Meet the Team
We would like to acknowledge our team of board members, staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to realize the mission of the Rukmini Foundation. We are fortunate to have such a diverse group of talented people working with us to achieve our common goal of empowering underprivileged girls through the power of education.
Board Members
Bibhuti Aryal

Bibhuti Aryal

President / Chair of the Board

Bibhuti is responsible for ensuring that the organization fulfills its mission and achieves the goals set by the board through coordination of efforts of all volunteers of the Rukmini Foundation. Bibhuti brings his years of experience in various industries like: government, construction, finance and technology along with a strong desire to initiate a positive change in the world.
Allyce Pinchback

Allyce Pinchback

Chair of Community Outreach Committee

Allyce is Professional Development Project Manager for Pittsburgh Public Schools where she is responsible for providing professional development supports for teachers around the District’s Measures of Effective Teaching. Previously employed at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, she has a strong passion for urban education and international affairs and hopes to utilize her skills and talents to promote cross-cultural communication and understanding between the girls the foundation serves and urban students in the Pittsburgh region.
Ang Dawa Sherpa

Ang Dawa Sherpa

Chair of Marketing Committee

Ang Sherpa, or Dawa as he is known to us, brings a blend of technical expertise and an eye for aesthetics that helps us present our ideas in a visually stunning manner. He has years of experience in the Technology and Marketing disciplines, but he also has a passion for photography and design. Dawa comes from a proud Sherpa family and has a desire to contribute to the development of Nepal through education. He has been a key member of the foundation from the beginning, and was recently voted into the board to help take our PR & Marketing efforts to a whole new level.
Sarah Wonders

Sarah Wonders

Chair of Events / PR

Sarah joins the foundation to help lead the Events and PR efforts. She brings her experience in organizing events of all sizes as well as her passion to uplift women and girls out of poverty through education. Sarah works as a Consultant, specializing in Project Management, for Deloitte. Her ability to pull people and resources together along with her talent for communication are great assets to the foundation. Sarah also has international experience in the area of conflict resolution through her studies in Kosovo. Sarah has a Bachelor's Degree in Communication from University of Pittsburgh and a Master's in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from Creighton University.
Priti Bhattarai

Priti Bhattarai

Vice President and Chair of Nepal Team Committee

With a Masters from London School of Economics in NGOs and Development, along with courses in Social Policy and Gender and Development, Priti brings with her the experience of both policy and development. She was born in Nepal, brought up in Japan, and has lived in England for eight years. Before moving to the United States, she went back to Nepal and worked on issues concerning Education for All and Gender Equality. Her work entailed creating awareness amongst the communities in rural Nepal on issues concerning both health and education, whilst striving for change in the country’s education policy. She recently moved to the Untied States and has become part of the Rukmini Foundation. With her previous experience working in Nepal, she has a great understanding of Rukmini Foundation’s mission and vision and will chair the Nepal Team Committee to work closely with our team on the ground to ensure progress, productivity and help forge new relationship with other entities in Nepal.
Linda Githiora

Linda Githiora

Chair of Fundraising and Development Committee/Grants and Research Manager

Linda has a Masters in Public Administration and brings her talents in proposal development, research, strategic planning, grants management, and program development, implementation, and evaluation. She has firsthand experience in combating gender discrimination in her homeland of Kenya. Linda has seen the positive impact that grassroots development can have in a community, and plans to utilize her skills and experience to make an impact in the communities that Rukmini Foundation serves. Linda will build a sustainable source of funding for our programs through the development and implementation of a comprehensive fundraising plan that reflects the mission, vision, and goals of the Foundation.
Nikolas “Nik” Ristev

Nikolas “Nik” Ristev

Treasurer / Chair of Budget & Finance Committee

An Ohio State University (OSU) graduate in Accounting and Law, Nik is responsible for the financial and regulatory oversight of the foundation. As Treasurer of the foundation, Nik will ensure transparency in all financial transactions and help the foundation to make the most effective use of capital in execution of the foundation’s programs.
Angelina Mertens

Angelina Mertens

Chair of Sustainability Committee

With a background in international development (MA in Global Studies) and social work (BA), Angelina possesses a wide range of work experiences in the non-profit sector. Being a German native who is living in Silicon Valley, California and has worked or researched in Asia, Latin America and Europe, Angelina brings a unique perspective to challenges that societies and organizations are facing today. During her UNESCO fellowship in Kathmandu in 2011, Angelina was introduced to the work of the Rukmini Foundation and has continued to be involved. She will help the Rukmini Foundation to focus on a sustainable development strategy, as well as innovative and self-empowering solutions.
Our Staff
Usha Adhikari

