Genesis at the Crossroads’ Staff
MUHAMMAD ISMAIL KHURSHEED (Ismail Vohra)
Computer Scientist & Social Entrepreneur
BS in Computer Science, Habib University, May 2020
Genesis Staff; Technology Assistant
Ismail is a social entrepreneur based in Pakistan whose work focuses on edTech, intercultural exchange, and reclamation of artistic space. His ventures include Takmeel, a school which grooms recent Pakistani computer science graduates to enhance their skillset as the industry continues to see unparalleled, non-linear growth. The program connects them to jobs on a shared-income basis with Google Launchpad’s affiliated incubation center entitled, Nest i/o. Ismail’s personal social venture, The Perfect Plan, focuses on giving young artists a platform to capacity build their talent and leadership while simultaneously raising funds to support both their artistry and impact. Through this process, the artists not only get to bask in the limelight on the world stage, but also become featured talent for global corporate brands that are household names. Key success stories include: Nescafe Basement’s Ali Tariq and Pepsi Battle of the Bands’ Auj The Band. Ismail’s third venture, Saath Chal (which means Come Along in Urdu), focuses on an intercultural exchange between the diverse cultures within Pakistan and beyond its borders to promote peace.
Though technically oriented, Ismail chose to pursue his education at Habib University, Pakistan’s first liberal arts university that is committed to delivering a well-rounded civics education that fosters humanism. Habib University boasts an array of prestigious community partners including Stanford University, Pitzer College, UC Berkeley and University of Michigan. Ismail will soon receive his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science this May 2020. While a student there, he had the opportunity to compete for and become accepted into Stanford’s prestigious Technology and Innovation Intensive Studies Program. This allowed him a full quarter of study at Stanford’s Paolo Alto campus, for which he received a certificate of completion for all courses pursued and a 4.0 grade point average. He was both Dean’s listed and President’s listed at Habib University.
Additionally, Ismail studied tech entrepreneurship at University of Sussex, UK under Harvard faculty member, Dr. Stephano Denicolai. Other various NGO affiliations include Genesis at the Crossroads (USA), iEarn (Pakistan), and Youth Thinkers’ Society (Nepal) in the domains of peacebuilding and education for the former two and women’s empowerment, for the latter.
During the high school year he participated in the US Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study Program, Ismail received the Presidential Award for Community Service by then President Obama. Among his numerous other awards, he was the recipient of the 2015 Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award and the 2013 Habib University Meritorious Award.
A passionate young man who always pursues big dreams, Ismail fully dedicates his life to making his mark bridging cultural differences for world peace. In 2016, at age 19, Dr. Wendy Sternberg, Genesis at the Crossroads’ founder and executive director identified him as next-generation youth talent in the field of peacebuilding and elected to mentor him ever since. He is deeply honored to be a critical part of Genesis at the Crossroads’ senior leadership succession plan.
Genesis Executive Assistant
Ilana Kopinsky is a South African-born entrepreneur who founded a web-based business in 1999, just as the internet was in its infancy. Over the years, she has been involved in all aspects of directing a small business, from website design, marketing, and bookkeeping to managing all supply chain components of sourcing, packaging and shipping inventory. While raising four gifted children, she grew her home-based company from a one-woman enterprise to a thriving business with five employees and an annual gross income over $1 Million.
Simultaneously, as a valued community member, she also participated in and directed extensive volunteer efforts for her local chapter of Hadassah, a Jewish Women’s group, and the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) at her children’s schools: Solomon Schechter Day School, District 102 and District 125, wherein she held many different board positions: President, Vice President, Treasurer, Membership, Recording Secretary and Fundraising. She was also instrumental in mounting and managing successful fundraising events for that same diverse set of organizations. In 2006, though she elected to close her business to focus on her family, she maintained a private client list for boutique managerial projects.
