Dr Todd Nachowitz, PhD, is the Founder and Executive Director of EarthDiverse. Todd is a Hamilton-based lecturer, anthropologist, environmentalist and diversity educator. He previously taught in Religious Studies at the University of Waikato, teaching courses on Comparative Religion and Religious Fundamentalism & Extremism. Todd holds a Masters Degree in Development Anthropology from Syracuse University in upstate New York (1991) and a PhD from the University of Waikato (2015) in Political Science and Public Policy where he completed his thesis on diversity governance and the Indian diaspora in New Zealand. Prior to settling in New Zealand in 1995, Todd lived and worked in the United States, India, Pakistan and Nepal. He spent 11 years in South Asia as the Academic Director for university study-abroad programmes in Varanasi, India (for the University of Wisconsin-Madison); Lahore, Pakistan (for the University of California-Berkeley); and Kathmandu, Nepal (for School for International Training, based in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA) focusing on language, culture and religion. Todd speaks Hindi and Urdu, and is a specialist in comparative world religions and the history, religions, languages and cultures of South Asia. He also currently teaches our Hindi and Urdu language courses and the Religious Diversity courses at EarthDiverse.
Director of Language Programmes:
Cristina Schumacher, MA, is a Brazilian linguist based in New Zealand and an expert in language learning and teaching, having completed her Masters Degree in Administration from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil in 1995. With 28 titles published since 1999, she is also a coach, translator, evaluator and consultant to large international companies. Her work is focused on language awareness and on how language knowledge can become a highly effective self-development tool. In addition to her native Portuguese and the knowledge of a range of other linguistic systems, Cristina is fluent in English, French, German and Spanish. As our Director of Language Programmes and key member of our organisational team, Cristina oversees the growth of our language offerings, sees to the needs of our language students, and is helping to design a standardised methodology and pedagogy for our language programme. She also teaches Portuguese for EarthDiverse.
Director of Educational Programmes:
Nona Morris, MA, is a researcher and diversity educator for EarthDiverse. She has undergraduate degrees in Human Biology and Anthropology, and post-graduate degrees (MA) in Anthropology and Education. She has worked in the field of education for the last 30 years, working across all sectors from early childhood through university and adult mentoring, and has taught in a variety of fields including biology, ecology, social science, research methodology, and learning and assessment practice. She also teaches in the early childhood and primary school sectors. Prior to moving to New Zealand, Nona has lived, studied and worked in Kenya, Tanzania, Liberia, Pakistan, Nepal and the USA. She has experience in cross-cultural communication, facilitation, experiential education, service-based learning, and curriculum design and implementation. Her passion for social and environmental justice and for working with youth has led to her involvement with various local community groups, including NZ Scouts, school parent groups, Playcentre, ethnic and arts groups, and ecological restoration projects. Nona comes from and lives in a multicultural family, is married, and is a mum to two talented Wellington-based university-aged sons. Nona currently runs our Teacher Training Professional Development programme in tandem with Amondi Ouko-Mowbray, and is a key member of our management team.
Director of Research Programmes:
to be appointed soon
Director of Communications & Marketing:
Helen K. Chang joined EarthDiverse in August 2021 as Director of Communications and Marketing. She brings nearly four decades of communications experience to her role at EarthDiverse, two of those decades in higher education at the top-ranked Stanford University Graduate School of Business where she is Acting Director of Communications and Media Relations until July, 2021. Her career spans 10 years in the hospitality industry where she led public relations for the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (SFCVB) and San Jose CVB. Earlier in her career she reported traffic for a broadcast radio syndicate; and served as communications assistant for the social advocacy arm of the United Methodist Church in Washington, DC. Among her career highlights: she managed media relations for Stanford University professors Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson who won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Economics, and for then-business school dean Michael Spence who won in 2001; and she took part in the award-winning crisis communications campaign to woo tourists back to San Francisco in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. She received her bachelor’s degree, with honors, in mass communications from the University of California, Berkeley. Her honors thesis was the first to examine why Asian American women succeed in television news and Asian American men do not.
