CGI U Commitments

CGI U Commitment Mentors, 2018-2019

Commitment Mentors facilitate conversation, share resources, promote networking, and help CGI U participants refine their Commitments to Action through virtual communication and in-person meet-ups. Commitment Mentors are previous CGI U commitment-makers with demonstrated progress on their commitment and academic and/or field knowledge in one of CGI U's keyword areas.

Abe Lopez-Bowen

Tutoring and Mentoring

CGI U 2018 is Abe's third year as a Commitment Mentor. Abe has extensive experience working in non-profits: he helped develop Students Today Leaders Forever, a national non-profit organization whose mission was revealing leadership through service, relationships and action for high school and college students across the country. Abe’s commitment was featured on stage at CGI U 2012 in Washington D.C. by President Bill Clinton. Abe has also worked in development at nonprofits, managing large fundraising events. He is passionate about civic engagement, and loves inspiring youth to live meaningfully and enthusiastically. 

Adriano de Bernardi Schneider

Infectious diseases

Adriano Schneider is a researcher based in Charlotte, North Carolina, who has been involved in the research of the evolution and spread of mosquito-transmitted viruses such as Dengue, Yellow Fever, Chikungunya, and Zika. He holds a BA in Biological Sciences, MS in Crop Science through the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, both in Brazil. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, studying Bioinformatics and Computational Biology with focus on Arbovirus epidemiology and evolution. He is also a member of the Champions Council for the Nothing But Nets Campaign from the UN Foundation and a member of the Editorial Board of the magazine Contagion.

Brinda Penmetsa

Waste management

Brinda Penmetsa graduated in the spring of 2018 from the University of Houston and earned a degree in Finance. She is passionate about civic engagement, food, and turning ideas into action. Brinda led a driven team of students in launching the first Campus Kitchen at a public university in Texas, and is the first Resolution Fellow from Texas. Currently, she serves as the Millennial Engagement intern at The Case Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Christine Schindler

S.T.E.M. Education

Christine Schindler began her CGI U journey in 2012 with her commitment to create a program for engaging girls in STEM. Girls Engineering Change is now a national non-profit organization which partners young girls with university students studying engineering and allows them to assemble low-cost devices to be donated to populations in need. Christine graduated from Duke University with a degree in Biomedical Engineering and Global Health in 2015. Her desire to utilize technology to fill gaps in healthcare inspired her to found PathSpot Technologies, a company focused on detection pathogens for increased sanitation. As an entrepreneur, engineer, and creator, Christine is passionate about helping CGIU students at any point in their commitment journey!

Clive Lee

Educational access

Clive Lee is Chief Executive Officer of the Yidan Prize Foundation established by the founder of Tencent. The Yidan Prize is one of the world's largest educational competitions, distributing grants of up to $4 million. He is a specialist in social services and has extensive experience in philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and working with non­governmental and nonprofit organizations. His contributions to society have earned him numerous awards, including the first Hong Kong Youth Service Award, which was presented by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive. Clive has been recognized as a Harvard University IMUSE Scholar and a Incubatee of Grameen Creative Lab by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus.

Daniel Muhwezi

Immigrant and refugee populations

Daniel Muhwezi is a MasterCard Foundation Scholar and graduated with a Master’s in Science in Community Sustainability from Michigan State University and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and a MBA from Makerere University. In 2017, Daniel started Bunifu, a registered US 501(c) 3, which seeks to curb extreme poverty and high unemployment in Africa. In 2005, Daniel also co-founded CIYOTA, an organization providing access to education to refugee youth in Uganda. CIYOTA's founders have been recognized with prestigious awards, including a Ashoka Fellowship in 2015, UN Youth Advisory Board in 2013, Global Citizen Award, and a Echoing Green Fellowship in 2013. Daniel is married to his wife, Winfred, and blessed with three beautiful daughters: Daniella, Destinee, and Daniette.

Danielle Mensing

Health Education

Danielle currently serves as Development Director at the Alzheimer's Association, Central New York Chapter. A graduate of Nazareth College in Rochester, Danielle has experience with event management, building relationships, community organizing, fundraising, and enjoys helping others identify opportunities to give back in various ways. Danielle is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Estate Planning Council of CNY, and Vice-Chair for the local chamber. Additionally, she volunteers at a few other local non-profits. Danielle can help students cultivate important relationships that can help advance their project and assist in the discovery of grant and fundraising opportunities to move their project forward. She's able to mentor and offer insight from her experience working in the non-profit industry.

