Our Mission

Nashville International Center for Empowerment’s mission is to ensure refugees and immigrants achieve their full potential now and for generations to come. Our goal is to empower refugees and immigrants with resources and opportunities that will aid them in their resettlement and equip them to be successful in the future.

We do this by:

  • Advocating for refugees and immigrants
  • Building strong community of relationships
  • Creating sustainable service programs
  • Developing partnerships in Middle Tennessee

History of NICE

In 2005, the Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE) was founded by a group of Sudanese refugee men and women, including our President/CEO Dr. Gatluak Ter Thach, who desired to help other refugees and immigrants living in Middle Tennessee. 

Many of the center’s founders came to the United States in the 1990s from war-torn Sudan, with the goal of finding a safe place to live, work, and raise their families. However, most Sudanese refugees had little educational experience due to the war, making their resettlement extremely difficult. 

The experiences of these founders prompted the creation of NICE, so they could help others with skills that would help them gain their independence and self‐sufficiency in their new home.

Where We Are Today from President & CEO: Dr. Gatluak Ter Thach

“Greater Nashville continues to see an incredible influx of refugees and immigrants from all over the world and the demand for refugee services rises. The challenges faced by the NICE target population are often exacerbated by ‘mainstream’ support systems that often do not account for the steep access problems facing non-native English speakers, the majority of whom are unfamiliar with American culture. I can testify to this myself. Our primary goal remains the same, to empower refugees and immigrants through English literacy, but there has been an increase in demand for a wider range of services which has led to the diversification of NICE offerings.”

Fundamental to our mission is targeting the root causes of poverty within greater Nashville’s refugee and immigrant community, creating opportunities for upward socioeconomic mobility, and the social integration of those it serves.

We aim to increase our clients’ abilities to effectively read, write, and speak English, facilitating long-term independence and stability. Leading to sustainable employment and self-sufficiency for adults and ongoing academic achievement for children, thereby addressing the underlying issues contributing to poverty in our community.

Clients are encouraged and challenged to think beyond their current circumstances and discuss long-term goals. NICE makes every effort to establish the foundation necessary to achieve these goals by placing clients in educational and employment environments that are conducive to ultimate success.

Meet Our Team

Dr. Gatluak Thach

President & CEO

Gatluak Ter Thach, PhD is the founder and current president and CEO of Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE). NICE ensures refugees and immigrants achieve their full potential now and for generations to come. In 2010, NICE became an affiliate of ECDC, in partnership with the State Department in Washington, DC’s Refugee Resettlement Program to resettle refugees here in the United States. Dr. Thach is a refugee and immigrant rights activist who serves on board of directors for several organizations, include Sudanese Human Rights Organization, Advisory Council of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Mayor’s New American Council, Tennessee for All of Us, Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity, Sudanese Presbyterian Church, Alliance for South Sudanese in Diaspora, Relief Organization for South Sudan – USA, Volar Collegiate Academy, and others.

Dr. Thach received numerous awards, including White House Champion of Change Award from President Obama, CEO of the Year Award, Distinguished Service Award, Human Right Rising Advocate Award, Power of Inclusion Award, Community Empowering Award, New Immigrant Leadership Award, Peace Ambassadors USA Award, among others. He is also the author of My New American Dream. His upcoming books include “The Life of the Leader: A loving Memory of Deng Ter Thach (William); The Sustainable Integration for the New Hope” and “Why My People Continuing to Suffer in South Sudan.“

Dr. Thach’s work focuses on providing leadership and supervision to his organizational team and their subordinates. He is an expert in community and organizational development, program and budget planning and management, strategic planning, collaboration and partnership building, resource development, advocacy, and executive coaching.

Dr. Thach earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science with a minor in mathematics from Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee in 2003. He went on to pursue a master’s degree in public service from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, and graduated as a member of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in social science. In 2014, Dr. Thach earned a PhD in Organizational Leadership with an emphasis on Strategic Planning from Argosy University in Nashville, TN.

He is married to his beloved wife, Nyakuma Ter Thach, and they are blessed with four beautiful children: Duang, Ter Jr., Selena, and Pel Thach.

Parvez Mohsin

Parvez Mohsin

Chief Education & Development Officer

Parvez is a nonprofit industry professional with a combination of management skills in development, public policy, and research. During his tenure in higher education, he led various global projects in alignment with St. John's University's Global Initiatives Program focusing on education and empowerment of underserved populations. He has a decade of progressive project management experience in community development in international locations including Brazil, Turkey, and Vietnam among others.

Parvez served as Director of St. John’s University’s Dr. M. T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery in New York City from 2003 to 2016 and as Adjunct Professor from 2007 to 2015. He received an MA in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Cultural Studies and an MA in Global Development and Social Justice from St. John’s University. Capstone/Thesis in Global Development titled “Child Labor and Slavery in Bangladesh: Building Human Rights Through Information Sharing”.

He holds a Master of Public Administration from the renowned Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, New York.

Idah Boyer

Director of Operations and Employee Services

Idah Mathu was born and raised in Nairobi Kenya. She later moved to South Africa to pursue a Degree in Computer Science and upon completion moved to the United States. Idah joined NICE in September of 2009 as a Financial and Administrative Coordinator. She is also now the Director of Operations and Employee Services. Idah speaks Swahili, English and Kikuyu.

Cindy Cunningham

Chief Finance, Operations & Resettlement Officer

Cindy was born and raised in Iowa with her 10 brothers and sisters. She graduated from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology. She spent over 30 years in corporate America starting in Quality Assurance and moving through several other areas including Finance and Sales. In Febuary of 2011, she started at NICE as a volunteer. In June, she was hired to be the Resettlement Program Coordinator overseeing all parts of NICE’s Resettlement Program, specifically R&P. Cindy currently serves as the Chief Finance, Operations and Resettlement Services Officer.

