David Risher – CEO and Co-Founder
David Risher is CEO and co-founder of Worldreader. In 2010 he founded Worldreader after visiting an orphanage’s locked-up library during a year-long, 19-country teaching and learning journey around the world.
David has been driving education and large-scale technological change for over two decades. As a general manager at Microsoft he led the marketing and development of Microsoft first desktop database; as Amazon.com’s Senior Vice President for Retail and Marketing he was responsible for growing the company from $16 million to $4 billion in sales. He served for three years as Board Chair of Barcelona’s Benjamin Franklin International School, is a longstanding member of ESADE Business School’s International Advisory Board, and was elected Professor of the Year at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.
David received his AB in Comparative literature magna cum laude from Princeton University, and his MBA from the Harvard Business School. He is an an invited member of the Clinton Global Initiative, a Microsoft Alumni Foundation Integral Fellow and a Draper Richards Kaplan Social Entrepreneur. Read David’s full bio here.
“Reading is our only vaccine against ignorance. Education is our children’s best guarantee of a better life.”
His Favorite Books:
As a kid: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
As an adult: The Odyssey
Colin McElwee – Co-founder and Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships
As co-founder of Worldreader, Colin focuses on developing and growing key partnerships, putting to good use his for-profit and non-profit experience across the globe.
Most recently, Colin was the first director of marketing at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, where he helped establish the school’s reputation as a world-class business education provider. Prior to that, he started his career as an economist for several Brussels-based lobbies to the European Commission, and later worked in global marketing in the consumer goods sector for Scottish & Newcastle PLC.
He has two young daughters and like them is an avid reader of books (now there’s a surprise!). Colin has a degree in economics from the University of Manchester and an MBA from ESADE Business School. He has previously acted as an invited member of the Global Agenda Council on Africa of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and in 2016 Colin was recognized as one of the Social Entrepreneurs of the Year by the Schwab Foundation of the WEF.
His take on reading:
“The images created by the written word make an indelible mark on the mind.”
What got him reading:
Clara Miralles Codorniu – Chief Operations Officer & General Counsel
Clara works to bring efficient and effective systems to implement Worldreader’s programs guaranteeing full compliance while ensuring the team retains the creative spark that drives Worldreader’s culture. She leads our core infrastructure team- Finance, HR, Legal, Regional Leadership, Administration and Systems & Operations- ensuring our global infrastructure appropriately supports our programs and operations across geographies. Clara’s legal passion is keeping abreast of the international and national regulators efforts to articulate legal responses to the digital revolution
She has a law degree from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and a master’s in international and European law, with a specialty in international trade and investment law, from Universiteit van Amsterdam.
The best book ever given to her:
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Shannon Atkinson – Chief Financial Officer
Prior to joining Worldreader, Shannon was CFO at Raising A Reader, a national US program for young readers and their families. Before that she spent 17 years as CFO at SETI Institute, a non-profit scientific organization studying all aspects of life in the universe. In both of these roles Shannon, with the help of stellar teammates, lead all business aspects of the organizations such as strategy, finance, grant administration, HR, Board relations, and compliance.
Shannon believes that administration and business services are the behind-the-scenes “heart” of any organization and that one of the main goals of these functions is to improve effectiveness and efficiency of our daily work. Her professional mission statement is to provide impeccable administrative support and valuable strategic insight to guarantee the success of the organization and the cause it is dedicated to serve.
“Masterminds and Wingman” by Rosalind Wiseman, which is one woman’s take on the social structure among boys.
Taleb Salhab – Chief Advancement Officer
As Worldreader’s first Chief Advancement Officer Taleb provides overall leadership and strategic direction to the four departments of the Advancement Team: Revenue, Partnerships, Marketing & Communications and Global Insights.
Taleb is an international development professional with 25 years of executive leadership experience in education, youth empowerment, philanthropy, civic engagement, institution building, and media. Most recently, Taleb served as the Vice President of Global Programs for the global development organization IREX, overseeing a $90 million portfolio of programs in over 100 countries, including an education portfolio. He also served as the Acting CEO and Vice President of Programs and Affiliate Services at Education for Employment (EFE), an affiliated network of nonprofit organizations which creates economic opportunities and promotes civic participation for unemployed youth. Taleb has also held roles as the Director of the Peace & Security Program with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, overseeing a multi-million grant portfolio, and as the Director of Sales & Marketing in a private sector conglomerate.
