Board Members & Staff
Randa Shedid, Chairman of the Board
Randa Shedid was born in Cairo, Egypt. Shedid holds an undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the American University in Cairo, a J.D. from the New England School of Law and a law degree (Licence en Droit) from Cairo University Law School. An attorney since 1997, she was commissioned by the Center for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CULTNAT) which is affiliated with Bibliotheca Alexandrina and supported by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, to write a text in Arabic about the development of Antiquities Laws in Egypt, for the purpose of a publication by CULTNAT. Before that she was employed by the ACLU for 6 years and responsible for incoming complaints. Ms. Shedid is currently a Commissioner at the Cambridge Human Rights Commission (CHRC), an active Board Member with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Massachusetts (ADCMA) and a founding member of the Center for Arabic Culture, MA (CAC) and its Arabic School.
John Makhoul was born in Deirmimas, Lebanon and graduated from the American University of Beirut (AUB) with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering in 1964. He received an M.S. from the Ohio State University (OSU) in 1965 and a Ph.D. in 1970 from MIT in electrical engineering. Since then, he has been with BBN Technologies, Cambridge, where he is now a Chief Scientist responsible for research in various aspects of speech and language processing, including speech recognition and machine translation. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Acoustical Society of America, and the International Speech Communication Association (ISCA). He has received a number of professional awards from the IEEE, including the Third Millenium Medal in 2000 and the 2009 James L. Flanagan Speech & Audio Processing award and medal “for pioneering contributions to speech modeling.” In 2016, he received the ISCA Medal for lifetime scientific achievement. In 2010, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the College of Engineering at OSU, and in 2013, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from AUB.
Dr. Makhoul has a long history of volunteerism. While a student at MIT, he served as President of the Arab Club. He has served as Secretary and then as President of the AAUG. For many years, he was active with the AUB alumni, serving as Secretary then President of the AUB New England Chapter, and then as Secretary and Vice President of the Board of Directors of the AUB Alumni Association of North America. More recently, he has been serving on the Board of the Trans-Arab Research Institute (TARI).
Noreen Hafez Ayan
Noreen Hafez Ayan was raised in upstate New York and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the American University of Beirut and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Lebanese American University. Ms. Hafez currently works as a Marketing Product Manager for Burst Media, one of the largest online advertising networks. She has held positions at Twentieth Century Fox and Open Source Development Network/VA Linux, as well as owning and operating her own website design and marketing firm. She is an active volunteer and co-founded the Network of Arab American Professionals, Boston Chapter. She has been an active board-member of NAAP-Boston’s chapter for over five years and has helped grow the organization to eight chapters nation-wide. She has contributed with website assistance and volunteered at several local Arab-American organizations including ADC-MA, Harvard Arab Alumni, MIT Arab Student Organization, and the Palestinian American Congress. She’s also a contributing organizer for the AUB New England Alumni chapter.
Ruth Faris, Secretary
Ruth is a clinical social worker and therapist in Somerville, MA. Ruth worked for many years in human resources, focusing on Employee Assistance, management coaching, and career development, so she brings that enhanced understanding of the workplace to my work. She is a certified Myers-Briggs Type Indicator practitioner and use this tool as appropriate. Closest to her heart, She is devoted to yoga.
Munir Jirmanus, Treasurer
Munir Jirmanus was born in Jerusalem to parents who had immigrated to Palestine from Lebanon. In 1948 his parents lost their house & land as part of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and ended up going to Lebanon to start a new life. Munir graduated from the American University of Beirut (AUB) in 1964 with a B.S. in Physics, and with an M.S. in Theoretical Physics from Tufts University in 1966. He subsequently went back to Lebanon and taught at the Lebanese University, then came back to Tufts where he received a Ph.D. in Experimental Physics in 1973. After brief teaching stints at Tufts University and AUB he joined Janis Research Company, one of the world leaders in designing & supplying cryogenic equipment to the Low Temperature Physics research community. He is currently Vice President and Technical Director responsible for developing new products for Laboratory Cryogenics at Janis.
Munir is married to Naila Saba who also graduated with physics degrees from AUB (B.S. 1968) and Tufts (Ph.D. 1973). They have two daughters who were born and educated in public schools and private universities in Massachusetts, and they both have very strong connections to Lebanon & Palestine. Munir and Naila have had a long history of involvement in Peace & Justice issues in the Arab American community in Boston, first as students and subsequently after they returned to Boston in 1978. They have organized local & regional educational conferences about Palestine / Israel for the Presbyterian Church USA, and for Sabeel, where Munir is co-chair of the New England chapter. They have also worked on the campaigns of several local and national politicians and are members of the Massachusetts Peace Action, the Boston Alliance for Water Justice, the local BDS movement and work closely with Jewish Voice for Peace in Boston.
Assef Zobian, D.Sc.
