Meet Our Leaders
Our experienced Board members are dedicated to helping inspire and empower youth around the world to share their stories, connect with each other, and act for positive change.
Our experienced Board members are dedicated to helping inspire and empower youth around the world to share their stories, connect with each other, and act for positive change.
Chair, Board of Directors
Vice President and General Manager,
Americas East and Workplace Experience,
At an early age, Matthew Tedesco saw his mother navigate, and survive, conditions of poverty. He was two when his parents divorced and his mother was left to find her way alone. “My mother worked as a waitress and moved us into a small apartment with a woman named Ms. Best and her three sons,” says Matt. The neighborhood where they lived had serious unmet needs and was scary for everybody. His mother was determined to get them out.
Later, Matt observed that, while his mother was able to change her family’s trajectory, the entire Best family, who were Black, continued to face life-crushing circumstances. “The sons of Ms. Best should have the same potential as my white brother and I, but they weren’t finding the same opportunity. While talent and potential are balanced across humanity, opportunity certainly isn’t.”
Matt grew up to be a nurturer of the health and vitality of any environment, as a creative professional, and also as a coach, mentor, and father. In 2013, as a managing director for Haworth in North Asia, Matt moved his family to Shanghai so his young son could experience more of what the world is. “Like any city, it’s got its great spots and tougher spots,” says Matt, who lamented the city’s unfriendliness toward the disabled population, while also noting “a deeper level of respect and care for the elderly and older generations.”
Today, Matt is the Vice President and General Manager, Americas East and Workplace Experience, for MillerKnoll, which leverages the global distribution, production, design, and sales capabilities of the design companies Herman Miller and Knoll to create a stronger and more resilient organization. He writes passionately about how companies can become more humane, and seizes opportunities to build, fix, learn, lead, and play.
When a colleague told him about Global Nomads Group, he felt called to get involved. “My son, who’s now 13, is basically going through the same curriculum I went through 30 years ago!” says Matt. “Our understanding of almost everything has changed. Why are we not better preparing these kids for a collaborative future of understanding and working together?” When Matt learned that GNG does exactly that by supporting young people to be stronger communicators, more empathetic, and more global in their perspective, he saw his own potential shift. “I’ve always said I want to work with kids. Now, I can finally start to do that and accelerate that part of my life.”
Chief Investment Officer,
Kirkoswald Asset Management
At age 19, Diana Amoa left her home country Kenya to attend college in the UK. Her parents had raised her to feel at home in the world. “One of my flat mates was fascinated by me,” Diana remembers. “I was the first Black person they ever met. We ended up becoming the best of friends because they approached our connection from a place of curiosity.”
Her father served in the military for a time and she even lived briefly in Montgomery, Alabama. Diana raises her own children with the same curiosity and exposure to the world beyond their home. Her husband’s family is from Ghana and they have close friends and family in the US, Africa, Europe, and Asia. She brings this perspective to her career in global financial markets and her service on the board of Global Nomads.
As CIO for long-biased strategies at Kirkoswald, based in New York, Diana leads a new business focused predominantly in emerging and frontier markets across different asset classes. She combines macroeconomic and market analysis with non-traditional ESG data and is excited about green and sustainable bonds. Prior to this, Amoa was a managing director in the Global Fixed Income, Currency & Commodities group at JP Morgan Asset Management and has been the senior trader on the emerging markets rates desk at UBS AG. Diana has held roles at Societe Generale and Standard Chartered Bank. In 2021, Ernst & Young, LLC named Diana among 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds.
“We increasingly face the same problems no matter where we live,” says Diana, who notes that Global Nomads is well-placed to accelerate its own growth and impact in these times. “The solutions to today’s problems are not going to come from one country—it will have to be a collaboration.”
Global Nomads welcomes Diana’s engagement and affirmation of its 20-year history nourishing bonds between young people worldwide. “We need kids to develop empathy early and work in a collaborative way across borders. A good idea can come from anywhere in the world.”
Director of Product Marketing, Healthcare and Life Sciences,
Kathy Benemann experienced a culturally rich and diverse upbringing in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Ethnically Iranian, Kathy studied Farsi as a child, enjoyed Palestinian festivals, and celebrated Persian new year’s. Her adoptive parents are white but they engendered Kathy’s connection to her Persian heritage.
