Our Board


VGIF’s Board of Directors is composed of leaders from the nonprofit and for-profit sector who are dedicated to the organization’s mission of supporting women-led grassroots organizations that advance the rights of women and girls’ around the world. 


VGIF Board of Directors

VGIF Officers: 2017-2018 Term

Jeri Rhodes
President   |   USA

Jeri Rhodes has worked for more than thirty years in all aspects of business and financial management in non-profit and for profit settings.  She is currently the Chief Financial Officer at Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobbying organization in Washington DC.  Previously, she served in the same position for Greenpeace USA.  For several years, Ms. Rhodes served as Director of Finance or Executive Director in the legal Industry.  Prior to working for law firms, she served as Treasurer of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.

Ms. Rhodes has also been active as a volunteer board member for many years, usually as the Treasurer or a member of the Finance Committee.    She is completing her term as President of VGIF, an international women’s fund which provides grants that support community led projects designed to improve the lives of women and girls.   

Ms. Rhodes earned a B.A in American History from American University and a Masters in Administration with a concentration on Finance from University of California, Riverside.  She has also is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)and a Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

Leslie Erway Wright
Executive Vice President   |   USA
Leslie Erway Wright, a long-term supporter of VGIF as initiator of the United Nations Committee, former Board member and grants previewer, returns to the Board as Executive Vice President in support of the President. Her activism at the UN and community levels, her work as a feminist and her skills in communication and marketing make her well-suited to the role. She says, “I have worked for women’s advancement all my life, and supporting VGIF’s efforts is the best way of accomplishing equality for women and girls. I hope to continue to support these grants and the growth of the Board using all my skills." Ms. Wright has worked as a volunteer with various NGOs at the UN for the past 17 years. Before that she was a marketing and communication consultant and organized numerous conferences and events for various organizations. She holds a BA in Latin American Studies, a MA in Public Policy and a MS in Marketing.
Maggie Ford
Vice President, Project Grants   |   USA
Maggie Ford has worked in institutional advancement for more than 40 years, primarily in public and private higher education. Her advanced degrees are in teaching and nonprofit public relations. As the principal of Ford Consulting, she worked with a spectrum of nonprofit clients on organizational and resource development. Today, she provides pro bono consulting through Executive Service Corps. Maggie has been an active volunteer throughout her professional life including: 12 years of service on the board of the AAUW Educational Foundation, the last two as president, service on the board of the YWCA of Hartford (CT), Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford (CT), advisory commissions to a variety of agencies in CT, two local environmental conservation organizations, and of the local historical society. She has donated many hours to VGIF, spending 2 terms on the Board, serving on the Project Grants Committee and as convener of the Nominating and Development Committees. In addition to knowledge of VGIF, Ms. Ford brings an understanding of organizational behavior/dynamics, strategic planning and implementation, demonstrated success in resource development and nonprofit public relations and management, and a recognized commitment to women's equity issues.
Mary McGovern
President Elect   |  Canada
Mary McGovern has a BCL degree from University College Dublin, an LLM from the University of London and a Barrister at Law degree from The Honorable Society of King’s Inns, Dublin, Ireland. From 1987 – 1991 she was an associate at the law firm of David Polk & Wardwell in New York. She served as Executive Director of The Clean Air Campaign in Atlanta, Georgia from 2001-2003. Since then she has volunteered as a fundraiser, grant writer, grant reviewer and evaluator with a variety of nonprofit organizations, including CareRing, Inc., Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, Women’s Impact Fund and Alliance for African Women Initiative.
Dagmar McGill
Vice President, Human Resources   |   USA

This is Dagmar McGill's third experience on the board, which began in the 1980's. She joined VGIF
from her leadership role as Vice President of Development for the AAUW Educational Foundation.
She began on the Nominating Committee and then the first Strategic Planning Committee. She
encouraged the creation of a Development Committee, along with an Annual Report and audit. Her
more recent experience has been on the Strategic Planning Committee and as the Chair of the
Executive Search Task Force.