Dr. Zobian was born in Lebanon and graduated from the American University of Beirut with BS in Computer and Communication Engineering in 1990, and ME in Electrical Engineering in 1992. He received an MS in Technology & Policy in 1995 and a Doctor of Science in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996.
As a research assistant at the MIT Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems, he evaluated alternative organizational structures for the electric power industry after deregulation, and recommended policies for efficient operation in the newly evolving open access environment.
He is the founder and president of Cambridge Energy Solutions, LLC, a software company with a mission to develop software for the deregulated electric power industry. He is an electrical engineer with over twenty years of experience in power systems technology, economics, and planning. He developed a set of market simulation tools to simulate the economic and engineering operation of electric power markets in the US. These models are being used to forecast locational market clearing prices of electricity and congestion cost, analyze the impact of regulatory policies on stakeholders, analyze market power issues, economics of entry and exit, the technical and economic feasibility of new power plants and transmission lines projects; evaluate alternative market structures and pricing regimes; define geographic market areas based on transmission constraints; and determine the impact of environmental regulation on electricity prices.
Julie Nijmeh, Ph.D.
Julie Nijmeh was born and raised in Amman Jordan, to a father of Palestinian origin and a Jordanian mother. She graduated from the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Lebanon with a Bachelor of Science in 1996. She then moved to the states to pursue her graduate studies. She obtained a Master’s degree in Molecular Pharmacology & Structural Biology from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia studying cancer biology. Later, she obtained a PhD in Environmental Health sciences from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, focusing on pulmonary diseases. Julie is currently a scientist at the Brigham and Women ‘s Hospital at the center for LAM research and clinical care. In parallel, Julie pursues her lifelong interest in Interior Design at the Boston Architectural College and is a real estate agent in the Boston metro area. Julie and her husband are the proud parents of two wonderful daughters who attend the CAC Arabic School and love being members of the CAC Arabic choir.
Haytham Kaafarani, MD, MPH, FACS
Haytham Kaafarani was born in Saida, Lebanon where he finished high school ranking first in the nation in the 1996 Lebanese Baccalaureate Exams, Mathematics section. He graduated from the American University of Beirut with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry in 1999, followed by a Doctor of Medicine degree in 2003. Following that, Dr. Kaafarani moved to the United States where he earned a certificate in Outcomes Research at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in 2004, a Masters in Public Health (Policy and Management) at Harvard University in 2008 and a certificate in advanced health services research from the Boston VA Healthcare System and the Center for Health Quality, Outcomes and Economic Research (CHQOER) in 2009. Dr. Kaafarani finished his surgical internship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2005 and his general surgery residency training at Tufts Medical Center in 2011. He subsequently pursued a fellowship in Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital between 2011 and 2013. As an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, he is currently the Director of Patient Safety & Quality in the Division of Trauma, Emergency Surgery & Surgical Critical Care and the Co-Director of the Trauma Injury Prevention & Outreach Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also an active conflict-area surgeon with Doctors Without Borders, and the President of the AUB Surgical Alumni of North America. He is a leading and pioneer surgeon-scientist nationally and internationally with more than 130 scientific publications focused on improving surgical outcomes, patient safety and quality benchmarking of surgical care. Haytham and his wife Maha are the proud parents of three kids, Yara, Ziad and Layla, and reside in Newton, Massachusetts.
Raymonda Khoury, Esq.
Raymonda was born in Beirut, and holds a license en droit from the Lebanese University School of Law and a LLM in International Banking from Boston University School of Law. Raymonda specializes in the financial services industry and had a long career working for Fidelity Investments in different positions in Compliance, Risk and Legal functions. She is currently working as a consultant, and is a certified mediator. Raymonda is also involved with 1for3 Organization which seeks to provide long term water resource solutions and other humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugee camps in the west bank.
I was born in Haifa, Palestine, and grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. I attended the National Evangelical School in Beirut, and was selected by the American Field Service Student Exchange Program to attend the senior year of high school at Eastern High School in Baltimore, Maryland, where I lived the whole year with an American family. Back in Lebanon, I attended Beirut College for Women for two years, and transferred to the American University of Beirut to obtain my B.S. in Nursing. I was on the faculty of the Nursing School teaching for two years, until I moved to the United States with my husband. In Boston, I sat for the Nursing State Board Exam, and obtained my nursing license. However, I did not practice nursing because I wanted to be at home with my three children.
Later, I attended New England School of Art and Design and graduated with an Associate degree in Interior Design. I moved into the Fine Arts in Painting and Sculpture, and am currently a member of multiple art societies and exhibit my work in various galleries in the Boston area. I have been a member of a choral society for as long as I remember. As a flutist, I play with various flute choirs and recently began volunteering my time with a pianist to play music in nursing homes.
Naela Sharuk was born in Jordan and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the American University of Beirut and a Masters in Business Administration from American International College. Naela completed post-graduate work in Political Science at State University of New York at Albany. Naela was appointed as treasurer of the American University of Beirut Alumni Association’s Northeast Chapter where she was also an active member of the Social Committee. Naela currently works as a Mortgage Officer for Mortgage Master, Incorporated. Her hobbies include yoga and oil painting.
