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

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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
Jonathan Starr
Founder | Headmaster Emeritus

Since 2008, Jonathan has been Managing Director, Headmaster, and Founder of Abaarso School. From 2004 – 2008, Jonathan founded and led Flagg Street Capital, a private investment firm that managed $170 million of assets. Prior to Flagg Street, he worked as an Analyst at SAB Capital and at Blavin and Company. Jonathan’s career started as a Research Associate within the Taxable Bond Division at Fidelity Investments. In addition to his full-time responsibilities, Jonathan sat on the Board of Directors of Pomeroy IT Solutions, a publicly traded IT company generating $500 million of annual sales. Jonathan’s board responsibilities included acting as a member of the Audit Committee, the Advisory Committee, and the Special Committee (strategic alternatives) of Pomeroy. Jonathan graduated from Emory University, with a B.A. Summa Cum Laude in Economics and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

It Takes a School: The Extraordinary Story of an American School in the World’s #1 Failed State
by Jonathan Starr

A story of David and Goliath proportions, how an American hedge fund manager created a unique school in Somaliland whose students, against all odds, have come to achieve success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.


Ava Ramberg

A native of Minnesota, Ava graduated with high distinction from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School with a degree in Public/Non-Profit Management and Entrepreneurial Management. Ava’s interest in international development began at Children’s Home Society and Family Services. Before Abaarso, she served as a youth and maternal health education advocate in Kenya. She also traveled extensively in East Africa and speaks English, French, and Swahili. At Abaarso, Ava taught math for three years and developed a passion for improving students’ fundamentals and ability to think critically. Ava also served as the Assistant Headmaster and the Director of Development, initiating Abaarso’s Kiva program. Now in New York, Ava is committed to ensuring that Abaarso will continue to create thoughtful, tenacious, and principled leaders of Somaliland. Ava is now also the Executive Director of Barwaaqo University, a project launched by Abaarso in 2017. 

Trudy Hall

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 | Faculty of Humanities

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.

Ryan Pakebusch
College Counselor | Faculty of Humanities

Ryan is a proud Texan beginning his third year at Abaarso School. He graduated with honors from the University of Texas at Austin with a dual-degree in Government and Communication Studies. As the college counselor, he works with dozens of students each year as they apply for full scholarships to universities and boarding schools across the world. He enjoys learning Somali words and phrases from his students and having students of all ages come to his office to talk about everything from politics and education to travel and culture.

Jin Sasaki
Director of Finance and Operations

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.

Gianna Biaggi
Head of Lower School | Faculty of Humanities

Gianna Biaggi is a 2017 graduate of Kenyon College, with a degree in International and American Studies. At Kenyon, Gianna was a Newman’s Own Foundation Scholar, taught at a Headstart Center and a local high school, and was a night shift worker at a women’s shelter. Gianna is a 2017 winner of the Samuel Huntington Public Service Award, and an Interexchange Christianson Grantee, which allowed her to spend a year in Kenya, working on girls education and literacy initiatives.

Jennifer Ayala
Dean of the Freshman Class | 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.

Connor Method
Dean of the Sophomore Class | Director of Media & Communications | Faculty of Mathematics

Connor Method is a 2016 graduate of Marquette University, with degrees in Finance & Economics, minoring in Psychology. Connor has had a range of teaching experiences, from english training centers in China, to non-profits in the U.S., as well as online. Connor is currently enrolled in a part-time online Master’s in Education with Purdue University, specializing in Learning, Design, and Technology. He is an avid learner, loves film, and has a passion for creating unique learning experiences for others.

Virginia Somers
Dean of the Junior Class | Faculty of Humanities

Virginia is originally from the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. She attended the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor where she received her BA in Social Theory and Practice with a focus on African Internal Development and Human Rights as well as a minor in Afroamerican and African Studies. During her time as an undergraduate, she held internships in the fields of security, development and peacekeeping. Her father constantly pushed and inspired her to achieve greater goals in her academic, professional and personal life. She hopes to honor his memory and provide that same kind of encouragement to her students at Abaarso.

