Our Team

EARTHDIVERSE STAFF:

Executive Director:

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 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 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 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.

Office Administrator:

Joan Reeves is our newest team member, working towards bringing EarthDiverse’s foray into importing textiles from India to fruition in order to help support the work of the Trust. Joan returned to New Zealand in 2014 after 20 years living in Australia, where she worked as a senior Executive Assistant in the corporate, higher education and government sectors. She also has qualifications in public relations and marketing. Since retiring, Joan completed a Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at the Waikato Institute of Technology. Since then, she has taught in Thailand and Vietnam, plus takes on tutoring in Hamilton. Having enjoyed two courses with EarthDiverse, Joan now joins the team as an Office Administrator, mainly responsible for developing our Design portfolio. We will be importing and selling beautiful fabrics and homewares from India.

Web & Technical Support Specialist:

Hezekia Chege Mungai (Heze) is a self-taught front-end web developer who works with big or small organisations to design and develop user-friendly, accessible static as well as dynamic websites. After working in the hospitality industry, Hezekia knows that communication is vital. It is crucial to deliver the right message to the correct audience. With the current tools in the technology industry, a well-developed web application can achieve this goal. Hezekia started working in Kenya, his country of birth, as a tour leader. He was in charge of planning and executing different tailor-made itineraries for clients from all over the world. He has also worked at Hilton Hotel and FontSanta Hotel, both five-star hotels in Mallorca, Spain. He was in charge of various responsibilities from reservations, customer services, online community management to daily audits, as a shift leader. Hezekia has a passion for coding, but when not coding, mountain biking, camping, outdoor activities and cooking are what he likes. He is EarthDiverse’s new Web & Technical Support Specialist.

Marketing & Publicity Specialist:

Pepa Torre 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.

Director of Research Programmes:

to be appointed soon

Accountant:

Frank Carter. Photo and bio coming soon.

Video Editor:

Aria Ayoubi (bio coming soon)

Video Editor:

Nawar Ibrahim, raised in New Zealand is one of EarthDiverse’s young staff. She has a passion for science, international cuisine and traveling. She is well traveled and dreams to see more of the world soon. She also loves tramping in New Zealand.

Video Editor:

Xanthe Lee, pic and bio coming soon

Communications and Marketing Intern

Adrienne Strassberg has recently graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science as well as a dual minor in Equity and Human Geography. She is now undertaking additional coursework at The Center for Mediation and Dialogue at Champlain College to support her work with the Environmental Mediation Center. Adrienne has now joined the EarthDiverse team as a communications and marketing intern. She is excited to contribute to EarthDiverse’s social media presence and expand the reach of courses.

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.

EARTHDIVERSE TRUST:

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:

Anna Casey-Cox

pic and bio coming soon

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.

Rahul Pandey

Rahul has worked in accounting and finance for over a decade, and has been part of multiple family ventures across the United States and India. His interests include finance, technology and psychology. In New Zealand, Rahul has recently completed Master’s Degree in Professional Accounting from the University of Waikato. He has worked closely with EarthDiverse in the past before coming on Board as a Trustee in October 2021. He has also been closely involved with the Refugee Orientation Centre located in Frankton, Hamilton. As a lifelong learner and someone who is always keen to study something new, Rahul is a great fit here at EarthDiverse.

EARTHDIVERSE INSTRUCTORS:

EarthDiverse employs a wide-variety of course instructors from around the world with expertise in their respective fields. Meet them all here:

Adam Nachowitz

Adam Nachowitz is a twenty-year-old student based in Wellington, and is delighted to be a part of our exciting new Junior Lecturer Series. Since birth, microbes have been a huge part of Adam’s life. Everywhere he went, microbes were there too. They were there for his first day of school, the day he lost his first tooth, the first time he drove a car. Most of these microbes are pretty useful guys, just doing their thing to keep our world clean and liveable. Others, however, gripped by an evil streak, determinedly set out to attack our immune systems. It was these microscopic nasties which most captured Adam’s imagination, and led him to him taking his studies to the next level with a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, with majors in Molecular Pathology and Mathematics, as well as a Bachelor of Music, at Victoria University of Wellington. Adam is also a keen tramper, dancer, musician, and actor and enjoys cooking meals. His expansive volunteering experience in both environmental and social spheres, includes work as his high school environment captain, BLAKE Inspire, Duke of Edinburgh awards, and Amnesty International. As recognition for these efforts, Adam was awarded Volunteering Waikato’s special commendation for the 2019 Youth Volunteer of the Year. No matter how busy life gets, Adam will always stop for a chat about his cells and yours.

Dr Alistair Swale, PhD

Alistair currently teaches in the Japanese programme at the University of Canterbury – his research interests are modern Japanese history and animated  film.  His most recent book was entitled Anime Aesthetics:Japanese animation and the Post-Cinematic Imagination (Palgrave, 2015).

Amondi Ouko-Mowbray

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.

Dr Dennis Green, PhD

Dennis holds a PhD from the University of Waikato, and is a graduate of the Oxford Center for Postgraduate Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He lectured for 16 years for the University of Waikato’s Religious Studies Department. He has special interests in the Archaeology and Anthropology of the southern Levant, Iron Age Israelite history and the Second Temple Period of Jewish history. Apart from ongoing research, he is employed doing archaeological excavations in the greater Waikato area.