Her 50 years of professional experience was focused on girls and young women within the Girl Scouts of USA and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. She retired as President/CEO of BBBS International. She encouraged VGIF to put "girls"; in its mission statement and to implement training for women to develop programs for women and girls focusing on outcomes and impact. In 1977 she was elected a Pennsylvania Delegate to the Houston conference on Women, and participated in the UN's Women Conferences in Mexico City, Nairobi, Kenya and Copenhagen, Denmark.

Christine Schmitz
Treasurer   |   USA
Christine Schmitz has a B.M. from Peabody Conservatory of Music of the Johns Hopkins University as well as a Certificate in Accounting and a Masters in Legal and Ethical Studies from the University of Baltimore. She is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Financial Planner and Personal Financial Specialist. She is also a Registered Investment Advisor and a licensed advisor in the areas of life and long term care insurance. From 1986 – 2003 she served in various capacities as a CPA. Since 2003 she has been employed by Glass Jacobson, a CPA/Wealth Management Firm. At VGIF, she has served as Treasurer since 2013 and has been a member of the Finance and Investment Committee since 2011. She has served in numerous capacities with other non-profit organizations.
Abby Meiselman
Secretary   |   USA
Abby Meiselman has practiced law as a litigator for 30 years. She was a senior in-house litigator specializing in securities litigation and white collar defense work at several major financial institutions, and, prior to her roles as in-house counsel, she served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. She is a volunteer with Domestic Abuse Services of the YWCA in Greenwich, Connecticut, leading a new initiative and providing coverage on a domestic violence hotline. Ms. Meiselman received her B.A., magna cum laude, from Harvard University and her J.D. from New York University School of Law.

Current VGIF Committee Conveners

Susannah Dhamdhere
Development   |   USA
Susannah Dhamdhere has been a committed member of VGIF since 2002, when she joined at her grandmother (and longtime VGIF supporter) Jewell Hanna's urging. Ms. Dhamdhere's past roles have been Project Grants previewer and Project Grants Committee member, where she became passionate about VGIF's mission and the tremendous global need for our support. Since 2011, she has served on the Development Committee, which she currently leads as Convener. Ms. Dhamdhere joined the VGIF Board in 2016 and is pleased to represent the area of Development and Fundraising on the Executive Committee. Susannah believes that even through most people don't consider themselves experts in fundraising, everyone can speak passionately about VGIF's work and our need to raise funds in order to provide grants. Ms. Dhamdhere lives in Seattle with her husband, Aashish, and her children Chloe (11) and Kiran (8). She works for Starbucks Coffee Company in the area of corporate business development and account management. 
Karen McKee
Finance and Investment   |   USA
Karen McKee enjoyed a 32 year career with IBM in sales, marketing and operations. She is currently an Executive Assistant in the Development office of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the largest living history museum in the United States. Ms. McKee has been an active member of VGIF for over 20 years, including positions as a Project Grants Committee member, convener of the Strategic Planning Task Force, Treasurer and Convener of the Finance & Investment Committee. She is a lifetime member of AAUW and was past president of the Norwalk/Westport (CT) branch and Director of the Connecticut Educational Foundation. She also served as the Assistant Treasurer, USA for the International Federation of University Women. She has an economics degree from the University of North Carolina and an MBA in finance from Lehigh University.