Administrative Director & Community Connector:
Dr Leen Al-Hadban, Phd, is EarthDiverse’s Community Liaison and Administrative Director, responsible for building bridges with Aotearoa New Zealand’s diverse communities, and for helping EarthDiverse develop its administrative procedures and policies during its early growth period. Leen is originally from Iraq, and her mother tongue is Arabic. She came to New Zealand to do her PhD in English Literature and ended up staying in beautiful Aotearoa. Leen is passionate about women’s rights, education and comparative literature, and begins teaching EarthDiverse’s new Arabic Literature courses and Conversational Arabic beginning in 2021 Term 3.
Technical Support Specialist:
Mary Ann Harrison, is our new Technical Support Specialist. She works to keep the technology flowing and the classes going for our ever-growing EarthDiverse Community. Originally from the US, Mary Ann has spent over ten years working for non-profit and public land management organisations. Her mission, natural and cultural resource preservation and education. Initially, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of North Carolina, USA with a concentration in the Biodiversity of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Actively, she studies Hebrew with EarthDiverse, the National Football League, Broadway musicals, creative writing, and the oddly gregarious nature of one well-fed, neighbourhood feline. Mary Ann is thrilled to be contributing to the EarthDiverse team and hopes to continue providing support that will help this organisation to grow!
Technical Support Assistant:
Kia ora! I’m Sam Collins – a conscious and curious person determined to leave this world better than I found it. I love the social sciences (e.g. sociology, human geography and philosophy) while also holding extracurricular passions for etymology, mental health and charitable work. My interests have led me to EarthDiverse! For now, I’ll be helping out with tech-support and other tasks, but am excited to be a team member that can assist with EarthDiverse’s growth and momentum. I love tramping, kayaking, running marathons and chilling out listening to music and relaxing.
More staff (e.g. Social Media and Website Development, Director of Finance, Director of Environmental Programmes) will be coming aboard in the very near future and will be announced shortly to help oversee EarthDiverse’s growth.
The EarthDiverse Trust was established in January 2020 to oversee the governance of EarthDiverse. Formal Charitable Organisation status was conferred by the Charities Services of the New Zealand government in September 2020. We’re still in the process of developing our Trust Board and will be adding new members soon. Our current Trustees are:
Dr Debashish Munshi, PhD
Debashish is a Professor of Management Communication in the Waikato Management School at the University of Waikato. His research work spans disciplinary boundaries as he seeks answers to difficult societal questions in fields ranging from the social sciences, management, organisational communication, science and technology, and future studies. His interdisciplinary work is anchored in postcolonial theory and aims for social justice. Public engagement on complex and contentious issues has been the focus of his most recent work. He was recently awarded a prestigious Marsden Grant by the Royal Society of New Zealand for a study on Sustainable Citizenship: Transforming Public Engagement. He is currently Co-Principal Investigator on a National Science Challenge project on Centering Culture in Public Engagement on Climate Change Adaptation, part of his work on Climate Futures, organised as part of a project funded by a Rockefeller Foundation grant. Debashish’s work with national and international colleagues has been instrumental in helping bring postcolonial perspectives to the discipline of Communication through numerous journal articles. His book (co-authored with Prof David McKie) on Reconfiguring Public Relations: Ecology, Equity, and Enterprise published by Routledge won the 2007 PRIDE Award for the Outstanding Book of the Year awarded by the PR Division of the US-based National Communication Association (NCA), the largest communication association in the world. He has also co-edited three other landmark books – Feminist Futures (Zed Books, 2016); The Handbook of Communication Ethics (Routledge), which won the Edited Book of the Year Award from the NCA’s Communication Ethics Division in 2011; On the Edges of Development: Cultural Interventions (Routledge), and most recently Public Relations and Sustainable Citizenship: Representing the Unrepresented (Routledge, 2020).
