Aaron FriedlanD | Founder & Executive Director
Aaron developed his passion for economic development and education while working and researching abroad. He recognized that students in places such as Uganda, South Africa, and India who struggled academically would often fall into the poverty trap. His personal experiences opened his eyes to myriad barriers to education including distance to school and lack of nutrition. These experiences in conjunction with his work at UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-profit taught him a great deal about education in developing countries and gave him the foundation to create an organization called The Walking School Bus, which aims to help students worldwide access education. In addition to founding the organization, he serves as the Executive Director.
Aaron currently works as an Economics Lecturer. He brings enthusiasm and a research-based approach to his teaching. He is passionate about motivating his students through experiential learning, a model that he has applied in the classroom as well as at TWSB through a global reading program and various nutrition initiatives.
Michelle Gilman | Director of Curriculum
Michelle Gilman, M.Ed - Educational Psychology, brings with her over 20 years of educational resource experience. Michelle has spent a large part of her career creating and administering educational assessments, collaborating with school-based resource teams and being the liaison between parents, teachers, professionals and students. Michelle is a Ph.D student at UBC focussing on literacy and everything SiMBi. Michelle is excited to join TWSB and share her resources and teaching materials with schools in developing countries.
Mido DeSanti | Executive Advisor
Mido is a social entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of the social change app, Pixhug. He is also the principal of the early stage technology investment fund Rubiq Ventures. Prior to his current roles he launched several companies in the luxury goods and services sector. He has studied at the American University of Rome and the International University of Monaco. Mido has spoken on the importance of social entrepreneurship at McGill University and Columbia Business School alongside Deepak Chopra. He sits on the board of Julian Lennon's White Feather Foundation and is fluent in English, French, Italian and Croatian.
Dr. Samson Nashon | Deputy Head & Educator
Dr. Samson Nashon is the current David F. Robitaille Professor of Mathematics and Science Education, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia. Dr. Nashon is a science educator. His research focuses on ways of teaching and learning. His area of specialization focuses on students’ alternative understandings that have roots in cultural backgrounds and curricula, and are accommodative of students with varying degrees of abilities. His research is dominantly qualitative, borrowing primarily from contemporary theories of constructivism. His most recent research projects include the ongoing Metacognition and Reflective Inquiry (MRI), East African Students’ Ways of Knowing (EASWOK), The Status of Physics 12 in BC, The Nature of Analogies Kenyan Physics Teachers Use, and Students’ Access To Senior Science and Mathematics Courses in Rural BC. Previous studies include, The Role of Practical Work in Science, and The Kind of Science in Kenyan “Harambee Schools. Dr. Nashon is excited to work with TWSB and provide the necessary guidance to meaningfully impact curricula.
Dr. Abera B. Demeke | Development & Agricultural Policy Advisor
Dr. Abera B. Demeke has over ten years of experience in economic and business research, as well as teaching at post-secondary level. Before joining University Canada West, Dr Demeke was a research fellow at the University of Hohenheim and a research officer at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) based in Addis Ababa. He is also an adjunct faculty with Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Dr. Demeke has published various articles in reputable scholarly journals and presented papers in conferences such as the International Panel Data Conference at the University of Amsterdam, and Seminar of the European Association of Agricultural Economists at the University of Hohenheim.
He received an MsC in development economics from the University of Göttingen and a PhD (magna cum laude) from the University of Hohenheim, Germany. Abera is excited to contribute to TWSB mission by providing policy advise and research.
Sara Parks, McGill Lecturer | Interfaith Advisor
Lecturer Sara Parks is the Director of the McGill Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (MORSL) since 2013. She had previously been a student volunteer and intern at this multi-faith chaplaincy in various capacities since 2003, including editing their student spirituality magazine, the "Radix," and facilitating monthly "My Neighbour's Faith" visits to Montreal's sacred sites. As Director, Sara has transformed the space into a relaxation space for stressed-out students, including free tea and apples, an interfaith/wellness library, stations for meditative colouring and light therapy, and mats for prayer and meditation.
