Buy now! - Learn more about Abaarso's extraordinary story in Abaarso Founder, Jonathan Starr's, new book "It Takes A School"

Buy Now - "It Takes A School"

Sign Up For The Newsletter

Get updates on school activities and other Abaarso news.

Our Team

Abaarso’s success would not be possible without the support of a diverse and talented group of faculty and board members, both in Somaliland and the U.S., who are all incredibly dedicated to the success of the school and the future opportunities of its students.

Executive Staff
Somaliland Board of Directors

Mr. Ahmed Jambir Suldan, Board Chair
Former Interior Minister, Somaliland Ministry of the Interior

Mr. Saeed Ahmed Mohamoud, Board Vice Chair
Independent Consultant

Mr. James Linville, Board Secretary
Headmaster, Abaarso School of Science and Technology

Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim Awale
Chairman, Candlelight for Environment, Education, and Health

Mr. Abdi Hassan Duale
Executive Officer, National Professions Commission

Mr. Abdulkader Hashi Elmi
CEO, Maansoor Hotel

Mr. Omer Jama Farah
Manager, Taakulo Somaliland Community

Ms. Amal Ahmed Misan
Presidential Advisor on Women’s Affairs, Somaliland Presidential Office

Sh Mohamed Mohamoud, Religious Scholar

Dr. Jinaw Mohamed Qaalib
Medical Doctor and Lecturer, Global Polyclinic, University of Hargeisa, and Frantz Fanon University

U.S. Advisory Board Members

Jonathan Starr
Founder and Headmaster Emeritus

Anand Desai
Board Chair

Mohammed Ali
Senior Vice President, Hartford Investment Management Company

Gaurav Bhandari
Managing Partner, Long Arc Capital

Andra Ehrenkranz
Independent Education/Marketing Professional

John Ehrenkranz
Chief Investment Officer, Ehrenkranz Partners LP

Mitch Golden
Portfolio Manager, Greenlight Masters

Mustafa A. Jama
Managing Director, Morgan Stanley Investment Management

Steve Kuhn
Co-founder, ASK Charitable Foundation

Adeel Qalbani
Managing Partner, Perry Creek Capital

Michael Pollack
Clinical Assistant Professor of Business & Society, NYU Stern School of Business

Bradley Francis
Portfolio Manager, Pharo Management LLC

Abaarso Staff
Robert Kaufman
Executive Director

Over the last two decades Rob has been a co-founder, director, and senior representative for humanitarian and education institutions. He
began his career as a grant funded researcher in West Africa, where he studied strategies for resolving conflicts across context. He has worked for Save the Children/US and the American Red Cross in field and headquarters positions on four continents, including as Regional Manager for the Balkans during the Kosovo Crisis. In 2001, Rob co-founded McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School in Framingham, Massachusetts and served as its executive director for seven years. This 300-student school was designed to emphasize social and emotional skill development along with academic achievement and included a peace studies curriculum based on his early research. Rob then co-founded unique after school program for a private equity backed educational venture. He was the first-ever Town Appointed Facilitator in Stow, MA where he led a process that overcame a 15+ year stalemate on education funding, culminating in a near unanimous town vote to finance new school construction. He later returned to the American Red Cross (ARC) to be director of planning and performance management for international services. He then joined the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to revitalize a program for pandemic preparedness, where he led the scaling of operations from one country to 94 countries in ten months. Rob opened a new office for the IFRC in Tel Aviv and later led the international relations team, where he directed strategy and outreach to diplomatic missions in Geneva, Switzerland. Rob played a key role in several organizational development and performance management initiatives at the IFRC, including the design and launch of a
secretariat-wide Business Performance Improvement Process. At the request of the Secretary General of IFRC, Rob re-launched the One Billion Coalition for Resilience (1BC), a global initiative to inspire one billion people to take action that builds resilience. Rob established an independent governing board of corporate leaders and heads of UN agencies, and led the formal re-launch of the 1BC at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in 2016 and the World Humanitarian Summit, of which the UN Secretary General highlighted as a key achievement of the event. Rob went on to serve as the Deputy Regional Director for IFRC in Africa for four years, leading teams that support advocacy, fundraising, planning, communications and operations for a portfolio of 30-plus humanitarian and development programs, an annual budget of nearly CHF 200 million and 500+ staff. Most recently, Rob was the IFRC Head of Delegation in the Philippines, mobilizing global support to severe weather storms, the pandemic and Super Typhoon Goni, before being appointed as the Executive Director of the Abaarso Network.