Farhan Elmi
Dean of the Senior Class | Faculty of Computer Science

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

Abdiwahab Sh. Husein Ali
Faculty of Islamic Studies

Sheekhu wuxuu dhashay sanadii 1977. Waxbarashadiisa waxa uu ka bilaabay magaalada Baydhaba. Waxa uu xooga saaray barashada aqoonta diinta Alle. Soyaalkiisii dheeraa ee waxbarashadiisa diintu waxay ahayd mid aan kala go’ lahayn. Laga soo bilaabo 10 jirkiisii ilaa maanta oo uu 40 jir yahay. Ma aha oo kaliya waxbarasho uu baranaayey, balse waxa uu leeyahay khibrad dhanka wax-dhigista diinta iyo ku barbaarinta caruurta tarbiyada wanagsan oo uu ku soo dhex jirey mudo ku dhow 25 sano. Macalinku waxa uu wax ka soo dhigay magalooyinka Baydhabo, Muqdisho, iyo Hargeisa. Waxa intaas dheer isaga oo Culuumta Shareecada ka diyaariyey Jamacada Golis ee Hargeisa.

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.

Ivar Anderson
Faculty of Humanities

Originally from Portland, Oregon, Ivar received his Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, with honors, from Portland State University in 2012. He went on to teach English at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization in Portland, followed by a four and a half year stint teaching in Bursa, Turkey. He is a lover of literature, travel, teaching and learning.

Asma Faisal
Faculty of Somali Language

Asma was born and raised in Hargeisa, Somaliland. She graduated from Admas University in 2016 majoring in Business and Economics. She voluntarily worked one year for an organization called Nagaad as a social worker and was a Somali teacher in the afternoon at a school called Nasrudin. She also volunteered in the Hargeisa Cultural Center where she was a librarian. Asma loved her Somali classes during her education and always dreamed of becoming a Somali teacher. She is looking forward to start her second year teaching the Abaarso upper school students in classes.

Guleid Abdi
Faculty of Science

Guleid Ali, an Abaarso School of Science and Technology alumni, is from Hargeisa Somaliland. He graduated from Abaarso School in 2013, and right after that attended Westminster College in Fulton Missouri, where he earned a major in Chemistry and a minor in Mathematical Sciences. Guleid’s field of interest is renewable energy. He believes that solar energy is the most promising renewable energy that can surpass the global energy demand and that improving the efficiency of current solar panels and batteries or creating new devices that can efficiently convert and store solar energy is the next groundbreaking discovery. Guleid is starting his second year of teaching chemistry and Algebra at Abaarso School.

James Crosby
Faculty of Humanities and Mathematics

James is originally from Chicago and studied accounting and finance as an undergraduate. He taught at the University of Illinois and the Ohio State University. He has taught math and English internationally in several countries, most recently for EDUSA and Bridge2Rwanda in Kigali, Rwanda. Rwanda was also the first of the countries where he was able to expand on his passion for underwater hockey by starting a new program.

Adebola Akinmulewo
Faculty of Mathematics

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.

Hannah Heselton
Faculty of Humanities

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.

Mandlenkosi Dube
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.

Nyle Pierre
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.

Cora Neudeck
Faculty of Humanities

Cora is originally from the small town of Reelsville, Indiana, and has just graduated from Harvard University with an A.B. degree in Cognitive Neuroscience & Evolutionary Psychology (with a secondary focus on Global Health). While at school, Cora studied in Amman, Jordan and Geneva, Switzerland, where she conducted research on the impact of hope on Syrian refugee girls and also interned at several organizations, including with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (Limón, Nicaragua) and Women for Women International (Prishtinë, Kosovo). In her free time, she loves playing tennis, swing dancing, reading literature, and drinking lots of raspberry tea! She is very excited to meet all of the wonderful students at Abaarso and continue expanding her Somali language skills, which she spent the past semester studying at university.

Ann Crumbaugh
Faculty of Humanities

Ann graduated with honors from Illinois Wesleyan University with a degree in Political Science and International Studies with a concentration in African Studies. As an undergraduate, Ann explored interests in human rights and international development through substantive international experiences. She undertook a semester of study in Uganda through the School for International Training, completed an internship in Kenya with the Lamu Center of Preventative Health, and undertook a month-long course in politics in South Africa.

Andrew Cazares
Faculty of Mathematics

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.

Oyindamola Olajide
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 | Executive Assistant

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.

Molli Goetz
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.

Saeed Mohamud
Operations Manager

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.