The Alumni Association Board recognizes and celebrates outstanding alumni who demonstrate high levels of achievement and/or service in one or more of Converse’s Seven Core Values: Excellence, Integrity, Exploration, Diversity, Respect, Community, and Progress.
2022 Alumni Achievement Award Winners
Our Alumni Association Board is honored to recognize our outstanding Alumni with the following awards:
The 2022 Recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Award is Grace Bagwell Adams ’07
Grace Bagwell Adams, Ph.D., MPA, is from Boiling Springs, South Carolina. She is an associate professor of health policy in the Department of Health Policy and Management in the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia and has also served as the Assistant Dean of Outreach, Engagement, and Equity since May 2020. Following in her mom’s footsteps (Gail O’Shields, Converse class of 1977), she earned her undergraduate degrees in History and Politics at Converse in 2007, where she was on Model NATO and Model League of Arab States, and Dance Ensemble. She then obtained her Master’s in Public Administration and Ph.D. in public policy in the Department of Public Administration and Policy in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia (the 3rd ranked program in the U.S). Her expertise is in public policy analysis and program evaluation, and all of her work has the common thread of examining how to mitigate vulnerability.
Current projects include work on the SNAP (food stamp) program, the opioid epidemic, and maternal and child health. In 2015, she launched the Athens Wellbeing Project, the first multi-sector local data collection initiative of it’s kind that leverages household data to improve policy outcomes and population health at the local level. In 2021, she opened the Athens Studio for Performing Arts and serves as the Artistic Director for all programming. She lives in Athens with her husband, Clayton, her daughter, Bonnie and her son Theodore.
The 2022 Recipient of the Career Achievement Award is Becky Brasington Clark ’82
Becky Brasington Clark ’82 has served as Director of Publishing for the Library of Congress since 2016. In this role, she oversees the publication of books and other products that showcase the collections of the world’s largest library. Since entering federal service, she has aligned the publishing program with the strategic plan of the first new Librarian of Congress in nearly thirty years. She established a Publishing Office Editorial Committee comprised of Library leaders, launched the critically acclaimed Library of Congress Crime Classics series, and released anthologies from two Poet Laureates.
Prior to joining the Library, Becky spent twelve years as Director of Marketing for the Johns Hopkins University Press, with oversight for publicity, advertising, digital and print promotion, web marketing, social media, ecommerce, sales, and exhibits for 140-160 new books each year. Over the course of her tenure, Becky championed digital publication strategies and drove triple-digit sales growth in e-book revenue, spearheaded the expansion of social media and e-commerce, migrated promotion programs from print to digital, and served as project lead for The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot.
As Marketing Director for the Brookings Institution Press, Becky oversaw sales, marketing, and publicity for new books, journals, and a quarterly magazine, and directed sales and distribution for client presses, including the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Century Foundation, and the Council on Foreign Relations.
She spent four years as adjunct faculty for the Master of Professional Studies in Publishing at George Washington University, and built her career with positions in marketing, publishing, and program management at the New Republic, Counterpoint Press, Moon Travel Handbooks, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Wharton School, Law School Admission Services, and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.
She currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Master of Professional Studies in Publishing at George Washington University and the Library of Congress Digital Strategy Working Group. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Association of University Presses and as President of Washington Book Publishers.
Becky enjoys sewing, and in the early days of the pandemic, joined forces with other Baltimore-areas sewists to make nearly 600 face masks. She also enjoys quilting and crocheting.
She lives in Baltimore with her husband, John Cronin.
The 2022 Recipient of the Career Achievement in Music Award is Natasha Senanayake ’12
Natasha Senanayake is among the few professional female composers of Sri Lanka. She is also a pianist, flutist, and singer. Natasha’s compositions have been performed globally, including in the USA, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Japan, India and Sri Lanka. Natasha’s musical journey began at the age of five, and her commitment to music remained throughout her school years at Ladies’ College, Sri Lanka. Upon receiving a merit-based scholarship, she traveled to the USA to follow a Bachelor of Music Degree in Music Composition at the Petrie School of Music, Converse University. Whilst at Converse (Class of 2012’), she studied composition under Dr. Scott Robbins and graduated with a Distinction in Performance. Natasha also holds a Master’s Degree in Music Composition from King’s College, London, where she studied under Dr. Rob Keeley.