Alma Richeh, LL.M. Executive Director
Alma Richeh was born in Damascus, Syria. Alma holds a law degree from Damascus University and an LL.M. degree in international legal studies from the American University, Washington College of Law in Washington D.C. She worked at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Damascus as an advocate to determine the refugee Status. For 8 years, Alma was a conductor for Al Farah Choir in Damascus. She conducted the choir’s youth division, where ages ranged between sixteen and twenty three, and lead the choir in many events and concerts. She concentrated on fundraising for humanitarian causes and children’s rights.
During her LL.M Studies, she worked as a teaching assistance to Ambassador and Professor Clovis Maksoud at the American University, Washington College of Law.
In Boston, she worked as a research intern at the Boston Consortium for Gender Security and Human Rights at the University of Massachusetts. Her research concentrated on the rights of women in countries of the Middle East from the legal, historic, cultural, religious and humanitarian perspectives.
Alma is currently conducting the CAC Children Choir, the first Arab American children choir in MA and an Arabic language teacher at CAC Arabic School.
Erica Lush, CAC Web Designer
Erica graduated in May from Boston University with a degree in Linguistics and minors in Arabic and Speech Pathology. She studied abroad in Jordan and has traveled in the region. Erica hopes to pursue a career in humanitarian aid where she can use knowledge of Arabic language and culture to make a positive difference. After renovating the CAC website as an intern, she started working as a web designer in May 2015.
Ex-Officio and Friends of the Board
Farrah Haidar has been a leader within the Arab-American community for almost 20 years. She founded the Network of Arab-American Professionals’ Boston chapter and helped it grow to over 700 members in addition to volunteering for several other Arab-American organizations. Her professional experience includes 15 years of managing marketing communications for a wide variety of companies. Farrah has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from California State University, Hayward and a Masters of Business Administration from Boston University.
Abed Kanaan was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. He holds a Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Northeastern University. Mr. Kanaan currently works for a British Defense firm that specializes in robotics and defense system development. He has worked on various projects including developing robotic equipment for several US government agencies. He is active within the Arab-American community and has been a member of the American Lebanese Engineering Society (ALES) for the past two years. Mr. Kanaan was a founding member of CAC and is currently its Treasurer and a member of the CAC school committee. In addition, Mr. Kanaan was instrumental in initial database organization and development of the organization’s long term strategic plan.
For nearly a decade I have been committed to establishing, transforming and leading successful interdisciplinary divisions in higher education. Recognized for my drive for excellence, my commitment to strategic collaboration and building a foundation upon common goals has resulted in an array of successes for 1) a multicultural, multinational, and diverse student base; 2) internally across all departments in the institution; 3) all academic and student affairs divisions (student enrollment and services, advising, website and marketing, registration, IT and library resources, institutional research); and 4) externally with educational institutions and industry partners.
I am currently the Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) at Roxbury Community College, the largest minority-serving institution of higher education in New England. I have actively built the division to become a STEM center of excellence, developed, managed, assessed and evaluated programs, and increased the number of direct reports (full time and adjunct faculty members and technical and support staff) by 160%; generated academic and technical opportunities for more than 2,500 students, thereby increasing recruitment, retention and graduation rates by an additional 10%; and managing over $4M in budget and grants, and most recently integral in being awarded with $20.7M to establish a Life Sciences Institute.
My passion is to create and facilitate opportunities for students and faculty to empower their lives through education and through synergistic partnerships with industry, universities, K-12 schools and the community. I have established and chaired the four Program Advisory Boards in my Division, and serve on several advisory boards for academic programs and state education initiatives. As a proud Iraqi immigrant, Arab-American- Muslim, I have been serving the Arab/Muslim community with my family all my life, including membership and teaching Arabic at the Islamic Center of Boston, Quincy and Wayland. We have participated and supported many Center for Arabic Culture (CAC) activities and events, including my children attending the Arabic School. It would be an honor to serve on the Board of CAC, where its mission resonates with my own, and where I may contribute with in many areas with my expertise and background in higher education leadership, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, serving public institutions, and fund-raising/development. My desire is for continuous, preservation and promotion of our Arabic heritage and culture for our families and to the community at large and for sustainability and growth of organizations such as CAC.
George Frangieh, M.D.
Born in Northern Lebanon, Dr. Frangieh is an ophthalmologist in private practice and an active member of the Arab-American community in Massachusetts. Prior to being in private practice, he was Head of Staff at the University of Southern California’s residency program. He was also named active chairman of the Ophthalmology Department at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and completed a fellowship with a specialty in Cornea and External Eye Diseases at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Frangieh earned his Bachelors Degree in Biology with honors at the American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts and a medical degree from the AUB Medical School.