International Development, is supporting AVEGA Agahozo, the association of widows of the genocide. We have developed a model of wraparound support that we are now extending to 15,000 vulnerable women survivors of the genocide, and 50,000 of their dependents, across the Southern, Northern and Western Provinces of Rwanda. This work enables them to secure ownership of their land and property, and to develop viable livelihoods, as well as providing trauma counseling and access to health and education services. We support the survivors’ right to seeks reparations as we approach the twentieth anniversary of the genocide in 2014.

On a personal note, I am also developing new initiatives through the social venture consultancy that I direct, The Social Enterprise. Current projects include: Parenterprise, an early years education pilot in West London; and Pashkes of London, a socially responsible dairy-free iced dessert business. All of this work has been informed by my participation in the Academy of Achievement. I remember, in particular, my namesake Bill Russell telling us that “With opportunity, comes responsibility,” which in my line work, is definitely true. And when I recall the experience of Frank McCourt—that it was after his primary career as an inspiring teacher that he published his first book at 66 years of age—it is a reminder that it is a very much a long game that we play!

Rwanda July 2008Rwanda July 2008

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/05/2013


Maya Leventer-Roberts, M.D., MPH,
Class of 2008
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow

Since participating in the Academy of Achievement, I have completed medical school at Yale, a public health degree at Harvard, and a pediatric residency at Mount Sinai Hospital.  I am now completing a fellowship in Pediatric Environmental Health with both Mount Sinai and the New York City Department of Health. I am studying the impact of the urban environment on the development of pediatric obesity. I have also gotten married and had a son, and am exceedingly grateful for my successes in both my professional career and my family.

Since the Academy, I have stayed in close touch with two awardees, and have been thrilled to see so many participants make the news in such meaningful ways—from Taylor Swift and Joshua Bell to Francis Collins, Benjamin Carson and Barry Scheck. I still have stirring memories of my conversations with Nicholas Kristof, Sally Field, and Khaled Hosseini.

I am continually inspired by the outstanding work of others to keep pushing the frontier in improving the well-being of families and the health of children.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/05/2013


Suba Sivakumaran, Class of 2007
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, United Nations Development Programme

I attended the 2007 Academy of Achievement Summit as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow from the Harvard Kennedy School.

I am now working at the United Nations Development Programme’s Business Call To Action. The Business Call to Action encourages businesses around the world to incorporate inclusive practices in their core activities. As a program specialist in knowledge creation, capacity building and impact measurement, I work with companies ranging from large multinationals to small social enterprises, helping them reach out to those at the bottom of the social pyramid , and to design and refine their initiatives for consistent improvement.

Since graduating from the Kennedy School, I have also produced a documentary film, Enakkum Oru Per (I Too Have A Name), about the impact of the civil war on the women of my native Sri Lanka. This short film was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in 2012.

I continue to enjoy being part of a group of people around the world who are constantly seeking to do things better, and the things I have learned from this community continue to shape the life that I lead.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 03/11/2013


Matthew E. Hanson, Ph.D.,
Class of 1976
Vice President of Business Development, Integrated Medical Systems, Inc.

“I am glad I found this site. I was a student delegate in 1976 and the Golden Plate weekend was a phenomenal motivation: meeting Roger Staubach, Jack LaLanne, Jonas Salk, going to Sea World with Miss Teen America, dancing with Cloris Leachman, having lunch with Col. Sanders, etc. I’ve since worked in the Air Force on the GPS system, Northrop Grumman on the Stealth Bomber, and helped launch a medical device company. I would like to connect with others from 1976 if you’re out there.”

Matt is a corporate executive armed with a doctorate in engineering, an MBA, and military and corporate leadership experience. He helped create, build and launch profitable, distinctive, game-changing solutions in billion-dollar organizations and a high tech small business, including the GPS navigation system, the Stealth Bomber, and advanced medical technology for the White House. With a unique convergence of multi-industry technology transfer, product development, business development, marketing, program management and just plain “people skills”, he creates, inspires and leads teams to launch their own next-generation lucrative award-winning game-changers.

Matt is currently Vice President of Business Development for Integrated Medical Systems, Inc., responsible for marketing and sales, legislative affairs, and investor development. He has led the Company’s efforts to expand international sales, adding distributors in Scandinavia, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. He develops the annual federal, state and local legislative strategy. Matt is also responsible for developing and coordinating clinical evaluations by customers.

Matt’s background, both while in the Air Force and in industry, has spanned engineering, management and business development. Immediately prior to joining Northrop Grumman’s “intrapreneurial” Biomedical Group, Matt was Manager, Advanced Technology in the Washington D.C. Offices of the Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Prior to joining the Northrop Grumman Corporation as a Project Engineer on the B-2 Stealth Bomber program, Matt was Executive Officer for the $2B international Global Positioning System (GPS) Joint Program Office. He retired from the Air Force Reserves at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

His academic background includes a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California as a Northrop Grumman Fellow; as well as an MBA from Chapman University.

He was recognized by the Academy of Achievement as a “Young Leader of Tomorrow”.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 12/14/2012


Ori Allon, Ph.D., Class of 2006
Founder and Executive Chairman, Urban Compass

I was honored to be a student delegate to the 2006 International Summit. I joined over 300 students from all over the world in sunny Los Angeles, California to meet and exchange ideas and experiences with some of the world’s greatest leaders, influencers, scientists, and business people. Being in a room with such talent was inspirational. I left the Summit motivated to contribute my talents to helping improve people’s lives, and equipped with friends and lasting connections, both personal and professional.”

As a doctoral student at the University of New South Wales in Australia, Ori Allon developed the Orion Search Engine. While previous search engines returned pages containing a given keyword, the Orion also returns pages with content that is strongly related to the keyword. Allon’s creation earned praise from Bill Gates, among others, for revolutionizing web searches. Although the University, which controlled the rights to Orion, held talks with Yahoo and MSN, Google clinched the deal, buying exclusive rights to the Orion search algorithm in April 2006. Google also hired Allon. In 2009, Google announced that it had fully incorporated the Orion Search technology and algorithm. In 2010, Allon left Google and became the Founder and CEO of Julpan. In 2011, Julpan was acquired by Twitter.

Allon’s next start-up was Urban Compass (, co-founded by Robert Reffkin, a White House Fellow he met at the 2006 International Achievement Summit in Los Angeles. Allon is the Executive Chairman and Reffkin the CEO of Urban Compass.

Urban Compass aims to help consumers “search better” and explains its business model by saying, “We understand people. We understand technology. We’re building a platform of hyper-local knowledge and information to help people make their most important personal decisions.

Developments in both hardware and software, mostly mobile, have made it possible to collect data, and track what is happening in the real world — we call it the ‘offline world’ — in a way that was not possible in the recent past,” says Allon. “Collecting the information is the first step, but creating a platform that will make this data searchable and relevant, with a real business model, is what we are excited about.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/12/2012

Kate Otto, Class of 2009
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, The World Bank

Since our 2009 Academy of Achievement journey in South Africa, roaming the savannah of Singita and exploring the rich history of Cape Town, two core passions in my life have converged in a way that continues to shape my career in public service: creative application of new technologies, and deep commitment to honoring human relationships.

On the relationship side, I spent 2009-2010 living in Indonesia on a Luce Scholarship, working with a drug rehabilitation and HIV/AIDS center run entirely by recovering addicts and people living with HIV.  Their humility and creative peer support infrastructure taught me many perspective-changing lessons about the importance of patience and deep connection with those we aim to serve.

Soon after, I began working with the World Bank as they began investing in information and communications technology (ICT) for development, specifically ICT for the improvement of health systems.  Supporting the eTransform Africa team, I continue to lead a randomized evaluation of a mobile phone-based data management tool that my team designed for rural health workers to better manage their workflow, see more patients, and save more lives.  My lessons from Indonesia were crucial in realizing that the design of the tech tool would make or break the intervention; even the “coolest” technology matters little (and can even backfire) if the design process has not been participatory and iterative with end-users and supervisors.

This led me to conduct a similar project with Mercy Corps, back in Indonesia, designing a mobile data collection tool for urban midwives. The two programs earned me a place in the recent eBook “Disruptive Women in Healthcare.”  I have also been working as research manager for a behavioral economist at Harvard Business School, assisting with her public health studies in Zambia. I am now preparing to lead a new mobile health initiative in Indonesia with the remarkable folks at Dimagi, and the inspiring organization I began my journey with, Rumah Cemara.

My travels and experiences at the intersection of technology and human relationships led me to launch a website called Everyday Ambassador — and to write a book of the same title — which has gained early support from some of my personal heroes: Dr. Paul Farmer, Irshad Manji, and Susan Davis.  In a June 2012, op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor, and in a January 2012 TEDx talk at the University of North Carolina, I summarized the main message of Everyday Ambassador: ensuring that the best technologies of our world bring us closer together, rather than drawing us farther apart.  I try to bring this issue to light as a contributor to the Huffington Post, and always welcome new ideas for stories.

I will be reaching out to members of the Academy of Achievement community over the next months of book writing, and I look forward to featuring their work and wisdom. Since first meeting members of this community almost three years ago, it has made my life more positive and fulfilling to be aware of, inspired by, and engaged in the work of my peers.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/05/2012

Rita Kathy Ng, M.D., Class of 2000
Chief Cardiology Fellow, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Participating as a delegate at the 2000 International Achievement Summit in London, England was perhaps one of the most meaningful and thoughtful experiences of my life. To be surrounded by such amazing visionaries — past, present, and future — was a gift. I left the summit with a sense of awe, love for the strength of the human spirit, and unbridled hope and knowledge that the future of our world was in very good hands.”

Dr. Rita Ng was born and raised in Tracy, California. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University, earning a degree in Human Biology with Honors. Rita was awarded the Stanford Dinkelspiel Award, given to the top two graduating seniors and was selected by her peers to deliver the commencement speech.

Rita’s interest in international health began at Stanford, where her thesis work focused on health care access in third world countries was awarded the prestigious Firestone Medal; her research work has been published in multiple scientific journals. She earned her medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and completed her residency in internal medicine at UCSF before undertaking a cardiology fellowship at Cedars Sinai Heart Institute in Beverly Hills, California.

Rita further received the distinction of being named Miss California and was second runner-up at the Miss America Pageant in 2001. She was the first Asian-American Miss California in the 80-year history of the pageant. Rita has received numerous national and international accolades — California’s Youth Volunteer of the Year, USA Today named her to its First All-American Academic Team, Glamour Magazine featured her as one of the “Top 10 College Women in America,” and the Chinese World Journal named her as one of the “Ten Most Influential Asian-Americans” of the year. She has appeared in the magazines TIME, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, US Weekly, and many others, and was the featured model for the Procter and Gamble Global Beauty Campaign including Covergirl, Max Factor, and Oil of Olay cosmetics. She serves on numerous boards such as the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Alumni Board and founded the statewide program California Cares for Children and Princess for a Day Foundation. As chair of many philanthropic organizations and a gifted pianist, Rita has traveled extensively around the nation and world giving keynote addresses and piano concerts, helping to raise millions of dollars for her causes around the nation and world.

Having served as Chief Cardiology Fellow at Cedars Sinai, she is now a practicing cardiologist with The Permanente Medical Group, Inc. of Northern California.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/01/2012

Travis LeBlanc, Class of 2003
Special Assistant Attorney General
California Department of Justice

I participated in the 2003 International Achievement Summit where I had the opportunity to interact face-to-face with leaders in academia, business, politics, and the law. I had never seen so many trailblazers in one place, and I could only imagine what my fellow student delegates would do in the future.

Travis LeBlanc is Special Assistant Attorney General of California. In this capacity, he oversees the California Department of Justice’s work on technology, high-tech crime, privacy, antitrust, human trafficking, and health care issues. He also advises California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris on significant appellate and constitutional matters. While at the California Department of Justice, he has worked to establish the office’s first high-tech crime unit, secured a global agreement to improve privacy protections in mobile applications, and testified before the state legislature on pending legislation. He has served as California’s liaison to the National Association of Attorneys General and to the Conference of Western Attorneys General. He established the Attorney General’s Honors Program and the Earl Warren Solicitor General Fellowship to hire entry-level attorneys. Last year, he was appointed by the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to serve as an Appellate Lawyer Representative.

From 2009-2011, he served in the Obama Administration as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, which advises the President, Attorney General, and general counsels of executive branch agencies on the constitutionality and legality of the programs and activities of the United States government. There, he worked on a diverse range of issues from executive privilege to federal health care reform to terrorist financing. He previously worked as an attorney at Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington, D.C. and Keker & Van Nest LLP in San Francisco, where his practice concentrated on white-collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation. From 2004-05, he clerked for the Hon. Stephen Reinhardt on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He has an A.B. from Princeton University, an MPA from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of Cambridge.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/22/2012

Karen Greve Young, Class of 1991
Director of Strategic Initiatives, MaRS

I was in the 1991 student class of the American Academy of Achievement. That was the first of many experiences since, meeting impressive, fascinating and remarkable people who were part of the Academy — either as students or honorees. My husband will forever be jealous that I had dinner at the Metropolitan Museum with George Lucas. My mother was enthralled that her daughter met the inimitable Audrey Hepburn, and horrified that I had the audacity to ask for my picture with her! I met Don Fisher without (then) realizing who he was, and never imagining that six years later I’d be working in corporate strategy at Gap Inc. in San Francisco, surrounded on a daily basis by his spectacular art collection and cultural legacy.