Her professional career spans cultures as well. Kathy studied genetics in college, taught English in Japan, taught high school science, earned an MBA, and brings vast expertise in educational technology. Over a 25-year career, Kathy has fueled growth for venture capital-backed startups, growth stage companies, and multi billion dollar conglomerates. An expert in using artificial intelligence for the benefit and safety of consumers, Kathy now serves as Vice President of Product Marketing at H2O.ai, where she drives strategic initiatives, product marketing, and empowers teams to achieve revenue. The company’s mission is to democratize AI.
Kathy formed a connection to Global Nomads years ago. She was living and working in Brooklyn, NY, volunteering with a group focused on Syrian refugee youth, when she befriended a neighbor who worked for Global Nomads. “We clicked right away,” says Kathy, who consulted on the development of the organization’s science education program and later partnered to connect a classroom of Syrian refugees in Jordan with a classroom in the U.S. in a cross-cultural dialogue.
A marketing specialist at her core, Kathy was “eager to get Global Nomads programs to teachers hungry for high quality tools to engage their students and develop critical skills.” She is determined to correct educational inequity and notes that, “Travel is not accessible for everyone. Virtual exchange provides an alternative, accessible way for young people to connect – regardless of their resources – and experience global perspectives.”
“Global Nomads is uniquely positioned to get people out of echo chambers and foster dialogue without judging,” says Kathy. Global Nomads deeply appreciates that her investment has evolved into a leadership position on the Board, and looks forward to growing with her impactful presence in our organization.
Director, Global Real Estate,
Shearman & Sterling
Arsha Cazazian-Clement’s parents grew up in Romania and raised her in Queens and Long Island, NY, where Arsha went to Armenian Summer Camp. There, she encountered Armenians who were French, Nigerian, Iranian, Syrian, and Dutch. “They each came with their own distinct stories and preferences toward things like fashion, art,” recalls Arsha. “Although we were all Armenian, we were very different. Eight weeks every summer for a decade, we integrated and mixed and shared our stories and photos.”
Buoyed by the rich diversity of her own childhood, Arsha Cazazian-Clement joined the Board of Global Nomads in 2020. Her past experience includes leading large scale public and private development projects worldwide. Currently, she is the Global Head of Real Estate for Sherman and & Sterling, where she oversees the partnerships’ approximately one million square foot real estate portfolio, spanning 23 offices on five continents.
“How people feel in their surroundings shapes their view of the world, their performance, their happiness, and ultimately their success,” says Arsha, who taught architecture for eight years at the New York Institute of Technology and values mentorship as well. “I teach so I can share that belief.” She has also worked with Showtime, CBS, The Harvard Club of NY, and Erno Laszlo NY.
“The more tragedies and unrest we experience, the more empathy must be central to the actions we take and everything that we do,” says Arsha. She maintains a commitment to sustainable development in emerging markets and underserved areas. “Young people who use Global Nomads’ programs are equipped to lead with empathy.”
Arsha brings a passion to expand Global Nomads, including into Armenia, a center for young STEM talent. The organization welcomes her investment in cultivating inspiring virtual spaces for youth from all corners of the world.
SVP, Global Customer Experience & Design,
Until third grade, Cindy Chastain knew only suburban Kansas, where people looked and sounded like her. Then her family took a trip to Dublin and Cindy befriended the children who lived in the B&B. “They spoke differently, they played different games. While it was a third grader’s experience of the world,” says Cindy. “My view of what was out there completely shifted.”
After graduating college, she joined fellow filmmakers in Moscow for a digital artistic exchange, creating a music video about bridging cultures. “That experience inspired such deep empathy for how my peers had lived under communist rule, how things were changing. It led me to Russian literature, Russian language,” Cindy says. Thirty years later, the group is still bonded and close.
As SVP of Customer Experience and Design for Mastercard’s Global Products & Innovation, Cindy led the relaunch of the Mastercard brand and helped to drive its more modern and sophisticated brand globally. Recently, she modernized and digitized Mastercard’s credit, debit, and prepaid product experiences, and previously led customer-centered digital transformation initiatives with Nike and Volvo, among others.