Margery Sullivan
Governance   |   USA
Margery Sullivan has been a member of VGIF since she was recruited by past president Jean Colburn to join the Finance Committee. She was elected Treasurer for 2 terms and presently is the Convener of the Governance Committee. She is biologist / entomologist at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda MD. Currently she is part of the research team studying the migration of malaria infected mosquitoes in Sub-Saharan Africa.  She has served on the boards of local arts and education nonprofits in the Washington DC area and was on the board of the American Association of University Women’s Legal Advocacy Fund.
Dagmar McGill
Human Resources   |   USA
[For bio, see under Board Officers above.]
Terry Oudraad
Nominating   |   The Netherlands
Terry Oudraad became a member of VGIF over 20 years ago, and has served on the VGIF Board of Directors as a board member and as 3rd Vice-President. She also served as Convener of the HR Committee and as a member of the Finance and Investment Committee. Ms. Oudraad enjoyed a 34 year career in retail banking in the Netherlands as senior legal counsel. She has a Master’s Degree in law from the University of Utrecht. She also served as Coordinator International Relations (CIR) (1992-1998) for the VVAO, the Netherlands Associations of Women Graduates, and was a member of the Finance Committee (1998-2001) and as Treasurer on the Board (2001-2007) of Graduate Women International (GWI) – formerly known as International Federation of University Women (IFUW). She is currently President of the recently founded Graduate Women International Netherlands (GWI-NL), which hopes to become a member of GWI in the near future.
Maggie Ford
Project Grants   |   USA
[For bio, see under Board Officers above.]
Susan Russell
United Nations   |   Canada
Susan Russell graduated with a BA (English and Latin) and an MA degree (English) from Trinity College Dublin University, Ireland. She has lived in Guyana, South America, where she taught High School English, Latin and History. She immigrated to Canada with her husband and children in 1970 and lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Ms. Russell has been active in the Canada NGO community for many years, and in 2000 she received a Millennium Award for Volunteer contributions. She served as a Board member for the Canadian Federation of University Women and as Executive Director for 11 years. Ms. Russell was awarded the National Capital Femmy Award for her contributions to women's equality in 2011, and in 2013 she was elected Vice President of Graduate Women International (IFUW) at its Triennial conference in Istanbul. Ms. Russell brings international experience along with financial, program, and management skills to the VGIF Board.
Andrea Torrico
Audit Committee   |   USA
Andrea Torrico holds a B.S. in Accounting, Finance and Real Estate along with a Masters of Accounting in Taxation from Florida State University. She is a Certified Public Accountant in New York, Florida and Georgia and also is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. Since 2009,  Ms. Torrico has provided specialized Taxation and Advisory client services as a professional at Ernst & Young LLP in their New York City office. Ms. Torrico has been a member of VGIF since 2014 and current serves on the Board of Directors, as the Audit Committee Convener and as a Member of the Finance and Investments Committee. She also serves various other non-profit organizations throughout her community. 