Dr Gauri Nandedkar, PhD
Gauri completed her PhD in May 2017 at the University of Waikato. Her thesis explored the policy translation of Millennium Development Goal 3 (to promote gender equality and empower women) from a global aspiration into a locally-implemented life-skills education programme for adolescent girls in rural Maharashtra, India. Her work is interdisciplinary and contributes to critical policy studies, housing studies, and development studies. Gauri is currently a researcher in the Affordable Housing for Generations National Science Challenge Team at the University of Waikato. Her work focuses on discourse analysis, science and policy interface, and how the way we talk about issues potentially affects policy outcomes. Gauri worked with the National Science Challenge Team in its first phase in the component ‘The Architecture of Decision-Making,’ exploring how politicians speak about the housing crisis, the most common narratives in the public arena, and what the effects and implications of public discourses are on housing policy. She is also a research associate in the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA) at the University of Waikato, researching trans-Tasman migration. This research project focuses on the aspirations and desires of New Zealanders working and living in Australia. Gauri is multi-lingual and has lived and worked in the United States, Germany and New Zealand for extensive periods.
bio and photo coming soon
EarthDiverse employs a wide-variety of course instructors from around the world with expertise in their respective fields. Meet them all here:
Dr Akiko Nakayama, PhD
Akiko Nakayama (PhD) is from Tokyo, Japan, and has a PhD in Japanese Sociolinguistics from Monash University, Victoria, Australia. She has been teaching Japanese at all levels and Japanese linguistics at various universities including the University of Waikato before retiring in 2012.
Amondi Ouko-Mowbray teaches our Swahili language courses and our Teacher Training Professional Development seminars. She has lived in New Zealand for the last 14 years. Prior to coming to New Zealand she taught across multiple sectors in Kenya, including Education, Health and Agriculture, and continues to conduct research in the education, health and social change sectors. She has decades of experience in cross-cultural communication and connectivity. She is a strong believer in social justice and diversity. Since coming to New Zealand, she has worked as a volunteer in several organisations, including Girl Guides New Zealand and the Hamilton Multicultural Services Trust. She is a university-trained early childhood educator with 10 years working experience, and lives in an intercultural family. She is also a trained interpreter and has supported refugees and migrants as they adjust to their new homes in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Dr Ann McEwan, PhD
Ann studied art and architectural history at the University of Canterbury and lectured at the University of Waikato for ten years before establishing Heritage Consultancy Services in 2006. As a consultant she advises public and private sector clients on historic heritage matters. Ann has maintained her academic practice as an occasional Professional Teaching Fellow in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Auckland (2015-16 & 2021) and has written several books on Waikato art and artists. In 2021 Ann will be introducing EarthDiverse courses on the history of New Zealand architecture and researching historic buildings.
Benjamin Tobias, LLB, LLM
Benny teaches EarthDiverse’s Hebrew courses. He was born in Israel and was raised as a fluent Hebrew speaker at Kibbutz Kinneret, located near the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) in the Jordan Valley. He also served as a Captain in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Benny moved to New Zealand in 1982, becoming a New Zealand citizen in 1984. He graduated from the University of Waikato with an LLB degree in 1994 and an LLM in 2007. For many years he worked for the New Zealand Transport Agency, both in planning and in a legal capacity. Benny is now partly retired, keeping himself busy with Ellys Physio and teaching Hebrew in his spare time. He is married and has 3 children and 3 grandchildren, who reside in New Zealand, Israel and Italy.
Cristina Schumacher, MA
Cristina is a Brazilian linguist based in New Zealand and an expert in language learning and teaching. With 28 titles published since 1999, she is also a coach, translator, evaluator and consultant to large international companies. Her work is focused on language awareness and on how language knowledge can become a highly effective self-development tool. In addition to her native Portuguese and the knowledge of a range of other linguistic systems, Cristina is fluent in English, French, German and Spanish. She teaches the Portuguese language for EarthDiverse.
Ganga Sudhan, MEd
Ganga is one of our newest language instructors, teaching Tamil along with Halimah. Ganga has decades of experience in education and has worked with individuals from all walks of life and across a broad range of age-groups to achieve specific learning outcomes. The common thread of all these professional experiences – as well as his career aspirations, in general – has been the empowerment of others to achieve their goals. He is a native speaker of English from Singapore who is bilingual in his ethnic language of Tamil (தமிழ்).