Usha Adhikari

Sr. Program Officer (Operations & Finance Manager)

Usha has a leadership role with the foundation and manages the efforts of the Didis, volunteers, and other support staff in Nepal. With a Masters in Sociology and Anthropology and training in Administration and Finance, Usha brings with her a valuable skill in numbers and a unique perspective of society. She is in charge of both the operations and the finance in Nepal, and is responsible for ensuring proper Accounting while dealing with daily operations. Usha also works closely with the Chair of the Nepal Team Committee to ensure that the Board is kept updated on key activities on the ground. Usha’s hard work and her dedication to Rukmini’s mission in empowering girls makes her is a true role model for not just our Rukmini Scholars but our staff and mentors.

Prakriti Nepal

Prakriti Nepal

Didi Program & Nepal Community Outreach Lead

As a student of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies, Prakriti has a keen interest in grassroots development that can lead to a lasting peace and sustained development for Nepal. Along with her passion for promoting gender equality and education for all, she brings a wealth of experience in working with various youth groups on different projects and programs. With Rukmini Foundation, she is serving as a Lead for the mentoring program (Didi) as well as being the liaison between the foundation and partners in Nepal. Through her leadership and efforts, she is not only inspiring Rukmini scholars but also the other young ladies who serve as mentors for the organization.
Rojin Shrestha

Rojin Shrestha

Lead Mentor

Rojin Shrestha lives in Pharping and has completed his Bachelor of Business Studies (Management) from Shikharapur Community Campus. He joins our team in Nepal as a Lead Mentor to help with our mentoring (Didi) program. Rojin provides support for our mentors in planning and executing activities as well as in data collection and other day to day activities. Besides supporting the Didis, Rojin also serves as a positive male role model for the girls of our program as well as the boys of our partner schools. Rojin is very excited to be able to help and mentor his younger sisters and brothers. Away from school and work, Rojin loves to play sports as well as indoor games and is an excellent chess player.
Susmita Sunar

Susmita Sunar

Associate Didi / LitClub Coordinator

Susmita Sunar was one of the first 10 Rukmini Scholars. Through the foundation's support, she has graduated high school, and now she is coming back to support the foundation's mentoring activities where she has been a regular volunteer over the last couple of years. Susmita is now further developing her professional skills by taking over the role of LitClub Shikharapur Coordinator. She will be overseeing the LitClub activities, which include conducting regular weekly programs and providing routine reports to LitClub Nepal management.
Niroj Shrestha

Niroj Shrestha

Program Officer

Niroj has been managing many of the activities of A School for Community (ASC) in Nepal that has been established to not only promote formal education, but also to leverage the experiences and skills of community leaders and members to promote local development. Niroj will bring his local expertise as well as his experience in managing programs at the grassroots level. He seeks to help the foundation to continually improve the delivery of programs while also building the capacity of our Didis and local volunteers.
Sabina Bisunke

Sabina Bisunke

Lead Mentor

Sabina Bisunke is a graduate of Shikharapur Campus and is currently a student at PadmaKanya Campus pursuing a MA in Rural Development. Being a local from Dakshinkali, an area very close to Pharping, she has great understanding of our work in Pharping. She joined Rukmini Foundation as our new Head Mentor (Didi) and is working closely with all Rukmini scholars. Sabina supports the operations of the foundation by helping out with the day to day activities of the Rukmini Foundation and will assist our Program Officers to ensure that the foundation programs are running smoothly and that all scholars are receiving the necessary support to be successful. Sabina also works closely with Foundation Didis and other mentors to provide interesting mentoring programs for the scholars and school students. Sabina is enthusiastic, positive and very active in the community. As a local girl, Sabina is proud to be a role model for other girls and is looking forward to learning as well as mentoring.
Pramila Gajmer

Pramila Gajmer

Lead Mentor

Pramila has been part of Rukmini Foundation from the very early days and has grown along with the foundation. She is currently a student at PadmaKanya Campus pursuing a MA in Rural Development. As a Lead Mentors, she works closely with our scholars and their families as well as with our Program Officers and volunteers.