VGIF Board Members

Ranjana Banerjee

Dr. Ranjana Banerjee, Associate Professor, is a faculty member in Loreto College’s Department of Education, where she has also served as the convener of Literary Society, the editor of the college magazine, coordinator for Internal Quality Assurance, coordinator of the Loreto College Women’s Study Society and member of the Loreto Board for Planning and Monitoring. Dr. Banergee also works as a visiting faculty member at Calcutta University’s B.Ed / M.A / M.Ed and M.Phil Education Courses.

Along with her role on VGIF’s United Nations Committee, Dr. Banerjee serves the Graduate Women International as Education Committee Convener. She has served as the Indian Federation of University Women’s Associations as Coordinator of International Relations (2008 – 2011), Scholarship Convener of the National Federation (2014 – 2017) and presently the convener of Education (2017 – 2020). She is an active committee member of a number of socio academic NGO’s, all of which cater towards issues regarding women and the girl child. A serving member and national editor of Soroptimist International, Dr. Banerjee has participated in a number of national and international seminars, panel discussions and workshops and has had papers published in a number of academic journals.

Alice Bartelt
Alice Bartelt has extensive experience advocating for women at the state, national and international level. Through decades of advocacy work, Ms. Bartelt has served as a member, supporter and leader of several prominent and impactful institutions, including: League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women of Oregon, Zonta International, the National Association of Parliamentarians, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, the Women’s Rights Coalition, Oregon Women Lawyers, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Diversity Section of the Oregon State Bar. An Oregon native, Ms. Bartelt practiced workers’ compensation law for 25 years prior to her retirement. At VGIF, she has served as Parliamentarian to the United Nations and a dedicated Board Member. 
Meg Chappell has a Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in sexuality, sexual, and reproductive health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is currently the program manager for Empire Liver Foundation and a DONA Certified birth doula with Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. Over the past decade, Meg has worked in grant making and program development in maternal health, HIV, and Hepatitis C. As an advocate for quality and accessible sexual and reproductive health for all, Ms. Chappell has volunteered with Planned Parenthood, the CAIR Project, and Bellevue Hospital’s Rape Crisis Program. She has been involved with VGIF as the former grant associate, and presently, as a second-term board member and as a member of the UN and Development committees. She continues to support VGIF because they value local women as the experts on what is best for their own livelihood and success. 
Lisa A. Fleming
An accomplished International Program Director and practiced Educator, Lisa Fleming has devoted her career to the promotion of global competence and the development of awareness of global food security issues among youth, educational professionals and other community members at the local, state, national and international levels. Ms. Fleming has attained a high success rate for her youth program participants pursuing academic degrees and careers in science- and agriculture-related disciplines that are critical in the fight against hunger and poverty. For the past 17 years, she has worked with 34 research centers, institutions and NGO’s in 20 developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East to direct students and help them realize original research projects with acclaimed international scientists while getting a firsthand view of pressing food security issues and nutritional problems in poverty-stricken areas of the developing world.
Sarada Krishnan

Dr. Sarada Krishnan is Director of Horticulture and Center for Global Initiatives at Denver Botanic Gardens, where she is responsible for directing the design and maintenance of the horticulture displays and collections, and for developing and leading global projects. Dr. Krishnan has a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture from India, where the focus was on tropical horticulture. She has a Master of Science degree in Horticulture from Colorado State University, with a research focus on the propagation of native Colorado flora specializing in plant tissue culture. Her doctorate research at University of Colorado, Boulder, focused on the conservation genetics of wild coffee in Madagascar.

Dr. Krishnan owns coffee plantations in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica and is a faculty affiliate with Colorado State University’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. She serves on several local, state and national boards. She is a global expert on coffee and has published several papers on coffee and served on global projects. She is passionate about issues related to food security and women’s empowerment and is looking forward to making a difference through serving on the VGIF board and the Project Grants Committee.

Louise McLeod

Louise McLeod, GWI Marketing VP, has more than 30 years’ experience in the non-profit sector dealing with women’s issues at the local, national and international level. Ms. McLeod holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from the University of Toronto and a Graduate Diploma in Computer Science from Concordia University in Montreal. Ms. McLeod has spent the last 20 years developing websites for non-profits specializing in web-based database applications and non-profit communications and has worked in the business-to-business marketing sector.

Ms. McLeod’s particular interest is women’s issues at the international level - particularly Human Rights, Human Trafficking in all its forms and Women, Peace and Security. She is a founding board member and immediate Past President of Women Graduates-USA and currently sits on the board of the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund where she serves on the Project Grants Committee, and the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition in Pennsylvania, USA. Ms. McLeod also serves as the VP-Marketing for Graduate Women International, based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ms. McLeod has three daughters and six grandchildren. She and her husband, Brian, live in Buckingham, PA.

Raime Leeby Muhle

Raime Leeby Muhle is the Chief Financial Officer of AlloSource, one of the nation’s largest providers of cartilage, bone, skin, soft-tissue and cellular allografts for use in surgical procedures and wound care to advance patient healing. Ms. Leeby Muhle oversees all of the finance, accounting, and information technology needs of the organization. Her role ensures we have the financial capabilities to honor donor wishes, as well as give back to our donation community partners.

With over 18 years of experience, Ms. Leeby Muhle’s background spans emerging high growth businesses to large and mature organizations. She has held various senior leadership positions with finance and operational responsibilities. Prior to AlloSource, Ms. Leeby Muhle held key leadership positions at Galvanize, Arrow Electronics and Level 3 Communications. She started her career with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Ms. Leeby Muhle is involved in several philanthropic initiatives and serves on the Board for the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation and the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund, an organization focused on grants fostering women’s education and economic empowerment in developing countries. She is passionate about both education and the advancement of women in girls.