Taleb received his master’s degree in international affairs and bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida State University. He resides in the Washington, DC area with his family.
Favorite recent book: Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
Favorite non-profit author & blogger: Joan Garry
Rebecca Chandler-Leege – Chief Programs Officer
With over 20 years of leadership experience, Rebecca recently led World Vision’s engagement in “All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development,” a global initiative of USAID, World Vision, and the Australian Government, that seeks, tests and disseminates innovative education technology solutions to address child illiteracy. Previously at World Vision, she was Director for Child Development/Protection.
Rebecca also worked with World Relief, initially in Rwanda as their Director of Programs before relocating to their headquarters in the United States as Director of Global Program Operations. She has lived and worked throughout Africa and Asia for over 15 years. Chandler-Leege also spent six years in the private sector in international human resources consulting with Fortune 500 companies.
Rebecca holds a Master of Science in Multinational Commerce from Boston University.
Favorite book: West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Favorite quote: Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.” – Kofi Annan
Luba Botcheva – Director of Impact
Luba has more than 20 years of experience in applied research and evaluation. As Director of Research and Strategic Projects at the Center for Dignity, Recovery and Empowerment, she has managed research-to-practice programs that have led the charge in mental health both nationally and internationally. Previously, she was a senior research associate at Sociometrics Corporation and Stanford University.
Luba’s work has been published in numerous peer-review journals including the American Journal of Evaluation, the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, and the Journal of Social Issues. She holds a PhD in educational and developmental psychology from Moscow State University and a post-doctoral fellowship from Stanford University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science.
Mizgon Darby – Senior Director of Development
Mizgon has over 15 years of experience in fundraising and sustainability, marketing, communications, board and program development. Prior to joining Worldreader, she was the Executive Director of Art in Action where she created robust fundraising partnerships with corporations, foundations, and individuals. As a founding team member of a start-up literacy tech non-profit (LitLab), Mizgon spearheaded all development and advancement work. In 2001, she published the first Afghan-American magazine through Pacific News Service/New America Media (now Ethnic Media Services) in the US.
Mizgon is California State University, East Bay’s Alumni Association 2018 40 Under 40 Award recipient, received an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and holds an M.B.A. with a concentration in Global Innovation.
Brian Gougherty – Director of Global Philanthropy
Brian works with people and families to create fulfilling experiences as Worldreader donors, including opportunities to meet with our staff and students, to travel to the countries where we work, and to learn and advise on Worldreader’s global mission and goals. Brian studied history at the University of Michigan and has 15 years of experience being the conduit between mission-driven organizations and the passionate people who support them.
Recent reading: “I’ve really been taken by sci-fi books in the last few years, starting with a few classics like The Foundation and Dune, and more recently The Power by Naomi Alderman. Of course, the best sci-fi book of all time is still Beauty and the Billionaire Vampire Prince.”
Flavia Moroso – Director, Technology
Flavia and her team develop and manage the software and technology we need to process, maintain, and analyze the books that make up Worldreader’s collection. She is an avid reader and software developed and has worked on several projects during her professional life: from gov web applications and big real-estate tailored products to small start-ups.
Flavia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering from the UNCPA (Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina). She also holds a post-graduate degree in Agile Methodologies for Software Development at La Salle University (Barcelona).
“When I read Lobsang Rampa’s “The third eye”, it made me realize that books can make you travel, and live and have amazing experiences without leaving your room. Knowing that is gold when you are a little girl who has to ask permission to do almost everything. Reading is freedom!”
Muthoni Muhunyo – Acting Director, Content
Muthoni initially joined Worldreader as a volunteer and is now managing publisher relations in Kenya. “Volunteering at Worldreader was where my passion for charity met my profession. A soft spot for designing children’s storybooks not only gives me an opportunity to read them but envision children enjoying them as ebooks.”
A layout artist and publishing coach with over 10+ years of cross-border experience in the book publishing industry, Muthoni completed her studies at the Institute of Advanced Technology.
Her favorite books are:
The Bible and books by Seth Godin and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Joan Mwachi-Amolo – Director, East Africa
Joan Mwachi-Amolo manages the Worldreader portfolio in Kenya and greater East Africa. She is responsible for the strategic objectives and policies in the country office. Joan is an experienced educator, having started her career in the classroom setting and progressing on to designing and implementing training programs and capacity-building initiatives around non-formal school systems in impoverished communities. She has expertise in designing programs and tools for start-up organizations. Prior to joining Worldreader, Joan was the Regional Support Manager, Operations, at Bridge International Academies, a Nairobi-based organization that builds a network of ultra-low-cost private primary schools.
