Rachel Hitchcock, Co-President:
Rachel Hitchcock SPS ‘06, has nearly two decades of experience in fundraising for education, primarily for universities. Currently the associate dean for external affairs at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, she is responsible for managing the engagement of alumni and donors and the fundraising in support of the mission of the school. Hitchcock earned a master's degree in strategic communications from Columbia University in 2006 and her bachelor's with a dual degree in public relations and Spanish from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the College of Arts and Sciences. A four-year scholarship student-athlete as an undergraduate, Hitchcock was a field hockey team captain her senior year at Syracuse.
Committed to making connections with and between alumni across the university, regardless of the school from which they earned a degree, Hitchcock proudly served consecutive terms on the Columbia Alumni Association Board as the first representative from the School of Professional Studies. In 2018, Hitchcock was elected to the board of Columbia DC. Hitchcock is currently president of the SPS Alumni Advisory Council and is serving on the CAA 2027 Strategic Planning Task Force. She was named an Alumni Medalist in 2019, the highest alumni honor the university can bestow for alumni leadership. She was previously vice president of the Portland Columbia University Alumni Club from 2012 – 2017 and was an active participant of the West Coast Columbia Alumni Leader Retreat in 2016.
Natasha Lebedeva, Co-President:
Natasha Lebedeva is a Senior Director for International Affairs at NBC News. She is responsible for special news projects, coverage of international breaking news, and exclusive interviews with world leaders. She has been working at NBC‘s Washington Bureau for over a decade. During her career at NBC, she was an editorial and planning producer for political coverage at NBC and MSNBC. Prior to that, Lebedeva was a producer at primetime news program Dateline NBC. Currently, Lebedeva works directly with the Executive Vice President for News Gathering. She works for all NBC News platforms and with all NBC News anchors. She serves as a liaison between NBC and foreign countries where NBC pursues news coverage, including North Korea, Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Lebanon, China, and others. Prior to her NBC career, Lebedeva was a producer for CNN, a reporter for Newsweek magazine, and a producer for the PBS program ‘Charlie Rose’. Lebedeva was a producer for a number of documentaries that aired on PBS, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and also at the Library of Congress and Stanford University. Lebedeva is a recipient of prestigious journalistic awards for her achievements in news coverage. She was awarded several Emmy Awards; the International Press Club Award; the National Headliner Award; Alfred I. DuPont - Columbia Award. She is a recipient of the prestigious Columbia University Journalism Award. She is a participant at the Davos Economic Forum, Munich Security Conference, Halifax International Security Forum, Aspen Security Forum, St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh, G-20 and G-7 meetings, as well as NATO meetings, and more. She speaks four languages.
Lebedeva is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism (in New York). She currently serves as a Co-President of Columbia University Alumni Club of Washington DC, which has earned two Excellency Awards. Natasha Lebedeva also holds a Master’s degree with Honors in Structural, Applied and Mathematical Linguistics from St. Petersburg University (St. Petersburg, Russia). She is a CAA Board member, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the Foreign Policy Discussion Group. Lebedeva is also serving on the ATNC as the Journalism representative. Lebedeva was born and grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia. She currently resides in Washington DC with her family.
Jennifer Holm, Treasurer:
Jennifer Holm (GEMBA '14) is Founder and CEO of a boutique marketing agency, BoBella Brands located in Bethesda, MD. Jennifer is an accomplished entrepreneur with an extensive marketing background and specific expertise in brand management. Prior to staring BoBella, Jennifer worked as a Senior Portfolio Marketing Manager at Momentum Worldwide an Interpublic Group agency. Jennifer has helped establish several start-up companies where she developed strong insights in identifying and capturing evolving markets through both digital and experiential marketing strategies. As a marketing and branding expert she has gained wide-ranging capabilities in the areas of strategic planning, digital marketing, and brand positioning. Driven by vision, passion, and teamwork, she has an unrelenting focus for seeking out opportunities that challenge the entrepreneurial spirit. Jennifer holds MBAs from both Columbia University and London Business School, as well as a Bachelor of Business Administration focusing on International Business and Marketing from The George Washington University in DC.
Alex Liebowitz, Secretary:
Alex Liebowitz (CC’61) majored in history and rowed on the lightweight crew while at the College. After graduate work in history, including a year as a Fulbright scholar in Paris, and a year as a history instructor at Ohio State, he entered the Foreign Service in 1967. Alex spent most of his Foreign Service career working on European and political-military affairs -- in particular, disarmament. After 27 years in the Foreign Service, Alex moved over to the Civil Service, where he spent another 17 years working on arms control and nonproliferation issues.