Devon Skerritt

College Readiness

Devon Skerritt is Associate Director of Design and Innovation programs at Southern Methodist University where he supports a master’s degree program in human-centered design. Devon has more than 15 years of experience in higher education working in college admissions for undergraduate and graduate students at Colgate University and the Harvard Graduate School of Education respectively. He helped build a college counseling program with Uplift Education in Dallas and most recently did employer relations and career counseling at SMU. Devon graduated from Colgate and received his Master’s in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania where he was a 2015 Social Impact Fellow. He has expertise in design thinking, qualitative research, and learning experience design.

Esther Ngumbi


Dr. Esther Ngumbi is a distinguished Post-doctoral researcher with the Entomology Department at The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She is a native of Kwale County, Kenya. Esther is very passionate about issues of food security, education, agriculture, hunger, gender, and sustainability and has authored over 70 opinion pieces on these issues in outlets ranging from scientific American to Time Magazine, CNN, NPR, Reuters, World Policy Blog, The Conversation and Los Angeles Times. She is a senior fellow with The World Policy Institute, a Food Security Fellow, and an Alumni Council member with Aspen Institute New Voices. She has served as a Commitment Mentor for Agriculture since 2014 and is a CGI U Alumni Ambassador.

Greg Rulifson

Disaster Response and resilience

Greg teaches Humanitarian Engineering courses such as Engineering for Sustainable Community Development, Projects for People, and Engineering for Social and Environmental Responsibility. He also has responsibilities as the ‘Humanitarian Engineering Advisor’ to the Capstone teams that are working on real, impactful projects with partners around the world. Before teaching at the Colorado School of Mines, Greg worked as a structural engineer and project manager on various projects in locations such as Indonesia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru, French Polynesia, and Haiti. He uses design and systems thinking to collaborate with communities in addressing the world's most challenging problems from a grassroots perspective.

Hannah Ehrli


Hannah Ehrli is a National Board Certified teacher of over eighteen years in Exceptional Education. She received her Doctorate degree in Education at the University of Central Florida in 2015. Currently she teaches HS & PreK in Orlando and she serves on the board of the Haitian Center for Inclusive Education in Port au Prince. She is a member of the CEC and is on the Board for the Division of International Special Education Services (DISES) and as well as a foundational member of the Family Council for the Division of Early Childhood ( DEC). In 2012 she received the National Teacher of the Year Award for the Council for Exceptional Children.

Hazar Hichri

Arts and media

Recently receiving a Master's in Business Decision Engineering and developing an art oriented application, Hazar has always worked with art and culture companies in order to improve their efficiency and to expand their reach. Hazar has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing and her understanding of the art and culture environment is exemplified in her work as a violin teacher, where she holds a national diploma in music and works with children both in individual lessons and orchestra sessions. Hazar aspires that new technology will one day provide every child with the ability to learn an instrument and that art and culture infrastructure and education will endure changing educational priorities.

Hetal Kharecha

Human Trafficking

Hetal Kharecha has been a member of the CGI U community since its inaugural year, 2008. She has studied at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard University. She presented the Vaccine Project, which has established clinics in rural India, providing life saving medical procedures to underserved populations. Hetal returns to serve as a mentor in Human Trafficking; in 2018 she co-founded a consultancy that will provide educational scholarships to trafficking survivors. Hetal is currently working to establish a new project, assisting survivors towards gaining better advocacy and adapting progressive policy to action. Hetal serves as Associate Director of Operations for an IBM Watson Top 100 Hospital. Ms. Kharecha hails from the Lehigh Valley, PA.

Jay Sullivan


Jay Sullivan is the Open Innovation Research Fellow at Conservation X Labs where he develops challenge programs and technology competitions to solve conservation and development problems. Previously, he completed a Fulbright in Malaysia, interned in the Obama White House’s Office of Social Innovation, and worked on educational access in Uganda. In 2014, he co-founded the You Don’t Say? Campaign, a global social media campaign on language and inclusion that was a recipient of a Resolution Fellowship in 2016 at CGIU. He is excited to engage with other aspiring changemakers from ideation to funding and scaling of their commitments and provide advice and connections to relevant stakeholders. Jay graduated from Duke University in 2016.