Ganga Sudhan, MEd

Ganga teaches our Tamil language courses 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).

Dr Geoff Lealand, PhD

Geoff Lealand was an Associate Professor in Screen and Media Studies (formerly Film & Television Studies) at the University of Waikato from 1992 to 2017.  He taught a World Cinema course there, as well as undergraduate/graduate courses on Media Studies, Television Studies, Children and Media, Research Methods and writing. Since retiring (a word he dislikes), he regularly volunteers for conservation ventures such as Seeley Gully and Friends of Waiwhakareke, works on his own large garden, writes and publishes on film and social history, does research for NZ On Air,  and maintains his website Cinemas of New Zealand <https://cinemasofnz.info> (est. 2010).  He is the current president of the Hamilton Film Society and plays a part in local film-making (see The Reel People of New Zealand, and Costa Botes’ forthcoming doco When The Cows Come Home).

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.

Grace Aislabie, Junior Lecturer

Grace is a third year student at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, working towards a double degree in Law and Arts, majoring in Spanish and Linguistics. Grace has studied Spanish all through High School, travelled to Argentina in 2019 and has continued her fascination with Latin America through her university studies in Spanish Language and Culture as well as through her Spanish conversation group. Grace is looking towards getting back to South America, hopefully to be able to give to the community through volunteering or teaching, to put her Spanish into use and to experience more of the culture. Additionally, she plans to develop a career in international law, in the areas of environmental and social justice.  In her spare time, Grace enjoys cross-stitch, reading novels, baking, and her part-time work at a gelato shop.

Halimah Ilavarasi, MEd

Halimah teaches our Tamil language courses 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).

Jaber Abbaszadeh, Doctoral Candidate

Our Farsi/Persian classes, and our newest Environment course on the Origins of Life, are taught by Jaber Abbaszadeh. Jaber came to New Zealand in 2019 to pursue his dreams as a PhD student at the University of Waikato. This move was influenced by his great passion for both nature and culture. His dream is to become an international academic researcher in Microbiology in a multicultural environment. Jaber has always been amazed by ancient cultures, some of which have stayed alive and vibrant throughout decades and centuries. He believes that the best way to connect diverse societies is through literature, art, and music which are inseparable aspects of all cultures! Jaber is excited to combine literature and music to uncover elements of what he calls “the treasure hidden in the heart of Persian culture and language!” He is very passionate about conveying what he knows to people who might be curious to discover Persia beyond what is presented in the mainstream media.

Jawaid Miandad Pardehi

Jawaid Miandad Pardehi, who now teaches our Introductory and Advanced Urdu courses, was born and raised in Pakistan, and his mother tongue is Urdu.  Jawaid migrated with his wife and a daughter to New Zealand in 2015. He has a Bachelor of Engineering degree and previous technical project management experience in the Telecom sector. Jawaid has a certificate in Adult and Tertiary teaching from Wintec Hamilton, and he is currently completing his Master’s degree in Social Work from Massey University. Jawaid is working in the social sector (NZ Red Cross) as a pathway to settlement manager and finds great rewards for helping former refugees from vulnerable backgrounds. He has discovered new career changes with great fulfilment, contributing to a humanitarian cause and living out his values. Jawaid is a board member of the NZ Diversity Council and part of Hamilton Welcoming Communities Advisory Group with Hamilton City Council. He has translated a summary of Te Tiriti O Waitangi (Māori Version) into Urdu and is a member of the Tangata Tiriti-Treaty people. Jawaid speaks multiple languages (Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Sindhi and English), and he is also learning Arabic.

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 our Arabic Literature course for EarthDiverse and has been teaching our Conversational Arabic 300 courses since 2021 Term 3. When Leen is not interpreting for the Arab community in Hamilton or administrating and teach for EarthDiverse, 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 Mahmood Arif, MSc, MBBCH

Dr Mahmood Arif has been a specialist dermatologist for over 30 years. He has continued in this profession as he is passionate about helping people overcome their medical challenges and takes joy in seeing people progress through their journeys. He has worked in both the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Interior (Police Medical Services) as part of his role, which has enhanced his communication skills with people from all backgrounds. Apart from work, he enjoys sports (particularly tennis, swimming, and jogging). Mahmood is also very family-oriented and takes pride in having raised 6 children and is a grandfather to 5. Ever since retiring and moving to New Zealand he has taken this time to give back to the community. He currently volunteers at Diversity Counseling New Zealand as an Ethnic Advisor as well as a Multilingual Facilitator at the Department of Ethnic Communities. In addition, he has been working for Decypher as an Arabic Interpreter. Offering his experience through these platforms has been very enjoyable and interesting. Mahmood joins the EarthDiverse team as one of our three Arabic instructors.