The Academy is where I absorbed for the first time the breadth of paths that achievement can take. This lesson has stood me well in the years since — making the then-bold decision to change from pre-med aspirations to economics at Harvard, taking a corporate path from finance to corporate strategy that led me to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Then, when my mother had terminal ovarian cancer, it contributed to my choice to leave my consulting career in favor of more flexible roles with health, education and women’s charities in San Francisco, London and Toronto. Among these, I was president of the Junior League of London, with programs serving over 3,500 children in need annually, and founder and chair of cancer awareness and fundraising initiatives for the UK’s Institute of Cancer Research. Along the way, I co-authored a book with my mother, Love You So Much: a shared memoir, about our journey with her cancer as mother and daughter, patient and family.

All of these experiences have led me to where I am now: back in the professional realm as Director, Strategic Initiatives at MaRS in the heart of Toronto’s Discovery District. In this role I work with our partners to support entrepreneurs and to accelerate and amplify innovation, creating a brighter and more prosperous future. I continue to be active in supporting and raising awareness for cancer research, particularly those “silent cancers” like ovarian that often progress without obvious symptoms until it is too late. This is my gift to my mother, and to my children who never met her, and to the millions of people who lose their lives to cancer.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/09/2012

Sienna R. Craig, Ph.D., Class of 1991
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Dartmouth College

Last August I returned to California to celebrate my 20th high school reunion. As part of that trip, I spent some hours sifting through boxes of writing, photos, and other memorabilia from that period in my life. Among the high school yearbooks, young adult musings, and drafts of college entrance essays, I found a yellowed notebook that contained the actual program from the 1991 Academy of Achievement event in New York City, along with my notes. This was a treasure — a precious gem of meaning and experience — and a look back at the most remarkable event. Beside Audrey Hepburn’s photograph I’d scrawled “Grace, incarnate.” Beside the photograph of General Norman Schwarzkopf, I wrote notes that reflected my background — a child of California “hippies” who still feels the visceral burdens of a nation so defined by conflict.

Many other memories came flooding back to me as I sat cross-legged on the floor of my father’s home in rural Monterey County, but the most significant were the notes I had written after sitting together at an Academy dinner one evening with Edmund and Sylvia Morris. In a phrase, we clicked. Edmund and I began a correspondence that summer, before I matriculated at Brown. This letter-based relationship blossomed into the most meaningful mentorship I have had in my life, one that extended through my college years and continues to the present. I interned with the Morrisses for two summers, assisting them with their biographies of Ronald Reagan and Clare Booth Luce. Edmund and Sylvia have taught me so much about writing, life, and the writing life. They remain exemplars: people of great integrity, boundless imagination, and insight.

During my years in college, I also developed a love for the people and landscapes of the Himalaya, Nepal and the Tibetan areas of China. After a semester spent in Nepal during my junior year at Brown, I was fortunate to be granted a Fulbright fellowship for further anthropological study in the country. A one-year postgraduate grant led to three years of living in Nepal, where I met a fellow Brown grad Ken Bauer.

In 1999, Ken and I co-founded Drokpa, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting grassroots development and social entrepreneurship in the Himalaya and Tibet. Ken and I married that year, and shortly thereafter, I began a Ph.D. program in cultural and medical anthropology at Cornell, which I completed in 2006. From there, I came to Dartmouth, where I have been an assistant professor for the past six years. Ken and I live in Vermont with Aida Claire, our seven-year-old daughter. Last week I received the wonderful news that I’ve been granted tenure.

My professional work as an anthropologist includes writing and teaching on subjects such as the cross-cultural study of illness and healing, global health issues (with a particular focus on maternal and child health), and the struggles of traditional medical practitioners in Asia to defend and transform their practices in the 21st century.

I’ve published several books and many articles on these and related topics, including my ethnographic memoir, Horses Like Lightning: A Story of Passage through the Himalayas (2008), Medicine Between Science and Religion: Explorations on Tibetan Grounds (2010), and Healing Elements: Efficacy and the Social Ecologies of Tibetan Medicine (forthcoming July 2012). I’ve also published a children’s story, Clear Sky, Red Earth: A Himalayan Story (2004) with the Nepali artist Tenzin Norbu, and a book of poetry Sacred Geography: Sonnets of Tibetan and Himalayan Landscape (2005), with my mother, artist Mary Heebner.

I also serve as the Chair of the Medical Advisory Board of One Heart Worldwide, an organization dedicated to improving the survival of women and children, one birth at a time. I will be returning to Nepal this summer on a National Science Foundation-funded research trip, focusing on women’s reproductive histories and Tibetan adaptation to living at high altitude.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/07/2012

William H. Robinson, Ph.D., Class of 1991
Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, Vanderbilt University

The 1991 Salute to Excellence in New York City was a tremendous opportunity for me to broaden my horizon on what was possible in life. I had never been to New York City, nor stayed anywhere like the Waldorf-Astoria. I cherish the photos I have with Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters and Herschel Walker. I even met a life-long friend, William Packer, who is now a movie producer with his company, Rainforest Films.

William H. Robinson received his B.S. in electrical engineering from the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in 1996, and his M.S. in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in 1998. He received his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Georgia Tech in 2003. In August 2003, Dr. Robinson joined the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Vanderbilt University as an Assistant Professor, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2010. He is the first African American to earn promotion and win tenure in the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering.

Dr. Robinson leads the Security And Fault Tolerance (SAF-T) Research Group at Vanderbilt University, whose mission is to conduct transformational research that addresses the reliability and security of computing systems. He collaborates with both the Institute for Space and Defense Electronics (ISDE) and the Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS) at Vanderbilt University. In addition to his research activities, Dr. Robinson serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for Computer Engineering. He also participates with the Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technology (TRUST), an NSF Science and Technology Center, where he serves as the Outreach Director.

Dr. Robinson’s major honors include selection for a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program Award and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Computer Science Study Panel, both in 2008. Dr. Robinson is a Senior Member of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM); he has additional memberships in the American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE) and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Dr. Robinson is a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and a member of The 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee, Inc. He is married to Yolonda Brooks Robinson. They are expecting their first child in August 2012.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/24/2012

Eric Greitens, Class of 1992 and 1999
Founder and CEO, The Mission Continues

I first went to the Academy of Achievement in 1992, the year I graduated from high school. The weekend was an inspired celebration of excellence, a testament to all of the different ways that people can flourish.

Eric Greitens attended the Academy of Achievement again in 1999, during his time as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University. As part of his doctoral research, he traveled to Rwanda, Cambodia, Albania, Mexico, Israel, India, Bosnia, and Bolivia as a humanitarian volunteer and documentary photographer. Upon earning his Ph.D. in 2000, Eric became a United States Navy SEAL officer and served for ten years. He deployed four times during the Global War on Terrorism — to Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, the Horn of Africa, and Iraq. His military awards include the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star. In 2005, he was appointed by the President to serve as a White House Fellow.

After returning from Iraq in 2007, Eric donated his combat pay to found The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization that challenges veterans to serve and lead in communities across America. His socially innovative work at The Mission Continues has received awards from The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, the Manhattan Institute for Social Entrepreneurship, New Profit, and The Social Venture Network.

A photographer and writer, Eric is the author of two books. Strength and Compassion is a collection of photographs and essays that was recognized as the Grand Prize Winner of the 2009 New York Book Festival. His second book, The Heart & the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL, relates Eric’s story of leadership and service as a humanitarian and a warrior, and was a 2011 New York Times Bestseller. His work has been covered by national media outlets including The Colbert Report, NPR, CNN, NBC Nightly News, Fox, CBS, MSNBC, the TODAY Show, USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.


Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/13/2012

Raga Ramachandran, M.D., Ph.D.,
Class of 1991
Assistant Professor and
Director of Medical Education,
Department of Pathology
University of California, San Francisco

The 20-plus years since the American Academy of Achievement weekend in New York City have been rich with experience for me. I graduated from Stanford University, where the Nobel laureate physicist and Academy member Dr. Richard Taylor regularly hosted the Academy Class of 1991 for barbecues at his home. After graduating with degrees in Biological Sciences, I completed my M.D. and Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania with a research focus on the regeneration of injured muscle. Returning to my home state of California, I completed my residency and fellowship training in Pathology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Pathology is a wonderful clinical field with ample research opportunities. I now am on the UCSF Pathology faculty and am the Director of Medical Education for our department. My clinical focus is on liver and gastrointestinal disease. I am thrilled to work alongside the experienced physicians who taught me how to evaluate biopsies and surgical specimens from patients undergoing medical treatment.

As a physician, I strive to find a balance between clinical practice, teaching, and research, and when I am faced with a complex post-transplant liver biopsy on a busy day, I think about the exemplary work of Dr. Joseph Murray, who spoke to us about kidney transplantation research and his concurrent work in clinical plastic surgery. As an American gearing up for the 2012 election, I remember the national service exemplified by General Norman Schwarzkopf. As a San Franciscan, I smile whenever I see a Gap store, founded locally by Donald Fisher, and when I drive through the Presidio near Lucasfilm headquarters, I wonder what George Lucas will take on for his next project. When I read a Wallace Stegner novel or watch an Audrey Hepburn movie, I think about the creative energy surrounding that weekend in 1991, when the arts, design, sports, and science were celebrated together. On a personal note, both my husband (Joel Moore, a theoretical physicist at UC Berkeley) and sister (Sohini Ramachandran, a population geneticist at Brown University) are Academy of Achievement alumni. Kudos to the Academy for supporting bright young students and leaders in all walks of life!

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/12/2012

James Lee, M.D., Class of 1991
Chief of Endocrine Surgery,
Columbia University Medical Center

Since the wonderful weekend of the Academy of Achievement in 1991, I attended college at Yale University and medical school at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. After a general surgery residency at Columbia University, I did an Endocrine Surgery fellowship at the University of California San Francisco. I’m now back at the Columbia University Medical Center and serve as the Chief of Endocrine Surgery, Co-Director of the New York Thyroid-Parathyroid Center, and Co-Director of the Adrenal Center.

In addition to my clinical practice taking care of patients with thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, and pancreatic diseases, I’ve had the great fortune of working on a number of educational projects aimed at making medical training more efficient and ultimately safer for patients by shifting the current training paradigm from one of on-the-job training to one of pretraining — i.e. allowing trainees to practice their skills and craft prior to interacting with patients. Early in my career I created a multimedia online educational platform called COACH. COACH is the Wikipedia for medicine but with oversight. COACH combines the power of community-authored work with the safety of expert review to create a knowledebase that evolves with the needs for the user-community. This knowledgebase then forms the basis for a system of cognitive pretraining that allows trainees to learn everything they need to know about a disease or procedure ahead of time. COACH is currently used in over 95 percent of general surgery training programs in the United States. I also serve as the Associate Medical Director of the Simulation Center of Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital. The goal of the Simulation Center is to allow nurses, residents, medical students, and seasoned physicians a simulated physical environment in which to practice and perfect the art of medicine. Combined, COACH and simulation allow the trainee to first learn the relevant information and then practice a skill in a safe, conducive learning environment prior to treating patients.

I will always be grateful to the Academy of Achievement for all of the opportunities they afforded to us. My first post high school job at the FBI came as a result of contacts I made that weekend. I met two of my very good friends over late, late night discussions that weekend. Perhaps the most valuable thing I came away with was that talent, while critical, is a small part of success. Whether it was Norman Schwarzkopf or Clyde Tombaugh, or Herschel Walker, almost all of the luminaries stressed that success is not easy, it requires a dogged work ethic and dedication. This lesson more than any other has shaped my life.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/11/2012

Joshua Feltman, Class of 1991
Partner, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

When the Summit broke up Sunday morning, my parents met me at the Waldorf in New York and we went for a gospel brunch at the then-new-and-hip soul food restaurant Lola. In 1991, Oprah Winfrey was certainly famous and beloved — enough to be a keynote speaker at that year’s Summit — but she had not yet attained her current goddess-like status In any event, there she was at brunch a few tables over with a group of people. Figuring I had something of an “in,” I walked up to her to say hello. As soon as she saw the Academy yearbook I was carrying, she lit up and talked to me for several minutes about the Summit. I still have the yearbook in which she inscribed: Joshua, I will never forget the wonderful weekend we had together. Love, Oprah.

After attending the Achievement Summit in the spring of 1991, Joshua Feltman attended Harvard College, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in Social Studies and winning the college’s Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship, good for a year of post-graduate study at Cambridge University. After graduating from Cambridge with an M.Phil. in Development Studies in 1996, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as a consultant and regulatory economist with Price Waterhouse and National Economic Research Associates. In 1999 he enrolled at Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the law review, graduating magna cum laude in 2002.

Since 2002, Josh has been an associate, and now a partner, at the New York law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where he specializes in corporate finance and bankruptcy. The simultaneous highs and lows of his career include working on some of the more notable transactions arising from the 2008 financial crisis, including the acquisition of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan, and the acquisition of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by the United States Treasury. Josh lives in Manhattan with his wife Vicky and son George (11 months as of this writing).

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 04/04/2012

Ross P. Meyer, Class of 2005
Executive Director,
Partners for a Competitive Workforce

I was deeply honored to be a student delegate at the 2005 International Achievement Summit in New York City. Without a doubt, the Summit was one of the most inspirational experiences of my life. I was particularly stirred by the selfless work of public servants from around the world: from President Clinton’s impassioned speech on optimism and hope, to Paul Rusesabagina’s heroic story of struggle and courage. I was especially moved by the performance of Wynton Marsalis at Jazz at Lincoln Center and was awed to find myself dancing next to Colin Powell while listening to BB King, Wynonna Judd, and John Fogerty at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Most memorable, however, were the unscheduled, informal experiences interacting with accomplished people from around the world: from discussing the art of Van Gogh with George Lucas, or exploring current politics until one o’clock in the morning with Ralph Nader and Sam Donaldson, to hearing the childhood stories of Tim Russert and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. These personal interactions were both inspiring and empowering — they allowed me to see the human side of these extraordinary individuals.

