GEM Advisory Board

Meet Our Advisors

The GEM Advisory Board is composed of some of the most passionate and forward-thinking leaders in higher education, economic development, social justice and mobility, refugee resettlement, and international relations. Read on to meet our Advisory Board members.

Nafez Al Dakkak

CEO, Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_Nafez-Al-DakkakNafez currently serves as the CEO of the Queen Rania Foundation’s office in London and is championing the Foundation’s global outreach and positioning as a leader in solving for impact in education in Jordan and the Arab world.  Previously, as the CEO of, Nafez had the honor of leading the inspiring team behind largest Arab online learning platform. Edraak aims to provide free high quality online and blended education to Arabic speakers across the region. It is the first Arabic instance of the OpenEdx platform developed by Harvard and MIT. Today, Edraak reaches over 1.5 million registered Arabic-speaking learners across the region. Edraak’s learners come from all across the region and include disadvantaged youth in Gaza, Syria, and Iraq. Edraak has played a pivotal role in the setup of other open learning platforms across the region.

Deborah Berke

Dean, Yale School of Architecture; Partner, Deborah Berke Partners
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_BerkeDeborah Berke began her career as an architect in 1982.  Her approach to architecture is informed by her pursuit of authenticity, love for the visual arts, and intellectual rigor.  Prior to joining Yale in 2016, Deborah taught at the University of Maryland, the Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Miami, UC-Berkeley, and the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, of which she was a Fellow.  She is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, trustee and vice-president of the Urban Design Forum, and serves on the Yaddo board of directors.  She is a founding trustee of New York City’s Design Trust for Public Space, and serves on many advisory boards. Deborah earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts and of Architecture fr

Cibeles Garcia Burt

Diplomat/Foreign Service Officer at USAID/South Africa
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_BurtFor more than a decade, Cibeles Garcia Burt has worked throughout North America and Africa to develop and implement programs that empower marginalized communities. Trained as a global engineer and international education expert, Cibeles is passionate about creating innovative solutions that are strategic, sustainable, and co-created with local expertise. Cibeles champions diversity and inclusion to build and lead extraordinary teams that deliver results.

Shawnda Chapman

Lead Program Specialist, Center on Youth Justice at Vera Institute of Justice
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_ChapmanShawnda is lead program specialist in the Center for Youth Justice (CYJ) where she supports ongoing work on a federally-funded initiative aimed at preventing and ending girls’ incarceration in New York City, and developing a model for ending the incarceration of girls nationally. Prior to joining Vera, Shawnda worked as a research analyst at the Institute for State and Local Governance at CUNY. With particular focus on marginalized and vulnerable populations, Shawnda has broad experience developing as well as implementing research, monitoring, and evaluation materials both domestically and internationally. Her expertise includes quantitative and qualitative study design, data collection, and analysis. Partially based on her own experiences, her work has focused racial justice, gender justice, and understanding the ways girls of color get pushed into the criminal justice system.  Shawnda earned her Bachelor degree in sociology and Master of Science in applied social research from The City University of New York, Hunter College.

Hassan Diab

Vice President, American University of Beirut
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_DiabHassan is a Professor of Computer Engineering at the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering & Architecture, AUB. He has over 150 publications in internationally refereed journals and conferences and has supervised 80 research projects. He is a registered Chartered Engineer in the Engineering Council, UK, and a registered Chartered Professional Engineer in the National Professional Engineers Register, Australia. He is Fellow of IET (UK), IEAust (Australia) & Senior Member in IEEE (USA).  Hassan has received over 30 national/international awards/honors and was invited for inclusion in over 40 international biographies with over 100 citations including Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in Science & Engineering, and Outstanding People of the 21st Century, as well as honorary membership on boards of several biographical institutions.

Arne Duncan

Managing Partner, Emerson Collective
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_DuncanBefore joining the Emerson Collective in 2016, Arne Duncan served as US Secretary of Education during the Obama administration, from January 2009 until December 2015. Prior to that appointment, Duncan served as the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools from June 2001 through December 2008, becoming the longest-serving big-city education superintendent in the country.  Before joining the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan ran the Ariel Education Initiative (1992–1998), a nonprofit focused on advancing educational opportunities in economically disadvantaged areas. He has also served on the Board of Overseers for Harvard College, the Visiting Committees for Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

Hana El-Ghali

Issam Fares Institute, American University of Beirut
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_El-GhaliHana Addam El-Ghali is currently the Senior Program Coordinator for the Research, Advocacy and Public Policy-making (RAPP) program at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut (AUB). She received her PhD in administrative and policy studies in education with a focus on comparative and international higher education from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. El-Ghali is also working as a Consultant with the World Bank looking at pressing issues in higher education in the Middle East and North Africa. Dr. El-Ghali’s current research focuses on reform in higher education in the MENA region, quality assurance and higher education and youth unemployment in relation to the role of higher education.