Since his retirement in 2012, Alex has been keeping active by studying the piano, taking a range of courses for retirees, and engaging in Columbia alumni groups in the DC area, including a book club that is re-engaging with the Core Curriculum reading list. He continues to enjoy skiing, including an annual trip to join a classmate on the slopes of Colorado and last year joined another classmate in sailing up and down the east coast to deliver the classmate’s boat to New England.
Alex is interested in bringing diverse programming to the Columbia Alumni Club on DC, and welcomes inputs from members on events they would like to see the club sponsor.
Kambiz Rahnavardy '10SEAS is a Sr. Technology Analyst at Federal Communications Commission, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. He has previously worked for Federated Wireless, Sprint, Ericsson, Toshiba America, and Lucent Technologies Bell Labs. He was the treasurer of ColumbiaDC from 2013 to 2017 and then president through 2021. Through his past and his current role, Rahnavardy has played an integral part in creating an efficient and lean organizational structure with low operating cost, high resilience, and strong community outreach. He has another MS degree from Virginia Tech in Electrical Engineering. He resides in Vienna, Virginia.
Although hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, Laura spent part of her childhood in Maryland and has resided in the DC area since 1995, so she considers herself a "local." In between working and driving her daughter from one place to another, Laura is an avid reader, a belly dancer and mom to an adorable pet rabbit. She is passionate about community service, social justice, political action, theoretical physics and all forms of chocolate.
From Baghdad to Brooklyn and from Washington D.C. to Riyadh, Tetiana Anderson has dedicated her career to the importance of communication. Delivering high-quality messaging to readers, listeners, and viewers worldwide, she currently consults with major corporations, NGOs, foreign governments, and others on all aspects of communications. Before that, she worked as a journalist for two decades. During that time, Tetiana spent extensive time in the Middle East and has reported from conflict zones, U.S. presidential races, and more. Her work has appeared on networks including Comcast's national platform, where she currently hosts the public affairs program “Newsmakers,” CNN, CBS Evening News and its nationwide affiliates, NY-1, NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, MSNBC, Voice of America, Vatican Radio, Al Arabiya and others. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism, serves as a national board officer for Easterseals and hails from the great state of Michigan.
Won Palisoul is the Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (P&R) at the Pentagon. Prior to joining the Department of Defense as a Presidential Appointee, Won was an Associate Director of Investment Bank Compliance and Operational Risk Control at UBS AG. She also served as a Senior Compliance Officer at an asset management firm and was a Compliance Examiner at an SRO for the U.S. derivatives industry. Won began her career as a Gas Turbine Technician (Electrical) in the U.S Navy, serving aboard guided missile destroyers in the Pacific region for Operation Enduring Freedom.
Won is the Chair of Veterans Roundtable at CFA Society New York and the Co-Lead of Women Veterans on Wall Street, a subcommittee of Veterans on Wall Street. She works with senior leaders of Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits to facilitate roundtable discussions and best practices forums on hiring military veterans and military spouses. Won holds an M.A. in Information Technology Management from Webster University and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies (SPS). Won is an adjunct associate faculty of the M.S. in Human Capital Management program and serves on the SPS Alumni Advisory Council. She is married to a fellow U.S. Navy veteran and they have two children.
Michael Caruso serves as the editorial director of The Hill's Changing America. Previously, he was the fourth editor-in-chief of the Smithsonian magazine, a position he held from 2011 to 2019. Prior to that, he was a Deputy Editor at The Wall Street Journal.
Rhonda Colvin is a 2013 Graduate of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. There, she earned her M.A. degree, specialized in political reporting.
Colvin is an Emmy Award-winning multimedia journalist with a background in both print and television reporting and currently works for The Washington Post. She has also reported for The Wall Street Journal as well as news organizations in Alabama, and her home state of Ohio.
In addition to her involvement as a board member of Columbia D.C., Colvin also sits on Columbia Journalism School's Board of Alumni.
Frances Onyimba, MD is a gastroenterologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center with a focus in esophageal diseases and GI motility disorders. She completed medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons prior to completing her internal medicine residency and a fellowship in GI motility and Neurogastroenterology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. She subsequently completed her general GI fellowship at University of California San Diego, where she served as a chief fellow. In 2019, she was selected into the Young Physician Leadership Scholars Program by the American College of Gastroenterology for leadership development and physician advocacy. Her interests include health communications and innovative programs and practices within healthcare. While at Columbia, she co- founded the CU Arts initiative backed P&S Dance club (now known as Dance Haven) and remains an avid supporter of the performing arts.