 

Nora Harless
CFO

Nora graduated with high honors from New York University (NYU) and is a MSc candidate in Global Management at the London School of Economics (LSE), focusing in foreign direct investment and non-profit finance. She first came to work for Abaarso in 2016, leaving briefly in 2017 to complete a post-graduate fellowship with Princeton University working in non-profit school development in Bolivia. She returned to Somaliland in 2018 to manage operations and finance as a founding team member at Barwaaqo University, Abaarso’s subsidiary sister school. In 2020, Nora joined the Abaarso Network staff as CFO, managing finances for the three school systems in the organization, overseeing risk management, partner investments and financial reporting.

Trudy Hall
Headmaster

Originally from upstate New York State, Trudy has spent her professional career as an administrator in the world of independent education, moving around the regions of the US as she did so. As head of two boarding schools , (Emma Willard School and Miss Hall’s School), and a senior administrator at four others, (Culver Academies, Hutchison School, Stoneleigh-Burnham, Forest Ridge), she has focused her professional energy on programs that foster leadership and develop student voice and personal passions. Former Head of School at Emma Willard School for 17 years, Trudy also served 14 years on the board of the National Coalition of Girls Schools, and as President for 4 of those years, during which she had the opportunity to travel extensively internationally, always on the lookout for excellent schools. Firmly committed to the use of design thinking practices, Trudy also served as the President of the Board for Leadership and Design, a non-profit that designs leadership experience for those creating the future of education. Formally educated at St. Lawrence University, Harvard Graduate School of Education and Duke University, Trudy, is a ferociously curious peripatetic who, for the moment, when not in Somaliland, hails from Seattle, Washington.

James Greisler
Assistant Headmaster | Director of Academics

Originally from a small town in Upstate New York, James graduated from Hamilton College in 2010 with a BA in Theatre. Wishing to see the world, James spent the following years teaching English in South Korea and in the Republic of Georgia. From 2013-2014 James spent two years teaching English in Malaysia under the Fulbright Program. There he led drama activities, including adaptations of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Dr. Seuss stories, as well as over 20 day-long English camps and a student art exhibition. James also did outreach work with his Orang Asli (native) students and their community, resulting in a meeting between the students and U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. An avid reader, James enjoys hiking, folk dances, and playing his trumpet and sapeh.

Laura Kaub
Director of Post-Abaarso Experiences
Laura Kaub has nearly 15 years of experience in helping young African leaders gain access to and succeed in tertiary education in the United States and around the world. She worked as an international admissions officer at Barnard College, a highly-selective liberal arts college located in the United States, and as the founding director of African Leadership Academy (ALA)’s university guidance program. Later, she served as the founding director of the MasterCard Foundation Scholarship Program at ALA and as manager of the Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS) program, a free university access initiative that introduces African secondary school students to opportunities for admission and financial aid both on the continent and off. Ms. Kaub joined Nova Pioneer Schools for Innovators and Leaders as their inaugural director of post-school success where she oversaw personal and pre-university development of students across Nova Pioneer’s three secondary schools. Today, she works with the Abaarso Network as Director of Post-Abaarso Experiences, helping its students and alumni identify and access opportunities after they graduate.
 