George Lusty, MA, Dip Ed
George is a Hamilton environmentalist currently helping to restore the Mangaonua Esplanade in Silverdale, Hamilton. George previously worked as a programme manager at Wintec teaching environmental, communication and cultural studies. George was born in Kirikiriroa and grew up in Ōtorohanga and has retained his lifelong passion for the environment and the outdoors. He has been involved in practical forest restoration work for over 20 years.
Halimah Ilavarasi, MEd
Halimah is one of our newest language instructors, teaching Tamil along with Ganga. She has over ten years of wide-ranging teaching experience in various educational settings. She is a Singapore-trained and New Zealand registered teacher who has supported children, young people and adults in furthering their education. Halimah is a passionate advocate of giving back to the community and supporting learners in meeting their educational outcomes. She is a native speaker of English who is bilingual in her ethnic language of Tamil (தமிழ்).
Karim Lakhani, MBBS, MA
Educated at UCLA and Monash University, Karim is qualified in Medicine, Philosophy, and Bioethics. A son of refugees, Karim settled in New Zealand after living in four other countries. Over the years, he has worked as a doctor, radio personality, entrepreneur, and university lecturer, often simultaneously. An award-winning educator, Karim particularly enjoys demystifying science and disentangling philosophical quandaries. He is deeply interested in astrobiology, political theory, social technology, and the art of storytelling. Karim regularly contributes short fiction and poetry to literary magazines.
Dr Leen Al-Hadban, PhD
Leen is originally from Iraq, and her mother tongue is Arabic. She came to New Zealand to do her PhD in English Literature and ended up staying in beautiful Aotearoa. Leen is passionate about women’s rights, education and comparative literature, she enjoys working with learners and assisting them in their learning. She also works with Arab refugees and migrants as an interpreter/translator. She considers language diversity a significant bridge connecting people from different ethnicities and views literature and education as important tools in the fight against racism, and the progression of women’s rights. Leen teaches the Arabic Literature courses for EarthDiverse (beginning in 2021 Term 3). When Leen is not interpreting for the Arab community in Hamilton, there is a good chance that she is hiding somewhere with a book, or getting her hands dirty doing pottery!
Machima (Mac) Aksonnit
Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Mac has now been living in Hamilton for the past 12 years. He has studied multiple languages such as French, Mandarin and Korean and is fluent in English and Thai. He has taught Thai to family friends and has greatly enjoyed giving lessons, which has encouraged him to join EarthDiverse. Promoting language and cultural diversity, Mac was a former Cultural Captain in his senior year of high school and won the Ingkan Award in 2015. Now currently working as a Laboratory technician, he has a background in Microbiology, as well as culinary arts, and enjoys reading about languages and experimenting cooking various cuisines.
Dr Norman Franke, PhD
Norman is a Hamilton-based poet, scholar, artist and film maker (MA, Hamburg University; Ph.D. Humboldt University, Berlin). He has published widely about 18th century literature, German-speaking exile literature (Albert Einstein, Ernst H. Kantorowicz, Else Lasker-Schüler, Karl Wolfskehl) eco-poetics and at the intersection of religion and poetry. Norman’s poetry has been broadcast on radio and published in anthologies in Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA. He was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Waikato for 22 years before his department was disestablished. He is currently a Conjoint Senior Lecturer & Research Fellow in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. He also teaches the “Grand Narratives and Mythologies in the Western Traditions” and the “Introduction to European Art and Architecture” courses and convenes our new Philosophy discussion group ʻThe Big Questions” for EarthDiverse. Norman will also begin teaching our German language programme beginning in 2021 Term 3.
