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Our Board

VGIF is governed by an international Board of Directors who bring perspectives from across the country and world. Our community is guided by their decades of experience in the women's empowerment and international development fields - and their conviction that the empowerment of women and girls is critical for creating lasting and meaningful impact. 

 

Executive Board

Mary McGovern

Board President. 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 Davis 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.

Leslie Erway Wright

Executive Vice President. 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 of 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.

Susannah Dhamdhere

Vice President, Development. 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.

Christine Schmitz

Treasurer. 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. 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.

 
 

Committee Chairs

Lisa A. Fleming

Convener, Nominating Committee. 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.

Raime Leeby Muhle

Convener, Finance and Investment Committee. 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. 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 serves on the Board for the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation and is passionate about both education and the advancement of women in girls.

Margery Sullivan

Convener, Governance Committee. 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.

Anita Thomas

Convener, United Nations Committee. 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. She 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.

Andrea Torrico

Convener, Audit Committee. 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 Andrea 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 Investment Committee. She also serves various other non-profit organizations throughout her community.

 
 

Board of Directors

Meghan Chappell

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.

Katherine D’Urso

Katherine D'Urso is the Chief Client Development Officer for WilmerHale, a large international law firm, where she is responsible for the business development, marketing and communications functions. Katherine has held similar roles at two other law firms (King & Spalding and Weil, Gotshal and Manges) and at PwC, where she was a partner and led the team that in 1998 launched and managed the PricewaterhouseCoopers brand worldwide. Katherine has helped lead and participate in strategic planning efforts, both in her professional work and as a member of boards of non-profit organizations. In the recent past she served as Treasurer for 108 Monkeys, a non-profit organization providing yoga and mindfulness training to at-risk youth in the New Haven, CT, area, and as a board member for the Lauder Institute Alumni Association. She is passionately interested in the welfare and empowerment of women and girls, particularly in developing countries, having spent a significant portion of her childhood in developing countries. Katherine has a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.B.A from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a Lauder Fellow and received an M.A. in International Studies.

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 (Coffea spp.) 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.

Kate Landon

Kate Landon has been the Director of Programs at The New York Women’s Foundation since 2015, where she oversees the distribution of nearly $8 million annually to nonprofit organizations in NYC working with low-income women and families. A philanthropic and nonprofit leader with over 13 years of experience, Ms. Landon has worked in a variety of management, research and evaluation, and direct service roles related to understanding and improving the well-being of marginalized communities in the U.S. and abroad, with a particular focus on women and youth in areas of education, workforce development, and health. Other previous positions include Executive Director of the New Haven/León Sister City Project, a bi–national, social justice organization implementing community development projects in rural Nicaragua, as well as AmeriCorps Program Director at LEAP, Inc., a city–wide provider of afterschool, summer and youth development programming for youth ages 7 – 23 in New Haven. Ms, Landon holds a B. A. in Sociology from Rutgers College and an M. P. A. in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at NYU.

Dagmar McGill

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.

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. 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.

 

Our Staff

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Emily Forhman

Executive Director

Emily Forhman brings over 20 years of nonprofit experience to VGIF. With previous roles as the Executive Director of Spence-Chapin, a domestic and international adoption agency, and as the Executive Director of The Catholic Big Sisters and Big Brothers, she has spent her career working for the well-being of children both at home and abroad.

Emily believes that VGIF’s work supporting women's and girls' causes plays a critical role in strengthening and building thriving communities. Emily holds a Master's Degree in Social Work from Fordham University.

 
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Jenna Wallace

Program Director

Jenna joined VGIF in 2014 with both academic and practical experience in efforts to advance gender equality globally. Her extensive travel and experience living and working in communities like the ones VGIF supports - from Nicaragua to Indonesia -  is instrumental in contextualizing grantee projects, and her work with community-based organizations informs her understanding of complex realities at the grassroots level. 
 
A Master’s Degree from Columbia University’s Human Rights program provides a strong background in research and evaluation, global trends, and best practices in the women’s rights landscape. And, over 4 years collaborating with hundreds of VGIF’s grantees has grown her expertise in working in this unique landscape. 

 
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Evaline Franks

Program Associate

Evaline has participated in women's rights projects in the US and abroad, and brings experience in indigenous rights, health, and education to VGIF. She spent several years living in Australia, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Development Practice from the University of Queensland.

After completing her studies, Evaline moved to New York and began working with various non-profits in a development role. Evaline joined VGIF’s Program Team in 2016 and uses her academic and professional knowledge to foster meaningful relationships with VGIF’s grantees and communicate their successes and challenges to various stakeholders.

 
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Kelsey Ottoson

Development Associate

Kelsey came to VGIF with five years of fundraising and development experience working for both local and international nonprofit organizations.  Kelsey earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Virginia Tech with a concentration in sustainability and nonprofit management.  During her undergraduate career, Kelsey lived in New Zealand, Germany and Switzerland, studying with prominent international aid organizations. 
 
After graduating, she lived and worked abroad in Europe before settling in New York City as a nonprofit development consultant. Since then, she has worked for numerous organizations in a marketing and development capacity.  She has concentrated experience in major gifts, event planning, marketing, and appeal writing.

Join the team! 

VGIF is always looking for committed individuals to support our cause. Learn more about opportunities to get involved here: