Board of Trustees
Click on each name for a short profile.
Alan Lightman is an American writer, scientist, and social entrepreneur. He was educated at Princeton and at the California Institute of Technology in the U.S., where he received a PhD in theoretical physics. In science, he has made fundamental contributions to astrophysics and served as the chair of the high-energy division of the American Astronomical Society. Lightman has been a professor at Harvard University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was the first person at MIT to receive a faculty appointment in both science and the humanities. He has lectured at nearly a hundred universities in the US on the relationship between the sciences and the humanities.
Lightman’s essays, stories, and articles have appeared in Harper’s, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, the New York Times, and many other publications, and he is the author of more than 15 books. His book Einstein’s Dreams is known worldwide and has been translated into more than 30 languages, and his novel The Diagnosis was a finalist for the National Book Award. In 2005, Lightman created the Harpswell Foundation, whose mission is “to advance a new generation of women leaders in Southeast Asia.” More can be found at his website.
Kara Lightman Anthony
Kara Lightman Anthony has a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) focusing on International Security Policy and Gender Policy. She has worked on women’s issues in Cambodia and helped write the Shadow Report on the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which was presented to the United Nations in Geneva in October 2013. In the past, she has worked at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University and in International Development at ACDI/VOCA in Washington, DC.
Navin Moul is the Program Executive for Immigrants and Refugees at the Zellerbach Family Foundation. Navin has extensive experience in the fields of philanthropy, immigration, human and civil rights. Prior to joining ZFF, Navin led the immigration grantmaking strategy at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. She also worked as a program officer at American Jewish World Service, managing grant-making portfolios in Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Navin is Cambodian-American and helped found the Devata Giving Circle, the first and only Cambodian-American women giving circle in the country to support services and activities such as a wellness retreat for traumatized women, cultural preservation through Khmer classical dance, organizing and political education trainings for teens, and promoting safe and healthy sexual behaviors with at risk youth. Navin holds a bachelor’s degree in American Cultural Studies as well as an English as a Second Language teaching certificate from Western Washington University and a master’s degree in Comparative Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.
David Roe’s long public interest career includes 25 years as a senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, during which, with some inspired colleagues, he pioneered the first use of sophisticated economics in support of environmental protection and wrote the country’s most successful law in reducing unnecessary exposures to toxic chemicals, among other strategy innovations. He has also worked in human rights, civil rights, medical reform, and federal mediation. He was educated at Yale, Oxford, and Yale Law, taught at Harvard Law, and wrote Dynamos and Virgins (Random House 1984) about some of his environmental work. More can be found at his website.
Elyse Lightman Samuels
Katja Nelson’s desire to create meaningful change on a large scale began after she studied abroad in the North East of Thailand during college where she focused on issues of globalization and development. There she wrote human rights reports, worked with the Thai Network of People Living with HIV & AIDs, and spent 5 months living in rural villages. After graduating from Occidental in 2010, Katja first worked for Causes, a philanthropy application for Facebook, advising nonprofits on their social media fundraising. After Causes she spent four years at Twitter building out a new arm of their business in the mobile app space. Katja most recently took a year off to travel around the world with specific learning objectives. During this year, Katja spent time in the dorms at Harpswell teaching the women a course on social media. She is currently living in San Francisco and eyeing her next opportunity.
Veasna Chea, Honorary Trustee
I was born and raised in Cambodia during the turmoil of the American War, the Khmer Rouge regime, and the subsequent Vietnamese occupation. During this time of struggle and survival, the education of many Cambodian children suffered. Despite this, my family placed a high priority on education as a path to a better future, and my widow mother in particular had the vision to send her younger children to live with distant relatives and study in Phnom Penh in the 1980s.
After finishing my secondary education, I could no longer live with relatives and therefore attended Law School by living in the crawl space underneath the university. (There was no housing for female university students.) After graduation, I went to work for the country by joining the Ministry of Justice, and later various legal projects funded by bilateral and multilateral donors. I continued my studies in France, Canada and the US, where I completed my graduate studies.
