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Leadership and team

Stephen Bennett, Board Chair & Co-Founder

Stephen is a leader in NGO management, human and health services, technology and philanthropy. His current focus includes areas of health care access, international conservation, disabilities and human rights.

He also serves on the Boards of The California Endowment, the ARCUS Foundation and Save the Chimps. ​ Former CEO of United Cerebral Palsy from 2003 to 2016, he had also served as the President of Pallotta Teamworks (charity event production organization), Founder and Chair of TransDecisions (Software firm), Founding Partner, Sokolov, Schwab and Bennett (Healthcare Consulting group), and CEO of AIDS Project LA. He was a VISTA/PeaceCorp volunteer in the 1970’s. Stephen did his undergraduate work at Pepperdine University and University of Heidelberg. His graduate work was at the UCLA Anderson School of Business, MBA.

Larry colton, Board Member

Larry Colton serves on the Boards of Mills College, Eisenhower Medical Center, Eisenhower Foundation, and Digicom Learning. His prior board experience ranges from waste management to social services and prison reform. He has specific expertise in enterprise risk management, strategic planning and development. 

Larry, a long time Bay Area resident, spent his career in the insurance industry where he served as President and Principal of Goldman Insurance Services and Co-Founder and CEO of G2 Insurance Services. 

Larry holds a Bachelors degree from UC Berkeley. He joined the Caravanserai Project Board of Directors in February 2022.

Emily Dabish, Board Member

Emily is the Vice President of Intrastate Distributors. Prior to this position she served as the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Rocket Fiber, a Detroit-based technology and internet company.

She began her career with the Detroit City Council President, where her work spanned the bulk of the bankruptcy proceedings. She also served for the Michigan Governor Office. She has been involved in a variety of non-profit boards including the Detroit Athletic Club, International Visitors Council, and Urban Land Institute. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan and a Master of Arts in Public Management from Johns Hopkins University. She joined the Caravanserai Project Board of Directors in 2018. 

Susan Gomez, Board Member

Susan Gomez is founding President/CEO of the Inland Empire Community Collaborative, an association of 67 non-profit agencies working together to strengthen our organizations and improve outcomes for individuals and communities throughout San Bernardino & Riverside County, California. Prior, Susan served as the Executive Director, responsible for the leadership of Another Way, a volunteer nonprofit organization made up of employees of Inland Regional Center.

She also was recently appointed to the Inland Empire Complete Count Census committee, serving on the Field Outreach-Region committee. In 2020, Susan joined the Board of Directors of California Association of Nonprofits. She joined the Caravanserai Project Board of Directors in 2020. 

Christopher "Edwin" Hopkins-Gillispie, Board Member

Christopher “Edwin” Hopkins-Gillispie is an attorney specializing in labor and employment law. He currently works at international retailer Lidl as the Director of Employment Practices and Head of Employment Law for Lidl’s U.S. operations. In this role, he oversees Lidl’s HR strategy regarding Employee Relations, Labor Relations, HR Compliance, Investigations, Employment Law, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion functions. Prior to Lidl, he worked as a Labor & Employment attorney at the international law firm Morgan Lewis. While at Morgan Lewis, Edwin’s primary practice included employment law counseling, and litigating claims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. 
 
Edwin has long focused on diversity both within the legal profession and beyond. Since earning his JD from Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law in 2011, he has volunteered his time speaking on alumni panels and mentoring students in making educational decisions and career choices. He previously served on the DC Bar Foundation’s Young Lawyer’s Network Leadership Council, Indiana University LGBTQ+ Alumni Association board member, and an ambassador for the It Gets Better project. Before his legal career, Edwin worked in public relations and marketing communications as an Account Executive at HK Strategies and Marketing General Manager at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Southern California. Edwin joined the Caravanserai Project Board of Directors in May 2022. 

Armetta Parker, Board Member

Armetta Parker has an extensive marketing communications and public affairs background in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Throughout her career, she has coupled her lived experience, curiosity and passion for diversity and inclusion to her understanding of her professional roles. Her driving principal is “who I am is what I do. What I do is who I am.”

Armetta holds a bachelors degree in Journalism from Wayne State University. She is a former San Mateo County Commissioner on Aging and previously served on the board of the Wall Street Institute, a DC-based nonprofit focused on youth financial literacy. She joined the Caravanserai Project Board of Directors in 2020. 

Rhett Wilson, Co-Founder & Board Member

Rhett serves as the vice president for development at the White House Historical Association, the privately funded, non profit partner to the White House.

Previously, Rhett served as the chief development officer for several business schools and held associate and assistant dean appointments at Johns Hopkins University and George Mason University, respectively.

Rhett holds a bachelors degree in justice studies from Arizona State University. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership and previously served on the advisory board for Alaris, a signature verification technology firm launched in partnership with Rolls Royce, Inc. He is a former member of the Town Council in Kearny, Arizona.

Mihai Patru, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer

Mihai is an Entrepreneur in Residence on Social Entrepreneurship at University of California in Riverside. Prior, he served as a Senior Fellow at the School of Public Policy, University of California in Riverside where he designed and launched the first social entrepreneurship pre-accelerator at the University.

He started his professional career as a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania and later joined the Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, as a Senior Fellow. He is a recipient of the U.S. State Department Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellowship (2013/2014 cohort). He completed his graduate work at Central European University in Budapest (MA ’10) and Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC (MIPP ’17).

Team

Carolina Rosas Saavedra, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lead

Carolina joined Caravanserai Project in 2022. She is a Molecular Biotechnology Engineer, startup mentor and tech advisor with a master in Biological Sciences from the University of Chile. Carolina is a panel reviewer for the Chilean National Agency for Research and Development and a former Innovation and Entrepreneurship Specialist at the hub of technology APTA (Andes Pacific Technology Access) in Chile, where she mentored entrepreneurs and connected with several tech-based companies across the country.