Puja Pudasaini

Puja Pudasaini

Associate Didi

Puja was one of the first 10 Rukmini Scholars and while completing her 10+2 she began volunteering with Rukmini Foundation during various mentoring and special events. Now she joins as an Associate Didi to not only mentor the younger Rukmini Scholars, but she is also playing a critical role in a new project that we are launching thanks to a grant by Niwano Peace Foundation to address the needs of historically disenfranchised communities in the Pharping region.
Advisory Council
Dennis Kremer

Dennis Kremer

Tech Advisor

As a Director for Technology for EFI (a leading printing software vendor), Dennis has been spearheading technical architecture work for many years. He brings over 17 years of software development and management experience to the table in areas ranging from large corporate development in the finance industry, transportation/logistics and independent software vendor experience in the print industry. Dennis also possesses a keen understanding of how technologies can transform and enable agile organizations to achieve success. As a key member of our Advisory Committee, Dennis will help the organization make the best use of technologies in an effort to run the foundation efficiently as well as outline new and innovative ways to bridge the technology gap that exists between students in the US and the students and school(s) that Rukmini Foundation is supporting in Nepal.
Eri Taniguchi

Eri Taniguchi

Gender & Development Issues Advisor

With a M Phil in Development Studies from Oxford University, Eri is an expert in the field of development with a focus on gender equality. Her studies and works have been dedicated to bringing more gender equality and opportunities for women, especially in underdeveloped areas. She serves as a consultant by helping to set the agenda of the Rukmini Foundation as we strive to provide young girls more opportunities in the area of education. She is currently stationed in Ulan Bator, Mongolia with the UNFPA program.
Laxmi Aryal

Laxmi Aryal

Advisor

Laxmi was the first female in her family to receive an education. While the education she received was limited, she was able to make the best of it and became the first person from her family and village to complete high school, undergraduate studies and eventually a Masters degree. She eventually earned a Masters Degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Public Policy. Hers is an inspirational story that the Rukmini Foundation hopes to replicate. She serves as an inspiration for the foundation and its leadership.
Dr. Nabin Aryal, PhD

Dr. Nabin Aryal, PhD

Special Adviser

Nabin led the foundation’s work in Nepal from the inception till April 2015. He is now serving as a special adviser from his new home in Nairobi, Kenya where he will be working with the US and Nepal Teams to provide strategic guidance for the foundation. Dr. Nabin Aryal received a PhD in Economics from Hitotsubashi University and has been managing NGO programs in underdeveloped areas in India and Sri Lanka and has extensive experience in grassroots development efforts.
Bandana Aryal

Bandana Aryal

Program Manager

Bandana Aryal has over 8 years of experience in the NGO sector working with organizations that focus on poverty in rural areas in Nepal. Her expertise are in the area of food security, rural livelihoods, and local economic development in Nepal. She has had a big impact on various projects and programs, including work with the French Cooperation/Ministry of Agriculture, Plan Nepal, and LGCDP/MoFALD. She received a Master’s Degree in Agriculture from Wageningen University of the Netherlands in 2008. Bandana has been able to combine her research knowledge with hands-on experience from the field to design, monitor, and evaluate programs that result in positive outcomes. She is excited to bring those attributes to help improve the programs of Rukmini Foundation. Being a great-granddaughter of Rukmini, the foundation’s inspirations, Bandana has extra motivation to help the foundation reach a new level of success. As a mother of a young daughter, and as a female who has had to fight against perceptions of what a girl and woman is capable of, Bandana knows all too well the challenges facing the girls of Rukmini Foundation. Despite these challenges, she is confident that a combination of a positive attitude and hard work along with the support from the community, we will be able to provide new opportunities and a better future for the girls and their families.

Arun Aryal

Arun Aryal

Special Advisor on Technology and Education

An assistant professor of Management Information Systems at California State University Los Angeles (CSULA), Arun teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on Information Systems and Analytics. Prior to CSULA, he worked as a Teaching Fellow for Georgia State University (GSU) where he was part of the team that designed GSU’s enterprise systems concentrations within the computer information systems major. He is the recipient of the Teaching Excellence Award (2014 & 2015) and his research focuses on the intersection of emerging technologies, analytics, and enterprise systems. He earned a Ph.D. in Computer Information Systems from Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University and has worked in the IT industry for about seven years prior to entering the academic world. For the foundation, Arun provides guidance on how to make the best use of technology to solve problems in developing countries, and also lends his teaching philosophies and ideals as we look to innovate around education for students in rural areas of Nepal.
Volunteers
Shashi Sharma

Shashi Sharma

Regional Director

Mr. Sharma has been leading community development work in the areas surrounding Pharping for nearly 40 years. He has led programs to bring infrastructure to the villages, such as: providing running water to homes, building electricity and telephony infrastructure, establishing school systems, and building healthcare facilities. Mr. Sharma will serve in an advisory capacity to develop partnerships with local organizations and build consensus with local leaders in order to effectively implement our programs.