Ross Meyer is now serving as the first Executive Director of Partners for a Competitive Workforce (PCW). A regional partnership managed by United Way of Greater Cincinnati, PCW mobilizes the forces of philanthropy, government, business, education, and local community organizations, developing the skills of the workforce to match the needs of employers in the tri-state region spanning Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Since 2008, PCW has leveraged over $25 million in public and private funds to help more than 4,800 individuals acquire the skills most in demand in today’s economy. A native of Cincinnati, Mr. Meyer spent two years in New York City where he worked in the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, conducting policy analysis and research for the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding. While in New York, he helped develop the city’s Office of Financial Empowerment, and worked for Enterprise Community Partners, assisting the finance of “green building” initiatives. He also advised the City of Miami’s Department of Economic Development on the creation of a Workforce Housing Fund. Before moving to New York, Meyer spent eight years working with human service and community development organizations in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine community. A Harry S. Truman Scholar, Ross Meyer earned his Bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Miami University of Ohio, and his Master of Public Administration degree from New York University, where he was a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 03/26/2012

Shaz Ansari, Ph.D., Class of 2003
University Lecturer, Cambridge University

I was absolutely thrilled to be selected to attend the 42nd Annual International Achievement Summit in Washington, D.C. It was a life-changing experience and I have amazing memories of meeting and interacting with extraordinary leaders at the Summit. It gave me a tremendous boost in confidence and played a very important role in advancing my career.

I am currently a University Lecturer in Strategy at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, and Visiting Assistant Professor at the Rotterdam School of Management of Erasmus University in the Netherlands. I am a member of the editorial boards of Organization Science, Journal of Management Studies and Organization Studies, and a High Performing member of the Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM).

My research interests include institutional processes, technological and management innovations, value creation and new market development, bottom-of-the-pyramid strategies, knowledge management, outsourcing and off-shoring. I have published in several leading academic journals including Academy of Management Review, Organization Science, Journal of Management Studies, Strategic Organization, Advances in Strategic Management, Research Policy and Organization Studies.

My area of expertise in executive education includes strategic management, technological and business model innovation, corporate social responsibility and triple bottom line. I have delivered executive education programs for various private and public organizations, including Shell, British Telecom, Nokia, Laing O’Rourke, UNICEF, Essex County Council, City & Guilds, China Development Bank, Shanghai University of Finance and Education, Ahmedabad University, Kuala Lumpur Education City, and the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 03/13/2012

Benjamin Allen, Class of 1996
President, Board of Education, Santa Monica, California

Ben Allen was a high school senior when he attended the Academy’s 1996 Salute to Excellence in Sun Valley, Idaho as a student honor delegate. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and completed an M.Phil. in Latin American Studies at Cambridge University in the UK.

After Harvard and Cambridge, he worked for the International Affairs’ Latin American/Caribbean team of the National Democratic Institute in Washington, D.C. and served as Communications Director for Congressman Jose Serrano of New York. While studying law at U.C. Berkeley, Ben was the student member of the University of California’s Board of Regents, and traveled to Africa to serve as also as a judicial clerk with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. After law school, he ran for School Board in his hometown of Santa Monica/Malibu. The top vote getter in the 2008 elections, he now serves as President of the Board; he may be the youngest board president in the history of the district. Ben has worked as a litigator for the firm of Bryan Cave LLP, and led the successful launch of the Spark Program in Los Angeles, a non-profit program that arranges life-changing apprenticeships for at-risk students in over 200 middle schools annually in the Los Angeles area. In addition to his school board service, Ben is teaches educational law and policy at UCLA Law School, and is Of Counsel at the law firm of Richardson and Patel.

Fluent in Spanish, Ben is active with Humanity in Action, the American Council of Young Political Leaders, and the Young Elected Officials Network. He is a board member of the Social Justice Learning Institute, Spark Los Angeles, and the Santa Monica Democratic Club.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/13/2012

The Honorable James J. Edelman, Class of 2000
Justice, Supreme Court of Western Australia

I attended the International Achievement Summit in London as a Rhodes Scholar in October 2000. Other attendees included Sergey Brin and Larry Page who had recently started a small company they called Google. The speakers included Bertie Ahern, Benazir Bhutto, Lech Walesa and Mikhail Gorbachev. At the time I was a doctoral student in law at Oxford. I completed my doctorate in early 2001 and returned to my home state, Western Australia, to practice law. In 2005, I took up a position as a Fellow and Tutor in law at Keble College and lecturer at the University of Oxford. Due to geographical restrictions, my practice in Australia was limited to only a few cases a year, although from 2008 I practiced full-time at the bar in England whilst teaching as Professor of the Law of Obligations at the University of Oxford. In my academic work, I have published and edited books on damages, interest awards, equity, unjust enrichment, and torts. In July 2011, I returned to Western Australia to accept a commission as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia. My position, and caseload, now limits to a degree my involvement in academic debate and the academic development of the law, but I still write and present at and attend conferences wherever possible and I remain involved with a number of charitable foundations. I was also elected to the American Law Institute on Australia Day this year, January 26, 2012.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/13/2012

Vianei Lopez Braun, Class of 1985
Partner, Buck Keenan LLP

I was a bit of a child prodigy and had just turned 16 when I attended the 1985 Salute to Excellence program in Denver, Colorado. I remember listening to inspiring remarks by Chuck Yeager and being persuaded by a compatriot to go talk to General Yeager afterwards. He was charming and friendly; I was awestruck and quite literally unable to speak. I like to think my social skills have improved since then.

I was Princeton University’s youngest female graduate when I received my psychology degree at age 19. I received my law degree from the University of Texas at age 22, and have been practicing labor and employment law ever since, currently with Buck Keenan LLP in my hometown of Houston. I enjoy the challenge of helping my clients navigate complicated personnel and regulatory issues, and defending them in litigation and arbitration.

I am a frequent author and speaker on employment law issues, and on one other issue as well: wine. From 1999-2009 I wrote a weekly wine column for two Texas newspapers.

I like to stay involved in the community, and currently serve on the Board of Directors of Goodwill Industries of Houston. I have been fortunate to receive some awards, including the Young Distinguished Alumna Award from The Kinkaid School in 1997, a Presidential Citation for Service from the State Bar of Texas in 2004, and Texas Monthly‘s “Super Lawyer” recognition every year since 2003. Much credit goes to my wonderful parents, David and Romelia Lopez, and to my loving husband Jason Braun.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/13/2012

David Adams, Ph.D., Class of 2002
Group Leader,
Experimental Cancer Genetics Group,
 Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

It’s been an amazing ten years since those magical days at the International Achievement Summit in Dublin, Ireland. I left for Dublin within months of arriving at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, a world-leading center dedicated to the analysis of genomes, having only just completed my Ph.D. at Sydney University in Australia. The meeting in Dublin was surreal. I remember on the first night sitting down next to delegates from Harvard and MIT, with Francis Collins — a leader of the human genome project — to my left, and the Nobel Laureate Jim Watson — who resolved the structure of the DNA helix — to my right. On returning to Cambridge, I really struggled to convince others that this had indeed happened. I also have fond memories of drinking red wine with Sir Paul Nurse, whose fundamental discoveries include the identification of key elements of the cell cycle, which is critically important for development and cancer. Listening to Bill Clinton and Hamid Karzai at a time when the war in Afghanistan was at its height is something that will always stay with me, as will meeting Bono from U2.

Since the Summit I have joined the Faculty of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, where I lead the Experimental Cancer Genetics group, which aims to identify genes that, when mutated, contribute to cancer development. I also lead the Mouse Genomes Project and the Mouse Genetics Project, large international efforts that use genetically engineered mice to understand how genes contribute to disease. My life now couldn’t be more different from my upbringing in rural Australia, and I am fortunate to travel the world talking about my research and contributing to the fight against cancer. I have also become a father, and this keeps me grounded and very busy. The message I took away from the meeting in Dublin was to be relentless about chasing your dreams, something I have lived by ever since.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/13/2012

Barbara Quintiliani, Class of 2003
Operatic Soprano

2003 was a pivotal year in my career. I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Domingo-Cafritz young artist program at the Washington National Opera. To add icing to that cake, I made my operatic debut alongside Plácido Domingo — one of my childhood heroes — as Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo. I was also asked to participate in the International Summit of the Academy of Achievement, an organization I had never heard of before. Well, I was not only impressed but overwhelmed by the experience. I was inspired by the extraordinary people I met and spoke with. It certainly made me want to be the best that I could be.

Since the Summit in 2003, so much has happened. There have been unbelievable highs and unimaginable lows. The highs include being the first American in 25 years to win first prize at the International Francisco Viñas Competition in Barcelona, Spain. I also received the Audience Choice award and a special prize for the performance of works by Giuseppe Verdi. Shortly thereafter, I made my European debut at Barcelona’s Gran Teatro del Liceu. I also had the great good fortune to appear, to great critical acclaim, at the Wexford Festival in Ireland.

Then came the lows. For a very long time I had experienced mysterious sensations and bouts of uncontrollable fatigue. I had been to several physicians over the years, and these symptoms were always attributed to a virus, or to my exhausting schedule. I was singing some Bach cantatas in Boston when the unthinkable happened. I lost all feeling in the right side of my body. I thought it was a stroke. After days of testing, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in early 2007. Unable to walk, or do much of anything for myself, I was sent to a rehab facility, where the neurologists told me I would probably need a wheelchair for the rest of my life. If they were right, it would mean the end of my singing career.

I fought back, from the chair, to a walker, to a cane, and now I stand proudly on my own two feet. I fight this disease every day and it would be easy to give up. I could give in to the pain, the fatigue, and the fear — or I can get up and sing. I choose to sing. Every time I step on stage I may not be winning the war, but I am winning the battle.

My sincerest thanks for allowing me to participate in this wonderful project.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/13/2012

Michael Bronstein, Class of 2003
Assistant Professor,
University of Lugano, Switzerland
Research Scientist, Intel Inc.

It has been nearly a decade since I attended the International Achievement Summit in Washington, D.C. in 2003. At that time, I was a graduate student in computer science at the Technion Institute in Israel, working on computational methods for 3D shape analysis. I have magical and almost surreal memories of the Summit, in particular of meeting and talking to people who usually appear in newspapers or television. Afterwards, it took some effort to persuade my friends it had really happened. I met many interesting people in Washington, with many of whom I still keep in touch.

I received my Ph.D. in 2007 and had to choose between an industrial career or an academic one. Some claimed these roads were divergent, but unlike the character in the Robert Frost poem, I tried to take both of them, spending three years in the United States as a technology executive at a Silicon Valley start-up, and as a visiting lecturer at Stanford. In 2010, I joined the newly established Institute of Computational Science at the University of Lugano, Switzerland as an assistant professor, where I am continuing my work on geometric and visual computing.

In the ten years that have passed since the Summit, this field has dramatically changed. What seemed wild scientific dreams in 2003 have now become commercially available technologies that promise to revolutionize the way we interact with computers. I am happy and proud to have had an active part in this development, both scientifically and commercially. The 3D acquisition technology I developed at Technion during my graduate studies was licensed by the Israeli start-up Invision in 2009. The company was acquired by Intel in 2012 in a transaction that was an exceptional success, even in a world of start-ups that has seen many dreams come true. As a result, I joined Intel as a scientific advisor, where I have the luck and privilege to work with among the smartest people on earth.

In the years that have passed since the invitation to the Academy, I have moved across three continents, had sleepless nights, seen some successes but even more failures, and had a lot of fun. Perhaps my most important achievement is that Gabriella, the person who accompanied me patiently and devotedly down the sometimes thorny path of the last decade, has become my wife.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/13/2012

The Honorable Gareth Richard Morgan,
Class of 2002
Member of Parliament,
Republic of South Africa

The 2002 Summit offered me the opportunity to engage with many fascinating people. The panel discussion between Bill Clinton and Bono was a highlight.

Following my completion of an M.Sc. in Environmental Change at Oxford University in September 2003, I returned to South Africa, and in the April 2004 elections was elected as a Member of Parliament for the Democratic Alliance. During my first 18 months in Parliament I served as the Parliamentary Counselor to the Leader of the Opposition. Thereafter I served as the official opposition spokesperson on health, before becoming the spokesperson on environmental affairs. Following my re-election to Parliament in April 2009 I became the Shadow Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/05/2012

Mitzi I. Kuroda, Ph.D., Class of 1977
Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School

I remember the invitation to the 1977 Salute to Excellence came out of the blue. I was just a high school student from a small college town: Fayetteville, Arkansas. I remember sitting near the actress Cloris Leachman at the banquet, and being inspired by her outspokenness. At that point I had no idea what I would do with my life, and it was exciting and informative to meet high achievers from a broad spectrum of careers. In college at Tulane, and graduate school at Stanford, I found a love for scientific discovery, particularly in the fast moving fields of molecular biology and genetics. Since then, I have headed research labs at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and at Harvard Medical School.

I am currently a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital. My group works on a very basic research question, using fruit fly genetics and genomics to ask how genes and chromosomes are regulated.

I am very impressed with the work of the Academy of Achievement and am grateful for the opportunities offered to so many talented young people.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/04/2012

Audri Mukhopadhyay, Class of 2002
Consul General of Canada, Ho Chi Minh City,
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

From the perspective of a student delegate, the 2002 International Achievement Summit in Dublin was a memorable experience. Outside of the formal sessions, world leaders graciously engaged in banter with graduate students, creating an enjoyable and humorous atmosphere.

Audri Mukhopadhyay is the Consul General of Canada in Ho Chi Minh City, Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Previously, Audri was Director of South Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania Commercial Relations at Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). He has also served as DFAIT’s Director of Strategic Initiatives. Prior to joining DFAIT, Audri served as the Canadian government’s representative to ICANN, the international organization responsible for critical Internet infrastructure. Audri has also worked with the Canadian Department of Finance and in the private sector in Silicon Valley.

