Emerge Global Leadership
Emerge Staff and Core Volunteers
We have an incredible team of staff and volunteers. In Sri Lanka, we have six full-time staff, two of whom are program alumnae. In the US, we rely on a committed team of volunteers. Every year, these volunteers contribute more than 7000 volunteer hours to make our work possible.
We are also incredibly grateful to have pro-bono legal representation by Edwards Wildman and pro-bono accounting by George Kaplan.
To learn about our Sri Lanka team and board, please see our Emerge Lanka leadership page.
Emerge Global Officers:
| Alia Whitney-Johnson – Founder and Executive Director
Alia Whitney-Johnson holds a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from MIT and an MPhil in Development Studies at Oxford University, where she studied ethical apparel and innovative human resource management practices to promote empowerment as a Rhodes Scholar. Her passion for international development has led her to conduct tsunami relief work in Sri Lanka, refine a process to convert agricultural waste into charcoal for use in Haiti, and develop appropriate technologies in Guatemala. Through her work, she has also been a consultant to the World Bank. Her greatest passion, however, lies in her work with young women in Sri Lanka who have survived abuse. After traveling to Sri Lanka in the summer of 2005, she founded Emerge Global to enable Sri Lankan teenage girls who had survived abuse to develop business and life skills through jewelry design. In 2007, she was named one of Glamour Magazine’s Top Ten College Women and was also selected as a Truman Scholar for her commitment to public service. In 2009, she was selected as one of 20 young social entrepreneurs under the age of 30 to be a YouthActionNet® Global Fellow. She is a member of the MIT Corporation, MIT’s Board of Trustees, and was named a Sauvé Scholar in 2011 to support her work with Emerge.
|Wendy Wen – Development Coordinator
Wendy Wen currently works as an Associate at TPG Growth, where she helps TPG make growth equity investments and improve performance of portfolio companies. Previously, Wendy had worked for two years as an Analyst at The Blackstone Group in its Technology Mergers and Acquisitions Group, where she helped corporate clients execute strategic transactions. Prior to that, Wendy worked as a summer analyst in the Industrials Investment Banking Group at Goldman Sachs.
Wendy graduated MIT in June 2009 with a dual B.S. in Economics and Management Science. At MIT, Wendy was the co-founder and Director of External Relations for MIT International Development Consulting (MIT IDC), a student-run organization that provides MIT students with the opportunity to work on NGO-backed international development projects. Wendy had also served as President of American Red Cross Team and Network (ARCTAN), where she helped organize blood drives, CPR/First Aid classes, and monthly trips to volunteer at the local food pantry. In addition, Wendy is highly involved in Alpha Phi Sorority, where she currently serves as Alumni Advisor and previously served as Director of Marketing Alpha Phi and Director of Alumnae Relations.
Wendy is passionate about Emerge’s mission and is eager to apply her professional and business skills in this developmental and enterpreneurial context.
|Sharon J. Stanczak – Philanthropic Advisor
Sharon is a philanthropic advisor at MIT, focusing on advancement for initiatives at the intersection of the life sciences and engineering. As Director of Cancer and Inter-Institutional Initiatives, she oversees all cancer fundraising at MIT, including such projects as the Bridge Project, a research collaboration between the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. She has twenty years of experience in institutional advancement at a variety of institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Maryland, and the Folger Shakespeare Library. She has a BA from the University of Houston and a MFA from the University of Maryland. Sharon was inspired by the work of Emerge and the leadership of its founder to put her knowledge to use for the benefit of this important organization and the young women it serves.
|Janelle Poldy – Business Director
Janelle Poldy is a recent graduate with honors from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies with a Master of International Public Policy and concentration in International Law. Previously, Janelle worked in the private sector as a Senior Financial Manager, Regulatory Administrator and Six Sigma Black Belt at Northrop Grumman Corporation. She is an accomplished business and financial leader with multiple awards and recognition for successfully managing projects across multi-sector/cross-functional organizations and exceeding financial, operational, and program goals. As a certified Six Sigma Black Belt, she is skilled in delivering complex change initiatives, process improvements, integrated best practices, and sustainable/scalable solutions.
Janelle is most passionate about making a difference in the lives of those most vulnerable and marginalized with a special focus on women, children, and the disabled. During Janelle’s trip to Sri Lanka last year through her graduate program at JHU SAIS, she had the opportunity to meet the Country Director of Emerge Lanka Foundation and to visit with several girls participating in the Emerge program. Janelle was extremely inspired by the positive and life-changing work of Emerge Global in empowering these young girls, who are survivors of abuse, to overcome the many obstacles they face. She is excited to join the team and to apply her skills to further develop Emerge’s business and sales strategy, supply chain management, marketing and business outreach, and capacity building in championing the vision of empowering young girls across the globe.
|Betsy Greer – Communications Officer
Betsy Greer is a writer, researcher and maker who has spent the past 7 years writing about the therapeutic benefits of craft and activism. In combining these two forces to form craftivism, she has helped open a global conversation on how creativity and positive change can help both individuals and communities. After spending a decade moving between England and North Carolina she received her MA in 2004 at Goldsmiths College and now lives in the southeast US. Believing in Emerge Global’s mission to use creativity as a tool of transformation and therapy, she’s excited to use her communications experience to help it, and those involved, grow.
2012 Summer Interns in Sri Lanka
Emerge Global Board of Directors:
|Natalie Palugyai – Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of Labor
Natalie Palugyai serves as the Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of Labor, where she works on the Department of Labor’s performance management portfolio, including strategic planning and performance budgeting. Prior to this appointment, she served as Branch Chief under FEMA — leading the Agency’s Analysis, Reports & Technology Solutions Branch; as an Associate with The World Bank’s Latin America and Caribbean Region — where she supported the development, implementation, and supervision of water, sanitation, and urban upgrading projects; and as a Compliance Officer with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
During her tenure with the World Bank, Natalie met Alia Whitney-Johnson, who introduced her to a concept that would soon evolve into Emerge Global. Natalie applied and was awarded a $10k Youth Innovation Fund grant by the World Bank to manage an at-risk youth related project. This funding served as the initial seed money for Emerge and Natalie has remained enthusiastically involved since that first introduction to Alia, currently serving as an Emerge Global board member.
Natalie holds a B.A. in International Studies and Sociology from the University of Miami and a M.A. in Public Policy from Harvard University. She is the daughter of Uruguayan immigrants and considers herself a truly bi-cultural individual. Her hobbies include traveling, foreign movies, and cooking.
|Jenifer Apazidis – Chief Operating Officer at Pearl’s Premium, Inc.
Jenifer Apazidis lives in Wayland, MA with her family. Her extensive involvement in her community inspired her to work with Emerge Global where she could reach beyond the borders of her small town and work with Emerge to empower each of the girls that the organization supports every day. Her experiences as an entrepreneur include a small retail chain “Sweet Beads” which provided in-store beading, classes and parties to the communities surrounding Boston. Jenifer has a passion for building businesses and has over 15 years experience in operational roles, in both the environmental and start-up sectors. At the center of her life are her two children, who she strives to raise to be courageous, curious, confident, respectful and empathetic individuals. Her second passion in life is business. She lives life continuously being inspired and empowered by those around her.
| Alia Whitney-Johnson – Founder of Emerge Global; Co-Founder of Emerge Lanka Foundation
For Alia Whitney-Johnson’s bio, please see our officer bios above.