Ms. Kaub is a member of the International Association of College Admissions Counselors and serves on that organization’s Inclusion, Access, and Success Committee. She sat on African Leadership Academy’s U.S. Advisory Council in 2017-18 and is a Past-Chair of the HALI Access Network, an association of schools and organizations working with high-achieving, low-income African students who wish to pursue tertiary education abroad. She still serves on HALI’s Executive Committee.
Jin Sasaki
Director of Procurement | Faculty of STEM

Jin has lived in East Africa for the majority of his life, living in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya. Jin graduated from Cornell University with a BS in International Agriculture and Rural Development. As a student he was involved in rugby and volunteered in the orientation program. He is an avid traveller and coffee enthusiast.

Saeed Mohamud
Director of Operations

Saeed graduated in 2015 from Abaarso School of Science and Technology. He then attended EARTH University in Costa Rica where he earned bachelors degree in Agricultural Science. As he completed his education, he came back to Somaliland and now he is the operations Manager at Abaarso School.

Jennifer Ayala
Director of Abaarso Prep | Faculty of Humanities

Born and raised in Southern California, Jennifer graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2012 with a BA in Philosophy. After graduation she volunteered in the Republic of Georgia for a year, teaching English in a rural mountain village. Jennifer then returned to California and worked in public libraries, developing children’s’ literacy initiatives and after-school family programs. After a couple years in the US Jennifer joined the Peace Corps, where she served in China from 2016-2018 as an English teacher in a university. In her free time she enjoys standup comedy, weight lifting, and hiking.

Hannah Heselton
Director of Student Life | Faculty of STEM

Originally from a small town in New Hampshire, Hannah graduated from Tufts University where she received a BA in Community Health and Environmental Studies. During her time at Tufts, she developed an interest in education and spent two years working with Jumpstart in a preschool in Boston’s Chinatown while working on her degree. She also became interested in global health and literacy and worked in the post-conflict region of northern Uganda at a vocational school for young mothers. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors gardening, hiking, and playing with her dogs.

Molli Goetz
Post-Abaarso Advisor | Faculty of Humanities

Molli is originally from Connecticut and graduated from Harvard University, where she studied History and Arabic and wrote a senior thesis about the process of state-building in Oman. While at Harvard, she worked as a case manager and program director at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and as an English teacher in immigrant communities around Boston. She has also worked as an English teacher and office manager for an NGO in Athens, Greece that provides services to refugees living in Athens and has studied Arabic in Muscat, Oman and Amman, Jordan. She is very excited to be working with the students and staff at the Abaarso School.

Andrew Cazares
Enrollment Manager | Faculty of STEM

Andrew is from Austin, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Russian and minors in Math and Physics. During his time in college, he was actively involved in the model United Nations program. He also lived in Russia during his senior year of high school and studied Russian at Moscow State University during college. Andrew is a lifelong learner and is looking forward to teaching at Abaarso. In his free time, Andrew enjoys studying languages, reading, traveling, and cooking.

Jacob Kohlhoff
Director of Academic Technology | Faculty of STEM

Jacob is from the Charlotte area and graduated with a BS in Environmental Biology from Georgetown University in 2019. During his time at Georgetown, he was a member of the D1 Men’s Swimming and Diving Team. After graduation, he joined the Peace Corps and served in Malawi, Africa as an Environmental and Food Security Educator. Jacob enjoys the environment, sports, and the arts. He is excited about becoming a teacher at Abaarso and can’t wait to meet the students.

Farhan Elmi
Director of STEM Competencies | Faculty of STEM

Farhan is an Abaarso alumnus. After graduating from Abaarso,  he went to Jacobs University Bremen, Germany, where he pursued a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering & management with a minor in international business administration.  He graduated from Jacobs in this year. Farhan enjoys teaching and supporting students; hence, he became intercultural trainer in his second year at university where he taught incoming students intercultural competence to help them succeed in a diverse university. During his time at Jacobs he was also a peer supporter where he provided counseling assistance to undergraduate students as part of J-Peers Program of Jacobs University

Nyle Pierre
Leadership Coordinator | Faculty of Humanities

Nyle Pierre graduated in 2017 from CUNY Queens College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. He then went on to teach ESL at a Manhattan language school for 2 years after receiving his TEFL Certification. He is excited to join Abaarso for the first time and learn about the lives of the students and faculty, adding to his global perspective. He has a passion for people and culture, and in his free time enjoys any activity relating to football (soccer) and engaging in stimulating discussions.

Ismael Warsame
Faculty of Islamic Studies

Ismael was born and raised in Erigabo, Somaliland. He is an alumni of Abaarso, attending the school from 2011-2015. After high school, he started learning Islamic Studies. He attended four years at an Islamic Institute before high school and was connected to them after graduating. He enjoys basketball during his free time and is happy to be back at Abaarso.

Arkadiusz “Arek” Wilczynski
Faculty of Computer Science

Arkadiusz graduated from Poznan University of Technology in 2013 with a Master of Science in Computer Science. During his studies he spent a semester at Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal and completed the IAESTE internship in Istanbul, Turkey. Shortly after graduation he fulfilled his dream of traveling between Beijing, China and Bali, Indonesia without taking a plane. The following year he returned to China to work as a middle school teacher. When not traveling, Arek works as a freelance programmer developing web applications.

Adebola Akinmulewo
Director of Academic Enrichment | Faculty of STEM

Adebola grew up in Delta state, Nigeria. She got her BSc and MSc degrees from Covenant University where she majored in Microbiology. She’s passionate about social development and science research. She participated in the National Model United Nations in 2018 and got an outstanding delegation award. She’s passionate about learning and enjoys reading, travelling and playing outdoor games. She’s excited to work here at Abaarso because it takes her close to fulfilling her dream in making an impact on the young generation through education.

Oyindamola Olajide
House Parent | Faculty of Humanities

Oyinda is a graduate of Covenant University located in Ota, Nigeria with a Bachelors degree in Microbiology. She gained teaching experience while serving her country in the National Youth Corp. This act of service ignited her passion in teaching and pushed her to give back to society in a meaningful way. In her free time she loves to read and listen to music.

Mohamed Ismacil
Faculty of Humanities

Mohamed is an Abaarso alumnus, graduating with the class of 2017. After graduation, he spent the academic year of 2017-18 at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Virginia through the ASSIST program. Mohamed came back last year to help the school with finance and other managing roles. This year, he is teaching 7th, 8th and 9th grade Somali Language. Mohamed enjoys eating, writing, and playing basketball and volleyball with the students.

Mandlenkosi Dube
Director of Humanities | Faculty of Humanities

Mandlenkosi (Mandla) is from Zimbabwe. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Ethics, Politics and Economics from Yale University. At Abaarso, Mandla looks forward to working with students and staff to set students on a path to achieving their educational dreams. In the near future, he intends to pursue a PhD in Public Policy with a specific focus on public policy in sub-Saharan African countries. A classic nerd, Mandla spends his spare time reading science fiction and watching Japanese Anime.

Thomas Bahlo
Faculty of Humanities

Thomas grew up in California, and studied International Relations and German at San Francisco State University. He was fortunate to study abroad twice during university, and after graduating departed from the US again to live in Latin America and Australia. His curiosity led him towards a fascination with education, learning, and language. Since graduating, he has acquired diverse teaching experience working with children, adolescents, and adults. Thomas is passionate about self-improvement, inquiry, and people.

Kevin Cranney
Faculty of Humanities

Kevin is from a small town near Philadelphia and studied History at Providence College. He is also passionate about science and worked for five years as an environmental educator at a nature center near his hometown in Pennsylvania in between stints working at local, organic vegetable farms. Most recently, Kevin taught at a secondary school in Kedah, Malaysia on a Fulbright grant. He loves hiking and camping, reading, and meeting new people.