A Rhodes Scholar, Audri earned two degrees from Oxford University: an MBA and an M.Phil. in Economics. He also holds a B.A. in Economics from Dalhousie University. Audri has received the Award of Excellence from Public Service of Canada.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/03/2012

Aslı Ü. Bâli, Ph.D., Class of 1999
Assistant Professor, UCLA School of Law

I remember well waiting for my flight to Budapest in June of 1999 to attend the International Achievement Summit. The event was to coincide with a NATO international workshop on the subject of the Kosovo intervention, which had just concluded earlier that spring. I was in the midst of studying for the New York bar examination, having just completed a joint J.D. and MPA degree at the Yale Law School and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. I was nervous about the bar exam and kept asking myself how I could afford to join this trip to Hungary in the midst of exam preparation, but then I would tell myself there was no way to decline this opportunity.

I was right. In the end, I passed the bar after attending one of the most fascinating conferences I had seen to date, including a presentation by General Wesley Clark, who had served as the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe for NATO during the conflict in Kosovo. General Clark made an impression I would not soon forget and was the highlight of my experience of the Summit. Happily it was not to be the last time our paths would cross.

After my participation in the Summit, and having passed the New York bar, I went on to practice law in the sovereign group of a major Wall Street law firm in both New York and Paris. While I found my practice extremely rewarding, it was the pro bono opportunities I was able to explore — including an assignment with the United Nations, representing detainees — that most inspired me. As a result of this experience, I returned to Princeton to pursue a Ph.D. in Politics.

The next six years went by in a blur of leaves of absence from the firm to complete doctoral coursework, followed by leaves of absence from the Ph.D. program to return to legal practice. Upon completion of my degree, I was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship from the Yale Law School, and from there I joined the faculty of the UCLA School of Law.

I am currently an assistant professor at UCLA Law, where I teach three courses: Public International Law, International Human Rights, and the Laws of War. My research interests are quite diverse, including the intersection of international law and international relations around peace and security issues, arms control and nuclear nonproliferation, and human rights. I also have published in the fields of comparative law of the Middle East, immigration law and critical race theory.

Since joining the faculty at UCLA Law I have had the pleasure of encountering Wesley Clark, who now sits on the board of the UCLA Burkle Center. Indeed, General Clark was generous enough to give me the opportunity join him in a public debate at UCLA in April of 2011. I had the privilege of debating the merits of humanitarian intervention in Libya — drawing on the precedent of the Kosovo conflict — with General Clark, before a large audience of UCLA undergraduate and graduate students and the law school community.

At the end of our debate, I could not resist mentioning that I had first heard General Clark speak at the International Achievement Summit. It has been a long and exciting journey since that trip to Budapest in 1999, but I remain grateful for that opportunity to attend the NATO workshop, as I was first embarking on a career very much concerned with issues of international law and intervention.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/20/2012

Wendi Adelson, J.D. M.Phil., Class of 2002
Florida State University College of Law

Ten years later, I still have vibrant and fantastic memories of the 2002 International Achievement Summit in Dublin. After that incredible experience, I completed an M.Phil. degree in International Relations at the University of Cambridge on a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. I had the opportunity during my studies to work in Uganda on issues impacting asylum seekers and refugees. Fueled by my interest in human migration, I pursued a law degree to become an effective advocate for immigrants in the United States. After law school I worked as a staff attorney at the Children and Youth Law Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law, creating the State of Florida’s manual for representing unaccompanied immigrant children in juvenile and immigration court. For the following four years, I directed a Human Rights and Immigration Law Project at Florida State University College of Law, taught courses at the law school, and represented asylum seekers, immigrant victims of violent crimes, and victims of human trafficking.

After listening to my clients’ stories of abuse and triumph, immobility and moving on, I decided to write a novel about their experiences with human trafficking to share their stories with a larger audience. In 2011, I published This is Our Story. Below is some more information about the book.

See: This Is Our Story on Amazon.

See: This is Our Story on YouTube.

Currently, I am a clinical professor at Florida State College of Law where I direct a Medical Legal Partnership that equips law students with the skills to become effective advocates for the impoverished while securing access to disability benefits and immigration status for patients at a local neighborhood health clinic. In my free time, I try to keep up with my one and two year old sons, Benjamin and Lincoln Jonah. As far away as Dublin and sharing a toast with James Earl Jones feels at the moment, my gratitude to the Reynolds family endures, for making that incredible experience possible.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/20/2012

John Nagl, Ph.D., Class of 2002
Minerva Distinguished Research Professor, United States Naval Academy

At the International Achievement Summit in London, I met a number of people who have since become friends — and served at the highest levels in the American government, in corporate America, and in the academy. Their friendship and service have been a source of continuing joy and inspiration.

A Distinguished Graduate of the United States Military Academy Class of 1988, John Nagl served as an armor officer in the U.S. Army for 20 years. His last military assignment was as commander of the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor at Fort Riley, Kansas, training Transition Teams that embed with Iraqi and Afghan units. He led a tank platoon in Operation Desert Storm and served as the operations officer of a tank battalion task force in Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning the Combat Action Badge and the Bronze Star. Nagl taught national security studies at West Point’s Department of Social Sciences from 1997 until 2000, when he participated in the 2000 International Achievement Summit in London. He earned his Master of the Military Arts and Sciences Degree from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, where he received the George C. Marshall Award as the top graduate, and his doctorate from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

Dr. Nagl is currently the Minerva Distinguished Research Professor at the US Naval Academy and the past president of the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam and was a member of the writing team that produced the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. His writings have also been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Policy, among others. He has been profiled in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times Magazine and has appeared as a guest on National Public Radio, The PBS News Hour, 60 Minutes, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/17/2012

Séverine Autesserre, Class of 2000
Assistant Professor, Barnard College, Columbia University

It has now been almost 12 years since I attended the International Achievement Summit in London. At that time, I was working for a humanitarian organization in Kosovo. I vividly remember being asked unexpectedly at breakfast to participate in a panel on Kosovo that would take place a few hours later, with General Wesley Clark, the President of Latvia, and a few other dignitaries. I still can’t understand how, as a shy 20-something-year-old speaking in public for one of the first times in my life, I found the nerve to actually say a few things during this panel — and disagree with all the impressive people lined up on the stage. Little did I know that this pattern would characterize the next 12 years of my life. Since the day of this panel, I have had the chance to meet with a number of people I profoundly respect  — although few were as high-profile as those on the panel  — and have regularly ended up challenging their analyses.

I remained involved with aid organizations throughout my doctoral studies, traveling to Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo for Doctors Without Borders. I only left the humanitarian world for good a few years ago, when I started my post-doctoral studies at Yale University. I am now an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. I specialize in international relations and African studies, and conduct research on civil wars, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, and African politics.

I recently finished a long research project focused on local violence and international intervention in the eastern Congo, where I have traveled regularly in the past ten years. This project resulted in a series of articles and culminated in a book, entitled The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding. Academics and policy makers usually explain the conflict in Congo as the result of national and international tensions, and they attribute the failure of the international peacebuilding efforts to material constraints and vested interests. In my book, I suggest an alternate analysis of violence in Congo — one focused on grassroots rivalries over land, resources, and political power. I also develop a different analysis of the reasons behind the international failure to help Congo build peace and democracy: I argue that a dominant peacebuilding culture shaped the intervention strategy in a way that precluded action on local conflicts, ultimately dooming the international efforts. This argument won the 2012 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order and the 2011 Chadwick Alger Prize, presented by the International Studies Association to the best book on international organizations and multilateralism.

My current research project examines how various shared cultures and practices influence peacebuilding interventions on the ground. I have conducted extensive fieldwork for this project in 2010-2011, with a primary case study on eastern Congo and comparative research on South Sudan, Burundi, and Cyprus; I am planning to carry out research in Timor-Leste and in Israel/Palestine in 2012. Findings from this project have appeared in Critique Internationale and African Affair. I am now at work on a book manuscript tentatively titled Peaceland: An Ethnography of International Intervention. I am still analyzing my data, but my hope is that the book will offer a new way to think about international peace interventions, and suggest more effective ways to build peace in conflict and post-conflict environments.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/17/2012

Xenia Dormandy, Class of 2000
Senior Fellow, Chatham House, the Royal Institute for International Affairs

“I was a member of the Academy’s Class of 2000; a decade later, my career has gone in directions I would never have thought possible.  Since then, I have crossed paths with other classmates from that year in ways that have been both professionally helpful and, often, enormously enjoyable.

After leaving Harvard’s Kennedy School, I joined the State Department as a Presidential Management Fellow.  Arriving just after 9/11, I soon found myself detailed to the Office of the Vice President, helping to set up his Homeland Security Office.  Over the next two years or so I rotated back to State to do a mix of nonproliferation, homeland security and South Asia work, and in 2004, I was detailed to the National Security Council as Director for South Asia.

Realizing that I now had, arguably, the best job in government, I knew that I would have to look elsewhere for the next challenge, and in late 2005 I became the Executive Director of Harvard’s Belfer Center and subsequently launched a new project there on India and the Subcontinent.  It was here that I started to cross paths with fellow Academy classmates with whom I had initially lost touch.  In 2009, I was given the enormous opportunity to launch a new peace-building foundation in Switzerland called PeaceNexus, where more old friends from the Class of 2000 appeared.  Last year, I returned to London to launch a new project at Chatham House on America’s international role in the world.

I came away from my Academy weekend in London with a number of good friends; people who are now peppered around the globe in jobs ranging from senior levels of the corporate sector (Bill Berrien, John Bartlett) to policy and politics (Neal Higgins, John Nagl).  While my classmates are perhaps the most memorable, other events also stand out: a black-tie late night discussion over cigars and brandy, speeches from Jeremy Irons and Salman Rushdie, and a bus journey in conversation with Zahi Hawass.  In the past ten years, I have crossed paths with many other Academy alumni, including those from other years.  If I have one regret, it is that I have not enjoyed the company of more.”

A graduate of Oxford University and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Xenia Dormandy worked for UNICEF in New York before joining the U.S. State Department. From 2005 to 2009, Ms. Dormandy was Director of the Project on India and the Subcontinent and the Executive Director for Research at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. In 2009, she became the first Executive Director of the PeaceNexus Foundation. Her articles and op ed pieces have appeared in The Washington Post, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor and International Herald Tribune; she has been interviewed on numerous radio and television programs, including those of NPR, CNN, Fox News, Al Jazeera and BBC World, as well as those of the PBS News Hour.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/11/2012

Samuel Sia, Ph.D., Class of 2002
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University

Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, my participation at the International Achievement Summit in Dublin in 2002 was a life-changing event. It came at a time when I was finishing my Ph.D. in biophysics and reflecting on how I should use my skills as a scientist to try to improve the world. The career choices were typically binary: continue to do basic research, which could produce discoveries with immensely broad impact but might not trickle down to improving lives for decades; or leave research altogether and pursue an alternative career. Attending the Summit, combined with time I spent in West Africa a year before, crystallized for me the possibility to engage science in a creative manner in order to tackle some of the most pressing health issues of our time.

The Summit itself was spectacular — and wholly impossible to describe to those who were not present. I had a chance to talk (briefly) about the South African AIDS crisis with President Bill Clinton, the state of American politics with Ralph Nader, and the past and future of science (at considerable length) with Dr. James D. Watson. At the end of the meeting, I asked Marvin Minsky who his favorite speaker was, and he mentioned Bono, who poetically urged the student delegates to use their talents for the better good of the world. It became clear to me that while it was a less traveled path, there was no rule barring the mixing of academic research with a focus on producing immediate impact on society. In fact, there may be no more scaleable way to improve the world than development of transformative technologies.

After the Summit, I switched fields to biomedical engineering, an emerging and exciting field of research at the intersection of medicine and technology. I joined the faculty of Columbia University in New York City in 2005. Since that time, my lab has focused on developing low-cost, handheld diagnostic systems that can be used in sub-Saharan Africa as well as in Western countries. We are also developing new implantable devices with unprecedented functions. While the last decade in technology has been dominated by developments in the Internet and social media, my goal is to help bring that same level of excitement to medical devices and technologies.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/10/2012

Friedrich Frischknecht, Ph.D., Class of 2000
University of Heidelberg Medical School

The 2000 Academy International Achievement Summit in London was an incredible experience for too many reasons to list. I shared a room with Sergey Brin, who enjoyed answering my now-embarrassing question as to the nature of Google, not quite as ubiquitous then as it is now. We took pictures of each other wearing tuxedos — a first for both of us — for the big evening event at an impressive royal castle.

Earlier in 2000 I graduated, after completing a research project at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany on the biochemistry of how poxviruses spread from one cell to another. After the Summit, and an extended vacation in Peru, I moved to Paris for postdoctoral research at the Pasteur Institute on how malaria parasites move.

While Google was reinventing the use of the Internet, I spent my first year mainly producing work for the trash bin, but then I hit a lucky streak and found the right technologies to tackle this parasite. Using rather simple microscopy techniques, we showed how the malaria parasite is transmitted from the mosquito to the vertebrate host.

After three years, I won a prestigious German government grant to return to Heidelberg, this time in the University’s department of infectious diseases. There, after a number of more grants, including the prestigious European Research Council starting grant, my lab is still investigating how malaria parasites manage to move more rapidly than any cell can defend us from them.

Together with our colleagues from the chemistry and physics department, we enjoy conducting interdisciplinary research projects that combine our different fields of expertise, as well as training excellent young researchers for the challenges they will face in academia or industry.