During Natasha’s freshman year at Converse, she had the distinction of becoming the first woman to receive a commission from the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka. Her work, Of Shores Near and Far, was the first piece by a Sri Lankan woman composer, to be performed by the SOSL. In 2015, Natasha was awarded the title of Commonwealth Music Ambassador, after winning the Commonwealth Music Competition, which was open to composers of all 54 Commonwealth nations and had over 4000 applications. In this role, she received commissions to compose for the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra over a period of two years. She gave her orchestral conducting debut at Marlborough House in London, for the world premiere of her composition The Piece from Within. She also received a recording contract and her piece for string orchestra, This Too Shall Pass, was recorded by the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios, Studio Two. She was invited to attend a reception, in the presence of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and was introduced to the late Duke of Edinburgh, His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, in recognition of her contribution in music to the Commonwealth.
Natasha enjoys working on film scores. Her most recent original soundtrack, composed for Thaji Dias on traditional Dance, directed by Irushi Tennekoone won the “Best International Short Film” award, and was nominated for the “Best Music” Award at the Screen Power Film Festival, UK, 2022.
Natasha is currently based in Sri Lanka and is Head of Music at the Asian International School, Colombo. She has served as the International Composition Tutor at the Sound and Music, Composition Summer School in the UK where she has tutored young British composers. She is also the Resident Music Director of Theatre Junction, a theater company based in Colombo, founded by Anushka Senanayake, which focuses on contemporary theatre, musical theatre, and original work.
Natasha works globally as a composer, music director, choral director, and conductor. She owes much of the musical adventures that followed her undergraduate degree, to the solid foundation she received at Converse. She will always be grateful to her professors and the larger Converse community for shaping her into the accomplished woman she is today.
The 2022 Recipient of the Community Service Award is Yosabeth (Yosi) Zewde Weldemedhin ’08
Yosi majored in Political Science and Economics while at Converse and later pursued a Master’s in Public Affairs. She credits her education at Converse (and especially Dr. Dunn’s encouragement and support) for preparing her not only for graduate school and a solid career, but also for helping her to become a citizen engaged in global affairs.
Yosi has been working in international development for over a decade, pursuing her passion of results measurement of poverty reduction programs in Sub-saharan Africa. Her first job with the African Development Bank (Tunisia) introduced her to the importance of measuring and analyzing the bank’s investments in health, infrastructure, agriculture, education, and private sector development and the effect of these investments on the lives of ordinary Africans.
After leaving the African Development Bank, she undertook consultancies for various development organizations including the World Bank (Albania) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (Italy), supporting their work on corporate performance management. She then served as Impact Assessment manager for Investment Climate Facility for Africa (Tanzania), a multilateral fund that financed projects in commercial justice and trade throughout Africa and aimed to bolster private sector development.
Yosi has had the privilege of traveling to various countries in Sub-saharan Africa, meeting beneficiaries of projects, engaging with government agencies and civil servants, and collecting first-hand data on the successes and challenges of various programs and projects. The question that continues to inspire her work on results measurement is how one can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of development organizations in delivering measurable and meaningful results. She applies various evaluation methodologies with a view to improve corporate performance and increase impact on ordinary Africans, local businesses, communities, and, wherever possible, on the national level.
Yosi is currently a senior consultant for an advisory firm, where she supports solar companies and agribusinesses in designing results frameworks that equip them to measure and deliver socioeconomic benefits to local communities. She lives in Tanzania with her husband, Peter Kasanda, and their two children, Joshua and Maliya.