Lobsang Thinley Salaka:
Lobsang Salaka (SIPA'18) is a U.S. Army veteran and Program Specialist at the Office of Retail Operations and Compliance in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Before joining the Department of Agriculture, Lobsang has worked with the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Census Bureau, and New York State Department of Labor. Lobsang served in the Army for nine years with three combat tours to Afghanistan. During his service, he held leadership positions as Non-Commissioned Officer-In-Charge of Afghanistan Humanitarian Relief Project, Logistical Support Operation, and Afghanistan Retrograde Operation. He also completed Congressional Fellowships on veterans' issues with Students Veterans of America, Veterans in Foreign Wars, HillVets, and Mission Continues. Lobsang served as the Columbia University SIPA Veterans Association's Communication Chair for the 2017/2018 term.
Currently, Lobsang is a Doctoral of Law and Policy candidate at Northeastern University and keeps himself active by engaging in community activities and non-profit organizations in D.C and New York. His hobbies are hiking, biking, and golfing.
Joseph C. Feuer (Columbia College ’87; SIPA ’91) has just concluded two terms as ColumbiaDC President. He is Executive Director of the Corporate Leadership practice at The Conference Board, a business membership and research association working in the public interest. Previously, Mr. Feuer served for five years as executive director of the Washington D.C. Chapter of the Society for International Development, a membership-based professional association for international development practitioners, Other prior positions include country director for two international development NGOs: Pact, in Ukraine and Belarus, and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, in the Republic of Georgia.
Mr. Feuer has also served as Program Manager for European Affairs, and Economies in Transition at the U.S. Council for International Business in New York. In the years just after the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, he worked as a political adviser to the leading Czech political party and as a public relations consultant to companies invested in Eastern Europe. He also started the first walking tour company in post-communist Czechoslovakia. Earlier, Mr. Feuer worked as a legislative and campaign aide for Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II. He holds a B.A. in political science from Columbia College and an M.I.A. from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Tisha is a previous ColumbiaDC President and present Board member. Currently, she is True Bearing Diagnostics, CEO and St. Laurent Institute, EVP. With over 15 years experience developing successful start-up companies, Jepson brings with her, a leadership and board level perspective from both the private and public sector. Most recently, Jepson worked as Director of Corporate Strategy, Sales, and Marketing for SeqLL, Inc. with the goal of improving world healthcare through improved diagnostics using true single molecule sequencing (tSMS) and focusing on the the Systems Biology of non-coding RNAs and their influence on chronic disease. She holds degrees from Columbia University’s Barnard College (BA), from American University (MA), and will complete her second Master's degree in the Spring of 2018 from Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Melissa Bhatnagar (Columbia SIPA 2008, London School of Economics 2009) is a senior patient safety professional and licensed pharmacist with over 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Melissa is currently a Senior Staff Fellow at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, focusing on national patient safety and quality improvement initiatives and research development. She is passionate about healthcare equity and improving patient outcomes.
Melissa was previously the Director of Patient Safety at Modernizing Medicine, a software company that develops specialty-specific electronic health record (EHR) technology. Prior to that, Melissa was at a medical malpractice insurance company in NYC leading patient safety initiatives, and was an inpatient pharmacist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Melissa obtained her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and holds a dual degree Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and the London School of Economics (LSE). Along with education and healthcare, Melissa is passionate about volunteering with local animal shelters, mentoring youth, traveling, and is always on the lookout for her next culinary experience.
Kathy McNally is an economist with a specialty in the economics of education and human capital. She holds a BA from Barnard and a PhD from GSAS Columbia, as well as a Certificate in Executive Leadership from Georgetown University. She spent her career in the nonprofit sector, serving as a faculty member at Wlliams College, the University of Rhode Island, and the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. At Williams, she also served as Assistant Dean, and held philanthropic leadership positions as Director of Alumni and Development Research, and Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations. She went on to be Director of Major Gifts at Bennington College, Director of Development at The Bennington Museum, and VP for Development and College Relations at Rhode Island College (RIC) and Executive Director of the RIC Foundation. Later she headed the delopment office of The Nature Conservancy of Rhode Island, and served as Executive Director of the Providence Maritime Heritage Foundation, where she kept afloat, both literally and financially, the Continental Sloop Providence, a tall ship replica of John Paul Jones' first command in the Revolutionary War. She moved to the Greater Wasington area to become Vice President for National Financial Literacy at the National Foundation for Consumer Credit, and later retired after raising funds for medical research as AVP for development and PR ar MedStar Research Institute.
Kathy serves on the Boards of ColumbiaDC and Barnard in Wahington, and is proprietor of a small doggie hotel in her home, where she enjoys taking care of their beloved pets when her neighbors and friends are away from home. She is fluent in Spanish, speaks Turkish with a Spanish accent, and cooking is her avocation. She has studied with Jacques Pepin [they overlapped at Columbia where Jacques earned his GS degree in 1970 and an MA in French Literature from GSAS in 1972], and with Giuliano Bugialli; and sailed transatlantic on the QE2 with Julia Child, Andre (and Simone) Soltner, and other noted chefs, each of whose cooking demonstrations made for a most delicious cruise. Kathy has studied acting at The Shakespeare Theatre Co. and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Co.; has been trained in voice over acting by John Burr Voice Dynamics; and is currently working on a culinary memoir. Please stay tuned!