My lab is also part of a large European network of malaria researchers who exchange new ideas and findings regularly. Together with friends from Paris, one of whom is now working in Pretoria, we organize regular microscopy workshops in South Africa with the aim of fostering frontier science and bringing African students in contact with state-of-the-art technology. The last of these courses brought us a visit from the African Leadership Academy, an institution that is training the next generation of Africa’s leaders. I look forward to more such interactions; it is my belief that by training the next generation we contribute to changing the world into a better place for all.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/05/2012

Sarel Fleishman, Ph.D., Class of 2002
Assistant Professor, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel

The 2002 International Achievement Summit in Dublin, Ireland, was an extraordinary experience for me. At the time, I was starting my graduate work in Biochemistry and the opportunity to personally meet such accomplished people, as well as budding academics and public servants, was truly inspiring. I vividly remember how, at the close of the Summit, Catherine Reynolds encouraged each of the international students to “go back to their countries of origin, and make a difference.” Having met, listened, and interacted that week with people, who really have made a huge difference, such as Henry Kissinger, James Watson and David Trimble, as well as with gifted students, who have undoubtedly been incredibly successful since the Summit, endowed Mrs. Reynolds’s statement with profound meaning.

My graduate work centered on computational modeling of membrane proteins. The goal of my research was to model the molecular structures of membrane proteins using the limited available information and to explain how they function, most crucially in disease. Based on these molecular structures I suggested models for the activity of these proteins and for their involvement in diseases such as certain types of cancer. Exciting recent results by other labs have shown that some of the central aspects of these models are indeed validated by experiment. For these studies I had been awarded the Science Magazine and GE Healthcare Award for Young Life Scientists.

When I completed my graduate work I had become attracted to the field of de novo protein design. In de novo design new proteins that don’t exist in nature are generated with the aid of computational methods to carry out a desired molecular task. In principle, being able to design proteins for any required task could have huge implications for our ability to study the molecular aspects of a wide range of life processes, and crucially to control many forms of disease. During my postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington, I developed the first method to reproducibly generate proteins that bind a target molecular surface, and used this method to design proteins that bind an influenza surface protein at a site that is crucial for viral infectivity (see illustration). This site is so important that it is virtually fully conserved among viral strains as different as Spanish, avian, and Asian flu (H1N1, H5N1, and H2N2, respectively), some of the most virulent and threatening viruses known to man. These proteins are now being investigated as potential therapeutics and diagnostics against a wide range of flu strains.

I have very recently taken a position as Assistant Professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. One of the focuses of my newly formed research group is studying the features that endow immune system antibodies with the amazing ability to recognize and often disable a bewildering range of pathogens. We are hoping that by understanding the design principles that underpin these capabilities, we will be able to design new proteins that could one day be used to diagnose and fight disease.

At the end of the 2002 Summit, my girlfriend Dana joined me and we took the opportunity to hike in the beautiful Irish countryside at the exciting time when Ireland was playing in the World Cup. Dana and I have since married, and we now live in Rehovot, Israel, with our three young children, Ariel, Aviv, and Myron, and our dog Tuka.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/04/2012

Christopher B. Howard, Ph.D., Class of 2002
President, Hampden-Sydney College, Virginia

The International Achievement Summit experience served as a springboard, catapulting me into the world of doers, makers, movers and shakers. I had never been surrounded by so many talented individuals at a single event in my life and was bowled over by the hospitable, generous and thoughtful nature of all the attendees, including my counterparts and the marquee attendees. I vividly recall conversations with actor Jeremy Irons at breakfast, followed by a word or two with Dr. Ben Carson. Then it was off to hear Benazir Bhutto, Mikhail Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger and Hamid Karzai while sitting next to author Frank McCourt. Did I mention my conversations with opera singer Kathleen Battle and activist Ralph Nader on the bus ride over? The individuals invited to participate did just that — they participated, they engaged, they connected, and they inspired the next generation of leaders to do great work and to serve others. I am no doubt a more competent, capable leader because I participated in the Summit.

Christopher Howard is a 1991 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he was Class President and Group Commander. He earned his doctorate in politics as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford before serving for five years as an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Air Force. He earned an MBA at Harvard before he was recalled to active duty; he was awarded the Bronze Star for combat service in Afghanistan. After several years as an executive with General Electric, he was recruited by former senator and governor, David L. Boren to serve as the Vice President for Strategic and Leadership Initiatives at the University of Oklahoma. In 2009, Dr. Howard was named the 24th President of Hampden-Sydney College; he is one of the youngest college presidents in the United States. Hampden-Sydney is a private liberal arts college for men and has been in continuous operation since classes began in 1775 on its historic campus 60 miles southwest of Richmond, Virginia ( In 2011-12, Hampden-Sydney improved 17 spots in the US News & World Report rankings, the largest such jump of any of the top 100 liberal arts colleges. He is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/04/2012

Lea Cosmides, Ph.D., Class of 1975
Center for Evolutionary Psychology
University of California, Santa Barbara

I had a fantastic time at the American Academy of Achievement. In one weekend I met people from more walks of life than I have before or since — Ray Charles, Colonel Sanders, Caspar Weinberger. But my favorite was Isaac Asimov, who loved hanging out with the kids!

Lea Cosmides is best known for her work pioneering the new field of evolutionary psychology. This multidisciplinary new approach weaves together evolutionary biology, cognitive science, human evolution, hunter-gatherer studies, neuroscience, and psychology to discover the mechanisms of the human mind and brain. By understanding the adaptive problems our hunter-gatherer ancestors faced during their evolution, Dr. Cosmides and her colleagues can uncover the detailed functional designs of the emotions, reasoning “instincts” and motivations produced by human evolution.

Dr. Cosmides is Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she and her husband, Dr. John Tooby, co-direct the Center for Evolutionary Psychology. She was educated at Harvard (Ph.D.) and Stanford (postdoctoral), and was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Awards for her research include the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Prize for Behavioral Science Research, the American Psychological Association’s Early Career Award, and a J. S. Guggenheim Fellowship.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 11/14/2011

Hélène De Beir, Class of 1999
Johns Hopkins SAIS
Doctors Without Borders

Born in Courtrai, Belgium in 1974, Hélène De Beir earned her master’s degree in international law at the Free University of Brussels, with a concentration in international law and international economics. She served as a graduate assistant to the democracy program of the Carter Center in Liberia, where she participated in the writing of a new democratic constitution. As President of the Oliviant Conference in Belgium, she organized and led a study tour of Poland, and later participated in development projects in India, Venezuela, Hungary and Kenya.

She earned a second master’s degree in international relations from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University and was a student delegate at the 1999 International Achievement Summit in Budapest, Hungary.

After a short career as a banker in Amsterdam, Hélène decided to commit herself to a humanitarian career. She joined Médecins du Monde on a mission to Herat, Afghanistan, where she served in a refugee camp. In Herat, she enrolled more than 60 girls to the UNICEF school, overcoming the objections of their tradition-minded fathers. She then joined Doctors Without Borders, serving as a Humanitarian Affairs Officer in Iraq, Ivory Coast, and once again in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, she was director of the hospital at Khair Khana, a remote post in the Badgis province. On June 2, 2004, she and four colleagues were caught in an ambush and savagely murdered. The perpetrators have never been brought to justice.

Hélène De Beir is remembered by all who knew her for her intelligence, her humor, and her dedication to the cause of the less fortunate. She was particularly concerned with the condition of women in poor countries. Let Hélène’s life and work stand as an inspiration for all who work to make this world a better place.

In memory of Hélène, her father, Francis De Beir, has created two institutions:

– The Hélène De Beir Scholarship at Johns Hopkins University, a grant for young women for young women from Islamic cultures to study International Relations at SAIS.
– The Hélène De Beir Foundation, to advocate for access to basic health care for the 2.5 billion people who are denied this fundamental human right.

International figures including Senator Emma Bonino (Italy) and former Presidents Jimmy Carter (U.S.) and Mary Robinson (Ireland), among others, now serve on the Honorary Committee of the Hélène De Beir Foundation.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 09/24/2011

Mary Elise Sarotte, Ph.D., Class of 2002
Professor of History and Professor of International Relations,
University of Southern California

“The 2002 summit was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!”

Among other works, Mary Elise Sarotte is the author of 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe. Her book was selected by The Financial Times as one of its “Books of the Year,” while Foreign Affairs called it “the new classic” on the end of the division of Europe. It is the first book to win both the prize for best book on US foreign policy the Ferrell Prize of the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations for Best Book on U.S. Foreign Policy, and Shulman Prize the for Best Book on Communist Foreign Policy from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. It is the first book ever to receive both of these awards. Professor Sarotte’s book has also received the German government’s Academic Exchange Service Prize for Distinguished Scholarship on German and European Studies. Professor Sarotte, who received her AB from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in History from Yale University, holds a joint appointment as Professor of History and Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California. Prior to her appointment at USC, Professor Sarotte was a White House Fellow and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a book reviewer for The Economist.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 09/23/2011

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Rye Barcott, Class of 2008
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
Harvard University

Rye Barcott participated in the summer 2008 Academy of Achievement in Hawai’i. Highlights of that extraordinary experience included breakfast with the late, great writer Frank McCourt and hitting the dance floor with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Rye went on to complete his dual degree at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, thanks in no small part to the Reynolds Foundation.  He then chased his long-time dream to complete a book that he had been working on since 2002.

That book, It Happened on the Way to War, recently released globally by Bloomsbury
Publishing, tells the story of two forms of service that may strike some as contradictory. View the book’s trailer (produced by Beth-Ann Kutchma and her husband J, who wrote the song “Arms Around the World”) below.  Proceeds from the book go to Carolina for Kibera, the non-profit Rye co-founded ten years ago to prevent violence and spark change from within one of the world’s largest slums.
Additionally, thanks to their introduction at the Academy of Achievement, Archbishop Tutu offered these words about the book: “A tremendous story of the power of friendship, love, and the transforming grace of God.”

It Happened on the Way to War from Center for Global Initiatives on Vimeo.

*photo courtesy of Beth-Ann Kutchma
Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 09/20/2011

David A. Yepsen, Class of 1968

Director, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

David A. Yepsen is director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Before assuming that position in 2009, he had a 34-year career with the Des Moines Register, serving as the paper’s chief political writer, political editor and political columnist. In addition to his thrice-weekly column, he also blogged about politics for the paper’s website He was also a regular panelist on Iowa Public Television’s weekly “Iowa Press” news interview program for over 30 years. Mr. Yepsen has also appeared on a variety of national radio and television programs commenting on Iowa politics and the presidential caucus campaigns in the state.

In November, 1994, the American Political Hotline named Mr. Yepsen one of “America’s best political reporters outside the Beltway.” In 1997, Washingtonian Magazine named him one of the “best Washington reporters who doesn’t live in Washington,” and in 2000 Brill’s Content magazine named him to their list of “all-star” political writers.

In 1999, veteran political reporter Jack Germond wrote Mr. Yepsen “is one of the premier political writers in the country.” Mr. Yepsen served on the national advisory board for the start of “,” an Internet publication started by the Pew Foundation to improve coverage of state governments.

In his book about his 1988 presidential race, the late Illinois Senator Paul Simon praised Yepsen’s objectivity. “Every four years the chief political reporter for the Des Moines Register becomes the most important reporter in the nation,” he said. “It is a position that could cause vanity and abuse. To his credit, David Yepsen handled this position with sensitivity and balance. And he worked hard.”

A native of Jefferson, Iowa Yepsen is a 1972 graduate of the University of Iowa. He has also done graduate work in journalism and mass communication at Iowa State University and in 1985 earned a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) degree from Drake University. In 1989 he was a fellow at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. In 2008, he was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard where he led a study group on the nation’s presidential selection processes.

Yepsen recalls his experience attending the Academy of Achievement’s 1968 program as a student delegate. “That event was a big deal to a kid from small town Iowa. I felt very special. I remember riding on an elevator alone with Senator Daniel Inouye. It was just a few minutes of small talk, but he seemed genuinely interested in me, and I was inspired by his personal story and courage. He remains an inspiration today.”

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 09/01/2011

Bryan A. Stevenson, Class of 1976

Founder, Equal Justice Initiative

Bryan Stevenson is the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama and also a Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law.  He is widely acclaimed as one of the most effective public service lawyers in America. A graduate of both the Harvard Law School, where he was awarded the Harvard Fellowship in Public Interest Law, and of the Harvard School of Government, where he was awarded the Kennedy Fellowship in Criminal Justice, Mr. Stevenson has devoted his life to helping disadvantaged people in the deep south.  He and his staff have been largely responsible for reversals or reduced sentences in over 65 death penalty cases.

In 1985 Mr. Stevenson joined the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia as a staff attorney.  From 1989-1995, he represented capital defendants as the Executive Director of the Alabama Capital Representation Resource Center.  As Executive Director of EJI, Mr. Stevenson represents indigent defendants, death row prisoners and juveniles who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system.  Mr. Stevenson is committed to informing policymakers in the critically important work of reforming the administration of criminal justice, and he assists counsel representing death row inmates by providing training materials and consultation.

