Founder & Creative Director
Amar C. Bakshi is an artist whose work focuses on how to integrate technology into environments and across pronounced distance to create new forms of digital-physical public spaces that challenge and subvert existing norms. In particular, he works to connect members of diverse communities who would likely not otherwise meet in intimate environments to create their own meanings. As an artist, Amar treats the formation of institutions as, themselves, sites of creation. Amar previously worked as a reporter at The Washington Post, an editor at CNN, and as Special Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Amar, a Soros Fellow and Truman Scholar, has an AB from Harvard University, a MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a JD from Yale Law School.
Co-Founder and Director of Global Development
Michelle Moghtader runs global development for Shared_Studios. Previously, she was a multi-media journalist based in the Middle East. She has written for Reuters, CNN, The Huffington Post and Energy Intelligence Group and worked as a community organizer across the U.S. Michelle graduated from the University of Virginia and received her master’s degree from the Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. She speaks Persian, French and Spanish.
Chief Operating Officer
Jake joined Shared_Studios in 2016 as Special Assistant to the Creative Director and currently manages all staff, operations, and public activations across Shared_Studios projects. Prior to Shared_Studios, Jake worked with the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders on issues of sexual assault in the military. He has worked in a number of positions in production management and public policy, including as a speechwriter for the New York City Mayor’s Office, as a Producer for Major Lazer in Havana, Cuba, and at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, where he advised executive leadership on programming and outreach for young audiences. He is a graduate of Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, CUNY, and is a contributor on topics of technology and politics for The Hill.
Global Portal Curator
Emma Saperstein is a performance artist, curator and arts administrator based in San Luis Obispo, CA. A graduate of Wheaton College and the New York Center for Art and Media Studies, her experience includes serving as studio manager to internationally recognized artist Titus Kaphar, co-curator of Inverse Performance Art Festival, involvement in the thriving alternative arts and publishing community in Chicago, specifically with the Public Media Institute, Lumpen Magazine and the Co-Prosperity Sphere. For the past two years, she has served as an editor and curator for the feminist collective HYSTERIA. She currently splits her time between Shared Studios and the Harold J. Miossi Art Gallery at Cuesta College.
Ben Gordon oversees partnerships, sales, and business development activities for Shared_Studios. He also leads Shared_Studios' work in smart cities, community development, and placemaking in the U.S. and abroad. Before joining Shared_Studios, Ben ran business development and strategy for Manhattan Strategy Group, a federal consulting firm that provides technical assistance and program evaluation to the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development. He has a BA from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Ben is from Maryland, grew up in New Delhi, and now lives in Brooklyn.
Ryan Howard is a technologist, designer, and artist who creates systems, strategies, and environments for storytelling at human scale. His work spans experience design, product design, audiovisual systems design, software development, game development, broadcast media systems, IT, and architectural media. His visual art practice explores the mediation of gestural mark-making by technology, working with both traditional and non-traditional mediums. At Goldman Sachs he was a thought leader on use of immersive technologies within the enterprise environment. As an independent consultant he worked on global collaboration ecosystems, live-action gaming, and a broad range of production and audiovisual hybrids. Over twenty-five years he has led the design, engineering, and deployment of systems across the globe.
Head of Educational Programming
Kristen Erickson has spent the past seventeen years as an educator at Greenwich Academy, an independent school for girls in Greenwich, CT. She teaches high school and middle school students and served for nine years as a grade-level dean. Prior to her time at Greenwich Academy, Kristen spent twelve years in the curatorial field at the Museum of Modern Art, Smith College Museum of Art, Ashmolean Museum, and Luchsinger Gallery at Greenwich Academy. She is fluent in French and has decades of experience as a competitive rower and rowing coach.
Associate Director of Design
John Farrace is a Los-Angeles based designer working at the intersection of media and architecture. He directs Shared_Studios' design, architecture, and strategic practice. John is a graduate of the University of Southern California and Yale University (M.Arch.).