Scott L. Sellars is currently a Systems Integration Engineer at the University of California, San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute and a Visiting Fellow with the American Meteorological Society’s Policy Program in Washington DC. Before these positions, Scott was a Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the National Science Foundation's Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Scott received a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology from the University of Utah in 2005, a Master of Arts degree in Climate and Society from Columbia University in 2009 and a Master of Science (2012) and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Irvine in 2014. Scott was a 2014-2015 Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the California State Legislature, sponsored by the California Council on Science and Technology. During his one year fellowship, he was placed in the office of California State Assembly Member Bill Quirk providing support to the member in several areas, including staffing California Assembly Appropriations Committee and managed five legislative bills. Two of the Assembly member’s energy related bills Scott staffed were signed by California Governor Jerry Brown in October of 2015. Scott is particularly interested in providing our policy makers and leaders with the most current and top quality scientific information, engineering solutions, knowledge, and technology available so that their decisions will have the highest likelihood for success.
Zachary Kimmel is the Young Alumni Representative on the Columbia DC Board. He earned his bachelor's degree Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa in History and African American Studies from Columbia College in May 2021. His coursework focused on American legal history, particularly the constitutional history of slavery and abolition. His senior honors thesis investigated abolitionist constitutional theory and legal practice in antebellum New York, and he worked as a research assistant for Prof. Katherine Franke at Columbia Law School in conjunction with the Columbia Law School and Slavery Project. On campus, Zachary was the founder and outreach director for Columbia Votes and served on the Student Advisory Board for the Eric H. Holder Jr. Initiative for Civil and Political Rights. In addition, he was selected as a Presidential Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC).
Currently, Zachary is a Legal Assistant and Investigator at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. In this role, he conducts legal research, manages client outreach and fact investigation, and provides administrative support for impact litigation concerning mass incarceration, police accountability, unconstitutional prison conditions, judicial misconduct, and hate crimes. He is originally from Brooklyn, New York.
Miyako is an economic analyst at the Department of Homeland Security. Before joining the government, she was a Geopolitical Risk Analyst specializing in trade and the Americas region at Ankura Consulting. She is a 2012 graduate of Columbia College with a BA in History and earned her Masters in Global Policy Studies from the LBJ school at the University of Texas, Austin. Miyako sits on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion groups, is on the US National Taekwondo Team, and dances hula.
Our durable bon vivant and world traveler, Lew Mendelson, C’55, Law ’58, is the closest thing to a historic anachronism. He began participating in Columbia DC events in the early ’60s and was its president in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. In 1991, he was awarded an Alumni Medal for his leadership of the club. He has also served as President of the Columbia Law School Association of Washington DC. In earlier lives Lew worked as a teamster, a merchant seaman, and a Spanish Sportswriter. As a member of Salem, Oregon’s Pentacle Players, among other roles, he was “Jim O’Connor, the Gentleman Caller” in Tennessee William’s “The Glass Menagerie.” After service in the Army National Guard, he was named Law Clerk to the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court (1959-60). Thereafter, for 31 years, he worked as an SEC lawyer rising to Assistant Director in its Division of Investment Management and Senior Counsel in its Division of Enforce! ment. In “retirement,” from 1993 -2015, as a consultant with PriceWaterhouse, PWC, IBM and the Aries Group, he developed capital markets in 18 countries as disparate as Kyrgyzstan (1993-96), India (1996-2007), Egypt (2008), Bangladesh (2006, 2012-2014) and Bhutan (2013-15). In 2007, he again became active in Columbia DC, overseeing the restructuring of its Board, serving on its Nominating Committee and helping to write event and other promos. In 2017, he became Chair of RESET, a non-profit organization of volunteer scientists that provides hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to pre-school, elementary and middle school students in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.
Dale Chakarian Turza is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel of SAP National Security Services, Inc.® (SAP NS2®). Prior to joining SAP NS2, Dale was a Partner in the White Collar Defense and Complex Litigation Group of the New York law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, LLP, and, prior to that, she was a Partner in the global law firm, Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells, LLP. With over three decades of experience, Dale is a nationally recognized expert in issues relating to national security, corruption, commercial and arms exports, boycotts and economic sanctions. In private practice, she represented many U.S. and foreign defense contractors, industrial companies, financial institutions, and news organizations, among others, and she handled numerous enforcement actions, internal investigations and compliance matters over the years. Dale received her B.A. degree summa cum laude from Connecticut College for Women, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She obtained her M.A. degree from Columbia University and a J.D. degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she was editor of the Journal of Law and Policy in International Business.