She is the founder of Vitrotech SpA, a start-up company focused on consulting services for tech-based businesses. Carolina is also a co-founder of Klein Biotecnología Ltda, a Chilean biotechnology startup. Carolina has been Director and Co-director of several R&D grants and has more than 10 years of hands-on experience in research and development, entrepreneurship, and fundraising.

She worked for 3 years as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at University of California Riverside. In this capacity she mentored entrepreneurs and supported the development of small businesses and scalable start-ups in the Inland Empire. Carolina was also responsible for outreach activities to promote entrepreneurship within the faculty and student base at UCR. 

Graciela Moran, External Affairs Officer

Graciela joined Caravanserai Project in 2021. Prior, she served as President and CEO of the Associated Students Incorporated, the student government at California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB), advocating for all college students at the local state and federal level.

In 2020, she was Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes 30 under 30 Awardee and is the recipient of the CSUSB’s Association of Latino Faculty, Staff & Students Scholarship (2021) and of the Women in California Leadership Minerva Scholarship (2020). Graciela has led CSUSB delegation at numerous national and international Model United Nations reunions.

Graciela is a native Inland Empire resident. She graduated California State University San Bernardino with a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies. Currently, she is pursuing Masters in Public Administration at San Diego State University. 

Bradley Chargualaf, Project Manager​

Born and raised in the Inland Empire of California in a Chamorro-Mexican family, Bradley has a strong background in facilitating student learning having served as Learning Assistant for undergraduate students at University of California Los Angeles. His diversity-focused pedagogy experience and unique acumen as a Varsity eSports Athlete inform his approach to mission-driven work. A graduate of University of California, Los Angeles, with a Bachelor’s in Biology, his knowledge and passion of genetics and technology provides forward-thinking solutions and modern interpretations of current challenges. Bradley joined Caravanserai Project in 2021. 

Anil Cholakkara, Administrative Officer​​

Anil was born and raised in Southern India and began his professional career in late 1990s with an international organization as a Sales team coordinator. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing & Advertising. Prior to joining Caravanserai Project in 2022, Anil served the City of Palm Springs as a member of the Facilities Maintenance administrative team.

Rajiv Desai

Expertise: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion / Strategic planning

Taharima Habib

Expertise: Board engagement and development / Diversity, equity and inclusion / Community engagement

Jeremy Hobbs

Expertise: Start-up support and mentorship / Board engagement and development / Strategic planning / Fundraising / Legal and financials

Rajiv Desai

Rajiv Desai (He/Him) is a leader in the DEI space. He takes a global and enterprise-wide approach to DEI, focusing not only on HR, but the business as well, and canvasses his efforts from internal focus to external clients and communities. He has a particular interest and passion in getting smaller and more nascent organizations get started on the DEI journey. 

He is the founder of Chrysalis LLC in October 2020 striving to help small and medium-sized enterprises (both for and non-profit) initiate their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) journey in an incremental, sustainable and thoughtful manner. Previously, he served as the first ever Vice President for DEI and Responsibility at Gartner, an Executive Advisor with CEB’s Financial Services and FedEx. Rajiv holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Finance & Marketing) from the University of Pittsburgh. He also completed a certificate course in Strategic Diversity & Inclusion Management from Georgetown University in 2017 and an Executive Education certificate in Inclusive Leadership from University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. Rajiv is fluent in Spanish, Hindi, Bengali and Gujarati.

Since March 2020, he serves as the Board Chair for ORAM (Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration).

Taharima Habibi

Taharima is a multidisciplinary community builder and organizer, specializing in facilitation and training design in nonprofit and charity organizations. Born in Bangladesh, she came to Canada at the age of 3 with her family and calls Montreal her home. 

Taharima has a Masters degree in Microbiology and Infectiology from the University of Sherbrooke, where she studied the functions of HIV. After falling in love with the communications and public facing aspect of her academic work, she left research to pursue a career in the community and non-profit sector across Montreal, in grassroots and national organizations.

Taharima has built and sustained relationships in the Montreal communities where she has done consulting work for board of directors and executive staff. Today, Taharima is working with junior and senior staff members in mission-driven organizations across Canada, helping them with professional development, and with board directors as a consultant in Culture and Capacity building.

Jeremy Hobbs

Jeremy W. Hobbs is President of the Western Wind Foundation, a private foundation working primarily on social and economic development and education, with a geographic focus on the Coachella Valley. He is also Chairman of Eastek International, a vertically-integrated electronics and plastics contract manufacturer. He also serves on the Board of Directors of The Inland Empire Community Foundation.

Early in his career, Jeremy was a management consultant with a specialty in local governments, local and regional water issues, and strategic and financial planning. A native Californian, Jeremy is a graduate of Jesult High School in Sacramento and Pomona College (BA, English) in Claremont, California. He graduated with honors from the University of Chicago Law School, where he served as a member and editor of The Law Review. From 1987 to 2002, Jeremy practiced law in Chicago, where he specialized in public interest and securities litigation, and where he later developed a practice focused on family-owned and closely-held businesses. In 2002, he left the practice of law to co-found a Chicago-based operating and holding company.

Jeremy has a long history of social service and philanthropic work, ranging from community development to HIV/AIDS education and prevention. In recent years, he has worked closely with dozens of non-profits and charitable organization throughout the Coachella Valley on topics such as education and scholarships, community and economic development, remediation of the Salton Sea, isolation and aging within the LGBT community, and development and support of a thriving performing arts community. He has also worked with numerous organizations on capacity development and governance issues. Jeremy has lived in Palm Springs since 2012.

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