Cindy is a creative at heart and works to develop products and services people will love. She says enjoyment is key to building lifelong loyalty. “Global Nomads’ user-centric and agile approach is not only effective from a learning perspective,” Cindy explains, “—it’s what gets students to emotionally meaningful, pleasurable experiences that they’re going to want to talk about.”
She applauds the organization for providing young people “the mental tools, character, and confidence to achieve” and is thrilled to partner in its expansion. “From its business model to the bonds between students, Global Nomads has the power to trigger organic growth,” says Cindy. “I want to see it ignite among teenagers and would love to be a partner in realizing that possibility.”
Oscar-winning filmmaker and artist
Oorlagh George’s parents fled Northern Island as political activists and relocated to the Bronx, NY, when she was a child. “That community formed my sense of being an American—it meant being Puerto Rican, Jewish, Irish, Jamaican,” she recalls. During college, she traveled and expanded her awareness of the ways young people experience privilege, power, voice, and responsibility in diverse political and geographical locations.
“Why shouldn’t kids be exposed to that in high school?” Oorlagh asks, echoing the curiosity of Global Nomads’ founders. “It’s amazing to see your context in the world—why not find out even younger that you have a voice and power through connection?” In the early days, Oorlagh collaborated with Global Nomads to engage young people in conversation about tremendous disruptions in their culture and youth, including genocide. “I knew Global Nomads when they were running around with satellite dishes on their backpacks in Darfur,” she says. She’s sees the organization’s potential to become a mainstay in high school curriculum.
Oorlagh is an Oscar-winning filmmaker, writer, producer, and artist. She created the TV drama series Faultline and directed the film, Stranger With A Camera. She won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, along with her father, for their film The Shore, and a film she produced about reconciliation in Northern Ireland won 40+ awards in festivals and was released in cinemas worldwide. Oorlagh worked in various capacities on productions of Beginners, Adam, and Hotel Rwanda, among others.
“Global Nomads still has those same good ethics,” says Oorlagh, about the organization’s teaching materials and technologies. “Its focus on equity empowers young people to work together in a spirit of mutual exchange.” She appreciates how it also disrupts a Western-centric or us/them dynamic. “Kids work together to talk about history in a way that faces it and doesn’t repeat unjust dynamics.”
Scott Hefter became a student again in 2019. “It was phenomenal,” he says, describing the year he and his wife spent as Fellows in the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University. For professionals ready to pivot late-career into social impact fields, the program draws people from across the globe in a cross cultural exploration of issues demanding attention. “After 30 years in management consulting, including some government work in criminal justice reform, veteran health care, and the impact of the Gulf oil spill, I developed a passion for the social impact space.”
The difficult part of going back to school, says Scott, was “to not multitask, but sit and read a textbook for hours.” The rest was fun. “My wife went to her classes, I went to mine. We did homework together on the weekends. It was the best year of our life.”
Scott formerly served as COO at AmeriCorps, the federal agency that leads service, volunteering, and grant-making efforts in the United States. Driven by a passion to reduce polarization, Scott envisioned what could be if everyone completed a year of service in AmeriCorps: “Instead of people getting their perspectives from cable news, someone from West Virginia would know somebody from Miami and they could have a conversation about our climate.”
A recognized business leader and global collaborator, Scott led strategy and technical operations consulting with PRTM, PwC and Boston Consulting Group, and has worked in the US, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. Now that he’s focused on the US, he appreciates being involved in extending the reach of Global Nomads.
“The pandemic illuminated the potential to take Global Nomads to scale,” says Scott, who is eager to exploring alternative business models and ways to bring the programs to market. “It would be great to share this amazing content with more kids through a direct-to-student model.”
Executive Director and National Market Executive,
JPMorgan Chase & Co
Melroy Patterson, Jr. was in eighth grade when he learned about structures that keep oppressive systems in place, including in our minds. “It is not in the interests of the oppressors to help the oppressed,” says Melroy. “If I was a kid getting all those benefits, why would I give that up?” Melroy grew up negotiating bias and aggression, and yet this revelation made it clear where the responsibility lay for systems change. His first day of ninth grade, he faced mob of white classmates wielding hay forks who terrorized the school’s first Black incoming students.
