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 activist. 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

More staff (Tech person, Director of Environmental programmes and a Financial Officer) to be announced in the coming months 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. These are our Trustees:

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.

Sylvie Rabinovitch-Bolstad

Sylvie is one of the founding members of the Waikato Interfaith Council, set up in 1994. Originally from a multicultural and multifaith community in Montreal, Canada, she emigrated to New Zealand with her husband in 1971 and both their children were born in and grew up in Hamilton. She is an artist, educator and community project facilitator and the Founder / Director of Artmakers Community Artists Trust, Hamilton.  As an artist, educator and storyteller, Sylvie believes that our aspirations for peace and coexistence are best expressed through creative processes – telling inspiring personal stories, studying ancient & modern texts, creating art, music & performances. Her professional life has been dedicated to community development through the arts, in particular working with young people and children. She believes that we must invest in the next generation by helping them to recognise the power of addressing the big questions of existence,  by accepting the richness of diversity, and learning to harmonise our differences for the common good.

EARTHDIVERSE INSTRUCTORS:

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

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.

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).

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.

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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. His recent book “Days of Our Deaths” serves as the basis for his ʻCultural History of Death” course. Peter also teaches our “The Spiritual in Modern Art” course and a new course in Western Philosophy to be introduced in 2021 Term 2.

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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 new 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.