Sue Cook is the Executive Director of the Harvard University Center for African Studies. Trained as a linguistic anthropologist and comparative genocide scholar, Sue has worked extensively in South Africa (with the Royal Bafokeng Nation), Cambodia (with the Cambodian Genocide Program), Botswana, Ethiopia, and Rwanda. She has held academic appointments at Yale, Brown, and the University of Pretoria. Her interests include mine-community relations in Africa, traditional leadership, urban language varieties, and sports and development. She is the author of The Business of Being Bafokeng: Corporatization in a Tribal Authority in South Africa, Performing Royalty in Contemporary Africa (with Rebecca Hardin) and Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda: New Perspectives (ed.).
Executive Director, South Africa Office
Y. Obenewa Amponsah is the Executive Director of the Harvard University Center for African Studies South Africa Office (CAS). Prior to joining CAS, Obenewa served as the CEO of the Steve Biko Foundation (SBF), a community development organization inspired by the legacy of the late anti-apartheid activist Bantu Stephen Biko. Beyond the community development sector, Obenewa also has expansive experience in governance and development, attained during her service as a Senior Consultant with GoodWorks International; as well as her time as the Administrator of the African Presidential Archives & Research Centre. Of Ghanaian descent, Obenewa was born and raised in the Washington DC area. She holds undergraduate and masters degrees in international relations from Boston University and the University of the Witwatersrand respectively.
Margie Jenkins coordinates the Center’s events as well as provides assistance to the Executive Director. She brings over 30 years’ experience as a senior administrator in independent schools to our team. Having served as Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life at schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Virginia, she brings a great deal of experience in planning and coordinating programs and events. Margie holds a B.S. from Northwestern University and completed graduate studies in education at UMass Amherst and Fairfield University.
Maggie Lopes is the Associate Director for the Center for African Studies. She currently oversees the Center’s operations, including finances, project planning and human resource management. Maggie worked for the Namibian Ministry of Education on information and communication technology (ICT) programs, and later, as the Namibia Country Director for WorldTeach. She was subsequently appointed as WorldTeach’s Director of Programs, overseeing programs in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific Islands. Maggie holds an MSc in Development Management from the London School of Economics and a B.S. in International Business and Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis.
As the Finance/Staff Assistant, Candace oversees the Center’s financial processing as well as providing essential administrative support to the team. She comes to the Center with 15 years of office management experience in the financial and non-profit academic sectors. Born in Barbados and raised in Cambridge, Candace is a longtime resident of the city. She studied liberal arts at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
Project Manager, South Africa Office (Consultant)
Lerato Motaung is the project manager at Harvard University’s Center for African Studies Johannesburg Office. Lerato is an experienced sustainability specialist and corporate executive who has worked in both corporate South Africa and civil society organizations. Lerato studied at Johnson C. Smith University in the United States where she qualified in Political Science and Governance. In her career she has served as a non-executive director of Sci-bono Discovery Centre and the Maths Centre for Professional Teachers. She was also a trustee of the Letsema Sizwe and Letsema Khanyisa Black Economic Empowerment Employee Benefit Trusts. Upon her return to South Africa from the United Stated, Lerato recently launched Civics Academy, South Africa’s new civic education initiative in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela and Hanns Seidel Foundations which aims to facilitate young people’s constructive involvement in democracy.
Student Support Outreach Officer
Nthatisi Quella is the Center for African Studies’ Student Support Officer. Originally from Lesotho, Nthatisi has a decade’s worth of experience in secondary and higher education in Africa, student programming, and evaluation. Nthatisi is responsible for the administration of the Center’s student grants, internship programs, Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships, and student group support. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree from the National University of Lesotho, and a Master of Education and Curriculum Development degree from the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Education in Johannesburg.
Events and Fellows Officer
Rosaline Salifu serves as the Events and Fellows Officer for the Center for African Studies. Coming from Ghana, West Africa, Rosaline studied International Development at Brandeis University and has extensive experience in student events programing. Prior to coming to the US, Rosaline lived and worked in Japan and Ghana coordinating and managing educational programs for students and international trainees. With interests in educational events management and international students counseling, we are thrilled to have Rosaline coordinating all Center affiliated events and programs.
Mbessin Sonko is the Communications Officer for the Harvard University Center for African Studies. In this role, she facilitates the planning and implementation of the Center’s strategic communications objectives, including stakeholder engagement and outreach, website and digital content management, media relations, reputation management, and marketing. Prior to joining the Center, Mbessin was Senior Account Executive at Weber Shandwick, a global public relations agency. In that capacity, she worked across public affairs and social impact practices to provide strategic communications support to government, non-profit, foundation and corporate organizations. Mbessin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Affairs from Northeastern University.
Data and Research Manager
Natasha Koverola Commissiong is the Data and Research Manager at the Center for African Studies. She has an international development background working with project impact evaluation, qualitative data analysis, and grant management focused on gendered violence and youth development initiatives. Her regional expertise includes Sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil, and the Caribbean. Natasha holds an MSc. in Anthropology and International Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California.
Student Programs Intern
Adhana Asfaw serves as the program assistant intern for Student Programs. She assists in a wide array of tasks supporting the different grants and programs offered by the Center for African Studies. Adhana previously worked at Lebone II College of the Royal Bafokeng in Rustenburg, South Africa, an internship program sponsored by the Center. She is currently an undergraduate at Harvard College, and hopes to pursue a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology.