Board of Directors

Dr. Ariel Rojas, MS, MA

President / Founder

As an interdisciplinary sociocultural entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in the fields of mental health, HIV/AIDS, counseling and youth development, Ariel has experience working in New York City’s multi-faceted social service and healthcare industry, delivering culturally competent services, creating inclusive environments and implementing highly effective outreach strategies in diverse communities. He has in-depth knowledge of the local challenges affecting the Caribbean and Latino communities as well. In the field of international development, Ariel played a key role in the intergovernmental negotiation process at the United Nations by constructively engaging in various informal interactive hearings of the General Assembly with NGOs, civil society organizations, major groups and the private sector in preparation for the summit that officially adopted the U.N. 2030 Development Agenda. In collaboration with other U.N. Major Group members, he advocated for the improvement of global policy issues related to youth engagement, cultural diversity, women inclusion, families rights and health promotion; and he has been also invited by U.N. permanent missions to attend various forums where he has promoted more innovative and inclusive partnerships between national governments, non-governmental organizations and local initiatives. In 2015, he was invited as an official speaker to attend the NGO Conference at the United Nations. Ariel emigrated from Havana, Cuba, to the United States in 2000 as the first young Cuban researcher to be unanimously awarded Vassar College's Latin American Culture Fellowship, in the Hispanic Studies Department. He holds a Masters degree in Sociocultural Anthropology from Columbia University, mentored by Prof. Michael Taussig, PhD, one of the iconic fathers of Post-modern Cultural Anthropology. In 2022, he received an honorary doctorate (Doctor Honoris Causa in Anthropology) from Universidad CUGS, Mexico. Back in Cuba, he graduated with a BA in Psychology and a Masters in Social Psychology from the University of Havana. He has also earned Master-level credits at Columbia University with a concentration in Social Enterprise Management, where he audited a class in International Social Development. Ariel launched Transdiaspora Network in 2007 in response to the lack of culturally relevant HIV prevention programs for youth in Brooklyn, New York. For his leadership, his innovative and entrepreneurial effort, and his social commitment to bring HIV prevention to a new frontier, Ariel is the recipient, along with his TDN team, of the New York State Department of Health Commissioner's Distinguished Service Award provided by the AIDS Institute. Since 2014, he has been our NGO representative at the United Nations Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC). From to 2009 to 2015, he was an active member of NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene's Brooklyn Knows Steering Committee. In 2019, Ariel was granted a membership at the prestigious Alumni Society, a platform for the most distinguished Latinos in the country who are making a difference in a meaningful way and are alumni from highly selective U.S. colleges and universities. Publications: Written Statement on the occasion the 54th Session of the Commission for Social Development (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs -E/CN.5/2016/NGO/46-, January 2016); Written Statement on the occasion of the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (UN Women -E/CN.6/2015/NGO/136- March 2015); Article "Enabling Culture for Effective Responses to HIV/AIDS" (Real Life Times Newspaper, January Issue, 2014); Article "Social Enterprise: Improving Communities' Future and People's Live" (Real Life Times Newspaper, February Issue, 2014); Fact sheet "HIV and Substance Use: Who is at Risk? Our People, or Our Culture?" (National Hispanic & Latino Addiction Technology Transfer Center, Year 2, Vol. 2, March 2014); Webinar Presentation "HIV and Substance Use Among Hispanics and Latinos" (National Hispanic & Latino ATTC, March 2014)


Sophie Cardona, MA, EMIT, LEED

Secretary

Sophie is a multi-cultural sustainability professional who practices at the intersection of economic development and the environment. With a solid background in economics, she advises clients on how to implement and finance energy efficiency projects. She completed her MA in International Relations and Latin American Studies, with a specialization in economic development and emerging markets from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She also holds a BA in Economics and Psychology from Barnard College, and an Associates Degree from Parsons The New School for Design. She is a founding member of Transdiaspora Network. She speaks French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.


Dillon Clark, MSW

Special Adviser

Currently, Dillon serves as the Director of Operations for Breakthrough Montessori Public Charter School and Research Associate & Special Education Advisor for the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector. He has also held multiple program management and school leadership positions with the The District of Columbia Public Schools and District of Columbia Department of Youth Rehabilitation. Dillon has worked closely with various local and federal politicians on Capitol Hill, in Albany, on Long Island and in New York City on a variety of issues including education, healthcare, and the environment. He has held posts with Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Steve Israel, Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic Policy and Communications Center, and in the Executive Branch of the Federal Government with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Special Operations Division. Most recently, he been nominated and recommend for appointment as Tennent Representative and Commissioner to the Montgomery County Commission on Landlord-Tennent Affairs by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. Dillon has a BA in Politics from The Catholic University of America, and a Master's degree in Social Work from Columbia University. While attending graduate school, he was selected to be part of the competitive Law Minor program. He also received credits in Mental Health Counseling at Touro College School of Education and Psychology.


Martha Navas, MS

Board Member

Martha is an Alliances & Partnership Manager at Adeza. Previously, she worked as a business development specialist at Calypso Technology and was a financial service professional at New York Life. She has a Master's degree in International Economy and a Bachelor's degree in Finance and International Relations from Universidad Externado de Colombia.