Special Projects Coordinator
Sara joined Shared_Studios after completing a Masters in Anthropology from University College of London where she conducted fieldwork in the Calais ‘Jungle.’ She is interested in points at which material culture and human rights intersect; including materialized memory, imagined realities, the architecture of displacement, and the aesthetic and media responses to humanitarian crisis and civil injustices.
Social Media Manager & LA Ambassador
Jennifer Pisz is a writer, dancer and producer based in Los Angeles. She began her career at the age of 16 in Off-Broadway musical The Children and continued dancing professionally while completing her undergraduate degree at New York University, where she majored in Journalism with a minor in French Studies. She has written for outlets including CBS Los Angeles, CBS Radio, Yahoo! and HBO News, specializing in news, arts and culture. Jennifer founded DANCELEN(D)S in 2010 to explore the intersection of dance and film. A collective of choreographers, dancers and filmmakers, the organization works to promote the collaborative spirit of the arts and to make high-value dance films more accessible to the public.
Alistair graduated from the University of Sydney with a Master of Arts in Philosophy and a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in English Literature. He helped author Out On the Fields, a ground-breaking report into homophobia in the sporting environment, and launched the Good Lad Initiative - a program that delivers workshops on masculinity and consent - in Australia. Before that, he led initiatives that increased access to university to students from underrepresented backgrounds. He hopes to use these experiences in social ventures to find new ways of making societies more equitable and compassionate. Alistair is 25 years old and from Australia.
Lewis coordinates Portal operations in Milwaukee and Chicago, as well as local outreach, and business development in the Amani neighborhood. Lewis is also the Outreach Coordinator for the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative, and is a leader working on community and restorative justice his community.
Omid Habibi is a professor of computer science and the director of ADIB. He single-handedly brought the first Portal to Afghanistan and has helped secure the expansion of Portals in his country and beyond. He is currently studying computer science in Berlin.
Tomas Ramirez is an interpreter and translator who studied at the Instituto Superior de Intérpretes y Traductores in Mexico City. He is also a freelance booking agent and has worked with several entertainment agencies like Ache Entretenimiento, Filter Mexico, TAPE, Sicario, among others. He has produced dozens of concerts and performances through the Mexico City Portal.
Maryam Hosseinzadeh has spent her whole life getting to know Los Angeles. She is interested in the layered sites, memories, places and histories of all people in the every day, the micro to macro, the links connecting locations, the built environment, and spaces in-between. In addition to creating her own projects, she also has worked with numerous artists and organizations on community centered public programming including the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs on the LA/Islam Arts Initiative and the pioneering Creative Career Pathways Pilot Program, a paid internship program for transitional-age foster youth. She holds a BA in American Studies from Pitzer College and completed graduate coursework at USC in Historic Preservation with an emphasis on the political, social, and cultural histories of the city.
Khaled was born in the Badghis province of Afghanistan and raised in Herat. He is an alumni of the Youth Exchange and Study program in the U.S. Khaled is an MD who studied at Herat University. He is also a professional simultaneous translator and holds a diploma in business and entrepreneurship.
Washington DC_Portal Curator
Deirdre Darden is an emerging curator born and raised on art in Washington DC. She began her curatorial practice in 2014 exhibiting the youngest members of Black Artists of DC. Following that show she exhibited and collaborated with some of DC's best emerging artists, organized panel discussions and artists talks touching themes of race, societal pressures, and art's power. Notable shows include Black Lives / White Light, Pressure Points and Lest We Forget.
Omar Alshafai is an electrical engineer and app developer. He fled Damascus when war broke out and has been living in Berlin since April 2015. He is the co-founder of the Bureacrazy app, which helps simplify German bureaucracy for refugees and migrants. Omar speaks Arabic, English and German.
Judith is the founder and director of Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga, and a public health and educational systems specialist. Her work across East and West Africa and the Caribbean focuses on the roles of new technologies and creativity for development. She received an interdisciplinary BA in Anthropology, Community Building, and Photography, and holds a Master of International Affairs and a Master of Public Health from Columbia University. Judith and the Kigali Portal are supported by hosts Olivier Dushimimana, Arlette Umwari, and Yves Banza.