Born and raised in South Africa, Ilana graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the University of the Witwatersrand. She subsequently graduated from The Archie Leggat School of Fashion Design. She has informal training in graphic arts and taught herself both Microsoft and Adobe software for her business and personal needs. She passionately pursues many creative home projects, including adventure travel, photographic essays and the culinary arts, the latter as an amateur chef.
WENDY STERNBERG, MD
Physician, Public Health Strategist & Human Rights Activist
Founder & Executive Director
Genesis at the Crossroads
As the founder and creative engine behind Genesis at the Crossroads, Wendy designed all programs to date and continues to oversee production and implementation of performance/artistic programs, education and humanitarian initiatives worldwide. She forged national/international partnerships with well over 45 institutions and founded Saffron Caravan, Genesis’ professional music ensemble uniting artists from Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, Morocco, Israel, India, Brazil, Venezuela and the United States for cross-cultural collaborative performance and educational programs.
Since 2011, Sternberg has created and produced a body of inquiry-based salon programs on the intersection of human rights, human development and the role of the arts to help shape and inform a humanistic society and transform conflict. One annual salon series focuses on women’s leadership. She masterminds the creative development/management of the current Genesis Academy Summer Institutes for international youth leaders from areas of conflict as well as the future Genesis Academy for Global Leadership, an academically rigorous boarding high school. Its surrounding Peace Hub will include a teaching farm, Sports and Social Change Program and a research incubator on creativity and leadership with multiple university partners. In the face of the COVID19 pandemic, the Academy’s Social Entrepreneurship Center will begin virtually in April 2020 until the physical place-making of its Chicago’s South side campus comes to fruition in 2021.
Affectionately called a Doctor without a Border, her prior 20+ year career as a primary care internal medicine physician informs the healing aspects at the heart of Genesis at the Crossroads. Under her leadership, Genesis boasts over 150 award-winning programs, internationally acclaimed by the UN, The Kennedy Center, Rotary, The King of Morocco, the British Council, the US Institute of Peace and the US Department of State. A Rotary Peace Fellow and a Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow, Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine featured her as a Woman to Watch. She was named one of the 10 Jewish Chicagoans of the Year and was a 2011 Charles Bronfman Prize Nominee. Sternberg is a member of the Chicago Chapter of the Woods Fund – Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing, Transformation Task Force. On the celebratory occasion of the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, Sternberg was deeply honored to be chosen as the closing speaker, following the remarks of Gandhi’s Granddaughter, Nelson Mandela’s Daughter and Cesar Chavez’s Grandson at the Gandhi 150: A Legacy of Peace program in Chicago in 2019.
Sternberg worked alongside human rights legend, Cherif Bassiouni on parts of his memoir which covered co-founding the International Criminal Court at the Hague and prosecuting Milosevic and other despots. Bassiouni helped her frame her ideas for the Genesis Academy human rights curriculum and mentored her through the early stages of the process. She had the profound privilege of aiding him during the early stages of the Arab Spring. During her 2009 Rotary Peace Fellowship at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, her human rights field research took place in Cambodia while the Khmer Rouge Tribunal was actively in session. Sternberg interviewed former Khmer Rouge soldiers, UNHCR groups and those documenting civil party lawsuit testimonials.
Sternberg serves as a physician public health strategist and human rights activist focused on the COVID19 pandemic. In the face of the pandemic, she retooled Genesis’ 2006 Art of Healing initiative into a new three-part participatory development program to serve as a health and wellness remedy during the COVID19 pandemic. By design, this cross-cultural collaborative program gives impoverished communities agency while prioritizing and addressing immediate life-threatening health issues – namely clean water and personal protective equipment (mask creation/manufacturing). Its additional components focus on arts, trauma and healing. She also holds her first independent provisional patent for an anti-COVID19 combined vaccine/therapeutic.
Among other written work, publications include: For the Sake of Humanity; Research on Cross-Cultural Collaborative Arts for Public Health, Chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Methods for Public Scholarship, Oxford Press (2019). Sternberg graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in French Literature. She received her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine with field work in public health in Chennai, India. She completed her Internal Medicine Residency Program at the University of Chicago.