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OUR TEAM

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Shivani Pandit

FOUNDER-CEO

Meet Shivani Pandit, a Special Educator with a heart as expansive as her two-decade-long journey in the field. With a master's and doctorate degree in Special Education from Rutgers University, New Jersey, and a bachelor's degree from the heart of India, Shivani's story is a symphony of dedication, compassion, and expertise. Her narrative unfolds with a profound commitment to the delicate minds of children on the Autism Spectrum and those with Intellectual Disabilities. Trained meticulously in Special Education and early intervention strategies, Shivani has emerged as a guardian of hope for families navigating the complexities of neurodevelopmental challenges, particularly for children aged birth to five.
Shivani Pandit's story is not just one of academic accomplishments; it's a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. It's a story woven with threads of empathy, a dedication to breaking down barriers, and an unyielding belief in the potential of every child. In the narrative of Shivani, each chapter resonates with the echoes of children whose lives have been touched, and futures illuminated, by her transformative presence.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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Vivian Milroy Martin

Vivian Milroy Martin spent 35 years at General Mills, focused on Consumer Insights and Marketing Research. She worked in a cross-functional HR role as Corporate Director of Diversity from 1999-2002, where she was responsible for programs to support and advance an inclusive organization. At the time of Vivian's retirement in 2014, she served as Vice President of Consumer Insights, International. Since her retirement, Vivian has taught Marketing and Buyer Behavior at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

Vivian's passion for the arts and commitment to her community drives her involvement as a board member and former board president of Illusion Theater and current volunteer and former chair of the Minnesota Stroke Association and Brain Injury Alliance board of directors. Vivian's service over the years has also included the American Cancer Society, Big Sisters, Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners, Open Arms, and Second Harvest, to name a few.

Family is a priority in Vivian's life, and she and her husband, Jeff, share a blended family that includes four children and nine grandchildren, all in the Twin Cities. Travel and the arts are additional priorities.

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Shiv Nath Tandon

Shiv Nath Tandon has worked with a multinational cosmetic company, Aveda, for 45 years during his stay in the twin cities. The first employee of the company, he started the Research and Development, Marketing, and Procurement, among other departments, and most recently provided his guidance as a company elder. Assisting the education team with the Company story, education marketing, and more. Shiv Nath, a founding member of TheNeedINDeed, shares his wisdom and knowledge about living life Consciously with a lifelong practice of yoga and a passion for gardening, including organic tomato farming.

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Andy Cwik

As a three-time founder and the current Co-founder and CEO of Hubub, Andy brings extensive entrepreneurial expertise to the Saamarthya Foundation, enhancing our efforts to support children with autism through educational resources. His leadership in the digital concierge industry at Hubub, which simplifies high-quality experience planning, parallels his dedication to improving lives through technology and community engagement.
Additionally, his active role in the Chicago entrepreneur and startup ecosystem will enhance his contribution to the Foundation. Outside of his professional life, he is a father to five children and enjoys boating in the summer and ice skating and skiing during the winter months.

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Tammy Pierce

Tammy has been in the nonprofit industry since 2000 with Meritan and its sister charity Apelah, Inc., currently serving as the Associate Vice President of Development and Corporate Outreach. In this position, she oversees all marketing and fundraising aspects, including event management, grant writing, and donor relations. She is a 1995 graduate of the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Business Administration, a 2013 graduate of the National Hispanic Professional Organization's Memphis Leadership Institute, and a 2022 graduate of New Memphis Institute's Leadership Development Intensive. Tammy is dedicated to mentoring children and served many years as a volunteer grade/middle school basketball and volleyball coach (with a proud 78-13 record). In 2022, she received the prestigious Mississippi Governer's GIVE Award for Outstanding Youth Mentorship. The GIVE Awards celebrate the exemplary service of Mississippi’s most dedicated citizens. In partnership with the Governor’s Office, this award program presented by Volunteer Mississippi recognizes and honors the valuable contributions of some of Mississippi’s extraordinary citizens while inspiring others to follow their example.

She was a founding member of the Ole Miss Alumni Band Association and the Mississippi Charitable Gaming Association. She has served on the Hernando, Mississippi Excel by 5 Board of Directors, the Tennessee Association of Community Organizations as the Board PR Chair, and Sacred Heart School (Southaven, MS) Parent Advisory Board. 

 

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Vidyotham Reddi

Vidyotham Reddi, is a qualitative and quantitative data and analytics expert and influencer with 25+ years of experience in market research. Renowned for developing top talent and a toolkit that includes predictive modeling, strategic analytics, and technology application development, Vidyotham specializes in building leader and organization quick-to-insight capabilities across enterprise segments and markets. He has held global leadership roles for Mars, Inc., General Mills, Inc., A.C. Nielsen, and AT&T. He has served and advised on Boards for the Domestic Abuse Project & Gender Justice and A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Vidyotham received an M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Fordham University in New York and an M.A. in Economics from the University of Mumbai, India. Vidyotham is Vice President at The Rejuvi Venture Inc. and is one of its two founders. He is also the Innovation, Technology, and Quality Director for R&D and Data Science at General Mills Inc. Immediately before these roles, Vidyotham served as Director of Growth Analytics at Mars, Inc.

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Dr. Prriyam Gunjal

Dr. Prriyam Gunjal, an education luminary with a focus on special needs, holds a Ph.D. in Autism, shaping inclusive education through strategic curriculum development and safety enhancements. As the former Principal of The Shiishyaa School, Pune, her innovative approach to special needs education was evident. Currently pursuing a Master of Science in Psychology Conversion at the University of Surrey, UK, her ongoing studies reflect a commitment to integrating psychology with education. Dr. Gunjal's accolades, including the Best Principal Award and The Dedication Award, underscore her transformative leadership in education. Her relentless pursuit of knowledge positions her at the forefront of educational innovation and psychological research. Recently became a board member of The Blessed Ones School, in Pune.

Strategic Advisors

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Erwin de Leone, Ph.D.

Erwin de Leon, Ph.D. is the inaugural chief diversity officer of Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies (SPS) and a lecturer in SPS' Nonprofit Management Program. He is also a research fellow at Knology, a member of the Empire State Bioethics Consortium, and an adviser to the president of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. Prior to his current position, Dr. de Leon served in various nonprofit organizations including Urban Institute, Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, Aspen Institute, Human Rights Campaign, Episcopal Relief and Development, Educators for Social Responsibility, and the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project. He received a Ph.D. in public and urban policy and an M.S. in nonprofit management from the New School’s Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment. A native of the Philippines, he earned his B.S. in management engineering from the Ateneo de Manila University.

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Camille Catlett

Camille Catlett is a Senior Technical Assistance Specialist at the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina and consultant to multiple states, colleges, and universities. She has held positions in public school, professional association, federal government, and higher education settings that ranged from providing direct service as a speech-language pathologist to directing multiple US Department of Education personnel preparation grants. Her work with talented partners on the Crosswalks project yielded a flexible and evidence-based model for increasing the emphasis on culturally and linguistically responsive practices in higher education courses, field experiences, and programs. That model has been revised to incorporate emphasis on children with disabilities and inclusion and successfully replicated in community colleges in multiple states. Through technical assistance, research, presentations, writing, and product development, Camille is currently working with faculty and leaders in multiple states to incorporate an explicit and intentional emphasis on culture, equity, language, diversity, and inclusion in early childhood and early childhood special education higher education programs.  

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G.V.S Prasad

Mr. GVS Prasad has been the Executive Director of CfBT Education Services since 2002. He is a Chartered Accountant with thirteen years of experience in project finance, financial consulting, promotion of co-operative banks, audits, taxation, and training. He is currently national head of academics at Dream India Schools. He is also Chairman of Rural Development Foundation, which runs 4 schools in remote rural and tribal areas. He was a regular Panel Judge at Indian School of Business for evaluating proposals received for the Global Social Venture Competition. He designed and delivered capacity building programmes for leaders and staff of non-profit organizations during his stint as a guest faculty at the Centre for Social Initiatives and Management.  He is involved in heading CfBT’s initiatives in India - School Improvement Programmes, Teacher Training and Leadership Development Programmes, Quality Reviews/School Inspections, and English Language Skills Enhancement Programmes for learners at various levels and from varied backgrounds. 

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Jessie Lee

Jessie is the CEO and founder of Better Future Strategies which provides consulting services to improve efficiency by developing operational and organizational structure while building data-driven and innovative culture.  She has strong skills and knowledge in technology, data, and risk management to help organizations build their resilience, not just to survive but thrive.  She has 25+ years of leadership experience in nonprofit, education, public, and financial sectors.  She employs data-driven approaches and builds collaborative and trusted relationships with boards, executive leaders, staff, strategic partners, funders, and sector leaders.  
She served multiple nonprofit and pubic organizations:  Advocacy Committee of the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable, the Board of the Cameron Kravitt Foundation, the Advisory Board of the City Tutors, the Language Assistance Advisory Committee of New York City Civic Engagement Commission, Grants Advisory Committee of New York Women’s Foundation, Advisory Council of International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) USA, Board Chair of International Human Rights Art Festival.  Currently, she is on the board of the Association of Nonprofit Specialists and chairing the membership board committee.  Jessie holds a Master’s degree in Enterprise Risk Management from Columbia University where teaches Nonprofit Management and Enterprise Risk Management Master Programs courses. 
She lives in Queens where she enjoys exploring many diverse cuisines and cultures.  She loves cooking, experimenting with recipes, and creating her own recipes.  She believes that food is a universal language that has amazing personal and heartfelt stories

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Ed Greene, Ph.D.

Over his fifty- year career, Ed Greene has worked directly with infants, toddlers, preschool children, adolescents and families, as well as in a variety of roles and capacities in the philanthropic, private and public sectors, media and in higher education.
Originally from Inkster, Michigan, Dr Greene completed his B.Mus. Ed at DePauw; an M.A. in Child and Human Development at Pacific Oaks College; and a PhD from the College of Graduate and Professional Studies at Indiana State University.

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Chandani Punia

Chandani Punia is an innovation practitioner with 14+ years of global experience in product, process, and service innovation. She has worked extensively on leveraging human-centered design (HCD) and innovation methodologies to co-design programs for social impact. 

Most recently, Chandani served as the Deputy Director of Innovation at the International Rescue Committee where she ran innovation programming in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela to help Venezuelan migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) recover and gain control of their future. 

Previously, Chandani worked with Plan International to manage girl-centered innovation projects and built the capacity of country offices to retool existing programs through HCD. 

At the local level, she worked with City Harvest to develop their program strategy and led efforts to align Monitoring and Evaluation with piloting and testing of new approaches to food security in New York City.  Chandani has also worked with  Merrill Lynch, the U.N. World Food Programme, Akshaya Patra, Asia Society, and Geller & Company. 

Chandani is passionate about inclusive design, uplifting voices, and spurring action.

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Michele Bedor

Supporting children and their development has been a passion of mine my entire adult life.  I have worked with young children and their families for 30 years.  I believe the family is the child's most important teacher and ally.  The Saamarthya foundation is rooted in the belief that children learn through their families and their experiences. I am proud to be a supporter of this foundation and look forward to helping the program grow so that more children can get the help that they need across the globe.

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Christopher Johnstone

I am excited to be part of the Saamarthya team to learn more about how teachers can be effective in creating inclusive spaces for children. Saamarthya cares about the whole child. The organization works from a philosophy that inclusion is about changing systems to be responsive, rather than asking children to adjust to fit rigid systems. I am excited to be a strategic advisor to share lessons I have learned through research and practice and to engage with the Saamarthya executive and advisory teams.