Pepa Torre, MA
Pepa comes from Andalucia, in the south of Spain, once the domain of Islam and referred to as Al-Andalus. She is the Chair of the Waikato Hispano Latino Cultural Trust for which she has put great effort in implementing the communication strategy to be able to reach more members and achieve their mission of connecting people on a greater scale. She holds a BA in Audiovisual Communication and an MA in Photography as well as minor titles in areas such as Business and Education. She created PTS Foto Fun back in 2008, a Photography/videography studio focused on finding the inner self of each individual, creating a comfortable environment where one could express emotions and feel unique. She won first place in a National Photography Award held by Hewlett Packard and delivered numerous art exhibitions mostly sown throughout Europe. Everything she does is meant to feed her passion and learn more about human behaviour, concentrating on the idea of “prejudice” and “what is the same and different at the same time,” stressing the positive side of diversity. Pepa has also been a Flamenco music and dance teacher and performer since 2016, the same year when she started teaching Spanish privately in a variety of contexts. Nowadays you can find her working at the Waikato Settlement Centre and you can hear her hosting a radio program on Free FM called “¿Quiénes somos?” (“Who are we?”), based on the stories of everyday people from her Hispanic and Latin communities. Pepa also currently teaches Spanish for EarthDiverse.
Peter Dornauf, MA, Dip Tchg
Peter has taught in secondary schools, Wintec and Waikato University collectively for over 25 years. He is a well known Waikato artist, art critic and a writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. He currently teaches course for EarthDiverse in the fields of Art & Architecture, History and Philosophy. His book Days of Our Deaths serves as the basis for his “A Cultural History of Death” course, which is also offered in Term 3 this year. Peter also teaches “The Spiritual in Modern Art” course, an “Introduction to Western Philosophy,” and his newest course, “Understanding the Classical World and its Impact on Modern Life” is offered in Term 3.
Richard Cain, MA
Richard Cain has taught History and Classics in the Waikato for several decades. He has a keen interest in understanding the historical forces and trends that shape the present. He is also a student of geopolitics in the modern world. Richard will begin teaching a course entitled “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the History of the Land of the Long White Cloud, Aotearoa/New Zealand” in our new History programme beginning in Term 3 (August 2021).
Dr Todd Nachowitz, PhD
Todd is the Founder and Executive Director of EarthDiverse. He previously taught in Religious Studies at the University of Waikato, teaching courses on Comparative Religion and Religious Fundamentalism & Extremism. Todd holds a Masters Degree in Development Anthropology from Syracuse University in upstate New York (1991) and a PhD from the University of Waikato (2015) in Political Science and Public Policy where he completed his thesis on diversity governance and the Indian diaspora in New Zealand. Prior to settling in New Zealand in 1995, Todd lived and worked in the United States, India, Pakistan and Nepal. He spent 11 years in South Asia as the Academic Director for university study-abroad programmes in Varanasi, India (for the University of Wisconsin-Madison); Lahore, Pakistan (for the University of California-Berkeley); and Kathmandu, Nepal (for School for International Training, based in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA) focusing on language, culture and religion. Todd speaks Hindi and Urdu, and is a specialist in comparative world religions and the history, religions, languages and cultures of South Asia. He also currently teaches our Hindi and Urdu language courses and the Religious Diversity courses at EarthDiverse.
Yasmine Serhan, MA
Yasmine Serhan, our Arabic instructor, is based in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton. She is Jordanian by blood and Kiwi by heart. Her bicultural upbringing in Aotearoa by immigrant parents has sparked her passion for languages and intercultural communication right from her early years. She has a background in teaching, and completed both her Bachelor of Teaching and Masters of Education at the University of Waikato. Yasmine is fluent in both Arabic and English, and is currently an early childhood education teacher. In addition to learning Te Reo Māori and NZSL, she spends her days climbing obstacle courses, reading books, and nurturing the curiosity of 3-5 year-olds. Her hobbies include traveling (domestic for now), hiking, and everything to do with food! She looks forward to meeting our new cohort of students and getting to know them throughout the coming year.
Yurika Arai, M Phil
Yurika Arai is our Japanese instructor. She was born in Japan and has been living in Hamilton for nearly 30 years. She has both an M Phil (English) and a Masters Degree in Professional Studies. She taught Japanese at the University of Waikato for 15 years and currently works as an early childhood education teacher and a freelance translator. In 2022 Term 1 Yurika will also be teaching our new course in World Cinema on Japanese Anime.