Saied Habibi was born and raised in Tehran. At age 19 he moved to the Herat province of Afghanistan. Saied is currently studying Science and Technology at Herat University. He is an assistant professor at Herat University, and will soon be a full professor.
Dogon Nshimiyimana graduated from the University of Rwanda where he studied education and language. He is congolese by nationality and has been living in the congolese refugee camp for 20 years. He is an honest, self motivated, hardworking man focused on his life and career.
Yves Banza is a Congolese-Rwandese currently working and living in Kigali, Rwanda. After his Business Studies at the National Universities of Rwanda in 2010, he worked as a Business Development Agent for different companies in Rwanda and currently he is working as an Independent Consultant for a Market Research Company in East Africa. He speaks French, English, Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, Lingala and a little bit Spanish. He has a lot of hobbies among others art, music, travelling, meeting new faces and learning from people of different backgrounds and cultures, teaching and learning new languages.
Olivier Dushimimana is young Rwandan of 28 years old. He was born and raised in Rwanda. After secondary school, he worked with different organizations including Youth With A Mission (Christian based organization) where he trained underprivileged people basic electrical wiring skills that he acquired in school. Right after that, he worked with a big solar company building a career in electronics. Olivier speaks Kinyarwanda and English fluently and he can speak some Swahili and Luganda which is Eastern African languages! He enjoys meeting new people and loves trying new things, and looks forward to connecting Kigali to the rest of the world through Portals.
Arlette Umwali is 28 years old, from Rwanda, a born again Christian. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness and works in one of the top telecom companies in Rwanda, where she is in charge of high value customers. She loves interacting with people and reading.
Karam Yahya is a Syrian refugee who made a dangerous journey to Berlin for a better life. Her has been living in Berlin since July 2015, studying German language and volunteering with several refugee initiatives. Karam is from Idlib in the northwest of Syria. He has previously worked as a community mobilizer with ActionAid in the Zaatari Camp. For more on Karam, read his interview with the European Student Union.
Time-based and media artist Aparna Bakhle (b. 1973, Bombay, India) received her BFA in Film (Emerson College, Boston, MA). She resides in Los Angeles and investigates the intersection of radical aesthetics, political agency and the construct of publishing as the Fourth Estate. Disrupting gender, time, space and representational norms, her work spans diaristic writing, video, film, sound, sculptural form as well as performance. Using a deliberately collaborative working method driven by her need to experience tribal and familial belonging, she engages media recursively. Her work grapples with displacement within postcolonial subjectivity while staying deeply invested in complicating the ‘subject’ to better perceive the ‘consequences of visibility.’ Her writings seek to de-center linear narrative. She values empathy as an integral framework for the inner revolution that must precede radically shifting the material conditions that perpetuate inequity. A series of aesthetic investigations into self-publishing led to her role as managing editor of fabrik, a contemporary art quarterly in print since 2008. Social justice issues consistently occupy her attention, keeping her engaged in more precisely understanding the material conditions leading to dynamic social change. Activism and community organizing with Divest LA and California For Progress keeps her in perpetual motion.
Anne-Marie Litak lives and breathes in San Francisco. She laughs often, asks questions, and talks with strangers. Having studied Critical Theory, Creative Writing, and American Studies at UC Davis, she now applies her curiosity through the creation of site-specific art installations, guerilla theater performances, "identity correction" hijinks, and other culture-jamming work. She has happily worked with the SF Institute of Possibility, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and Ai Weiwei's @Large exhibit on Alcatraz.
Blue Leaf von Müller is a freelance photographer and videographer. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film Making and an Associate of Science in Logistics. She previously served in the Armed Forces as a U.S. Air Force Recruiter and a Logistician.
Stefano Chinosi is an architect of experience and the Director of Strategic Innovation for the Andover Public Schools. He’s spent the last 24 years guiding students up mountains, down rivers, across Shakespeare, and beyond biodiesel. He believes that every child is gifted and talented and recently created “The Office of Ingenuity” to prove it.