Pete Birmingham
Faculty of STEM and Humanities

Pete joined the team at Abaarso in the fall of 2020, eager to support capacity-building and student-centered culture at the school. He brings ten years of diverse experience in education and community programming for youth in challenging situations. In addition to earning a Masters in International Development from the University of Denver, Pete has worked to help start an academy in South Korea, support English and health programs with the Peace Corps in Ukraine, advocate for children in Costa Rica, and contribute to STEM programs in the US. An avid traveler, the opportunity to participate in sustainable development in East Africa proved irresistible, and he’s excited to help empower Abaarso students through quality, character-building education!

Raha Maalin
Faculty of Humanities

Raha Maalin is a Massachusetts native with a passion for educational access. Raha graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, a liberal arts college in Worcester, MA, where she was a History major. During her undergraduate career, she served as a student leader. Upon graduation, she worked for a New York City-based leadership and development non-profit managing their internship program, so students could obtain meaningful and professional opportunities. At Abaarso, Raha hopes to support students’ academic, personal, and professional interests.

Vidas Varma
Faculty of STEM

Vidas grew up in the tiny island state of Singapore. He graduated with a degree in Finance from Murdoch University in 2017. Coming from a country just over 700 square kilometres, Vidas has had a great impetus to travel out of home to see more. From backpacking across the mountains of Japan and New Zealand, training in the valleys of Germany and teaching English in a small town in China, he appreciates the opportunities to experience the differences between his culture and others. He accepts tea or coffee in exchange for friendship. Sugar is not needed as he is sweet enough.

Josh Barker
Faculty of Humanities

Joshua grew up on a farm in the blue ridge mountains of Virginia. After graduated from Guilford College with a degree in English, he caught the teaching bug while working with an NGO in San Andrés Semetabaj, a village in the rural highlands of Guatemala. After Guatemala, Josh took a position as a preschool and kindergarten homeroom teacher in Kyiv, Ukraine, where he stayed for three-and-a-half years. In his free time, Josh enjoys playing his guitar, taking archaic film photos, exploring new exciting places, playing football (soccer), and reading and writing poetry.

Sean Howard
Director of Admissions | Faculty of Humanities

Sean is from New York and graduated from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Finance and a minor in Legal Studies. He joined the Peace Corps and served in Northern Province, Zambia, working in the sector of rural education development. While in Zambia, Sean was a valued faculty member at Kafula Primary School, with an emphasis on literacy and student empowerment. Sean is a lifetime Eagle Scout who enjoys reading, traveling and golf.

Chad Olson
Faculty of Humanities

Chad was born and grew up in rural Minnesota. He attended North Dakota State University where he studied Anthropology. He has worked as a park ranger in Utah and as a shelter advocate at a homeless shelter. For two years he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia where he taught English. In his free time, he likes to read books, study languages, and go hiking.

Mohamed Abdilaahi Mohamed Yusuf
Faculty of STEM | House Parent

Mohamed graduated from United States International University in December 2018 with BSc in accounting and concentrating in finance. He spent the second year of his university studies in the Asian Studies Program at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. Right after graduation, he returned to Hargeisa and started his first job working for Coca-Cola Somaliland Beverages Industries in the marketing department. A few months before the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, Mohamed was amongst the 150 men selected out of 1,000 educated young men from the Maroodi Jeex region area to attend a military service program that was held at Dararwayne military training camp. Mohamed was amongst the first batch that graduated from Abaarso School back in 2013 and he is excited to come back to teach Physics and take the Boys’ House Parent role.

Abdikarim Hussein
Faculty of STEM & Humanities

Abdikarim hails from Hargeisa, and he graduated from Swarthmore College in 2020. He holds a major in Economics and a minor in Philosophy. Before departing for the US, Abdikarim attended Abaarso School for three years. Abdikarim currently teaches math courses in both Upper School and Prep. In his free time, he enjoys reading, running, and binge-watching crime shows.