Jenn Meyer

Criminal justice

Jenn Meyer is a social worker and public health practitioner. Her public health work has focused on issues of forced migration and refugees while her social work experiences has primarily taken place within the fields of incarceration and criminal justice. Currently she works as a researcher at a nonprofit in New York City. Jenn is looking forward to helping students refine their commitments, provide resources to help turn ideas into reality, and share resources and networking opportunities. She is also happy to help students prepare for the CGI U meeting, share her personal experiences, and help brainstorm new ideas for implementing commitments.

John Kester III

Water and sanitation

John is a sustainability professional and conservation advocate with a depth of experience working on action research and practical solutions to climate issues. Water and sanitation are two areas where John has advised previous mentees on successful commitments to action including a water tower project in More Tomorrow, Belize and a trash collection program in Bangladesh. John sees the direct impact these efforts can have on communities by supporting safe access to essential resources and providing habitable living conditions for all. John holds a PhD in Environmental Dynamics, a MA in Sustainable Communities, and a BA in Biology and Economics. He currently works as a Division Manager of Advisory Services for Zoned Properties in Phoenix, Arizona. John will be returning as a commitment mentor for the 5th time and is open to any questions you have about making the most of your experience!

Jonathan Diaz

Housing and Homelessness

Jonathan Diaz is a storyteller, strategist, and a collaborator. Currently, he is a Data Analytics Consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). He obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Sustainability, Health, and Safety and most recently completed a graduate career in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. Jonathan served as a Commitment Mentor for Housing and Homelessness for CGI U 2017. He is the recipient of the 2015 Tufts University Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service and the Gerald Gill Fellowship for the study of race and democracy. Jonathan is also a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow, Environmental Leadership Program Senior Fellow, and a graduate of the Hive Global Leaders Program.

Jonathan Edwin

Nutrition and Fitness

Jonathan Edwin is a Canadian epidemiologist and public health officer who has worked in international health in Geneva, the Caribbean, and Kenya. He has experience in global health issues, serving as an intern with the HIV/AIDS Department at the World Health Organization, and as an epidemiologist at the Caribbean Public Health Agency. He has an interest in the social determinants of health, and using evidence and community engagement to guide public health policies and programs. He is currently working as a public health officer and epidemiologist with the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Matt Severson

Educational access

Matt is currently an MBA candidate at the Harvard Business School. He was previously on the Business Development team at X: The Moonshot Factory and the Business Development team at Google. He has led partnerships for some of X’s and Google's most exciting new business ideas such as Google Helpouts, Project Loon (access), Project Malta (energy storage), Project H (clean energy), and Google Cultural Institute. Outside of Google, Matt founded an effort to partner with Hollywood to change the way computer science is portrayed in television and film to encourage more girls and underrepresented minorities to enter the field. Matt also founded The School Fund, an international education nonprofit that crowd-funds secondary school student scholarships throughout the developing world. Matt's work with The School Fund has been featured in Fast Company, The Christian Science Monitor, The Huffington Post, Good Magazine and was recognized by President Clinton at the annual Clinton Global Initiative University meeting.

Mawuli Affognon

Volunteerism and service

Mawuli is a charismatic Edupreneur with about 10 years experience as a web-journalist, cultural planner, and project manager of Kekeli Lab, an organization based in Togo which aims to integrate ICT in education. Mawuli is constantly on the forefront of educational-led movements to create positive change. Mawuli worked with MFWA, a press freedom organization in Ghana, and with Africa Rendez-Vous, an online media based in Togo, to co-organize several cultural festivals in West Africa. In addition to participating in CGI U, Mawuli has been involved with the Geneva International Model United Nations and the Mobile Learning Week organized by UNESCO (2016-2018). Mawuli is looking forward to creating new opportunities in the field of education.

Mihir Pershad

Access to health care

Mihir Pershad is passionate about leveraging deep tech and business model innovations to tackle global problems and secure a more abundant future for humanity. Mihir graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2016 with a B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Entrepreneurship. At UNC, Mihir co-founded SUCCEED, a STEM education nonprofit working to increase access to experiential STEM for middle and high school students, and attended CGI U in 2015. He has since founded 2 startups and works as COO for 3 others across healthcare, AI, biotechnology, and B2B SaaS. With his diverse early-stage experience and network, Mihir can help with strategy, financial modeling, organizational sustainability, partnerships, and go-to-market planning.

