The Convergence staff is made up of the following individuals (Click on each person’s name to see their bio):
- Robert Fersh – Founder and President
- Aakif Ahmad – Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer
- Julie Garel – Director, Project on Nutrition and Wellness
- Caryn Hederman – Director, Project on Long Term Care
- Dusie Hoagland – Manager, Finance and Fund Development
- Alyx Margine – Executive Assistant/Office Manager
- Laura Perrault – Director of Operations
- Kiran Pervez – Mellon Fellow
- Amy Slechta – Senior Associate, Project on Nutrition and Wellness
- Joey Teitelbaum – Communications Associate
- Kelly Young – Director, Re-imagining Education Project
Rob Fersh is the president and founder of Convergence, a non-profit organization founded in 2009 to promote consensus solutions to policy issues of domestic and international importance. Immediately prior, Rob served as the United States country director for Search for Common Ground, an international conflict resolution organization. While at SFCG, he directed national policy consensus projects on health care coverage for the uninsured and U.S.-Muslim relations.
In the 1986-98 period, Rob served as president of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a leading non-governmental organization working to alleviate hunger in the United States, where he served as the central architect of a national campaign to end childhood hunger. Rob also served on the staffs of three Congressional committees, working for U.S. Representative Leon Panetta and for Senators Patrick Leahy and Edmund Muskie. While a Congressional staff member and at FRAC, he was deeply involved in shepherding passage of bipartisan legislation to reduce hunger in the United States.
Rob has held additional positions in the federal executive branch and non-profit sector. He was a 1994 recipient of the Prudential Foundation Prize for Non-Profit Leadership.
Rob holds a law degree from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. He is married and has four children.
You can contact Rob via email at email@example.com
Aakif Ahmad is Co-founder and Vice President of Convergence Center for Policy Resolution. Mr. Ahmad’s key roles include organizational strategy, operations and finance, fund and network development, staff recruitment and external communications. He also leads the U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum, a major initiative to promote improved societal linkages between the U.S. and Pakistan through civil society and private sector partnership development. Mr. Ahmad has been invited to speak on panels sponsored by Brookings, the U.S.-Center for Citizen Diplomacy, the Association for Conflict Resolution, the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs, and the American Jewish Committee. He has interviewed with radio hosts on Wisconsin and Iowa Public Radio and co-authored articles in the Boston Globe and CNN.com.
From 1996 to 2008, Mr. Ahmad worked at the Corporate Executive Board, a VA-based consulting and executive education firm with 2,000+ employees providing peer-driven best practices solutions to the world’s largest corporations. As Managing Director, he led sales & marketing organizations across Europe and North America that generated more than 3,000 client relationships and more than $100 million in revenue across his tenure. He served as a member of the Management Committee for Global Sales and Marketing and was elected to the firm’s Policy Committee in 2002 as one of the top 50 leaders in the corporation. Mr. Ahmad earned a B.A. from Yale University in Ethics, Politics and Economics, and M.B.A from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
You can contact Aakif via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Garel is the Director of Convergence’s Project on Nutrition and Wellness. Before joining Convergence, Julie led branding and communications programs for a wide range of clients including travel, food, retail, and telecommunications marketers. Julie worked at J. Walter Thompson Worldwide and other advertising agencies as a Senior Vice President account director. She has led countless hours of consumer interviews in the form of focus groups, in-depth one-on-one dialogue, and ethnographic studies. Her creative approach to obtaining qualitative consumer data has resulted in successful rebranding initiatives with measurable bottom-line impacts.
Julie has a Masters of International Business from Thunderbird School of Global Management and a Masters in Sustainability and Environmental Management from Harvard. Her thesis focus was on the ability of inclusionary processes to create behavior change. She received her undergraduate degree from New York University in Journalism and Mass Communications.
You can contact Julie via email at email@example.com
Caryn Hederman manages the Long Term Care Financing Collaborative project for Convergence Center for Policy Resolution. She is the principal of a health care policy consulting firm in Alexandria, Virginia. Caryn has over eighteen years of experience working in and advising federal and state governments in science and health sectors.
Prior to founding her firm, Caryn practiced law and lobbied at the federal level with Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP (now K&L Gates) in Washington, D.C., providing legal counsel, regulatory representation, Congressional advocacy and strategic planning for a broad range of health care providers and insurers, biodefense and nanotechnology companies.
She previously worked in science and technology transfer during the Clinton Administration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Originally from Spokane, Washington, Caryn earned her law degree from The University of Virginia School of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Environment Law Journal, and earned her bachelor of arts degree from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She is married and has three sons.
You can contact Caryn via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dusie’s role is to support, organize, and strategize the implementation of Convergence’s fundraising activities. Before growing into a development role, Dusie worked on the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Initiative at Convergence, a project that continues to be near and dear to her. Dusie’s interest in Muslim relations began while studying at Brown University, where she wrote an undergraduate thesis on the subject of immigration in France following the “veil affair.” After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French civilization with honors, she began teaching English in the suburbs of Paris during the 2005 riots there. She became closely acquainted with the tensions and grievances among primarily Muslim youth and French society at large.