Mr. Stevenson’s work on behalf of condemned prisoners has attracted national
recognition and acclaim from the Washington Post, the New York Times, People Magazine, LIFE Magazine and several national television programs including Nightline and 60 Minutes, which featured a case where he and his staff achieved the release of a death row prisoner who spent six years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

 In 1995, Mr. Stevenson was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work.  He has also received many other national honors.  In 1989, he received the Reebok Human Rights Award along with the Chinese student leaders at the Tiananmen Square.  In 1991, he received the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union after he was nominated by United States Supreme Court Justice John Stevens.  Mr.Stevenson was named the 1996 Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers. In 1999, he was awarded the Gleitsman Foundation’s National Citizen Activist Award and in 2000, he received the Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden for international human rights.  The American Bar Association has honored Mr. Stevenson with its John Minor Public Service and Professionalism Award.  In 2002, he received the Alabama State Bar Commissioners Award.  In 2003, the SALT Human Rights Award was presented to Mr. Stevenson by The Society of American Law Teachers.  In 2004, he received the Award for Courageous Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers of American Law Teachers and also the Lawyer for the People Award from the National Lawyers Guild.  In 2006, New York University presented Mr. Stevenson with its Distinguished Teaching Award.  In 2008, Mr. Stevenson received the Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize from Santa Clara University School of Law.  In 2009, Mr. Stevenson won the Gruber Foundation International Justice Prize.  In 2010, Mr. Stevenson was presented with the NAACP William Robert Ming Advocacy Award and the National Public Service Award from Stanford University Law School. In 2011, Mr. Stevenson was awarded the National Legal Aid & Defender Association Lifetime Achievement Award and also the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award. 

Mr. Stevenson has additionally received honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Washington University, Eastern University, City University of New York School of Law, Metropolitan College of New York, The Bank Street College of Education, Bard College, Villanova University, Santa Clara University School of Law, Fairfield University. the University of San Francisco and Loyola University.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 07/05/2011

Darin McKeever

Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow 2008

Harvard University MPA


The Reynolds Foundation Fellowship not only enabled me financially to pursue my masters degree in the mid-career program at the Kennedy School, it enriched it in truly significant ways.  I left Cambridge with fond memories of my time with various entrepreneurs and intellectual leaders, the rebuilders of New Orleans, the Center for Public Leadership’s staff, and of course, my colleagues in the fellowship.  I left campus in 2008 inspired and energized, and I have the fellowship to thank for much of that sense of renewal.

I have committed my career to advancing social change through philanthropy, politics, and social entrepreneurship.  Prior to my fellowship year, I co-founded and led for more than a decade Heads-Up—a non-profit dedicated to providing young people from kindergarten through college with learning and service opportunities after school and during the summer.  With this background and experience, when I entered Harvard, I sought to reposition my career-swinging to the sphere of foundations or government, where I thought I could work to improve the effectiveness of philanthropy and the relationship between the public, private, and non-profit sectors.  At Harvard, I studied the structure of industries, the economics of competitiveness, the design of public-private partnerships, and a wide range of case studies on entrepreneurs (social and otherwise).  I also used the year to enhance my negotiation and communication skills.  This new knowledge and training gave me the confidence, connections, and –as one who had dedicated much of my life to the Washington, D.C. community-a certain worldliness and wider cultural competence that helps me every day in my current role.  Today, I serve as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s chief ambassador in the philanthropic sector-managing our relationships with the leading charitable associations around the world, tracking policy developments impacting foundations with the leading charitable associations around the world, tracking policy developments impacting foundations and charities, leading our grant-making to strengthen the effectiveness of the sector, and supporting our CEO and other leadership in their sector-related learning and engagements.

I have launched or helped to launch numerous non-profit organizations, social enterprises, and advocacy groups.  The launch of Heads Up is perhaps my most notable accomplishment in this respect, but I have also been involved in the start of the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, EdAction DC (in 2000 with DC’s current education chancellor Kaya Henderson and others), and America Forward.  I thrive on organization building, on setting and executing smart, strategic courses during chaotic times, and on marshalling resources outside one’s immediate control (which I still consider the classic and one of the best definitions of entrepreneurship).  While today I work inside and organization of someone else’s making, I see the role of guiding and supporting the institution in its approach to the charitable sector during a formative period of philanthropy a classic case of social entrepreneurship.

I simply want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds again for the substantial investment they made in me and my colleagues.  Their generosity and support played a key role in getting me to where I am today.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 07/05/2011

Julian Jane Atim 

Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow 2008

Harvard University, MPH

The Reynolds Foundation Fellowship gave me an opportunity not only to further my education, but also build my personal leadership and entrepreneurial skills.  I learned so much from the Fellowship curriculum-guest lecturers gave me an opportunity to learn from great leaders who had made it in the field of social entrepreneurship, while workshops taught me essential skills in leadership such as teamwork and conflict resolution.

I see myself as a growing leader in social entrepreneurship in my career.  Innovation, quality and empowerment are the principles that guide me in my work towards meeting the health needs of the people I serve.  These principles have enabled me to apply all my best in whatever work I do.

Since being a Reynolds Fellow, I have partnered with Dr. Michael Westerhaus and Amy Finnegan to design and instruct an elective course on social medicine in Gulu, Uganda.  For the past two years, this course has brought together a diverse group of medical students from different parts of the world to learn about current clinical care and global health problems and discuss innovative strategies for solving these problems.

Through my work at Uganda Health Marketing Group, a USAID-funded indigenous non-governmental organization (NGO), I have implemented innovative public health interventions to meet the needs of specific target populations. For instance, through funding from the Presidential Malaria Initiative, I was able to apply the clinical audit strategy of training health care workers in the private health sector.  This training strategy involves on-the-job training during off-peak times of service delivery.  Trainees who also have a business mindset have their technical capacity built, which helps to improve the quality of health services delivered without interfering with health service delivery.

A number of young professionals, especially women, have been inspired by my having gone to graduate school at Harvard and have also explored the same opportunities.  This is not surprising, especially in a society where young women think such opportunities are for older men.  Through this, I see a ripple effect where more young people are motivated to attend graduate school and further their skill-set.

Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, for making it possible for me, a young female medical doctor from a low-income country, to have an opportunity to graduate with a Master of Public Health from Harvard and learn key principles in leadership and social entrepreneurship through the Reynolds Foundation Fellowship.  The impact of this experience has exponentially translated in my daily work to benefit the most vulnerable people in a magnitude beyond my imagination.  I not only touch the lives of individuals as I did before graduate school but now have a positive impact on large populations at a given time.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/13/2011

Shad White, Class of 2008

Truman Scholar and Rhodes Scholar

Harvard Law School

In 2008, I was honored to attend the Achievement Summit in Hawaii. At the time, I had just graduated from the University of Mississippi as a Truman Scholar and had never been further west than Texas. Life has been a whirlwind since then, to be sure. After that summer I started to work at the Pew Charitable Trusts with a remarkable and talented group focusing on early education policy in the various states around the country.

Midway through that year in DC, I was fortunate enough to interview for and receive the Rhodes Scholarship. I finished my year at Pew, packed my things, took a last-minute college tour road trip with my little sister who was finishing high school, and then left for England. Oxford was a beautiful, life-changing experience. I learned by leaps and bounds, and made real, meaningful connections to other people that will last my whole life.

These days I am back home in Mississippi. While I was putting the finishing touches on my dissertation for Oxford, I moved back home to work as policy director for a successful Congressional campaign and then later in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of my state. When my boss made the decision to run for Governor, I moved over to his campaign and am serving as Deputy Campaign Manager. This fall I’ll leave the campaign after the primary to start at Harvard Law School. The days on the campaign are long, but I still frequently look down at my cell phone background to see a picture of the Hawaii horizon that I took while at the Summit. It brings back some fond memories. Most of my friends here still don’t believe I met Taylor Swift there!

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/25/2011

Zach Leverenz

Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow 2009

Harvard University, Ed.M

CEO, Middle East Education through Technology

After my Reynolds fellowship and an additional year as a Harvard Management Fellow, I moved to Jerusalem full-time to serve as CEO of MEET – Middle East Education through Technology. In partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MEET harnesses the power of technology to create an active network of young Palestinian and Israeli youth who share a common professional language and the capacity to work together to achieve positive social, economic and political impact in their communities.

Despite some prior experience, including 7+ years of managing nonprofits in four conflict/post-conflict zones, my strongest credential for the MEET job has probably been my simple non-affiliation with the region. I am neither Israeli nor Palestinian, neither Jewish nor Muslim, which had afforded me an important level of neutrality and reciprocity in introducing MEET to Palestinian and Israeli communities. We are now recruiting from over 5 cities in Israel and the West Bank with plans to double our participants through expansions to two new hubs by 2014.
While much of both populations suffer from “conflict fatigue,” and have retreated into the dangerous places of apathy and indifference, something new is growing within our small computer lab on the East/West seam in Jerusalem. MEET students, 50% Israeli, 50% Palestinian, are meeting every week to learn new technologies, business approaches, and leadership skills. Through the intensive, three-year technology education program, these students are developing real relationships that withstand and transcend the constant stress tests of regional politics, perceptions, and violence. They are forming bi-national, entrepreneurial teams and jointly launching real-world projects.

The key is the competitive excellence model that focuses on pragmatic skills and attracts the most high capacity students based not on the prospect of meeting the “other,” but on the value of the education itself. This year we received over 600 applications for 44 open spots. Over the course of three years, while entrenched in the reality of the Middle East (as opposed to the many once-off coexistence programs abroad), our student organically build the relationships and mutual respect that leads to lasting impact.

We are now entering an exciting period as a critical mass of MEET alumni begins to form in the region. We believe that these alumni will be the next generation of decision makers in the region and that they will bring the skills and perspectives they’ve gained at MEET to bear in creating positive social, economic and political change.  In my role, I often draw on my experiences and network as a Reynolds fellow, which has been instrumental in preparing me to lead sustainable, high impact organizations like MEET.

Check out Lina Kara’in, our most recent MEET student accepted to MIT and our first MEET woman:

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/23/2011

Emily Weigel

2011 Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Teach for America Fellow

Yale Law School

Princeton University


For the past two years, I have had the life-changing opportunity to teach seventh grade at a public middle school in Prince George’s County through Teach For America.  Each day, I teach two regular classes, one honors class, and one special education class—a total of over 100 students. Last year, I co-founded and led our school’s first National Junior Honor Society. We have taken our children on official tours of the Capitol, the Pentagon, the Holocaust Museum, several universities in Washington, DC, the Supreme Court, and the White House.  I am immensely proud to say that my classroom was the one chosen by TFA for Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards to visit, and by our county’s Language Arts Department for frequent visits of new teachers. To the delight of my students, we were also selected by Apple for their iPad pilot program, and—after a visit from DJ Flexx of a popular DC Hip-Hop and R&B station—featured on his evening radio show. My children deserve this attention—entering the seventh grade, almost half of my students scored below proficient in reading; by October of last year, 82% scored proficient, and through June, over 95% of my students regularly achieved proficiency. My current students are on the same potentially life-changing trajectory.

This fall, I will attend Yale Law School. Through my experiences teaching, motivating, and investing fully—blood, sweat, and tears—in the lives of my students, I have learned that change is made deepest and most lasting through motivating those who will be impacted by that change to seek it themselves, and helping them to facilitate that process. I intend to pursue a career in this type of facilitation—through practicing and teaching law in the public service. I wish to give my clients and students the knowledge and the leverage necessary to control the trajectory of their lives, and the agency to meaningfully impact their communities.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/13/2011

Wookie Kim

2011 Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Teach for America Fellow

Harvard Law School

Yale University

I have difficulty summarizing my Teach For America experience. But, if I had to describe what teaching has been like, I’d compare it to riding an invisible rollercoaster: as with anything in life, it has a sequence of ups and downs; what makes teaching more challenging than anything I’ve ever done is that I never know when, or for how long, these climbs and falls occur.

Throughout my time as a high school English teacher here in DC Public Schools, I’ve learned just as much as I hope my students have learned from me. I’ve learned about the influence that a teacher can have on changing not only a student’s classroom achievement, but also his or her attitude towards life. Indeed, an education is more than an understanding of facts and equations; it provides one with the self-belief that, in turn, empowers one to realize his or her full potential. In a way, then, an education is the greatest gift one can receive.

But, I’ve also learned about an essential nuance of the American Dream: it doesn’t apply to everyone. In America, supposedly, prosperity is a function of effort and ability. Yet, I’ve learned that this is not the case for too many students, who face challenges—racial discrimination, abject poverty, broken families, gang violence—that become barriers to the pursuit of this dream.

Some examples of bright, talented and hard-working students with unjust challenges: M., who aspired to be her family’s first college graduate, dropped out of college to support her family after her only parent and mother lost her job; both of J.’s parents have been in incarceration for essentially her entire life because of serious drug addictions; and nothing can help P., who was shot dead as a result of a petty gang beef.

Ultimately, it was my discomfort with what my students’ situations revealed about America that led to my next big step: after the 2010-2011 school year, I’ll be dismounting the invisible rollercoaster and beginning my studies at Harvard Law School. While there—and beyond—I intend to jump right into the community and do whatever I can to make the equality of opportunity promised by America a reality for all. In this pursuit, I’ll always have students like M., J. and P. in mind.

Of course, if not for amazing Teach For America supporters like Catherine and Wayne Reynolds, I would not be where I am today. In particular, the knowledge that I had behind-the-scenes fans pushed me to work harder for my students than I’d ever worked before. For this, I am forever grateful. Thank you.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 03/21/2011

Pardis Sabeti, Class of 2000

Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University

It has been over a decade since the Academy of Achievement Summit in 2000 in London, when I was just starting medical school, and trying to finish my PhD at Oxford.

Years later, and I am an Assistant Professor at Harvard University in Systems Biology and Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. My work is at the intersection of medicine and research, and gives me opportunities to collaborate with great scientists from around the world.

If I had to summarize my work I would say we are a genomics and infectious disease lab with 3 main goals: (1) Developing analytical methods to detect and characterize evolutionary adaptations in humans; (2) Examining host and viral genetic factors driving disease susceptibility to the devastating and deadly disease widespread in West Africa, Lassa hemorrhagic fever virus; (3) Investigating the genomes of microbes, including Lassa virus, Ebola virus, and Plasmodium falciparum malaria to help in the development of intervention strategies.

My work on Lassa fever connects me to my wonderful collaborators in Nigeria. As this picture shows, they are not only great researchers but great friends. Here we all are singing a song written by my band; they gave the song a whole new life with their beautiful voices.

