OUR ADVISORY BOARD
Ms. Ekhlas Ahmed was forced to flee the outbreak of civil war in Sudan with her mother, father, and three younger brothers in 2003. Her family was resettled to Portland, Maine, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Sociology from the University of Southern Maine with hopes of helping resettle other refugees. She is the vice President and Co-founder of Chance to Advance , an non profit organization raising awareness in her community of the violence and needs in Darfur. Additionally, she is writing a book called the Bridge Between, an autobiography in a poetic form to share her experiences and raise awareness about Darfur. Those who are devoted to “The Ellen show” will be familiar with Ekhlas, a teacher of English language at Westbrook middle school. She gives credit to Ellen DeGeneres with helping her learn English. Ms. Ahmed devoted her life to helping refugees navigate culture differences and works outside the classroom to build bridges with the community at-large.
Mandar is a Visiting Scholar in the School for Conflict Analysis & Resolution at George Mason University. Prior to this, Mandar worked at Shell for 17 years and managed Shell’s GameChanger social innovation program investing in ideas that create shared value - business value and social impact. Mandar is an acclaimed expert on leadership and social innovation and has spoken on entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership at prestigious forums including TEDx, Wharton Business School, Social Innovation Summit, Sustainable Brands, London Business School, etc. He is the winner of the prestigious Ashoka League of Intrapreneurs for designing and delivering an innovation learning program at Shell to over 2000 colleagues using meditation practice. For over a decade, Mandar has taught leadership programs using meditation practices for the International Association for Human Values and the Art of Living Foundation.
Susan Benesch founded and directs the Dangerous Speech Project, to study rhetoric that can inspire violence - and to find ways to prevent this without infringing on freedom of expression. Susan started out as a journalist, covering wars and invasions among other topics, then trained as a human rights lawyer at Yale, and has worked for NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights First. She now teaches at American University and is Faculty Associate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. She also runs a community music space at her home in DC, hosting monthly dinner concerts.
Chic Dambach is CEO of Operation Respect as well as an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins and American Universities, and he is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. He is President Emeritus of the National Peace Corps Association; former President of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and former Chief of Staff for Congressman John Garamendi. Previously, he held executive positions in the arts, sports, and health, and he was an “expert” advisor to the director of the Peace Corps. He has served on dozens of nonprofit boards, and he was a senior consultant with BoardSource where he helped write two books on nonprofit governance. His career began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia, and his memoir, Exhaust the Limits, the Life and Times of a Global Peacebuilder, features a lifetime of service and successful initiatives for peace in Africa. He has been nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, and the Institute for Economics and Peace presented him the Leadership and Service for Peace Award in 2016. He was named the “2016 Peace Corps Champion” for keeping the spirit of service alive. His TEDx Talk “Why Not Peace” is available on YouTube. He was a national champion kayak racer and served as an official for canoe and kayak competition in the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and he has an MBA degree from Wake Forest University.
Sam Harris is a child survivor of the Holocaust. He was born on May 13, 1935, in Deblin, Poland, and was only four years old when World War II broke out in 1939. As a young child, he survived four years in the Deblin ghetto and in the Czestochowa concentration camp. Sam lost his parents and five brothers and sisters, who were killed in the Treblinka death camp.
In 1947, the 12-year-old boy born as Szlamek Rzeznik sailed with other child refugees to America. Through the Jewish Children's Bureau in Chicago, he was adopted by a loving family and became Samuel R. Harris.
School, career, marriage and fatherhood followed, but Sam never forgot his past. He wrote a book to share his journey, "Sammy: Child Survivor of the Holocaust." He speaks to thousands annually about the atrocities of genocide, honoring the lives of all those who died at the hands of bigotry and hatred.
Sam was an instrumental force in the creation of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, of which he is President Emeritus.
In 2014, Sam was the proud recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Dr. Stephen D. Smith is the Finci -Viterbi Endowed Executive Director of USC Shoah Foundation, and holds the UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education.
Smith founded the UK Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire, England and cofounded the Aegis Trust for the prevention of crimes against humanity and genocide.
Smith has served as a producer on a number of film and new media projects, including New Dimensions in Testimony, and the VR project The Last Goodbye.
In recognition of his work, Smith has become a member of the Order of the British Empire and received the Interfaith Gold Medallion. He also holds two honorary doctorates, and lectures widely on issues relating to the history and collective response to the Holocaust, genocide, and crimes against humanity.
Kelley Szany serves as Director of Education at Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center (IHMEC), the 2nd largest Holocaust museum and human rights institution in the United States. In this role, she oversees all educational initiatives for educators and students, public programing, and training for all recruits and promotional classes (Sergeants and Lieutenants) to the Chicago Police Department, Cook County Sheriff and Correctional Department recruits, and suburban law enforcement officials.
During her 16-year tenure, Szany has become recognized as a leading human rights and museum educator, training facilitator, and public speaker. Szany currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Association of Holocaust Organizations and Educators Institute for Human Rights, and serves on the Advisory Board of Unsilence. In 2015, Szany was appointed to serve on the Illinois Holocaust and Genocide Commission.
She has won multiple awards for her educational and human rights work, and most recently was awarded the Carl Wilkens Fellowship, where she worked alongside national leaders to strengthen a permanent anti-genocide constituency through both advocacy work and influence of U.S. policy. In 2016, she was awarded the Damen Award from the Graduate School at Loyola University of Chicago, an award granted to an alumnus (a) from each of Loyola’s schools and colleges that recognizes the qualities of leadership in industry, leadership in community, and service to others.
Szany is the author of “Teaching the 1994 Rwandan Genocide Through Stanton’s 8 Stages,” and “The Power of Story: Teaching About Genocide Through Literature Circles,” in the upcoming Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group book Teaching About Genocide: Insights and Advice from Secondary Teachers – Volume One and Volume Two.
Szany holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Canisius College, as well as a master’s degree in public history from Loyola University Chicago.