In the summer he builds stone walls. Actually, it’s just one stone wall that he has been working on for the last 15 years. During the fifth year of hauling and setting stone, while he was jamming a smaller stone between two larger ones, one of the large stones shifted and fell, temporarily rearranging his thumb. It was then that he remembered the best advice he ever received, “be smarter than the stone.”
Shelagh is the coordinator of the Global Pathways Program at Andover High School in Andover, Massachusetts. The Global Pathways Program serves 130 students, who choose to travel, participate in global service opportunities, navigate a specific course pathway based on interests/passions, create a global capstone project, and share their journey with the world through a digital portfolio. Shelagh also supports teachers as a Digital Learning Coach and facilitates the AHS Innovation Lab, a unique course where students are exposed to a hands-on approach to authentic learning, based on the principles of Stanford University’s Design School. She is in her 12th year of teaching and has worked with students from grades 6-12, ages 11-18, in the areas of technology, innovation, business and global relations. Shelagh and the Andover Portal Team support their school district, town and surrounding communities.
Eric Pellerin has been teaching English Literature & Composition at Andover High School for the past 20 years. He teaches British Literature, Advanced Placement Literature & Composition, as well as a Dramatic Literature course. He also serves as an advisor for the AHS Community Service program and the AHS SLAM Poetry Club. He is currently a Teaching Global Classrooms Fulbright scholar, and will be traveling to Indonesia this summer.
Mel Gross is a multidisciplinary artist and activist from the DMV area. She has worked with environmental and social justice organizations over the last decade on campaigns ranging from canvasing and grassroots organizing with the Sierra Student Coalition to building schools and organizational development programs in Mali, Africa raising awareness about girls rights to bodily autonomy and education as a charter member of School Girls Unite (Filles Unies). She holds a BFA in Interdisciplinary Sculpture from the Maryland institute College of Art where she began developing a practice based around social justice and development, with a focus on linguistic and cultural infrastructures.
Mary O'Meallie has BAs in Art History, Photography and French Language. She specializes in black & white (film) and pinhole photography. Her French is a little rusty but she enjoys every opportunity to use it. She is fascinated with other people & cultures and loves to travel. She enjoys the challenges of communicating with others.
Her travels have taken her to China, Canada, Mexico, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Ireland, England, Italy and France. There are still many more places she'd love to explore.
Aurelia Adhiambo was born and raised in Nairobi. She is passionate about technology, leadership, and empowering the marginalized in our communities. She’s eager to talk about everything from politics to science, and healthy living to recent cultural trends.
Lindsay Mackenzie is a communications specialist and photo & multimedia journalist from Canada, currently based between Erbil and Beirut, working for a range of news and NGO clients throughout the Middle East and North Africa. She teaches photography for National Geographic Student Expeditions and create radio documentaries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She has an BA in Geography and an MA in International Multimedia Journalism and has completed a journalism safety training courses at Columbia University and through the UN in Iraq. She is also the founder and curator of the popular Instagram feed @everydaymiddleeast.
Lily Sarafan is Chief Executive Officer of Home Care Assistance. Under Lily‘s leadership for more than a decade, Home Care Assistance has grown from startup to industry champion and today employs thousands of team members across more than 150 markets. The company is consistently recognized as an employer of choice and best-in-class consumer service, and Lily as a featured expert on digital health and innovation in aging at the White House and global conferences. For her role at the helm of Home Care Assistance, Lily has been honored as Women Health Care Executives 2016 Woman of the Year and Ernst and Young‘s 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year. She holds M.S. and B.S. degrees from Stanford University.
Dennis Walton is the head of the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative. He is a community organizer from Harambee who has been involved in numerous projects over the years, including the making of the film Milwaukee 53206.
Kavita is a New York City-based jazz singer and composer. Shah has performed and recorded with musicians such as Lionel Loueke, Steve Wilson, Yacouba Sissoko, Rogerio Boccato, Cécile McLorin Salvant, and Samir Chatterjee. Shah was named by Downbeat Magazine as the "Best Graduate Jazz Vocalist" (2012) and winner of the ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award (2013).
Elizabeth Bick is a photographer, informed by her training in classical ballet and her study and practice of street photography. Her work examines the public and private display of individual and collective movement as pantomime. She holds a MFA in Photography from Yale University School of Art.