Esther Ngumbi

Dr. Esther Ngumbi is a post-doctoral researcher with the Entomology Department at Auburn University, Alabama.  A native of Kwale County, Kenya, Dr. Ngumbi is very passionate about issues of hunger, gender, education, youth activism, sustainability and agriculture. She is a Food Security Fellow with Aspen Institute New Voices and has authored over 50 opinion pieces in outlets ranging from Time Magazine, CNN, NPR, Reuters and The Los Angeles Times. She is a Clinton Global University Initiative Commitment Mentor for Agriculture and a motivational speaker.

Dr. Ngumbi has established several programs benefitting Kenyan youth and enterprises, including Spring Break Kenya -an organization that is galvanizing young Kenyan students into service, and Oyeska Greens-a startup company that is revolutionizing agriculture at the Kenyan Coast. She and her parents established the Dr. Ndumi Faulu Academy in Kenya to ensure that every child has a solid chance at getting a quality education. Dr. Ngumbi was the recipient of the first-ever 2017 Emerging Sustainability Leader Award and a finalist for the President Clinton Global Hunger Leadership Award. She was named by One World Action as one of “100 Unseen Powerful Women Who Change the World.”

Dr. Eleanor Ann Nwadinobi

Dr. Eleanor Ann Nwadinobi is a medical doctor and a gender, health and human rights expert. She has a Masters in Human rights and Democratization from Venice, Italy. Dr. Nwadinobi started her career in anesthesia in the UK. An international development expert, she has worked in areas of HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, girl education, child protection, malaria, and women, peace and security. She is currently the Women, Peace and Security lead with Nigeria’s Foreign and Commonwealth office.

Dr. Nwadinobi sits on the boards of several International Organizations, including VGIF. She is a past Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Chair of the UN NGO/DPI Executive Committee and a current Chair of the MWIA centennial public relations subcommittee.

Dr. Nwadinobi has made numerous international conference presentations, including at the UK House of Commons and UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Author of several publications and recipient of numerous awards. Dr. Nwadinobi is also: President of Widows Development Organization (WiDO), Co-Founder Blossoms of the Vine fellowship, and Lady of Knights of the Good Shepherd, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion. Dr. Nwadinobi is happily married and is a mother and grandmother.

Dr. Julie Pennington

An active member of both the Nominating and Project Grants Committees, Dr. Julie Pennington holds a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University, a Certificate in Mandarin Chinese Language Studies from National Taiwan Normal University, a Masters in International Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management, a Masters in Agricultural Economics from Iowa State University, and a Ph. D in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska. She currently works as an Assistant Professor at the University of Tampa, where she conducts research on agribusiness, food safety, human trafficking, and other subjects relevant to VGIF’s work. Before her career in academics began, Dr. Pennington spent 20 years in the international management and marketing industries – working in more than 65 countries on six continents. 

Dr. Gerlinde Sarkar

Gerlinde Sarkar has a long history of working in post-secondary education, both as a teacher and manager.  She taught courses in Corporate Finance and Economics at the University of Saskatchewan and was later employed at the Saskatchewan Polytechnic as Director of Research, Planning and Development for over 16 years. During that time Dr. Sarkar worked on numerous international assignments in many low and middle-income countries (Nepal, Philippines, Jordan, Egypt, and India), providing workshops in strategic planning, labor market research, and implementing evaluation frameworks.

After retiring from SIAST, Dr. Sarkar worked for the next three years in Doha, Qatar and later established a management consulting company, GEOMARC Technologies Inc., which works primarily with non-profit organizations developing strategic and business plans.

Dr. Sarkar’s special passion is helping women receive an education and other tools to secure a better economic future. This passion is what attracted her to become a member of VGIF. The matriarch of a very international family, Dr. Sarkar was born in Germany, but has lived in Canada for most of her adult life.  Her late husband was from India, her three grown sons live in the US, Australia and Thailand, and the family was recently enriched by a daughter-in-law from Cambodia.

Jane Schukoske

Jane E. Schukoske has worked in US legal academia, in Fulbright capacities, and in the rural development sector in India. Currently based in Arlington, VA, she consults for various development and higher educational organizations. A lawyer/law professor, she works on rural access to justice and good governance, with special interest in the roles of women in their communities. VGIF's support of women at the grassroots level attracted her to commit to Board service with VGIF.

