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Thusanani Foundation Advisory Board

Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng, PhD (Wits), MASSAf

Mamokgethi Phakeng is full professor and Vice Principal of Research and Innovation at the University of South Africa (Unisa). She is also an honorary professor of mathematics education at Wits University. She holds a PhD in Mathematics Education from the University of the Witwatersrand. She has published over 80 research papers and four edited volumes, which have so far been cited 892 times at an impressive rate of 44,6 cites per year. She is a B2 NRF-rated scientist, which indicates that she has considerable international recognition. She has been invited as a speaker and visiting professor at international conferences and universities in Australia, Botswana, Canada, Denmark, India, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Senegal, South Korea, UK and USA. She served as co-chair of an international Study entitled, “mathematics and language diversity”.

Kgethi, as she is popularly known has won several awards for her research and community work, the latest being the 2013 Most Influential Woman in Education and Training in South Africa and the 2011 Most Outstanding Senior Black Female Researcher. She was elected as a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) in November 2007; an honorary member of the Golden Key International Honour Society in May 2009 and an honorary life member of the Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa (AMESA) in July 2009.

She is the founder of the Adopt-a-learner Foundation (www.adopt-a-learner.com), a non-profit organisation that provides financial support to learners from township and rural areas to acquire higher education qualifications. She is President of Convocation of Wits University, trustee of the FirstRand Foundation, a member of the South African Board for the International Council for Science (ICSU) and a member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation. She has served as national president of the Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa (AMESA) from 2002 to 2006, chairperson of the Board of the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF) from 2005 to 2006 and secretary and member of the executive committee of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME) from 2003 to 2007.

Professor Julie A. Washington, Ph.D.

Julie A. Washington, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education, Program in Communication Sciences and Disorders, in the College of Education at Georgia State University (GSU). In addition, Dr. Washington is affiliate faculty of the Research on the Challenges of Acquiring Language and Literacy initiative and the Urban Child Study Center at GSU.

Dr. Washington’s work focuses on understanding cultural dialect use in African American children with a specific emphasis on the impact of dialect on language assessment, literacy attainment, and academic performance. Her work with preschoolers has focused on understanding and improving the emergent literacy skills necessary to support later reading proficiency in high-risk groups, with a special focus on the needs of children growing up in poverty in urban contexts.

Currently, Dr. Washington is Principal Investigator on a Language Disabilities Research Innovation Hub funded by the National Institutes of Health - National Institute on Child Health and Human Development. This research hub is focused on improving early identification of reading disabilities in elementary school aged African American children, and includes a focus on children, their families, teachers and communities.

Dr. Susan L. Ogletree, Ph.D.

Dr. Susan L. Ogletree is currently Director of the Educational Research Bureau in the College of Education at Georgia State University.  Ogletree received his Bachelor of Music Ed., Masters of Elementary Education and Specialist in Educational Leadership from West Georgia College – Carrollton, GA.  At Georgia State University – Atlanta, GA, she received her Masters of Professional Counseling and her Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies with a concentration in Research, Measurement and Statistics where she received the Educational Policy Studies Dissertation of the Year Award. 

During her work in k-12 Ogletree served as principal for twenty years directing schools that included 3 year pre-kindergarten programs and state funded lottery 4 year programs. In her job as Director of the Educational Research Bureau, her office is responsible for overseeing $17,000,000 in external funding for national and international programs. She also works with faculty to identify potential partners both national and international grant initiatives.

Dr. Ogletree currently serves as Co-Project Investigator for the Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q) grant. This partnership includes the six major school systems in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area as well as twelve rural districts in the South Georgia Area. She is also interested in working with the Professional Development School Model in South Africa where she has worked in partnership with the Durban University of Technology around school leadership and research methodology.  Her primary research interests include Professional Development Schools, both nationally and internationally, and their impact on academic achievement in high needs urban schools.

Dr. Gwen Benson, Ph.D.

Dr. Gwen Benson serves as the associate dean for school, community and international partnerships in the College of Education at Georgia State University. She previously served as coordinator of the Low Incidence Disabilities Unit of the Division for Exceptional Students in the Georgia Department of Education; director of educator preparation for the Georgia Professional Standards Commission; and director of the Program for Exceptional Children with the Atlanta Public Schools. She was an associate professor at Southern University at Baton Rouge, La., assistant professor at Louisiana State University and has taught graduate courses at Clark-Atlanta University as an adjunct professor.

Dr. Benson earned her bachelor’s degree at Alabama State University, her M.Ed. at Auburn University and her Ph.D. at the University of Kansas. She currently serves as the principal investigator for the Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q), a collection of projects funded by a $13.5 million Teacher Quality Partnership grant from the U.S. Department of Education designed to prepare teachers for the demands of teaching high-need subjects in high-need schools. She also works to sustain the COE’s professional development school network facilitates international outreach and partnerships and works closely with the Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence.

Siphile Buthelezi

Siphile Buthelezi is from Durban in KwaZulu Natal now based in Johannesburg. He is an LLB (Law) graduate from the University of KwaZulu Natal. He has succeeded against all odds from being born in informal settlements, his mother a domestic worker and father a construction worker. Siphile is a former taxi driver who turned a corporate lawyer and a leader. 

Siphile is a co-founder and the Secretary General of the Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF) www.ppfsa.org.za

Siphile is a corporate lawyer,  currently practising at Bowman Gilfillan Inc. In 2010, Siphile was accepted as a Fellow of The Cyrus R. Vance Centre for International Justice in New York City. In October 2010 joined Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP in New York City as a Foreign Associate in Credit and Capital Markets. In April 2011 seconded by Davis Polk to Morgan Stanley (Investment Bank) in New York City. In November 2011 returned to the Banking and Finance division of Bowman Gilfillan Inc. Specialities: Banking & Finance Law, Corporate/Commercial Law, Private Equity, Construction & Engineering and Commercial Litigation.

Siphile also serves on the audit committee of the Gauteng Provincial Government, covering the Provincial Treasury, Office of the Premier, Finance, Education and the Gauteng Infrastructure Fund Agency. 

Siphile is a board member of Ekupholeni Mental Health & Trauma Centre. Ekupholeni is an NGO founded in 1994 that provides psychosocial counseling to victims of trauma. Each year, Ekupholeni provide support for about 7000 children, youth, and adults. Ekupholeni focus on: HIV/AIDS & Bereavement, Gender Violence and Youth at Risk. Across all these programs, Ekupholeni run economic empowerment and skills development projects, to encourage positive self-image and long-term self-sustainability www.ekupholeni.org.