The 2022 Recipient of the Mae Elizabeth Kilgo Spirit of Converse is Jeanne Foster Clark ’54
Jeanne (Foster) Clark is a proud graduate of the Converse College Class of 1954. She always longed to go to Converse, having grown up in Converse Heights, the youngest of nine children (and her only sister went to Converse also!). Her favorite subject was English with a focus on elementary education.
One of her most unusual memories was being a part of the assembly line that moved all the books across the campus to the new library (and the school has photo evidence!). Of course, another highlight of these college years were her trips to the Naval Academy to see her high school sweetheart and love of her life (and future husband), Shelby V.T. Clark.
No matter where the duty stations took her family – now with four children – Jeanne always considered Spartanburg home, and never missed a visit to see how Converse was growing and becoming more beautiful every year. Having retired to Spartanburg in 1977, Jeanne and Shelby have always supported the Converse Alumni Association through their gifts and attendance at reunions and other special events such as the plays and musical concerts at Twitchell Auditorium.
Jeanne is incredibly grateful and honored to be chosen for the Mae Elizabeth Kilgo Spirit of Converse Award.
The 2022 Recipient of the Young Alumni Award is Nariman (Nadia) Gathers ’15
Nariman Gathers (they/them) does process. They turn the mushiness of humaning (being a person) into discrete, discernible task flow. Nariman has used this superpower to help design communications identity at Code2040, build and sustain distributed teams at GitHub, manage incident communications at Slack, tackle some of the nation’s most pressing issues with the ACLU, and design operations at Plaid. They are an advisor to the University Innovation Fellows program at Stanford’s d.school, and teach design process at Fordham University and the New School at Parsons. They are a proud plant dad, a neurodiversity advocate, and will cry about friend-shaped objects.
Congratulations to the 2022 Recipients of the CONVERSE 100 Award
Komilla Bhatty ’97
Komilla is a senior-level leader with a proven track record in assessment, development and implementation of policies and programs. Her strong background in safety and loss control strategies lends to extensive experience in identifying and prioritizing scalable solutions with demonstrable results. She is a results-oriented strategic thinker who deftly bridges from strategy to implementation, using her collaboration & communication skills to build and lead top-tier teams to achieve goals. Komilla’s key competency lies in assessing corporate culture and programs to help clients integrate safety with overall business goals and establishing goals and objectives to create sustainable reduction in losses.
In her most recent role at Marsh Risk Consulting, Komilla advised clients as a senior strategic lead in diagnosing and directing loss mitigation and business growth initiatives. She managed a diverse range of client relationships including manufacturing, food and beverage, healthcare, and nonprofit educational institutions. She developed and employed unique assessment and analysis tools, assisted and led in training and content development for employee engagement, presented and communicated data trends and analysis, and developed alliance-based relationships between client groups and cohorts.
In her prior role as the Corporate Safety and Loss Prevention Manager for Wakefern Food Corp., Komilla led the development and implementation of corporate loss control programs with an aim to reduce risks and associated costs. Over a five-year period, Komilla successfully created a culture of empowerment and accountability by building engagement across diverse corporate divisions. She created and led measurement and reporting tools for benchmarking and performance, established employee engagement committees, and integrated employee training and wellness programs into operational excellence initiatives. As a result of her leadership across 7 distribution centers and over 330 retail locations over a five-year period, the organization saw significant savings in costs associated with inefficiencies, employee absenteeism and work-related injuries. Komilla was also instrumental in the assessment and development of the cooperative’s disaster response and business continuity plan that resulted in risk mitigation during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Previously, as the Program Manager of The Occupational Safety and Health Education Program at the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, Komilla successfully led development of training programs for a wide-range of corporate employers resulting in a 50% program budget growth in the first year of her leadership. She also led the program’s statewide Advisory Board consisting of leaders from key state industry organizations such as the American Chemistry Council of New Jersey, The Healthcare Institute of New Jersey, The New Jersey Petroleum Institute, federal OSHA regional leaders and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
Komilla received her Bachelors degree from Converse College in South Carolina with a minor in Leadership and completed her Masters in Public Health from the University of South Carolina. She served in the South Carolina National Guard for 8 years including completion of the Army Officer Candidate School at the Palmetto Military Academy in Leesburg, South Carolina in the top 3% of her class.