Sara received her Master's in Religion (with a focus on New Testament and Christian Origins) in the McGill Faculty of Religious Studies in 2005, and is now nearing the end of her PhD in Early Judaism, with a focus on the history of women in Jewish and Christian antiquity, and the relationships between Judaism, Christianity, and other Greco-Roman religions in the Second-Temple Period. Sara is also trained in Mental Health First Aid and Non-Judgemental Compassionate listening.
Rick Barichello, Professor | Economist
Rick Barichello is a Professor within the Food and Resource Economics Group at the University of British Columbia and has worked at UBC since his PhD at the University of Chicago in 1979. He was Head of the UBC Department of Agricultural Economics from 1988 to 1994, and from 2007 to 2014 was the Director of the Center for Southeast Asia Research within UBC’s Institute of Asian Research. He has been a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Asian Research Institute, National University of Singapore, and a visiting professor at Yale, Stanford, Harvard, UCalifornia-Davis, Leuven in Belgium, and ISEAS in Singapore.
He worked for the Harvard Institute for International Development in Jakarta, from 1986 to 1988, and has subsequently researched and taught courses in Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, China, Cambodia, Korea, Poland, and Ethiopia. He was President of the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society in 1999 and awarded the designation of Fellow of the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society, its highest honour, in 2008. In 2015 he was named to the Executive Committee of the International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium, committed to be Chair of that organization in 2016.
His research has been on the economic analysis of public policy, particularly trade and agricultural policies and institutions, Canadian dairy and poultry quota markets, and on a variety of agricultural development issues, mostly applied to Southeast Asia. His work in development has focused mostly on trade policy, world food markets, Southeast Asia rural labour markets, and cost-benefit analysis.
Dr. Chris Bennet | Policy Analyst, Monitoring and Evaluation
Drawing on 25 years work experience with bilateral and multilateral donors, the private sector and Non-Government Organizations, primarily in Indonesia, as well as Ethiopia, Tanzania, China, Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam. Chris Bennett teaches undergraduate and graduate courses at UBC in International Resource Economics and Institutions as well as Project Monitoring and Evaluation for Timely Responses (METR) to enhance aid effectiveness.
For the past ten years, Chris Bennett has been an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems and a Faculty Associate of Centre for South East Asia Research. His present research and development focus is on decentralized natural resource governance that is both efficient and equitable.
Sanjeeva Rajapakse | Director oF Research
Drawing from both his undergraduate experience at McGill University and his medical training at the University of British Columbia, Sanjeeva is wildly passionate about tackling global health challenges that keep developing countries from leapfrogging ahead. His hope one day is to manage large-scale international public health projects, working alongside organizations such as The World Bank, World Health Organization, and Gates Foundation. With a rich research background at some of the top institutions in Canada, and across the world (Ghana, Sri Lanka), Sanjeeva leads the The Walking School Bus' research team with expertise in peer-reviewed research and academic design in international settings.
When not juggling his 3rd year of medicine at UBC and The Walking School Bus, you can find Sanjeeva running along the Vancouver Seawall or reading his favourite new news publication, STAT News.
Stephanie Mrakovich | Director of Simbi Operations
Stephanie has a passion for people and a knack for problem solving. You'll find her deeply questioning every step, whether it is to create a more efficient process or to strategize ways to improve it. While completing her Bachelor of Science and Minor in Psychology at UBC, she sat as the two term president of the Jewish Students Association, restructuring the board members and inspiring a synergy of skills and backgrounds. Today, Stephanie leverages her understanding of people in a product role where she works with customers to create a positive experience and improve the softwares they use.
As the Director of SiMBi Operations, Stephanie helps improve the functionality and flexibility of the platform. With the goal of eliminating barriers to accessing education, she works with various users to understand how SiMBi can benefit different types of learners from all around the world!
YVONNE DIXON | Economic analyst
Yvonne Dixon received her B.A. in Economics at the University of British Columbia. In her final year of study at UBC, Yvonne carried out a research project investigating the impact of school distance on educational attainment in Uganda. Yvonne’s research aims to improve our understanding of the barriers to education in Uganda and provide empirical support to help shape TWSB’s future projects and initiatives. Yvonne is currently working on financial research and strategic planning for our school bus program, and is excited to contribute her research to help support sustainable development in Uganda.