Dr. Jacqueline Buckman Shahzadi

Jackie Shahzadi has been a member of the Board of Directors of VGIF for over ten years and has served as Convener of the Connections Committee and the Nominations Committee. She has been an active member of the La Palma-Cerritos (CA) AAUW for over 30 years and has served on the Board of Women Graduates-U.S.A.  She is very active in international groups such as Servas, an international peace and friendship organization, and People to People Ambassador Programs, for whom she has led delegations to Cuba, South Africa, and New Zealand and Australia.  She has attended the last nine triennial conferences of the Graduate Women International.  

Dr. Shahzadi retired in 2017, after 20 years as Campus College Chair for the College of Humanities and Sciences and faculty member for the Southern California Campus of the University of Phoenix.  She holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Southern California.

 Dr. Shahzadi’s interest in international affairs began with her 12-year residence in pre-revolutionary Iran.  She is the co-author with her husband of a book about her life in Iran: Goldoon and Professor: Memoirs and Reflections of a Bicultural Marriage. 

Johanna Sterbin

Johanna Sterbin serves as an Administrative Law Judge in New York City and is an Assistant Professor at Pace University. She feels that this combination enables her to fill her role as Board Member at VGIF, and as a member of Finance Committee.

Ms. Sterbin has a B.A. from the College of New Rochelle, an M.A. from New York University, a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law, and an LL.M. from New York University Graduate School of Law. She has studied at the University of Bonn, Germany as the recipient of a Fulbright Grant.

Throughout her career, Ms. Sterbin has been involved in the fight for human rights and, in particular, gender equality. She has represented several NGOs at the United Nations, particularly the International Federation of Women Lawyers and the International Federation of Women in Legal Careers. She has been a speaker at many world conferences and always seeks to get students involved in education and advocacy in the pursuit of justice.

Anita Thomas

Anita Thomas has extensive experience working with both domestic and international Non-Governmental Organizations, specifically in the areas of advocacy, project management, development and membership affairs. Ms. Thomas currently serves as a member of VGIF’s Project Grants Committee and as VGIF’s representative to the Economic and Social Council of the UN focusing on Financing for Development issues.

Ms. Thomas also works as the Project Manager of Conquer Paralysis Now and serves as a Board member of the Princeton, New York YWCA. She formerly served as the NGO Representative to the United Nations for the World Association of Girls Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) for over ten years. In this role, she advocated on issues pertaining to women and girls specifically, HIV/AIDS and Child Rights.

Ms. Thomas is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Finance at the Simon Business School, University of Rochester. She is a Fellow of the Eagleton Institute of Politics and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs and Politics from the Bloustein School of Public Policy at Rutgers University and a Master’s Degree in Economics from Madras Christian College in India.

Ms. Thomas lives in Princeton, NJ with her husband, Abe, and their dog Blitz. Their two children, Aaron and Arielle, are both college students. 

Gomathy Venkateswar

Gomathy Venkateswar has been an educator for more than 35 years and has been the principal of several prestigious private schools in India as well as in neighboring Nepal. Her expertise is in developing curricula that meet international standards, pedagogical methods and special education. Between 1999 and 2004, Ms. Venkateswar helped found the Malpi International School in Nepal. She designed the curriculum for the primary, middle and senior school – an extremely challenging task at a time when that country’s education system had been paralyzed by acute political instability caused by the Maoist insurgency.  

Apart from her role as educator, Ms. Venkateswar has actively entered the world of International NGOs. She is currently serving her third term on VGIF’s Board, where she is a member of the Project Grants Committee.

Ms. Venkateswar holds an M.A. in History from Calcutta University, where graduated first in her class for Ancient Indian History and Culture. She was also a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Minnesota in 1987. In her leisure hours she loves gardening and has a special interest in rearing orchids. She listens to both classical Indian and Western music, and takes a keen interest in wild life conservation and protection programs.