She strongly believes in mentoring and community service and has volunteered with the Big Brother Big Sister of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties of New Jersey as well as the Special Olympics of New Jersey. She lists these experiences as the most instrumental in her growth and beliefs as a professional and a citizen.
Amelia ‘Memi’ Speth Kinard ’66
Dr. Amelia S. Kinard (Memi) received her BA degree from Converse in 1966. After graduating in 3 years, she worked for the National Security Agency as a Systems Analyst in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Upon returning to Columbia, she began an extensive teaching career in both middle and high school math education. In 1986 she made the transition to Columbia College where she was an Assistant Professor and Head of the Mathematics Learning Center. In 1996 she earned her Masters and PhD in Mathematics Education from the University of South Carolina. In 2006 she retired from Columbia College after 39 years of teaching.
Memi has been married to Porter Kinard for 54 years. They are blessed to have 2 daughters, Mary Karl Kinard Boepple, Converse Class of 1991 and Amy Kinard. Memi’s mother, Amelia Albergotti Speth was also a Converse graduate, Class of 1933.
Chelsey Jeffers-Boggs Nyaradi ’09
LCDR (Sel) Chelsey Jeffers-Boggs Nyaradi (formerly Boggs) is a native of South Carolina and graduated summa cum laude from Converse College with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Politics and a minor in Philosophy in May 2009. While at Converse, Chelsey was a member of Mortar Board, Crescent, served as Chair of the Honor Board Council, and was very active in Converse’s Model Programs. She is the recipient of the Nathaniel F. Magruder Award for History, the James F. Byrnes Politics Award, and the Strom Thurmond and Holly Richardson Scholarship.
Before beginning law school she worked with the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations as a Special Projects Assistant where she aided in the planning of cultural excursions to the Middle East for members of Central Command. She graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in May 2014, where she served as a Senior Articles Editor for the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy and as a student attorney with the Community Justice Project Clinic. Chelsey also served as a Global Teaching Fellow, a National Security Crisis Fellow (post-graduation), and a member of the Pro Bono Board. During her time with the Community Justice Project she co-authored a publication on combating notario fraud in Hispanic communities within the great Washington, D.C. area. While at Georgetown she interned with the New Orleans Public Defenders Office, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
Chelsey commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corp in December 2013 and graduated from Officer Development School in September 2014. She graduated from the Basic Lawyer Course in December 2014 and reported to Regional Legal Service Office Japan in Yokosuka, Japan. LT Nyaradi then reported to Defense Service Office Pacific in July 2016 before returning to RLSO Japan and serving as the Staff Judge Advocate for Amphibious Squadron ELEVEN (CPR-11) deployed onboard USS BONHOMME RICHARD. She then departed Japan for Gulfport, MS in June 2017 where she served as the Staff Judge Advocate for the Seabees as a part of the command Naval Construction Group TWO. In March 2019, she received orders to Manama, Bahrain, where she served as the Branch Head for Defense Service Office North-Bahrain for two years. During this time she became involved with rescue efforts for local stray dogs, facilitating the transportation and re-homing of numerous dogs into the United States. After departing Bahrain, Chelsey reported to Region Legal Service Office Southwest as a trial counsel in May 2021 where she has had the privilege of being assigned to several hi-profile cases.
LCDR (Sel) Nyaradi is authorized to wear the National Service Defense Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corp Achievement Medal (Gold Star in Lieu of Second Award), and the Navy and Marine Corp Commendation Medal (Gold Star in Lieu of Third Award). She married LT Dan Nyaradi in 2021, and they reside in Imperial Beach, California with their beloved pets. Outside of their naval careers, the two maintain a passion for animal rights advocacy and are laying the groundwork to establish the Judah Foundation, a charity intended to provide funds for dogs whose owners cannot afford vital treatment needed to combat Dilated Cardiomyopathy.