Mayssaa Sheik Al Ard, MA

Mayssaa Sheik Al Ard, our Introductory Arabic instructor, was born to a Syrian father and Egyptian mother and raised in the UAE. She is married to an Iraqi husband and currently lives in Hamilton, New Zealand. Mayssa grew up in a very diverse environment, which gave her the privilege to understand other cultures. This allowed her to be more open minded to the differences of people. A mother of six children and grandmother of five, Mayssaa graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in Science, and began her career as a Laboratory technician in the UAE. After relocating to New Zealand in 1997, she completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Science at the University of Auckland. Her career path changed in 2009, when she decided to complete a master’s degree in Human Resource Management, followed by a Master in life coaching. In 2014, Mayssaa’s life underwent a transformation sparked after working with refugees in Jordan. Her passion to support refugees continued after she settled in Hamilton in 2016. With the first Syrian refugee families arriving, she took on the added responsibility of establishing a weekend school to teach these children their mother tongue, Arabic. The school is now in its 5th year with increasing numbers of students. Mayssaa continued supporting refugee families by working as an Arabic cross-cultural case worker with the Red Cross in 2017. She reinforced her skills with certifications and courses, such as the “Flourish leadership program for ethnic women” in 2019, and the “Leadership course for empowering Syrian women” in 2020 which aims to prepare Syrian women in the rebuilding of a new Syria. More recently, Mayssaa also launched a new project which targets the Arab community in Waikato, in an attempt to unite them in a safe space for networking and support. This has made her the founder and Chairwoman of the Waikato Arab Social Club.

Meg Barlow-Rolleston, Junior Lecturer

Meg Barlow-Rolleston is a sixteen-year-old of Māori and Irish descent, who is extremely passionate about her Māori background and hopes to grow her culture through the opportunity of being one of EarthDiverse’s Junior Lecturers.  From a young age, Meg has always found art to be an outlet and, through the incorporation of her art and culture, has been able to retain knowledge in her kete matauranga and produce meaningful and intricate toi that display thoughts, feelings, connections, and Māoritanga.  Meg attended kohanga reo, kura kaupapa and is in wharekura currently; hence, she is a fluent speaker of Te Reo Māori.  Meg has taken art classes throughout her schooling and has plenty of knowledge on Māori designs and art that she would love to share.  Meg has been a Kapa Haka tutor and has been involved in Māori performing arts.  She also won a regional art competition for the health sector incorporating Māori designs and values. Meg is looking forward to sharing the richness and depth of the Māori world through visual arts and enriching your life as an inhabitant of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Michael Burton-Smith

Michael Burton Smith is a nineteen year old student based in New Zealand’s windy capital city and our first instructor in our new Youth Lecturer Series. Since the age of six, Michael has been captivated by everything bird. It is a passion which has taken him across the country, and brought him up close and personal with our diverse, extraordinary, and increasingly threatened feathered friends. Understanding birds for Michael has always been more than just understanding a living organism. Michael’s other love is history and this passion has led him to explore how humankind’s journey over the past few millennia has been inextricably tied to the masters of the skies, and how our relationship with birds has changed for the better or the worse with new discoveries, technologies, and political regimes. Currently in his second year at Victoria University of Wellington, Michael has embraced the challenge of a quadruple major in political science, history, international relations, and ecology. Despite his youth, Michael has significant experience in community leadership and volunteerism, including policy advising for Forest & Bird Youth, partnerships manager for the Victoria Student Volunteer Army, University Hall President, and secondary school Deputy Head Boy. In spite of these commitments, however, Michael can still be found at the nearest bird hotspot whenever the weather permits, as there is no such thing as too busy for a birding outing!

Mohamed Chaar

Our Arabic & French language instructor, Mohamed, was born and grew up in Tunisia. Raised in an educational environment, his parents are both French teachers. Mohamed speaks three languages fluently: Arabic, French and English. He is also fond of art, music and travelling. As a teenager, he used to teach programming and published a programming exercise book to help students in their baccalaureate exam preparation. Mohamed holds an Engineering degree from the National Institute of Applied Sciences & Technology of Tunis with Honours. He worked in Oil & Gas for 5 years and then for 7 years in the dairy industry. His work trips allowed him to discover amazing places such as Sudan, Algerian Sahara and Andalucia. Since he came to Hamilton in 2019, Mohamed has been working as Senior Materials Handling Engineer & Project Manager. He participated in building huge dairy factories around New Zealand. Mohamed has a lot to share through EarthDiverse, and you have the choice to learn it in French or Arabic.

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.

Norman-Franke-300x300

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.

Peter-Dornauf-pic-OPT-183x300

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).

Shifra Gassner, MS Science Education

For the last five years, Shifra has been teaching a class called Earth Space Science to high school students in Iowa, USA. During this time she has honed in on what exactly a person needs in order to understand what is happening in the world right now in terms of global climate change. Many adults have asked about the subject matter she teaches. Only recently has Earth science been taught at a high school level and a person may or may not have taken an Earth science class while at University. What Shifra teaches is what a lot of people missed along the way during their formal education years. She feels strongly that with knowledge comes power and the motivation to act. She has taught many different levels and subjects over the past 20 years. She loves teaching science, especially the nature and process of science. and loves nature. She spends a lot of her time outdoors painting landscapes whenever she can.

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.