Eva Ghirmai

Information Management Officer, American Red Cross
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_GhirmaiIn this role, Eva supports data initiatives at the American Red Cross and aims to build a stronger data culture across the Red Cross movement. Before joining the Red Cross, Eva worked in international development research. Using impact evaluations and other assessment tools, she has worked in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa to help organizations and governments use research to make better policy decisions. Eva is a recent MPA graduate of Princeton University.  She holds an AB from Harvard University.

Erik Hersman

CEO & Founder, BRCK; Board Chairman, iHub Nairobi
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_HersmanErik Hersman is an entrepreneur and technologist focused on advancing the use of technology as an empowerment tool in Africa. He is the CEO of BRCK, a rugged WiFi internet device designed in Kenya for use throughout the emerging markets. He’s a co-founder of Ushahidi, and has also established and as key online communities promoting creative solutions for entrepreneurship and development challenges across Africa. In 2010 he founded the iHub, Nairobi’s innovation hub for the technology community, bringing together entrepreneurs, hackers, designers and the investment community. Mr. Hersman is also a general partner in the Savannah Fund, and sits on the boards of Akirachix, the Kijabe Forest Trust, and the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI).

Eugenie Manirafasha

Operation Assistant, Kepler
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_ManirafashaPrior to her role as Operation Assistant, Eugenie served as a Learning Coach at Kepler, the nonprofit organization born out of Generation Rwanda that enables talented but economically vulnerable Rwandans to attend university.  Prior to joining Kepler, Eugenie was a teacher at ADRA Rwanda, where she prepared students studying Kinyarwanda for their national exam.  She also worked as a Foundation Intern at RONKOS Fashion Group, and as a Community Mobilizer for AVSI Rwanda, teaching people about HIV/AIDS.  Eugenie earned her Bachelor’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University.

John O’Brien

President and CEO, EDUCAUSE
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_OBrienEDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology. The current membership comprises over 1,800 institutions and 300 corporations. Throughout his 25-year career in higher education, John has deeply engaged with the IT and educational technology sectors. Most recently, John served as senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), the fourth largest higher education system in the country. In this position, he was dedicated to ensuring student success and implemented strategic changes to help MnSCU adapt to the changing needs of higher education. Prior to this role, John served as president of North Hennepin Community College (NHCC) from 2010 to 2013. Before joining NHCC, he was director of MnSCU’s “Students First” initiative, a system-wide effort that redesigned online systems to better meet students’ needs.

Jamil Salmi

Consultant and Former Head of Tertiary Education, World Bank
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_SalmiDr. Salmi is a global tertiary education expert providing policy advice and consulting services to governments, universities, professional associations, multilateral development banks and bilateral cooperation agencies. Until January 2012, he was the World Bank’s tertiary education coordinator. He wrote the first World Bank policy paper on higher education reform in 1994 and was the principal author of the Bank’s 2002 Tertiary Education Strategy entitled, Constructing Knowledge Societies: New Challenges for Tertiary Education.”  During the past twenty-three years, Dr. Salmi has provided advice on tertiary education development, financing reforms and strategic planning to governments and university leaders in about 95 countries all over the world. His latest book, Tertiary Education and the Sustainable Development Goals, was published in August 2017.

Anfal Saquib

Education Advisor, Department for International Development, UK
SNHU-GEM_Advisory-Board_SaquibAnfal’s roles in DFID have covered work on Education in Emergencies where she led DFID’s programmes in Lebanon, global secondary, skills and higher education policy and programmes and education innovation. She will soon be the Senior Portfolio Lead for the Girls Education Challenge. Her country experience spans Lebanon, Pakistan and Ghana. Prior to her work at DFID, Anfal served as Senior Policy Advisor at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, where she led a cross-Government Growth Review to identify growth opportunities in the education and skills sector, and managed the interface between the immigration, skills and employment. Anfal earned her Master’s in Education and International Development from the Institute of Education at the University of London, and her Bachelor’s from the University of Manchester.

Rebecca (Becky) Telford

Chief in Education Section at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesRebecca Telford
Dr. Rebecca (Becky) Telford, from the UK, is an education specialist who designs and manages large-scale programmes at the junction of conflict, basic services and innovation with a focus on the most disadvantaged children globally.

Following five years supporting international partners working on urban governance, Becky moved to Kenya in 2006 and spent four years in east Africa working on innovative solutions to education and youth engagement with Pamoja Trust, Internews and BBC Media Action. Returning to Sudan in 2012, she served as Country Representative for War Child Holland, personally managing the start-up of eLearning Sudan, a programme which uses serious games to bring education to the most disadvantaged children. She continued as a consultant to this programme after leaving Sudan, co-developing the research and programme design in preparation for scale-up into the MENA region. eLearning Sudan has won a number of awards including the UNICEF Innovations in Education Award and the Dutch Game Award for co-creation.