The University of Maryland and its Do Good Institute are proud to announce the first cohort of TIAA Nonprofit Leadership Fellows, who will pursue a master's degree specializing in nonprofit management and leadership this fall. Fellows receive significant financial support and unique professional development with the Do Good Institute and TIAA. Throughout the program, fellows will have the opportunity to work with leading nonprofits, attend professional development events with DC-area leaders, work alongside SPP faculty in philanthropy and nonprofit leadership and be paired with a mentor from TIAA for advising on financial management, career and skill development and more.
The TIAA Nonprofit Leadership Fellows Program is a collaboration between TIAA, the leading financial services firm for nonprofits and philanthropy, and the University.
The program will equip future nonprofit executives to lead high-performing organizations and create a pipeline of talented, diverse and prepared leaders who will drive highly effective nonprofits in creating sustainable change. The first cohort of fellows bring a range of experiences and interests to the program. Read about them below.
Xan Avendaño is a Montgomery County, Maryland native and American University graduate who is delighted to return home after three years away. After completing his bachelor’s degree in international studies from American University in 2014, he moved across the country and Pacific Ocean to serve as a committee clerk in the Hawaii State Senate. While at the Hawaii State Legislature, he assisted the Senate Committee on Human Services and convened various community working groups that brainstormed solutions to the Aloha State’s most pressing problems in education, elderly affairs and housing. Fluent in English and Spanish, Avendaño has a passion for bilingual education and has taught at schools including DC-based Spanish immersion preschool, CommuniKids, and most recently, the Highlands School El Encinar located in Madrid, Spain. With experience volunteering and fundraising for nonprofits such as InteRed, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Link Community Development International, Avendaño is eager to dive into the nonprofit management and leadership specialization at the School of Public Policy.
Zebradedra Hunter is thrilled to join the Nonprofit Leadership Fellows Program as a first-year graduate student at the School of Public Policy. Her research interests include STEM education and human capital investment and social inequality/disparities. Hunter served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at the Baltimore City Public Schools District Office and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Educational Outreach. As an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, she worked on sustainability and capacity building for the Baltimore City Public Schools VEX and VEX IQ robotics programs. Prior to her year of service, she obtained a bachelor's degree in economics from Loyola University Maryland while minoring in the natural sciences and italian studies.
Stephen Leas graduated from University of Maryland in 2013 with a double degree in spanish and music performance and completed the two-year Language House Program. Since graduating, he has volunteered and worked with socially conscious businesses and nonprofits, including the MD Food Co-op, GLUT Food Co-op, Eco-City Farms and Your Chef’s Table. His experience with these organizations has fueled his interest in philanthropy, the local food system and environmental and social activism. Leas is also a private music teacher and performer. While working with the traditional jazz band Capital Focus, he was lucky enough to travel to the Caribbean and Canada as well as accompany actor Kevin Spacey as he sang at two separate events. Leas remarked, “Life has been good to me and I want to give back and direct my energy toward professional philanthropy in the nonprofit sector and I am happy to be involved with the Do Good Institute.”
Chris Markomanolakis is a Maryland native, but has been living in Tanzania as a Peace Corps volunteer since February 2014. His time in Africa has opened his eyes to the vastness of human potential. He left Maryland with doubts, for himself and the world, but he is returning home a more humble, optimistic person. He believes the world is what we make it. Markomanolakis’s dream is to work in international relief to help those displaced by war or natural disasters receive the assistance they need as quickly as possible. He believes the world is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, but with the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and the Do Good Institute, he knows he will get the experience and education he will need to face these challenges with confidence. Markomanolakis is a graduate of Towson University, with a Bachelor of Science in Political and Metropolitan Studies.
Ayesha Tahir was born and raised in Pakistan. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Lahore University of Management Sciences. Tahir is passionate about leveraging social enterprises to solve gender policy issues around the globe. She is currently the co-founder of Safe Spaces, a social startup in Lahore aspiring to make academic, work and public spaces inclusive by taking community-driven action against street harassment faced by women. After graduation, she spent time working with women in urban slums of Delhi. Her social startup idea Sashakta, a training model that delivers life-skills based educational workshops to women in low paying contractual jobs received the first prize at the International Social Innovation Challenge, India. In addition to working with Safe Spaces, she is a research associate for Punjab Education Sector Reform Program, a World Bank funded initiative.