Myeashea Alexander

Arts and media

Myeashea is a biological anthropologist and science communicator based in New York. She currently holds a BA in Culture and Media, a Master's in Anthropology, and is on a path towards a PhD. As a trained filmmaker and graphic designer, she loves finding creative ways to engage the public in science and social justice. As part of her outreach efforts, Myeashea manages the blog, The Rockstar Anthropologist, and operates a mobile lab that provides a hands-on opportunity for youth in underserved communities to learn about archaeology and forensic anthropology.

Nazaneen Qauomi

Health Education

Nazaneen holds an undergraduate degree in General Science and is a Master’s degree candidate at Queen's University's Master of Management, Innovation & Entrepreneurship program, Class of 2018-2019. She is a child of war who last immigrated to Canada in 2014 from Afghanistan where she was a 4th year medical student. Unfortunately, she was unable to continue studying medicine in Canada and had to restart her studies from the beginning. She loves life and is passionate about living it with optimism and values. Naz is also a freelance writer who expresses her thoughts through her writings, in both English and Dari.

Omer Gibreel

Sustainable design

Omer Gibreel is a Fulbright Scholar and Ph.D Candidate in Technology Management, Economic, and Policy at Seoul National University. His research interest lies in the usage of information and communication technology for socioeconomic development, principally as an examination of the incentives and barriers supporting or hindering the usage of information and communication technology in development. Hence this interest lies at the nexus between technology, economics, and social science. Omer is the recipient of the United States President's Education Award for outstanding educational improvement in pursuit of Academic Excellence, signed by President Bill Clinton.

Patrick Pawletko

Renewable energy

Patrick Pawletko is a renewable energy practitioner currently supporting GIZ's Promotion of Rural Electrification Project in Myanmar. In this capacity, he serves as an advisor for the Government of Myanmar in implementing its 5-year, $90 million off-grid electrification strategy. Prior to joining GIZ, Patrick held various positions as an embedded micro-hydropower expert at various NGOs including the African Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (ACREST) in Cameroon, the Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATE) in Malaysian Borneo, and the Renewable Energy Association Myanmar (REAM) in Myanmar. Patrick holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Purdue University and was the CGI U Renewable Energy Commitment Mentor in 2015.

Pauline Pratt

Girls and women

Pauline works at the United Nations reproductive agency where she focuses on programme planning for operational excellence, particularly in sub-saharan Africa.Through her gift of compassion, Pauline became an advocate for women’s health issues and calls attention to neglected maternal health complications such as Fistula and has conducted research to advance women’s health. Pauline started a project called Babyphoria in Sierra Leone where pregnant and lactating mothers received supportive and preventative services from health professionals. Pauline believes every child deserves a healthy start and it begins with women. Pauline holds a BA in Policy Studies from Syracuse University, a MA, Public Administration and a MPH from George Washington University.

Rav Karwal

Economic Empowerment

Rav is the Founder & CEO of Payper, a for-profit financial technology company focused on getting Americans out of poverty. With an undergraduate degree in Electrical Computer Engineering and graduate Business degree from USC's Marshall School of Business focused on Social Entrepreneurship, Rav has attended CGIU as a student and CGI America as an Entrepreneur.

Robert Pecchio

Dialogue and Conflict Resolution

Robert Pecchio is a conflict resolution practitioner who has worked with organizations all over the world on matters related to youth development and conflict resolution. Most notably, Robert is the creator of the CourtVision International program, which combines sports and the arts with innovative social-emotional learning activities to help young people develop conflict resolution skills. Robert has worked with and consulted for multiple youth-based organizations both domestically and abroad, including the Boys and Girls Clubs, Palestine Sports 4 Life (West Bank), and the Aruban Basketball Federation. Robert is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, and he is currently studying Conflict Resolution at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Robin Gonzales

Dialogue and conflict resolution

Robin is currently a third-year law student at the William S. Boyd School of Law. He is a Fellow for the Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution and President of the Dispute Resolution Society. He has studied multiple topics in and organized different programs for dispute resolution. He grew up in the Southern Philippines, where his experiences with religious strife, political violence, and cultural tensions shaped his focus. His interests include international political conflicts, religious violence, and dispute resolution techniques in the legal field. He participate in CGI U 2013, where he co-founded and lead "The Berchmans Initiative". This project grew from improving healthcare access to funding development projects in Southern Philippine communities.