Sandesh Aryal

Sandesh Aryal

Chief Technology Officer

Sandesh will lead all technology initiatives of the foundation. One of his chief goals will be to establish Internet connectivity for the students in Nepal and to implement a distance learning program. He is also responsible for the technical infrastructure that supports our foundation’s communication and marketing initiatives. He brings expertise in technology and communications as well as his credentials as an educator. He received a PhD in Computer Science from Texas A&M University and works as a research scientist in a speech technology company.
Bhakti Patel

Bhakti Patel

Volunteer Intern

Hello! My name is Bhakti and I’m a rising sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh studying Finance and Supply Chain Management. I am very honored to be given the opportunity to work with Rukmini because I am extremely interested advocating and reducing the educational gap between South Asian men and women. Over the course of my college career, I will be supporting Rukmini’s various community events, as well as raising awareness of South Asian women’s cultural issues within the Pitt campus. I hope that my work here helps inspire more people to join the cause to make the cultural and educational equality envisioned by the founders of Rukmini into a reality.

Bryan Briggs

Bryan Briggs

Staff Accountant (US)

Bryan lends his expertise to support foundation events as well as serving as a Finance contact for the Pittsburgh team.
Carly Amann

Carly Amann

Volunteer Intern - Marketing / Graphics Design

Carly is a recently graduated student of the Graphic Design program at La Roche College and began working with the Rukmini Foundation in May 2016. She found a passion for girls’ rights for education through a senior research project and thought the Rukmini Foundation to be a great fit. Through design, she hopes to create appeal to in the foundation to promote the education of these girls.
Kedar Nath Acharya

Kedar Nath Acharya

Head of Student Selection Committee Head

Mr. Acharya has been an educator in the Pharping region for over 35 years, and is keenly aware of the challenges faced by potential students there. He is also driven by the opportunities that exist for providing a bright future to people in the surrounding communities. As an educator and a local community leader, Mr. Acharya provides our foundation with the energy needed at the local level to make this program a success.

Lauren Smathers

Lauren Smathers

Quality Education Committee member

Lauren Smathers (BA: International Studies, Journalism; MA: Teaching) works as an English as a Second Language teacher at a local school district in Pittsburgh, PA. Having spent a significant amount of time conducting research, studying, and traveling throughout Nepal, she is well-versed in the challenges that face the country and its people. As a teacher who can also converse in the Nepali language, Lauren’s passion for educating international students will help the foundation to implement effective educational programs. She is currently leading a Quality Education initiative that works directly with teachers in Nepal to implement effective English instruction as well as providing ideas on how to improve the quality of overall education.
Shruthi Shankar

Shruthi Shankar

Volunteer Intern

Shruthi is a junior neuroscience major at the University of Pittsburgh, and is pursuing certificates in Global Health and the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. She is excited to be a part of Rukmini because she is interested in the intersection between women’s health, rights, and education. Throughout the next several years, Shruthi will be supporting Rukmini’s various community events, as well as raising awareness of South Asian women’s issues within the Pitt campus by coordinating the foundation of a Pitt Rukmini club. Shruthi hopes that her work here helps pave the way so that a girl’s education is no longer seen as a privilege, but as a right.

Sangya Gyawali

Sangya Gyawali

Volunteer Intern - Project Management

Sangya is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Anthropology and Economics with a background in medicine and healthcare. She began interning with Rukmini Foundation on December, 2015. Since then she has been working closely with the Nepal Team to evaluate and improve project planning and reporting while also managing marketing strategies. She is interested in using business as a way to lift the bottom billion out of poverty. She is constantly motivated by her time in Nepal, and various parts of Africa where she worked closely on community development projects in the realm on healthcare to non-profit capacity building during the past three years. She is very excited to continue using her skills to strengthen Rukmini’s goals to empower girls in rural Nepal through education.
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