During my studies, I always remembered how my friends, especially the women among them, wished to continue their education so that they could move beyond typical jobs such as farmers or market sellers.
In 2004, I met Professor Lightman in Phnom Penh through a mutual friend, and we had many discussions about the need to increase the number of educated women in the country, as a key strategy to improve Cambodia’s development outcomes. Together, we conceived the idea to establish what became the Harpswell dormitories and leadership centers for women. These facilities and programmes are the result of my dream to provide opportunities to high potential female students from rural and remote areas of the country to pursue their education and become leaders of their communities and the country.
Kalyan is a graduate of the Harpswell class of 2010, the first class to graduate from the Harpswell Foundation. After receiving a law degree from the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phom Penh, Kalyan worked as a domestic violence intervention officer at Daughters of Cambodia, an NGO in Phnom Penh. She was then awarded a one-year fellowship to study gender and women’s studies at Bowdoin College in the US. Following her time at Bowdoin, Kalyan won a highly competitive Civil Society Leadership Award from the Open Society Foundation for a two-year master’s degree program in social work at Columbia University. Upon receiving her MSW and returning to Cambodia, Kalyan worked as Project Coordinator at the NGO Rainbow Community Kampuchea. In April 2017, she began work as Director of Selection and Community Relations at Teach for Cambodia, which partners with the Ministry of Education in Cambodia. Kalyan has also worked as a consultant for Oxfam Great Britain and UNICEF. Kalyan has experience in both the public and private sectors and is committed to using her background in social work to improve education, to fight against domestic violence and gender inequality, and to raise awareness of gender issues.
After 35+ years of global business experience, Marie now spends the majority of her time leading the growth of a social enterprise business she co-founded in 2012 with Alan Lightman and Hab Saly called Red Dirt Road, Inc. (www.red-dirt-road.org). Red Dirt Road benefits impoverished women in the remote village of Tramung Chrum through the design, manufacture, and marketing of handmade silk fashion accessories.
Marie also serves on the Cascade Engineering Company and the Irwin Seating Company boards of directors and is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors.
Previously, Marie was Chief Operating Officer at EJ (formerly East Jordan Iron Works) from 2012 through 2015. Prior to EJ, Marie held a variety of executive leadership roles during her 30-year career with the Dow Corning Corporation, retiring in 2009 as Corporate Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer. Previous roles at Dow Corning included Corporate Vice President and General Manager of the Advanced Materials Business, and a commercial leadership assignment which brought her and her family to Brussels, Belgium for three years.
Marie has a Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Illinois. She and her husband, Mark, have three grown sons and live in Charlevoix, Michigan. They enjoy skiing and biking together, and spending winters in Mesa, Arizona.
I am given chances, and I have changed
There are six people in my family: my father, my mother, my two brothers, my sister and me. I am the youngest.[The girls in my village] they are the same as me; they want to do a bachelor’s degree in Phnom Penh. However, some have stopped studying because of poverty, lack of opportunities, and discouragement from their families and society.
I think the biggest problems facing Cambodian women today are related to their gender, for example, domestic violence, sex abuse and human trafficking. To change the situation of Cambodian women today, what I can do is to try my best to study, and gain more knowledge, so that I can share that knowledge, to help women develop and to help change the situation.
I want to be an ambassador or work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. I would like to continue my studies in the United States or China.
The most important thing I have gained from living in the Harpswell dormitory is learning about leadership, which includes teamwork skills, how to cooperate with other people, and understanding and appreciating other people.
*Leaphea graduated in 2011 with a degree in Law/International Relations from the Royal University of Law and Economics and is now the Program Director for Harpswell.
My family includes my parents, who are farmers, and me. I am an only child. When I am home, I love to ask my mother questions and listen to her stories of her life. My mother always recalls the time of having to work hard, instead of continuing school, in order to assist my grandparents in doing farm work and taking care of her younger siblings. She advises me to keep studying because she does not want me to follow the path that she had to take when she was younger. Her health has deteriorated because of the hard labor she had to endure when she was younger to support her family. She regrets not having the opportunity to pursue her dreams when she was younger.