Ryan Ubuntu Olson


Ryan Ubuntu Olson has over a decade of experience in domestic and international policy advocacy related to human rights, health and gender, and sexual diversity (GSD). Olson has played several key roles throughout his life - whether serving as the leader of his controversial gay straight alliance at a private Catholic university; living in East Africa developing LGBTI human rights trainings; or addressing religiously based homophobia while working for an NGO at the United Nations. In addition, Olson has served on a number of boards. During the past 7 years Olson has worked for the USAID funded Health Policy Projects managing multiple activities. Olson holds Master’s degree from the Clinton School of Public Service.

Sohrab Amiri

Access to Health care

Sohrab is a seasoned entrepreneur utilizing the power of entrepreneurship to be the resistance to oppression in any shape and form. In 2015, he founded his first social venture called Bean Voyage to demoncratize the coffee trade industry working with smallholder coffee farmers with a focus on women, to increase their income by 300% for the coffee. Currently, Sohrab is getting his second venture Cumasu off the ground in Nairobi, Kenya to allow people to discover healthcare providers based on their needs, preferences and financial resources, allowing Kenyans to make more conscious healthcare decisions.

Tasha Russman

Workforce Development

Tasha is a Talent Innovation Consultant, working at the intersection of talent acquisition, technology, and behavioral science with corporates and governments on initiatives around the Future of Work . She has lived and worked with startups across several continents, focusing on building, finding, and placing quality talent for social and civic impact. She built a leadership development program for women on the Kenyan coast, a social entrepreneurship incubator in Hyderabad, India, and most recently an executive search firm for mission-driven startups around the globe. Currently based in San Francisco, Tasha is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper and a member of the Tech Equity Collaborative.

Thomas Koenig


Thomas's interest in neurodiversity began when he came to see that people in his high school and other surrounding environments were not given equal opportunities due to social differences rather than being viewed by actual abilities, leading him to work in schools that work with different disabilities in his hometown of Media, PA. Thomas has been in Colorado for the past couple of years working at an extreme sports camp for people on the autism spectrum and now is working in Denver for the Center for Neurodiversity. Thomas now puts his commitments into action as the director for the CFND's outdoor leadership program and works to design programs that will get autistic individuals employed.

Tsion Tesfaye

Economic Empowerment

Tsion Tesfaye is a passionate social innovator. She has launched social ventures in youth development and women empowerment sectors. Tsion studied Mathematics at Hamilton College and is currently working as an Entrepreneurial Leadership coach.


Vinny Johl

Youth Empowerment

Vinny Johl holds undergraduate degrees in Marketing & Management and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of the Pacific. She served as the Commissioner of Sustainability for the University of Pacific and created the University’s first experiential learning garden. The garden project was also her commitment to action for CGI U 2010. Vinny and her family farm in Sutter County and are the 4th generation to farm the land. Vinny works for Kaiser Permanente, Roseville Medical Center in California as the Care Experience Practice Leader. Vinny is passionate about community service and was recently appointed as an Economic Development Commissioner for the City of Yuba City.

Vrinda Agarwal

Girls and women

Vrinda Agarwal graduated from UC Berkeley in 2015 with majors in Political Science and International Economic Development. She spent a summer interning at the White House and graduated as Valedictorian of the UC Berkeley Political Science Department. While at Cal, Vrinda started 100 Strong, a large-scale non-profit that mentors low-income girls with leadership skills and provides them the seed funding to start their own community service projects. After graduation, Vrinda spent two years working in Public Sector Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs, and now works in Strategic Finance at Google. She also serves as the Finance Director for Good Ol' Girls, a non-profit organization that empowers women through job skills and professional development training.

Yitaek Hwang


Yitaek is a recent graduate from Duke University where he studied Electrical, Computer, and Biomedical Engineering. During his time there, he led a team of passionate engineers and designers to build self-adjustable eyeglasses to address the 702 million people living with uncorrected refractive error around the world. These glasses have been tested and distributed in over 8 countries across 4 continents. The company, ViFlex, was also featured at CGIU 2016! Yitaek also recently finished his two-year entrepreneurship fellowship with Venture for America in Baltimore, working at an Internet-of-Things startup called Leverege as the Director of R&D.