Cara Neel is a freelance writer and the former Stanford Portal Curator for Shared Studios. Her background is in research psychology, communications, and community outreach. She received her Bachelor's degree from McGill University in 2015, where she received the Entrepreneurship Prize for the creation of the Unofficial McGill Guide.
Nick McDonell is a novelist and journalist. Born in New York City in 1984, he studied at Harvard and St. Antony’s College, Oxford. His work has been published in twenty three countries and appeared on bestseller lists around the world.
As a diplomat, bureaucrat, political campaigner, and advocate, Alexander Djerassi’s work has revolved around building relationships and interpersonal understanding across divides of experience and perspective. Djerassi has served as chief of staff in the U.S. Department of State’s Near East Bureau, which oversees U.S. relations with the Arab world, Israel, and Iran. He is a former nonresident associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and member of the policy team of multiple presidential campaigns.
Isabel Maxwell is a Technology Pioneer of the World Economic Forum. She is a media and Internet entrepreneur, international executive, and champion of social innovation. She is known for her energetic leadership of companies and non-profit organizations and leveraging her extensive network of investors, thought-leaders, business leaders and philanthropists around the world. She is multilingual and tri-national, and a graduate of Oxford University.
Patrick is an experienced systems architect and technical leader that has overseen products and projects of all scales. He is Vice President of systems engineering at LiveStream.
Neesha Rahim co-founded and led Level Up Village, a social impact company building global competency skills in K-12 students through guided global virtual exchange experiences revolving around STEM subjects. She helped scale the company's impact to 26 states in the US and 20 countries around the world as co-CEO, reaching thousands of students and educators. Before this, she spent 15 years working in the NGO space with youth development and conflict resolution organizations, including Seeds of Peace, where she first understood the power of connecting people with seemingly insurmountable differences.
Sylvia Delafield is the co-founder of Howard Delafield International, has worked throughout Asia, the Pacific, Africa, the Caribbean and the U.S. to help international NGOs, businesses and donor funded projects launch and scale-up their projects and programs through partnerships with the private sector, foundations, and government. Sylvia has also managed national campaigns focused on health, the environment, and human rights issues. After studying abroad in Japan as part of her undergraduate studies at Boston University, she earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Hawaii, where she focused her thesis on cross-cultural video conferencing. She also served as Manager of Corporate Partnerships for the Nature Conservancy’s Asia Division, and launched an international hotel on behalf of Dai-ichi Japan in Indonesia. Her international experience has driven her passion to connect people and organizations as a means to not only promote understanding and mutual respect, but also the sheer joy and beauty of stepping into the adventure of new places, friends, music, dance, art and food! She is based in the Washington, D.C. area.
Anthony “Bud” Rock served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Incorporated (ASTC), an international organization of science centers and related institutions dedicated to furthering public engagement with science worldwide. Mr. Rock also served as Executive Publisher of Dimensions, the leading professional publication of the science center field. Prior to his tenure at ASTC, Mr. Rock held the position of Vice President for Global Engagement at Arizona State University (ASU), where he was responsible for expanding global awareness among students and developing new and creative international programs of research and scholarship.
Before joining ASU, Mr. Rock had a three-decade career in U.S. government service, mostly within the U.S. Department of State. His diplomatic service included a five-year appointment as acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for oceans, environment, science, technology, and health. During this period, Mr. Rock also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science, overseeing the negotiation and implementation of more than 50 bilateral cooperative science and technology agreements throughout the world. He served abroad as Minister for Environment, Science, Technology, Health, and Non-Proliferation Affairs in the United States Embassy in Paris, France and in the United States Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium.
Kathryn focuses on strategic planning, legal affairs, and partnerships. She previously served as an Aide to the Marshal at the Supreme Court of the United States, excavated in the ancient marketplace of Athens, and held a variety of curatorial internships. Kathryn has an A.B. in Classical Archaeology from Dartmouth College and a J.D. from Yale Law School. She hails from central Florida and is now based in New Haven, Connecticut.