Our Team

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Shwetal Pandit

NAINI INCLUSIVE BOOKS

Shwetal is a social worker and remedial instructor by training, and a copywriter by passion. Currently, as a copywriter for an advertising firm, she writes brand stories. Shwetal is an advocate for inclusion and has authored four books for Saamarthya. When not playing with words, she loves playing with her son. 

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Parv Tiwari

NAINI INCLUSIVE BOOKS

Parv is a professional illustrator by day and an artist at night. For many years he's been exploring various methods of art. He loves delving into the world of comics and is an avid fan of Batman and his world. Parv has illustrated three titles for Naini Inclusive Books.

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Shweta Bothra

NAINI INCLUSIVE BOOKS

Shweta is a creative writer who has been working in the field of media and advertising for the past eight years. She has a postgraduate degree in communications and has always wanted to write for children.

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Apeksha Aggarwal

PROGRAM MANAGER

Apeksha Rathi is an Educational Therapist with a decade’s experience. She has a master's degree in Psychology and extensive training in working with Specific Learning Difficulties. Apeksha’s mission is to help neurodiverse children become academically independent while providing a nurturing and inclusive setup. She is patient and caring and enjoys being around and working with children. Apart from her keen interest in the field, she enjoys leisure time in photography, reading, and baking.

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Vanessa Noronha

PROJECT COORDINATOR

Vanessa Noronha is a special educator and teacher trainer. She uses her expertise in curriculum development and teaching to help with behavior management and bring about novelty in each session. Her passion is to teach children with disabilities and create a nurturing and inclusive environment for them. At Saamarthya, she provides thought leadership to demonstrate the successful implementation & growth of all the initiatives with a focus on direct intervention, community outreach, and team management.

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Aarthi Nagvenkar

SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER

Aarthi is a  mental health counselor, educator & a certified art therapist. She uses art and play based techniques to create fun engaging activities for children with disabilities. Her mission and passion revolves around normalizing & creating mental health awareness and to empower individuals by providing safe space with unparalleled dedication, commitment & determination by being an Inclusion Activist. Apart from that she is a fun loving person and jovial by heart.

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Krithikaa Grandhe

PROGRAM MANAGER

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Kanchi Goswami

PROGRAM MANAGER (OT)

Dr. Goswami is an experienced Occupational Therapist who has an integrated approach in providing therapy to her patients and focuses on overall development, and her expertise lies in dealing with patients across all age groups who are diagnosed with any neurodivergent conditions including ADHD, ASD, Down syndrome,  Cerebral palsy, Global delay development, Sensory issues.

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Riddhi Dedhia

DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS

Ms. Dedhia is a Special Educator and Director of Programs at Saamarthya. With a steadfast commitment to individualized instruction, she has positively impacted over 100 children by tailoring interventions to meet diverse learning needs. Remaining at the forefront of research and best practices, Riddhi ensures her methods are informed by the latest advancements, aiming to elevate excellence in special education.

Krithikaa is a Special Educator and a certified yoga instructor. She specializes in working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disabilities. Her goal is to make this world more inclusive, as Inclusivity means not 'just we're allowed to be there,' but we to be valued. She is a person who is always willing to help others in any possible way.  Apart from Special Education, she enjoys playing musical instruments, singing, and sports.  

OUR PARTNERS

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OUR FUNDERS

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We are grateful to the Fleishhacker Foundation for their support and generous gift to Saamarthya Foundation’s intervention programming for children with Autism and Intellectual disabilities in India.

 (https://www.fleishhackerfoundation.org/

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We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our valued sponsor, Appfire Town, for their unwavering support and commitment to our mission. Their generous contributions have played a pivotal role in making Saamarthya scale up and ensuring that we continue to provide valuable services to children with disabilities and their families.  

 (https://appfire.com/)

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