Joan received a Bachelor of Education degree and a Master in Education Administration degree, both from Kenyatta University.
She is inspired by the book “An Enemy Called Average” by John L Mason, which motivates her to do more than average in every aspect of her life.
Periša Ražnatović – Director, Strategic Initiatives
Periša is responsible for the design and implementation of programs designed to drive educational impact among pre-readers and lifelong readers. He is also focused on consolidating Worldreader’s institutional knowledge from Mobile Reading to Children and Gender Parity projects.
Periša holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Singidunum University as well as Master’s degrees in Development Studies from the International Institute of Social Studies of the Erasmus University Rotterdam and in International Relations from the Institut Barcelona D’Estudis Internacionals.
Authors that get him self-debating all night:
Irvin D. Yalom and Antonio Gramsci
Ethel Sakitey – Regional Director, West Africa
Ethel oversees the Worldreader portfolio of programs in Ghana and West Africa. She leads strategic planning, program expansion, and facilitates business development and partnerships within the region. Ethel has over fourteen years of program management experience within the development, public health, and education sectors. She was previously a Country Director and a Program Officer for Right to Play’s West and Francophone Africa (WAFA) Regional Office in Ghana.
Ethel holds a Master of Philosophy Degree in Public Health from the University of Ghana, Legon and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Work and Sociology from the same University.
Her favorite book is “Attitude is Everything” by Keith Harrell.
Wendy Smith – Director, Education
Wendy comes with over 15 years of experience working on education and child protection programs in development and conflict and affected countries. Wendy has worked for many international organizations (CARE, SCF, NRC, IRC, World Vision) strengthening early childhood and basic education programming.
Wendy currently sits on the INEE Steering Committee and hopes to help us support pre and life-long reading in both low-resource and fragile contexts. She holds dual French/American nationality and attended Colombia University Teachers’ College for her graduate studies.
As a mother of three, her favorite books are children’s books! “It is the only thing I have time to read anymore. My favorite children’s author at present is Kate DiCamillo. Anything she writes is gobbled up by me and my kids.”
Heidi Williams -Director, Accounting and Administration
Working within the Finance Team, Heidi oversees US accounting and audit and global cash management. She also has responsibility for global administration, working behind the scenes to ensure that we’re efficient and effective and implementing processes that govern our general business operations. Having also served as our first Director of Finance and Human Resources, Heidi has been involved with the development of all aspects of our infrastructure from the earliest stages.
Prior to joining Worldreader as one of our very first volunteers, she worked in financial
services and business management but attributes her keen organizational skill to the time she spent away from the workforce raising, and reading to, her two children. Heidi holds a BA in English Language and Composition from the University of Utah.
Books she has enjoyed re-reading with her teenagers:
Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, The Life of Pi.
Mike Wilson – Director, Product
Mike is responsible for developing and continuously improving Worldreader’s suite of mobile applications designed to drive literacy and education outcomes among pre-readers and lifelong readers. His previous work experience includes leading the development of Kinect Sports Rivals for Xbox at Microsoft and most recently leading the development of Despicable Me: Minion Rush.
Mike is a Business Studies graduate from the Nottingham Business School.
In his own words:
“Books have always captured my imagination and given me the knowledge, desire, and courage to meet any challenge head-on. I look forward to bringing these same experiences to people all over the world.”
Melanie Wise – Director, Global Marketing and Communications
Based in San Francisco, Melanie oversees global communications at Worldreader. She brings a passion for education and 20 years of experience in the social sector to the role. Prior to joining the team, she served as the strategic communications director for the East Africa Preterm Birth Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she worked with academic partners in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. In her previous role, she served as the chief communications officer for Breakthrough Collaborative, an education nonprofit with 24 affiliate sites across the US. For more than a decade, Melanie ran her own communications consulting firm, WiseExposition.
As a veteran educator, Melanie has developed and taught a variety of communications courses to both college students and professionals at San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley Extension, and UC Berkeley’s Learning + Organizational Development program. Melanie serves a board vice president for Chooda, the nonprofit parent organization for charity cycling event, Bike Zambia, and serves on UC Berkeley Extension’s Professional Communication Curriculum Advisory Board. Melanie holds a master’s degree in English literature with a certificate in teaching writing from San Francisco State University and a bachelor’s degree in visual arts from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCUarts).
Melanie’s favorite author