I am inspired each day by my great collaborators abroad and my amazing students. My lab is like my family, and we are working together through many obstacles driven by a shared goal of bring research to bear on the world’s deadliest diseases. And while our work is serious, it is also a lot of fun. Here is a snapshot of this wonderful family from our 2010 lab holiday card.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 03/15/2011

Kevin S. Schwartz, Class of 2002

Rockefeller Fellow, Partnership for NYC

Associate, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

I can hardly believe it’s been nearly a decade since my incredible experience in Dublin at the Academy’s Achievement Summit. At the time, I was completing my MBA and PhD at Oxford as a Marshall Scholar, and soon returning to the U.S. to attend Yale Law. After grad school, I enjoyed another year in New Haven working as a law clerk for Judge Guido Calabresi on the U.S. Court of Appeals, and as a lecturer on Yale’s political science department faculty. The clerkship was fantastic, and the chance to teach at the same time was wonderful. A year later, I moved to D.C. to serve as a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court. The experience was amazing. Outside of work, it was exciting to be in D.C. in 2008 during the big election, especially to be able to attend the Inauguration.

After my clerkship was complete, I returned to NYC and the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where I have been able to work on fascinating matters in both the corporate and civic communities of New York. Most recently, as a Rockefeller Fellow in the Partnership for NYC, I have been learning so much about the city and the ways I can combine my interests in law, business, and government to make a difference for others.
Over the years since attending the Achievement Summit, I have remained deeply grateful for many friendships that began in Dublin and for the wonderful support of Catherine and Wayne Reynolds. I look forward to keeping in touch with you all.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/25/2011

Lauren Servin, Class of 2009

Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, NYU

Program Development Director – Sudan Development Foundation SUDEF

Since 2005, I have worked closely with Abraham Awolich, the Director of SUDEF to plan and implement projects in the Southern Sudan village he was born in. We work with the local people on programs that they have identified as fulfilling their most immediate needs. We have established a small medical clinic, which serves 11 surrounding villages and is the only medical center within a hundred mile radius. We are currently building a maternal child health center to address Southern Sudan’s maternal and child mortality rates – the highest in the world. We are working to help reverse the mal-affects of war. Our larger goals are to build a community center where adults can access training with which they can use to regain livelihoods that have been lost. Because of over two decades of civil war, people living in southern Sudan have little to no access to basic services and generations have grown up with no education.
I first met Abraham in college. He would tell me horrific stories of his childhood. He is a part of a group known as the ‘Lost Boys’ of Southern Sudan and he ran from his village as the Northern Army was committing genocide against his people. He grew up in a refugee camp and was brought to the US in 2001. After hearing what he went through as a child, I wanted to do what I could to help him and his people have a better life. We decided to work together to create change in his country in 2005, after a peace agreement was signed between the north and the south. In 2006, I traveled to Southern Sudan and spent the next three years traveling back and forth between Southern Sudan and the US working on education and agricultural/entrepreneurial projects in the region. In 2008, I served as project manager for the development of a secondary school in Lainya County, Southern Sudan. We opened the school with 75 students and a 15-acre farm. I will continue to work with Abraham on programs in his village and am excited to work in the soon to be independent country of Southern Sudan.

I recently finished a short film about the Sudan Development Foundation’s work. (SUDEF). Visit to watch, and to read more about SUDEF’s progress.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 09/29/2010

Catherine Casey, Class of 2006

Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School

I work with Acumen Fund, a non-profit venture fund that invests patient capital in businesses that provide basic goods and services like health care, housing, water, energy and agriculture to low income consumers in East Africa, India and Pakistan. At Acumen Fund we believe in the power of business to build solutions that create choice and dignity for the poor, rather than dependence. We have invested about $50 million to date in companies like Ecotact, a pay-per-use toilet company in Nairobi, Kenya; D.Light, which makes low-cost solar lanterns for sale in India and Tanzania; and Lifespring, a chain of low-cost maternity hospitals in India.

I’m currently leading Acumen Fund’s exploration of expansion to West Africa, including fundraising, building a local team, and developing a pipeline of investment opportunities in the region. I originally joined Acumen through the Fellows Program in 2007, and worked for a year to strengthen and grow a franchise network of health clinics in Kenya (you can learn more in the short video I made).

I continue to work closely with alumni from the Reynolds Fellowship and the Academy, and remain deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such a strong community of changemakers.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 07/09/2010

Sabriye Tenberken, Class of 2006

Founder, Braille Without Borders

It’s been a crazy, busy life for Sabriye since attending the Academy of Achievement Summit in 2006. The good kind of crazy busy, however.

Sabriye completed work on the documentary ‘BLINDSIGHT’ about the mountain climbing project she undertook with her blind students from Braille Without Borders. The group, along with Erik Weihenmayer (first blind mountaineer to climb Mount Everest), documented their mountain climbing experience in the Himalayas.

After establishing the preparatory school, the vocational training farm, the Braille book printing press and the self-integration project of Braille Without Borders in Tibet, China, Sabriye, along with BWB’s co-founder, partner and soul mate, Paul Kronenberg, started to realize their dream institute, the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs (IISE).

The IISE focuses on leadership training in order to create social change. The participants, all over 22 years of age, are inspiring visionaries who mainly come from developing nations. All of them have overcome significant life challenges ranging from vision impairment, disability, poverty, war discrimination and exploitation. They have a passion to make the world a better place and the strength to be forces of good rather than victims of circumstance.

Workshops and hands-on practice in the areas of management, public speaking, communication, leadership, fund raising, budgeting, bookkeeping, project proposal writing, marketing, public relations, computing with open software technology and others give IISE’s participants all the necessary tools to start their own social projects. All selected participants receive a full scholarship, including travel costs, accommodation and a high-end course by international experts.

Speaking in ecological terms, construction on one of the greenest campuses in India was completed and the first batch of 20 future social entrepreneurs from 13 different countries all over the world were welcomed in 2009. They have graduated and are already sending back news of project success stories.

For, example, one participant from Sierra Leone, whose objective was to create a micro-credit bank for war widows, is up and running. Recently, the first 100 war widows received a micro credit. The new batch of 29 participants from 18 countries was welcomed to IISE in 2010.

Additionally, Sabriye and Braille Without Borders were honored as Laureates of the Mother Teresa Award in 2006. Apart from receiving a great honour of being counted among the 15 most influential overseas experts in China in the last 30 years in 2008, Sabriye was chosen among 13 others for the ‘You Bring Charm to China Award’ in 2009.

Her three books, “ My Path Leads to Tibet” (2000), “Tashis neue Welt” (2000), and “The Seventh Year – From Tibet to India” (2007), document her life experience and learning till now.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/04/2010

Maina Muthee, Class of 2007

Tufts University-The Fletcher School

I grew up poor in the slums of Nairobi. I remember desperately trying to cover up being sick so I would not be sent home from school – my one refuge of hope and promise. I suppose my journey to become a humanitarian relief worker started then, as an impoverished teenager, when a few teachers and NGO workers opened doors for me to excel in school and go on to University.

A few years later, I became friends with three Rwandese boys who had fled the genocide. One of the boys in particular relived the genocide by day – through telling stories of his murdered family- and by night – through violent nightmares. His torment soon become mine – and it was then that I decided to be personally involved in assisting victims of humanitarian crisis.

Soon thereafter, I was privileged to work in South Sudan during the civil war. Working in the midst of such a complicated conflict was enormously challenging, but also deeply satisfying. In July of 2002, the government suddenly announced a flight ban which left us stranded in a conflict zone. We endured many days of strafing through the night, and occasional bombardment by the infamous Antonov aircraft. Noise from heavy machine gun fire and strafing by artillery became a routine of the night, and it was then I decided to quit humanitarian work.

Thereafter I visited the Rwanda Genocide memorial center in Kigali. At the entrance bold letters proclaimed “plus jamais” (never again). I had witnessed almost unendurable human suffering and death in Sudan a few weeks before, and the irony of “plus jamais” profoundly saddened me. I reversed my decision to quit and instead decided to work in public health in emergencies. In 2004, I was very lucky to begin my masters studies in international law and diplomacy and nutrition at Tufts University.

Today I work for UNICEF as a nutrition specialist. My assignments have included addressing the nutrition of children in humanitarian emergencies, as well as the more ignored situations of extreme, chronic poverty and food insecurity in otherwise peaceful situations.  The latter work is more  “upstream” than my work years ago in South Sudan, and sometimes I miss the immediacy of direct community engagement. In working with the UN, however, I feel I am serving vulnerable children in a way that could lead to more lasting, structural change. Having the opportunity to align my work with my personal ideals and to work with others who share in this commitment is enormously rewarding.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/20/2010

Saul Garlick, Class of 2007

Johns Hopkins SAIS

Founder and Executive Director, ThinkImpact (

In 2001 I was a junior in High School with a desire to make some impact in the world. Aimless in terms of how I could do that, I undertook to establish a club with some friends called Student Movement for Real Change. I had no idea that this small club would one day become ThinkImpact, an international non-profit organization that would be at the bleeding edge of development and social entrepreneurship – promoting social innovation in some of the poorest communities in the world.

Today, ThinkImpact connects college students and young adults with rural communities in Africa where they catalyze social enterprise by leveraging local resources and capacity. We call this People Powered Global Development, and it is resonating among this generation of leaders. In 2010 we have received 170 applications for only 23 spots in our program to work in Kenya and South Africa. We were featured at the Clinton Global Initiative University and have been leading workshops at the Global Engagement Summit, Social Enterprise Alliance World Forum, Opportunity Collaboration and numerous other gatherings of social entrepreneurs.

My work with ThinkImpact has proven to be an example of what can happen when one young leader opens their mind to new ways to approach old problems. Since 2007, when I attended the Academy of Achievement and had just graduated from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies as a Truman Scholar, I have led over 100 people to Africa and with communities we have completed 50 development projects ranging from schools, sports fields, community centers, scholarships, microfinance projects, latrines and the creation of social businesses. I continue this work, often in partnership with individuals that I met at the Academy of Achievement;  an experience that continues to inspire me to this day. Watch a brief video about our program here.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/10/2010

Esther Hsu, Class of 2009

Chief Operating Officer, TAMTAM (Together Against Malaria)

Consultant, Bain and Company

Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Harvard

I have had the true privilege of attending two Summits in the past year and can still clearly recall the shock of dancing with Desmond Tutu in Cape Town and seeing Fmr. Secretary Colin Powell walk into the room in Washington DC.

After three years of grad school (and two years as a Reynolds Fellow), I am graduating from the joint MBA and MPA program at Harvard Business School and Kennedy School. I am headed first to Ghana to spend more time on the NGO which I co-manage, TAMTAM, before heading  to Bain & Company consulting in Boston.

It’s been wonderful to be a part of the Center for Public Leadership via the Reynolds fellowship- an honor to be surrounded by inspiring peers who will really make a difference in the world. I will take their stories with me wherever I go.

Recently, the CPL hosted Harvard’s inaugural Gleitsman Social Change Film Forum. This event sought to expore the ways in which the art and craft of filmmaking can be a source of motivation for social change. The Forum featured two documentaries: Countdown to Zero and A Small Act. Filmmakers, producers, area experts, and the documentary protaganists themselves were on hand at the event for panels and film discussions. A series of short films were also produced to spotlight social entrepreneurship among students at Harvard. It was a great opportunity to share my story and an honor to be featured.
Link to video:

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 03/22/2010

Mark Vlasic

Mark V. Vlasic, Class of 2007

White House Fellow, Department of Defense

After attending the Academy of Achievement Summit in 2007, Mark Vlasic returned to work for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  Mark describes Secretary Gates as an “outstanding public servant,” and he noted that the highlights of his time in the SECDEF’s office included helping to get agricultural advisers to serve with Provincial Reconstruction Teams, assisting with bilateral and multilateral meetings throughout the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as having the opportunity to fly an F-16 fighter jet, his “childhood dream job.”   Mark’s service as a White House Fellow also included providing assistance to the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan, where he worked on Darfur-related issues while on mission with the Special Envoy in Africa and Europe.

After completing his appointment at the White House and the Pentagon, Mark took time to backpack through Patagonia and Colombia, before transitioning to serve as the head of operations of the joint UN-World Bank Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative.  Established by President Robert Zoellick as his first initiative at the Bank, StAR serves to assist developing countries in recovering stolen assets from past grand corruption cases.  While helping manage the StAR Secretariat’s casework, Mark worked with “dedicated and hard working” officials in Haiti and Switzerland, as well as with colleagues at the UN and the Bank, to help obtain a Swiss order to return millions of dollars plundered by Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier to Haiti.

Mark recently left the World Bank in order to split time between a Washington, DC law firm practice (, where he is focused on international law, international trade, asset recovery, and business diplomacy issues, and Georgetown University, where he serves as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Law, Science and Global Security.  In addition to his teaching, writing and legal practice, Mark is looking forward to reading “The Other Wes Moore,” written by his White House Fellow classmate, Wes Moore.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 03/08/2010

Wes Moore

Wes Moore, Class of 2004

White House Fellow, Department of State

In late April of 2010, Random House will publish my first book, entitled “The Other Wes Moore.”

In December of 2000. The Baltimore Sun ran a feature article about me, Wes Moore, a university student, who, despite a troubled childhood, received one of the most prestigious academic awards in the world — The Rhodes Scholarship. That same year, The Baltimore Sun logged more than 200 articles about four young men who were arrested for the murder of an off-duty Baltimore police officer during a botched armed robbery. The latter story was disturbing for many reasons, but for me, there was something hauntingly personal about it: One of the young criminals was just two years my senior, hailed from the same neighborhood, and in an uncanny and eerie turn, was also named Wes Moore.

