Joseph Highland

Throughout his life, the plight of people and risks to the environment have been strong and consistent concerns. Joe was fortunate to work for Ralph Nader and the Environmental Defense Fund after completing his PhD in biochemistry. He has also done research at the National Cancer Institute, taught and done research at Princeton University and was CEO of ENVIRON a world-wide environmental consulting firm.


Now retired, Joe focuses much of his time and financial support on AGFAF. It is his belief that with AGFAF's support, our students will have a greater chance to live full and meaningful lives and to contribute to improving the lives and well being of the Afghan people.


Joe is happily married for 53 years, has three great children and three wonderful granddaughters.

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Shaharzad Akbar

Shaharzad Akbar is currently the Chair of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) after stepping down as Senior Advisor to National Program on Culture and Creative Economy (NPCE) with UNESCO Afghanistan. Shaharzad was previously Senior Advisor to Afghan President on High Development Councils (August 2017-August 2018) and in this capacity, coordinated the prioritization of development projects and programs for high level decision-making. Prior to this, Shaharzad was Country Director for Open Society Afghanistan (Sep 2014-July 2017), a non-profit that supports Afghan civil society and media in areas of peacebuilding, human rights and promoting tolerance. Before this, Shaharzad was partner and chief operating officer with QARA Consulting, a firm owned and run by young Afghans in Kabul which she co-founded in 2010, an analyst for the Free and Fair Elections Foundation, a journalist for BBC Afghanistan and a research assistant on the Women of Courage book project. In 2012, she was the first elected chairperson for the Afghanistan 1400 movement.

 

Born in Jawzjan, Afghanistan in 1987, Shaharzad lived for a few years as refugee in Pakistan during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Shaharzad completed an MPhil at Oxford University as a Weidenfeld scholar in 2011; previously she obtained her BA (cum laude) in anthropology from Smith College in the U.S.


Shaharzad’s writing has appeared in international and Afghan media including Newsweek and Al Jazeera, and academic journals. Based in Kabul and an active tweeter and writer, Shaharzad is an active voice on political issues related to her country and her generation.  In 2017, she was selected by World Economic Forum as Young Global Leader. 

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Hans Dekker

Hans Dekker has served on the AGFAF board since 2016.  Mr. Dekker has been the president of the Community Foundation of New Jersey since June 2003.  During his tenure, the Foundation’s funds have granted more than $500 million to charitable causes across New Jersey and beyond. 


A key element of the Community Foundation’s mission is to play a leadership role on the critical issues facing New Jersey and its communities.  This work has recently focused on Changemaker Projects including tenants’ rights, reforming the state’s juvenile justice system, and expanding access to healthy food and breakfast in low-income communities.


Prior to the Community Foundation of New Jersey, Mr. Dekker served for four years as the Executive Vice President of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.  He is a past chair of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers and a trustee of the Hyde and Watson Foundation, Ohl Foundation, St. Benedict’s Preparatory School, and Miraclefeet.


Mr. Dekker graduated from Bates College with a Bachelors of Arts degree in History and received a Masters degree in Public Policy from the University of California at Berkeley.

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Bill Godfrey

Bill retired as the EVP and Chief Information Officer of Elsevier in 2014. As CIO, he was responsible for all technology for this global $3B Dutch science, technology and medical publishing company. He was responsible for strategy and the operational management of approximately fifteen hundred personnel and an operating budget of several hundred million dollars. For seven years his principal focus was the modernization of the companies technology capabilities with a specific focus on developing web enabled electronic product; products that combine content and technology in ways that improve healthcare outcomes and lead to new scientific discoveries. 


Prior to Elsevier, Bill served as the CIO of Dow Jones, Inc. for seven years. Responsibilities included: strategy, application development, data center operations, global network management, and business process redesign. Prior to Dow Jones he held a variety of technology leadership roles including: EVP Information Technology Services Hartford Life, and SVP Corporate Cash Management Fleet Bank. Bill began his career with Electronic Data Systems in Dallas, TX where he was a software engineer. 

Bill holds a BBA in Finance from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 


Active in his community Bill was a long time board member of the NJ Children’s Home Society, started a technology advisory committee in support of the Princeton Public Library, is an active member of the TSAL Kaplan foundation, and a recent board member in service to the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Foundation. 