Melroy has devoted himself to education and professional development ever since. “When I graduated from college, I was already a VP of a bank in New York,” he says. He headed to Columbia University next for his MBA. Today, Melroy is the Market Executive for JPMorgan Chase & Co, with national responsibility for professional services. He’s been the SVP of Bank of America and the Bank of New York Mellon, and was a VP at National Westminster Bank.
“A lot of these issues, like racism and misogyny, get borne out of ignorance,” says Melroy, “and ignorance develops with a lack of awareness and empathy.” He joined the board of Global Nomads to lend energy to its mission. “Global Nomads intervenes on the very things that impeded me at a young age. This could move the global conversation and it’s the right time to capture their attention.”
Melroy is eager to see Black and brown students more directly engaged in programs and invited into greater relationship with power and professional opportunity. “Global Nomads has this dynamic model of engagement that is scientifically proven,” says Melroy, “Now, we need to get it to be a phenomenon.”
Global Nomads appreciates Melroy’s energetic commitment to the organization as it removes barriers for young people to connect to each other and shape a better world.
Mila Petrova came to the United States from Eastern Europe to go to college. Her education included her first exposure to prejudice and bias. “My roommate had never traveled out of her state—home was all she knew,” remembers Mila, who describes “a bit of a clash right there at the beginning.” Having come from a country that was “very closed and limited in terms of information,” Mila was surprised to find people with many choices who would shut out the world. “Openness should be an instinct,” says Mila, who searched for her people and quickly found them: fellow world travelers.
In 1995, Mila began her tenure at PricewaterhouseCoopers and has grown and risen through the ranks of this global organization. Today, she is an Assurance Partner in PwC NY’s Technology Media and Telecommunications practice. Her experience in technology, business information, advertising, publishing and music have served her well, including during her years in PwC’s National Office and PwC London.
Mila works primarily with professionals at PwC who are 30 and younger, and relishes the chance to work across generations as well as cultures. She credits PwC for its accountability to matters of social injustice at the leadership level and throughout the organization, but appreciates being directly involved in solutions
“I need to do more than hear people’s heartbreaking stories, empathize with them and write a check,” says Mila. She shares Global Nomads’ mission to connect young people so they can discover their common joys and pain, and form lasting bonds. “Listening and respect are the foundation for everything good to happen.”
Global Nomads welcomes Mila’s expertise and heartfelt ambition to grow its impact. “If you can reach thousands,” she asks, “how can you use your skills to reach millions?”
Head of Health & Wellness, Americas,
Zainab Wadood was eight years old, growing up in South Africa, when an audiologist recommended hearing aids—huge devices, at the time, that would have encircled her head. “When he showed my parents, my father was like, no,” says Zainab, who progressed through elementary, secondary and even higher education, consumed by the constant effort to catch up. A college professor and supervisor noticed the issue and asked her to see an ENT. “After I got out of the booth, the technician said to me, ‘How did you get through your life?’”
She offers the story to explain her intense discipline and passion for education that considers the needs of its learners. “I want people to understand why tools and interactions are so necessary,” says Zainab. Fitted with a high-tech hearing aid, Zainab went on to earn a Master’s degree in Business and graduated at the top of her class.
Today, Zainab is the head of Health and Welfare for the Americas at WPP, the advertisement agency known as the “creative transformation company.” With 150 subsidiaries that comprise a huge, global network of advertising companies, WPP relies on Zainab to design a harmonized benefits strategy across the network. She balances design and operational capability with cultural acumen and strategy to bring the company ahead of market trends.
While the mission of Global Nomads drew her attention, the organization’s authenticity and welcoming approach held it. “They connected to my core values,” Zainab says. “The connectivity they foster speaks to my own experience of being from a developing country and wanting to use what tools and technology I could to learn about the world.”
Global Nomads welcomes her leadership and curiosity about every aspect of how the organization creates change. “I look at who I’m working with on the board and their passion is very humanizing to me,” says Zainab. “I will learn from them and, hopefully, they’ll learn from me.”