Two boys from Baltimore with similar histories and an identical name.  Through support and guidance, I escaped challenges and have lived what some have called a blessed life.  The other will spend each day until his death behind bars.  The chilling truth is that my story could have been his.  The tragedy is that his story could have been mine.  Later, as I pursued my career in the military, in the banking world, and in the White House, I would often think about the other Wes Moore.  Years ago, I reached out to him and began visiting him, and learning his story. It was while visiting Wes in prison that the concept for this book crystallized.

Thus far, the book has received significant media interest and Random House has announced this book will be one of its lead titles this year.  I look forward to staying in touch with all of you.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/28/2010

Maura Sullivan

Maura Sullivan, Class of 2009
Kennedy Fellow
Harvard Business School and Kennedy School of Government

Following the 2009 Summit in South Africa, I started my new position working at PepsiCola as a Senior Franchise Development Manager. Below is a very exciting opportunity that Pepsi is offering.

In 2010, Pepsi is giving away $20 million to fund YOUR ideas that move the world forward. Watch and learn more here:

* Throughout 2010, Pepsi will devote its attention and resources to helping move peoples’ ideas forward. People across the country have ideas that can make our communities a better place and Pepsi will be the catalyst to bring those ideas to life.

Pepsi Refresh Grant recipients will be selected through a democratic process. The public will vote online for the ideas they want to see taken from concept to reality.

The Pepsi Refresh Project will be a catalyst for: Ideas that make us think; Ideas that inspire us; Ideas that ignite participation; Ideas that make good things better; Ideas that improve situations; Ideas that refresh… Pepsi has been at the center of great cultural shifts for many generations. The Pepsi Refresh Project represents a shift towards a culture of participation, spurred on by the belief in and resiliency of the actions of people and their ideas.

Learn more, and apply for a Pepsi Refresh Grant today at

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/24/2010

Kirsten Lodal

Kirsten Lodal, Class of 2004
CEO and Co-Founder, LIFT Communities

“Since attending the International Achievement Summit in 2007 as a panelist for the social entrepreneurship conversation, I have been incredibly busy.  Probably the most important update is that National Student Partnerships has changed its name to LIFT.  We officially launched our new name and visual identity in July 2009, and I am thrilled to now have an organizational identity that truly embodies LIFT’s work and mission as a growing national movement to combat poverty and expand opportunity for all families in the United States.

Our rebranding occurred at a pivotal time for our country, as the global economic crisis continued to plunge thousands of families into poverty.  I feel more urgency than ever to expand LIFT’s work and we have embarked on an ambitious five-year plan to expand LIFT’s services to another 100,000 families in our current five cities—Boston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC— while also offering LIFT’s model as a best practice that can be adopted by other communities and policymakers.  We have already received recognition in the past three years as a model of “what works” in poverty alleviation by entities as diverse as Robin Hood, New Profit, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Aspen Institute, and AmeriCorps.

Personally, I have committed myself to bringing increased national attention to issues of multigenerational poverty and opportunity in the United States, with a focus on women, children, and families.  I am excited to continue to play a leadership role in numerous poverty policy initiatives, and I am participating on several boards, including my current role as the President of the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project.  I was honored to be interviewed when LIFT’s work was featured on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and CNN, and I have also represented LIFT at the 2008 and 2009 National Conference on Service and Volunteering, the 2009 (and 2010) Clinton Global Initiative University, and the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival in 2009.

I currently live in Washington, D.C. with my husband, Jeff Himmelman, who is an author and musician.”

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/19/2010

Jessica Ashooh

Jessica Ashooh, Class of 2008
Marshall Scholar, St. Anthony’s College

Since attending the Achievement Summit as a student delegate in Kona in 2008, Jessica Ashooh has been appointed to an advising team with Dunia Frontier Consultants, providing strategic and management consulting services to the Ministry of Planning of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq. While still completing work on her doctorate in international relations at Oxford, Jessica travels frequently to Iraq to assist the ministry with its organizational and development strategy. Of the experience, Jessica says, “It is extremely rewarding and impactful work. The people of Northern Iraq have been so hospitable and friendly to us and they are lovely to work with. It is great to see our recommendations making a difference in the region’s development, and I love the time that I spend there.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/17/2010

Jan Godown Annino

Jan Godown Annino, Class of 1970

An honoree in journalism at the summer conference in 1970, Jan Godown Annino is recently published by National Geographic Society, after her career as a newspaper feature writer for Gannett and Knight-Ridder newspapers.  Her special research interests include women’s studies, minorities, and literacy.

She is married to a public interest attorney who leads a law clinic and their daughter is the best teen in the universe.

Family trips anchored the research for her geotourism guides such as Family Fun in Florida and Scenic Driving Florida (3rd edition, January 2010 The Globe Pequot Press).

For NGS Jan wrote She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader. Of that experience, Jan advises: “Keep track of others’ accomplishments that strike you as significant when you are young, as you may become the person who later presents their story to young readers, and not necessarily, as I have, in a book. My mother clipped a newspaper article for me about the historic 1967 election in the Seminole Tribe of Florida and I feel that brought me, more than 40 years later, to introduce elementary age children to an amazing woman, Betty Mae Tiger Jumper.”   She Sang Promise also features the work of award-winning artist Lisa Desimini, with an afterword letter from Moses Jumper, Jr.  Release month is March 2010.

As for Academy experience, it brought Jan her first airplane trip alone, her first visit to Texas and her first meeting with celebrities: H. Ross Perot and Shirley Temple Black.  “I found my politics differed from theirs, but they were each fascinating to observe up close. Mr. Perot’s intensity bristled from him like sparks as he walked through the packed aisles of students, stopping to shake hands and answer a question. Making the same journey, Mrs. Black exuded a calm presence that for me, as one who grew up watching her frenetic tap-dancing in old movie musicals, made me relieved that she moved in a much different world than had been proscribed for her as a child.”

Among her assignments for daily newspaper features, Jan has ridden a horse to find buffalo grazing on a Florida prairie and helped count bald eagle nests from a helicopter. Walking is part of her creative process and her longest walks have been up and down Mt. LeConte in Tennessee and Mt. Katahdin in Maine.  Jan is completing work toward a masters degree in children’s literature and she is revising a historical fiction novel for young readers, set in the 1960s.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/11/2010

Michelle Krishnan

Michelle L. Krishnan, Class of 2008
Kennedy Memorial Scholar, Imperial College London

The Summit in 2008 was a wonderful close to an extraordinary year of my life, which spurred me on to continue striving in my work as a doctor and postgraduate medical training, and my research efforts in Neuroscience.

Research interests
While an undergraduate in 2006 I worked voluntarily at the Robert Steiner MR Unit at Imperial College analysing white matter microstructure in preterm infants. Using neuroinformatics I found a correlation between apparent diffusion coefficients and developmental outcome at 2 years. This earned me the Steven Carstairs Prize from the Royal College of Radiologists. I presented the findings at the Neonatal Society international meeting and am first author on the paper in Pediatrics.

In 2007 I was awarded a Kennedy Scholarship, and I used this opportunity to pursue research at the Computational Radiology Laboratory at Harvard Medical School. There I conceptualised and implemented two projects applying quantitative MR imaging and probabilistic tractography. I am first author of a resultant paper which made the cover of the journal Pediatric Neurology in February 2010, demonstrating differences in microstucture of visual pathways in patients with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. A control subject is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Visual pathways in the brain rendered by tractography of diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Work in progress
This includes a second paper characterising development of white matter in preterm infants with fetal growth restriction. In the coming few months I will start a research fellowship investigating the genotype-phenotype relationship in epilepsy. To prepare for this project I was awarded a place on the Cardiff University Brain Research Summer School, which provided an introduction to clinical and translational research methods in Neuropsychiatry. In order to gain the necessary technical abilities I attended a course in Bioinformatics at the European Bioinformatics Institute during which I familiarised myself with genome browsing, text mining and exploring human variations.

Paediatrics is at the centre of debates around the implications of access to the genome, as the focus shifts from largely technical challenges to the ethical dimensions of the application of emerging technologies. In September 2010 I will be starting a combined clinical and PhD programme at Imperial College, which will allow me to develop my clinical and research interest in Paediatric brain science and progress towards being a fully fledged Paediatrician and lead researcher.


Diffusion Features of White Matter in Tuberous Sclerosis With Tractography.
Michelle L. Krishnan, Olivier Commowick, Shafali S. Jeste, Neil Weisenfeld, Arne Hans, Matthew C. Gregas, Mustafa Sahin and Simon K. Warfield
Pediatric Neurology, Vol. 42, Issue 2, February 2010, pp. 101-106

Relationship Between White Matter Apparent Diffusion Coefficients in Preterm Infants at Term-Equivalent Age and Developmental Outcome at 2 Years.
Michelle L. Krishnan, Leigh E. Dyet, James P. Boardman, Olga Kapellou, Joanna M. Allsop, Frances Cowan, A. David Edwards, Mary A. Rutherford, Serena J. Counsell.
Pediatrics, Vol. 120 No. 3 September 2007, pp. e604-e609

Heat shock protein 27 rescues motor neurons following nerve injury and preserves muscle function.
Paul Sharp, Michelle Krishnan, Oliver Pullar, Roberto Navarrete, Dominic Wells, Jacqueline de Belleroche.
Experimental Neurology, Vol.198, Issue 2, April 2006, pp. 511-8. Epub 2006 Feb 23.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/04/2010

Alice Yang

Alice Yang, Class of 2009
Soros Fellow and Zuckerman Fellow
Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School

Over the summer, I interned at Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government agency whose mission is to reduce global poverty through the promotion of sustainable economic growth in emerging markets. I worked in the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Economic Analysis division on performance metrics for health, education, and private sector development projects in 18 countries.

At Harvard Business School, where I am a second year student, I was invited to join the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative’s inaugural Student Advisory Group. I also serve as the Social Chair of the Social Enterprise Club and sit on the Advisory Board of the 2010 Social Enterprise Conference.

Most recently, over the holiday break, I traveled to Turkey and Ethiopia with a group of classmates from HBS and the Kennedy School. In Ethiopia, we spent a week doing a baseline assessment of several impoverished rural villages where development projects are planned or already underway. Under the aegis of American and Ethiopian NGOs (A Glimmer of Hope, based in Austin, TX and the Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara, based in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia), and working with local university students and professors as translators, we conducted structured interviews with more than 130 subsistence farmers.

Below is a photo of me with my University of Gonder translator, Bayoush, and some of the Burbax village residents we were interviewing.

Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/01/2010

Magogodi Makhene

Makhene400Magogodi Makhene, Class of 2009
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, New York University

The summer of 2009 was an amazing time.  I was home, in South Africa, sharing the country of my birth and land of my inspiration with friends.  I can still smell the singed taste of winter grassland that lit us on fire in the highveld.  I came back to New York charged with life and a renewed zeal for the work I’d only just begun.  Earlier in the summer, I co-Founded Zenzele Circle, a placement agent linking job-creating African start-ups with global angel capital.  Since then, Zenzele Circle has added a stable of high-potential entrepreneurs and secured pro-bono legal representation from Weil Gotshal. We are semi-finalists for the Echoing Green Fellowship, along with 2008 Reynolds NYU Fellows Martha Diaz and Ben Cockelet. Go Team! We are all blazing forward and I remain intrigued with where the road will lead.

Circling back to the summer of 2009, you may be curious what I first dived into following such a whirlwind summit?  Another summit–the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative Meeting.  I attended the gathering as a blogger for Skoll Foundation’s Social Edge.  Two highlights standout.  First, I was invited to a private news conference for a handful bloggers with President Bill Clinton.  The irony of this is still not lost on me–I had not launched my blog yet!  My first Africa’s Moment blog post chronicles that meeting with the former President.  The next day, when CGI2009 officially opened, I started a conversation with a pleasant woman sitting next to me.  Turns out, she is also a Reynolds Fellow–Diane Geng, who is a Harvard KSG alum.  Of everyone in a room of 300+ people who I could have randomly sat next to, how telling that I sit beside another Reynolds Fellow who has made it into this chair all the way from rural Shanxi China?

Attending CGI was enlightening, but I remember zooming between sessions to make class with Professor Bill Easterly and then (joy of joys) work some last minute magic for the Africa Social Enterprise Forum)–the first gathering of its scale in the US focusing exclusively on African social entrepreneurship.  ASEF launched the day after CGI closed.  We opened the conference to a standing room-only morning keynote by Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark, who humored us with jokes peppered by tech-savvy ideas for African development.  Celebrated Pop!Tech Curator and Executive Director Andrew Zolli delivered the afternoon keynote, highlighting an innovative and successful HIV/AIDS outreach and education program launched in South Africa.  Pop!Tech’s Project M reminds patients which anti-retroviral drug to take when and blasts educational messages and useful information–such as where to get tested–for free and in African languages, all through mobile SMS.  Talk about a cell phone service worth celebrating.

There have been many moments filled with celebration in the New Year already.  A fantastic friend and 2008 Reynolds NYU Scholar, Cesar Francia, began an internship this spring in the office of Justice Sotomayor.  Last week Friday, I reconnected with a living South African legend whom I first met during that amazing Academy summit of 2009–Justice Albie Sachs.  Justice Sachs spoke beautifully at NYU Law about how he often came to an epiphany on a landmark case while meditating in the bathtub, rushing with drips of water raining down as he committed a thought to paper.  I am most moved by his humanistic approach to the law, acknowledging that most matters of the court are decisions between right and right.  Reminds me of an eloquent Talmudic quote a friend passed onto me, “These and these are the truths”.
This year will surely unfold many layers of truth about who we are and what we ought be.  I hope to celebrate the best of both in myself and others with unwavering compassion and a throw-away ease and humor about it all.