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Palwasha Kakar

Palwasha L. Kakar is the senior program officer for religion and inclusive societies at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). Kakar joined USIP after four years with The Asia Foundation where she was the Afghanistan director for Women’s Empowerment and Development. Prior to joining the Foundation, Kakar led the Gender Mainstreaming and Civil Society Unit in the United Nation Development Program's Afghanistan Subnational Governance Program managing a small grants program for Afghanistan's civil society initiatives. Kakar also served as program manager for The Gender Studies Institute at Kabul University. She has experience working with the World Bank Group on gender, social justice and environmental issues surrounding their various projects in the region.


Kakar moved to Afghanistan 2004 to work with the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), an independent research organization, on women's participation at the local levels in the National Solidarity Programme (NSP). Before moving to Afghanistan, she was the director of the Newton Peace Center (currently Peace Connections) a faith-based civil society organization.

An Afghan-American, she has experience teaching and researching religion, gender, security and local governance. Kakar has published research regarding women’s participation in local governance, Pashtunwali-Afghan customary law, Afghan women's identity, and social spaces in Afghanistan. Her research has taken her to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Syria.


She earned a Master's degree focusing on gender, politics and religion from Harvard University’s Divinity School and a Bachelor's degree in Religion and Global Studies focusing on peace and conflict from Bethel College in North Newton, KS.

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Roberta Bitar

Roberta has been the Director of Operations since 2013. After meeting an AGFAF scholar who was attending St. Elizabeth's College in Madison, New Jersey, she decided that she needed to know more about these amazing young women. Roberta is now responsible for providing administrative and programmatic leadership and support for AGFAF. In her previous professional life, Roberta was a senior analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. in New York City. Prior to joining AGFAF she had spent several years at home raising her children and volunteering for their school's PTO. 


Roberta graduated with a BA in Political Science from Bates College, where she met her husband John. They live in Chatham, New Jersey with their three sons and their rescued dog, Lucy. 

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Jonathan Greenburg

Jonathan Greenburg's adult life has been one “bookended” by the remarkable country of Afghanistan.  His formative years began by teaching English as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Afghanistan, serving in Helmand Province. Following his Peace Corps service Jonathan continued teaching, specializing in Middle East studies. His teaching career has included positions in Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, England, and New Jersey. Additionally, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study at the American University of Cairo, as well as three NEH grants to pursue Islamic studies at Princeton University.


For nearly the past decade Jonathan has been working as an academic coordinator with AGFAF.

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Nasir Kaihan

Nasir Kaihan is a graduate of Arts in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University's College of Education and Human Development through the Fulbright program in 2018. Nasir currently leads the UNESCO's Culture and Sports for Social Cohesion and Sustainable Reintegration Afghan Returnees and IDPs (Hamdeli) project in Kabul. The project is aiming at facilitating the social integration, social cohesion, and peaceful co-existence of Internally Displaced People (IDPs), returnees.


His career and research interests lie in the areas of institutional development and strategic planning with a focus on program development and management, program review, and impact evaluation. Nasir has worked in those areas in Afghanistan and internationally. His assignments at the Afghanistan Civil Service Institute and the American University of Afghanistan in 2018, were mainly focused on institutional reform and development. He has also focused on program review and strategic planning during his tenure at Western Michigan University. Further, he has worked at George Mason University, focusing on research of the most in-demand skills in the DC area. 


Before his departure for graduate studies in the United States, Nasir has led and managed eight master's degree programs in Afghanistan. He has extensive experience in managing multi-lateral projects. Nasir has led and attended more than ten conferences and workshops and has served on different committees. In 2017, Nasir had participated in and presented in the American College Personnel Association's National Convention in Columbus, Ohio. His presentation received the audience's attention as it related to his journey as a student within the sphere of student affairs in higher education. Nasir is serving as an in-country focal point for the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund.  

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Alisa Stack

Alisa has been a volunteer with AGFAF for over five years. She worked in Afghanistan from 2009-2012 as civilian executive in the Department of Defense.  Alisa was the Deputy Chief of Staff for Stability Operations in Kabul, Afghanistan. In this position, she led collaboration between international military forces, the Afghan government, international multilateral organizations, and private Afghan businesses to provide basic services to citizens during and after conflict. After 20 years in the Department of Defense, Alisa transitioned to working in the (legal) cannabis industry. 


Ms. Stack holds a Master of Science from the National War College, a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from the University of Washington. 

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