Drawing on a desire to expose inequalities like those she witnessed as a teacher, Dusie earned a master’s degree in human rights from University College London’s School of Public Policy. She wrote her dissertation on discrimination against Muslim youth in France. Dusie served as a junior policy officer at 4Children, a British children’s charity, before returning to the U.S. to pursue a career in international public policy. Prior to joining Convergence as a fellow in March 2010, Mademoiselle Hoagland taught French at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C.
You can contact Dusie via email at email@example.com
Alyx is the Executive Assistant to Rob Fersh and Office Manager for Convergence. Before joining Convergence, she worked at a nonprofit association as a manager of a department that provides in-boardroom governance education and board evaluations to corporate directors.
Alyx graduated from The Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University with an International Affairs major concentrating on Contemporary Cultures & Societies and a double minor in English and Anthropology. While working at Convergence, she hopes to return to school part-time to receive her Masters in Public Health.
You can contact Alyx via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura is an attorney, mediator, and facilitator. She received her law degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder and majored in journalism at Louisiana State University. As an assistant attorney general in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, Laura enforced the cleanup of hazardous and nuclear waste sites and participated in complex multi-party negotiations. She later practiced civil defense law in San Francisco, California. She has participated in mediation/facilitation projects in Liberia, Nepal, and Louisiana. Her work is influenced by her extensive training in mediation and non-violent communication, and by mindfulness practices first developed during a 10-month monastic residency.
You can contact Laura via email at email@example.com
Dr. Kiran Pervez joined the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution as a Mellon Fellow in April 2012.
Kiran’s research interests and experience advising think-tanks, governments, and NGOs includes media, gender, development, politics, education, security, and civil society with regional expertise in South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. She has spent over 13 years conducting field research relevant to gender equality, media, identity, and international conflict in South Asia as well as among the South Asian diaspora in North America and the Middle East. Kiran has also taught courses in media studies and international relations at New York University, Montclair University, American University, and Lehigh University.
She completed her Ph.D. in International Relations with a specialization in ‘Comparative and Regional Studies’ and ‘Cultural Studies’ from the School of International Service, American University in 2009 where she earned a distinction for her doctoral dissertation “Borders & Beliefs: Ethics, Actorhood, and the India-Pakistan Conflict”. Kiran also holds a Masters degree in Media Ecology and a Bachelors degree in Communication Studies from New York University.
She is currently completing a manuscript based on her dissertation about the India-Pakistan conflict. In addition to articles about Pakistani media, (in)security of ethnic politics, and U.S. national security matters in South Asia, Kiran’s next major research undertaking is an ethnographic analysis that focuses on extant debates about national identity and political Islam to explain religious resurgence in Pakistan.
As a Mellon Fellow at Convergence, Kiran’s primary focus in this role is the U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum. A native Karachiite who moved to New York in 1994, her interest in .U.S-Pakistan relations comes from lived experience and an earnest desire to find ways to bridge the gap between both her ‘homes’.
You can contact Kiran via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy is an Associate with the Project on Nutrition and Wellness at Convergence. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. While there, she developed a passion for improving the health and wellness of adults and children through public policy efforts directed at food, nutrition, and physical activity. Her thesis examined various political and environmental determinants and their collective impact on childhood obesity among low-income and minority children living in urban environments.
As an intern and consultant with the New York City Department of Health, Amy worked to improve the food and physical activity landscape of New York City public schools through policy and program initiatives and subsequent evaluations to assess the impact of these efforts. Prior to completing her master’s degree in public health, she served as a clinical research coordinator for a qualitative study of adolescent vaccinations at the University of Rochester Medical Center. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in health sciences and a minor in environmental science from Georgetown University.
You can contact Amy via email at email@example.com
Joey Teitelbaum is the Communications Associate for Convergence. Before joining Convergence, she spent four years with the University of Virginia’s Athletics Media Relations department while attending the university. She double majored in foreign affairs and history, concentrating on the Middle East, and earned a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. Joey hopes to eventually return to school and earn her Masters in Political Science with a focus on political psychology. She enjoys traveling and watching the Virginia Cavaliers and Baltimore Orioles win.
You can contact Joey via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelly Young is the Director of Convergence’s K-12 Education Project. Kelly was previously the Interim Chief of the Office of Family and Public Engagement (OFPE) for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). OFPE supports schools to create and implement high-impact family engagement strategies that drive student achievement and school improvement. With extensive experience in community organizing, fundraising, and strategic planning, Kelly was able to support communities in building bridges across ideological boundaries and developing a shared vision for progress. Her unique professional background, combined with her perspective as a mother of two young children, gave her a diverse set of skills that was a great asset in the Office of Family and Community Engagement. Prior to joining DCPS, Kelly was a founding Vice President of Convergence.
Before Convergence, Kelly worked as an organizational development consultant for entrepreneurial non-profits providing support in strategic planning and fundraising. She also has several years of experience in grassroots organizing and campaign field operations.
From 1998 to 2007, Kelly served as the Executive Director of a national political organization. Under her leadership, the organization thrived and grew exponentially in size and reach – from supporting tens of candidates to successfully helping elect hundreds of candidates nationwide.
She received her JD from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in Anthropology from University of Virginia.
You can contact Kelly via email at email@example.com