Onami Rahman | School & COmmunity Outreach
A Vancouver native and recent UBC graduate in Human Geography, Onami’s passion for community development stems from a range of personal and academic experiences both locally and globally. With extensive volunteer experience in Vancouver’s non-profit sector under her belt (Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada, Dr. Peter’s Centre, CNIB, etc.,), as well as years of holding various positions in student engagement at UBC, Onami has paved the path for a career in the development field, with particular interests in working in public engagement It wasn’t until after Onami’s undergraduate experiences, however, when she lived and worked in Ethiopia in the non-profit communications sector, that she fully realized the true local and global challenges facing Ethiopians everyday, as well as many Africans alike, to achieving optimal health and education. Her solutions lies in the belief that to reduce inequalities created by global systems of injustice, we must continually develop grassroots initiatives that aim to empower and educate individuals in the arenas of literacy, health and sustainability locally. It is this belief combined with her wealth of experiences that excites Onami to join TWSB in the fight for global equality and change.
Ally Sekora, M. Agricultural Economics
Ally is from the southern part of Rwanda. He holds a Bachelor degree in Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness from National University of Rwanda. He is now studying his Masters in food and resource economics at the University of British Columbia. As a child, Ally has overcome many hardships to access education which include walking over 10 kilometers to get to elementary school. It was this struggle which made Ally passionate about solving distance as a barrier to education.
Ally is excited to be joining The Walking School Bus team since he believes that a society can flourish only when its members are not selfish to fulfill their own desires but reserve a certain portion of their time and wealth to dedicate themselves to service those who are economically disadvantaged and debilitated.
Danielle Sachar | Media Relations Coordinator
Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Danielle is a true west coast girl at heart. She is currently in the Public Relations program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Previously, Danielle studied fine arts at Emily Carr University and it was there that she got to explore her passion for painting, drawing, ceramics and graphic design. As she shifts focus to Public Relations, Danielle believes it is imperative to partner with organizations that are looking to make a positive social and environmental impact. She believes that public and media relations are about storytelling and when you work with organizations that are making a positive change in the world, the stories speak for themselves. This is one of the many reasons why she is so excited to work with The Walking School Bus.
Danielle is the Media Relations Coordinator for The Walking School Bus, which means she is the liaison between the organization and the media. Danielle is delighted to assist TWSB gain additional media exposure for a truly worthy cause, as well as support them in sharing their story with the world.
Becky Glotman | Outreach
Becky Glotman brings with her a variety of planning experiences. In university she created and spearheaded ‘The Sunday Funday Initiative,’ an organization that planned weekly Sunday night potlucks in support of the local London food bank and was voted to VP Outreach for three consecutive years for the UWO Triathlon Club. Becky has also been involved with the planning committee for the ‘Glotman Simpson Cypress Challenge,’ a cycling fundraiser that has raised $1.6 million dollars for pancreatic cancer.
Becky graduated with an honors degree in Kinesiology in 2014 and currently works as a Specialty Sales Representative for Allergan. Becky is passionate about education and believes TWSB has the power to innovatively restructure school systems worldwide. Becky is thrilled to be involved with such a great cause.
Aron Rosenberg | Educator, Curriculum and Pedagogy
Aron Rosenberg is an educator, artist, and activist from Edmonton. He moved to Vancouver in 2007 and has found a home, absorbed in Vancouver's Jewish community, as well as in various creative and social justice groups in the city, ever since. Aron's day-job is as an English, Theatre, Creative Writing, and Social Justice teacher at King David High School but he keeps busy volunteering with various other groups like the Vancouver New Orchestra Workshop Society and the New Israel Fund of Canada. Aron plays the fiddle, writes creatively, and enjoys spending time at Vancouver's various parks and beaches. He is excited to join this board and work towards connecting Vancouver's Jewish community with developing communities in Africa.
HOLISTIC RESEARCH | We are committed to academia and research that scientifically tests our procedures prior to implementation.
Our think tank was conceptualized to provide university students with the opportunity to meaningfully engage in academic research that mutually benefits their respective areas of academic pursuit while also vertically integrating the research for our organization.