The other girls my age from my village now have more than one child and work on their farmland. If not that, then they are working in garment factories in various towns in Cambodia.
The biggest problem facing Cambodian women today is gender inequity because they do not get the same opportunity as men do. Women are hard workers who only have the chance to support their children because they have a low education. This issue stems from women in the countryside not receiving education.
I found a passion to communicate with people. One day I dream of producing education programs about women’s affairs. I hope to become a professional journalist in Cambodia. I want to be a journalist, so that I can learn more about the world and be constantly updated on current affairs.
*Len graduated in 2014 with a degree in Media Management from the Royal University of Phnom Penh and is now a photojournalist for Voice of America.
I strongly believe that as long as I keep working hard, I will eventually reach my destination to develop myself, my family, and Cambodia as a whole.
“I don’t want you to follow my footprints,” mom said while pealing a ripe mango with the wrinkled face of her fifties. “I regret having to give up my studies.” “I wish I hadn’t dropped out of school. It hurts, you know.”After her mother’s death, mom became the mother of the other seven kids. She took care of everything from looking after the baby, cooking, and cleaning to shopping and farming. She could not bear doing all of this massive work while also attending school, so she decided to stop going to school when she was in grade five.
My parents have always been so courageous. They sent all of their kids to school while most families tend to send only their sons to school. For this reason, I am so proud of who I am.
Since I was in middle school, I have always dreamt of becoming an educated woman who could support my family and myself and live my life differently from that of my mom. The only vehicle that can transport me from illiteracy and poverty to a brighter and better life is education.
With the knowledge I earn from the program, I want to become an information technology (IT) professor. It will provide me with an opportunity to help younger Cambodian generations to better understand modern technology by teaching and sharing my knowledge and experiences with them. This then will help our nation to become part of the modern day technological world and eventually will result in development as a whole.
Living here [at Harpswell] has positioned me to gain leadership skills through weekly seminars provided by the Harpswell’s country managers, leadership residents, and distinguished guests, regarding a range of topics from how to become a successful person to how to be a good leader.
I have developed social awareness and critical thinking by participating in weekly discussions on national and international news articles. I have come to realize what is happening in the society and to learn how people deal with problems.
*Menghun graduated in 2011 with a degree in Computer Science from the Royal University of Phnom Penh and is now a Program Officer at the Asia Foundation.
Leadership means learning about everything and understanding people’s lives.
I am the sixth child in my family. My parents are teachers and farmers. My parents always motivate and support me. Because of their love and my goals I try my best to learn a lot to develop myself.
Most girls my age in my village are farmers or sellers; they do not have the same opportunity as me to continue their studies at university, or sometimes even in secondary or high school. Some girls have migrated to work near the Thai border, and sometimes they put themselves in trouble, because the Thai border is not safe for them, they might even be sold to be sex workers.
I think the biggest problem facing Cambodian women today is education. The lack of education is making women victims of domestic violence. For example, most of the girls who live in my village did not have the opportunity to study. They got married at a very young age, and that’s why they do not understand how to manage their lives.
At first, I was interested in law and media. Then I decided to study law, because I want to work in provincial governance. I interned for two months at the Community Legal Education Center as an assistant to a lawyer. My main responsibilities were participating in team discussions, meetings and fieldwork, assisting team members in taking notes of discussions with community representatives, or of community meetings, including direct observation of the activities. Now, I am working as a translator for a social work project at Daughters of Cambodia.
I will become a good leader in Cambodia, because I have learned many things from living in the Harpswell dormitory: how to be a good leader, how to live in a big, happy community that is both our home and our school, and how to analyze the problems that relate to national and international news, from the Cambodia Daily discussions.
*Kalyan graduated in 2010 with a degree in Law from the Royal University of Law and Economics. She went on to get a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University. She is working as a Coordinator at Rainbow Community Campuchea.