Amada Santiago, MSW

Board Member

Amada is a social innovator with a wide range of experience leading and developing programs for underserved populations. Amada is currently the Associate Director of Advising and Student Services and an adjunct lecturer in higher education at NYU. Steinhardt’s Department of Administration, Leadership, and, Technology (ALT). Amada is also an adjunct lecturer for the Latin American and Latinx Studies Department at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. At John Jay, she teaches courses on the history of Latinxs in the United States with attention to the establishment and development of the diverse Latinx communities through migration, colonization, racialization, and integration. Before joining ALT, Amada worked for a private education consulting firm as Director of Training and Program, focusing on programming support and training opportunities to propel underrepresented educators and entrepreneurs to excel across sectors. In addition, Amada provides consulting services in research, planning, and support on various projects that close the achievement gap and provide greater access to all vulnerable young adults in education and the workforce. Amada has worked closely with the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee of the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics under the Obama Administration through her consulting services. Through this work, Amada led the organizing of powerful convenings between the nation’s top scholars, policymakers, and practitioners intending to impact policy and address the deficit in college enrollment and completion for Latinx students. Prior to working in the private sector, Amada served as a Youth & Family Director for the YMCA of Greater New York. In this role, she was responsible for the successful implementation of program development, administration, supervision, and evaluation of youth programs. A native of the Dominican Republic, Amada has a passion for supporting recently arrived young adults to achieve academically and professionally. She has led various start-up initiatives, including a small nonprofit that provided support services to New York City high schools and communities with a high immigrant population, becoming one of the city’s first immigrant peer-to-peer mentoring model at the time. Amada holds a Master’s in Social Work with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from Columbia University and a BA from CUNY- Bernard Baruch College. Amada also served as an Education Pioneer Fellow in partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at NYU Steinhardt.


Dr. Adrianna Villavicencio, PhD

Board Member

Dr. Villavicencio is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Irvine. Her research is focused on K-12 educational policy and school practice that deepen or disrupt inequities for minoritized communities of students and families. For nearly a decade, she conducted research at the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at NYU—a Research-Practice Partnership with the NYC Department of Education (DOE). As Deputy Director of the Research Alliance, she helped shape the organization’s research agenda, obtained over $9 million in external grants, developed relationships with external partners, and led many of the organization’s large-scale mixed-method research projects focused on the NYC school system. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Dr. Villavicencio’s work includes mixed-method studies on turnaround middle schools, small high schools in NYC, schools serving newly arrived immigrant English Learners, and a racial justice program embedded in culturally diverse elementary schools. She also led a longitudinal study of the Expanded Success Initiative, a precursor to My Brother’s Keeper and one of the country’s largest initiatives targeting Black and Latino male students. Her book, Am I My Brother’s Keeper: Educational Opportunities and Outcomes for Black and Brown Boys, published by Harvard Education Press, examines how districts and schools can embed racial equity into sustainable policies and practices in contrast to initiatives that come and go. The book also provides a set of concrete approaches and recommendations, so that other districts and schools can take up similar efforts with even more robust results. Prior to becoming a researcher, she taught high school English in Oakland, California and Brooklyn, New York. She also worked on the development of a new school in Bangalore, India. Dr. Villavicencio earned her Ph.D. in education leadership and policy from the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She also holds an M.A. in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.A. in English from Columbia University.


Dr. Joyce Shim, PhD

Advisory Council Member

Dr. Joyce Shim is Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at SUNY Delhi, where she is also a tenured, full Professor. A two-time Fulbright Specialist, she holds a BA in Political Science from Rutgers-New Brunswick with a minor in Spanish Literature and earned her dual Masters in Social Work and International Affairs and Ph.D. in Social Work at Columbia University. Prior to her dean position, she was an Assistant Professor at Dominican University Graduate School of Social Work, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University School of Social Work. Dr. Shim has worked for various international organizations including the UN and UNICEF as well as Human Rights Watch. She has lived in Korea and Spain and travelled widely in Europe and Asia. As an advisor, she assists with international development and research strategies.


Casey Reckman, MA

Senior Board Associate

Casey works in macroeconomic research and analysis at Credit Suisse. She earned a BA in Public Policy Studies from Duke University, with a minor in Spanish and a certificate in Latin American Studies. Later, she received a MA in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins University, where she concentrated in Latin American Studies, International Finance and Emerging Markets. She has also conducted analysis for AIG Capital Group in Buenos Aires, taught English in Santo Domingo, and monitored Latin American and European issues for Human Rights Watch. She has traveled extensively within Latin America and also lived in the Dominican Republic. She speaks fluent Spanish and has working knowledge of Portuguese.


Buzz

  • 09/09/2022 Book of Condolence - Because of Queen Elizabeth's death, TDN President/Founder Ariel Rojas signs book of condolence... read more>>      
  • 09/09/2022 Honorary Doctorate Award - TDN President/Founder Ariel Rojas awarded Doctor Honoris Causa in Anthropology... read more>>    
  • 07/22/2022 U.N. High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development - Transdiaspora Network submits official written and oral statement (video) to the United Nations... read more>>    
  • 07/21/2022 How Did We Get Here? - TDN blog contributor's reflection regarding Supreme Court’s decision about abortion and reproductive rights... read more>>    
  • 07/05/2022 New Partnership with City Office - Transdiaspora Network has engaged in a partnering with NYC Summer Youth Employment Program... read more>>