Koang Chol

Transportation Manager

In 2011, Koang graduated from Nashville State Community College with an associate degree in Business Information Systems. In 2013, he graduated from Trevecca Nazarene University with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Relations. While working at NICE, he pursued his educational goal and obtained his Master of Science Degree in Management at Trevecca Nazarene University in 2015. He joined the NICE staff in October of 2011 as the RSS coordinator helping find sustainable employment for refugees. Koang currently serves as the Transportation Manager. Koang speaks Arabic, English and Nuer.

Chris Linthicum

Director of Resettlement Services

Before joining the NICE team, Chris served as the Business Director of the Kiwengwa Nursery, Primary & Secondary School in Zanzibar, Tanzania, where he supported all the financial processes and fundraising. He then worked with the Barefoot College in Tanzania where he trained and mentored the fieldwork team, implemented process improvements and monitored effectiveness of programs.

Prior to his work in Zanzibar, Chris worked at Habitat for Humanity where he was the Director of Post Purchase Support. He conducted outreach and supported families, resulting in the development and implementation of the Family Support Program to help educate and support families in their first year of home ownership. As the Director of Resettlement Services, Chris is responsible for direct management of the Resettlement Services staff and delivery of all core services to our new arrivals.

Nadia Rahman

Director of Health

Nadia is originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh. She received her M.Phil in medical anthropology from the University of Oxford in 2010, M.A. in anthropology with a concentration in international development from George Washington University (GWU) in 2008, and a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Delaware in 2005. Her research interests include reproductive health and urban development in Dhaka, Bangladesh. After completing her graduate studies, she worked as a research associate for the Global Gender Program and Culture in Global Affairs at GWU. She also facilitated student discussions for the Department of Anthropology at GWU. She moved to Nashville to pursue a career in program and grants management for the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University. Nadia currently serves as NICE's Associate Director of Self-sufficiency Services.

Brandon White

Director of Education

Brandon was raised in Cary, North Carolina. He graduated from Campbell University with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies in 2009. He then received an MTS from Emory University in 2011. His graduate research focused on globalization, immigration, and cultural studies. Brandon has published with Yale University Press (2011), Templeton Press (2012), and The Borgen Project (2017). From 2013 to 2017, he served as a Montessori teacher with Durham Public Schools in North Carolina. He also has experience in the non-profit sector teaching children and adults. Most recently, he served as a site coordinator for the EdVenture Children’s Museum where he supervised a STEM based afterschool and summer program. Brandon currently serves as the Director of NICE's Education program.

Aisha White

Immigration Services Manager

Aisha is originally from Nigeria. She came to the US for college and graduated from Mid-Continent University in Mayfield, KY in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. She started as a volunteer with NICE in July 2009 and has enjoyed meeting and getting to know people from many different walks of life. She currently works as the Immigration Manager, overseeing immigration applications and following-up as needed. Aisha speaks Hausa, English and Spanish.

Ally Thomas

Adult Education Manager

Ally is a Pennsylvania native who moved to Nashville in 2018. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a dual major in anthropology and art history. She earned her teaching certificate in 2011 and then served as the Education Coordinator at the Erie Art Museum where she managed studio art classes and organized school tours. She also served as a program assistant in the folk art department for Old Songs New Opportunities: a cultural preservation program that trained former refugees to work in local childcare centers. She has worked in many education departments including the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and the Nashville Zoo. She can speak French and can sing children’s songs in Arabic, Swahili, Nepali, Spanish and Bosnian!

Byamungu Shamavu

COVID-19 Trusted Messenger

Byamungu Shamavu was born in the Congo but fled to Uganda. In Uganda, he trained as a pastor in Vision of God Church in Nakivale Refugee Camp. Byamungu is also trained in peace building and trauma healing as well as adult literacy. He moved to the United States in 2014, and joined NICE as an interpreter and driver on his second day here. Byamungu now works at Vanderbilt University but continues to serve as an evangelist at Woodmont Hills Swahili Church. He is also now a COVID-19 Trusted Messenger at NICE. Byamungu is happy to communicate with refugee and immigrant families about the COVID-19 vaccine. Byamungu speaks many languages: Swahili, English, French, Kinyarwanda, Mashi, Kihavu, Kirundi, Lingala, and more.
Halima Ingabire

Halima Ingabire

Youth Education Associate Manager

Halima Ingabire was born in Uganda but grew up in Rwanda. She came to the United States as an international student on a full scholarship from St.Olaf College in Minnesota. Halima graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work with a concentration in Race and Ethnic Studies. During her time in college, she interned with some major international organizations including Partners in Health, City of Joy Rwanda and others. In 2017, Halima received a $10,000 grant from the Davis Projects for Peace Award, which she used to promote peace and reconciliation through art among the youth in Rwanda. Halima moved to Nashville, TN in 2018 and currently serves as the Youth Education Associate Manager at NICE.
Sophiya Marsani

Sophiya Marsani

Adult Education Data Specialist

Sophiya was born and raised in Nepal. She has earned her Bachelor of Science in Social work (Magna cum Laude) from Tennessee State University. Before she came to US, Sophiya worked as a Program Assistant with the local non-profit organization, helped international volunteers learn the Nepali language and helped design and implement the projects in Nepal. In 2014, she came to the United States and in 2017 joined NICE staff team as an immigration specialist to help refugees and immigrants with their applications. Sophiya currently serves as the Adult Education Data Specialist. Through the Adult education program, she supports refugees and immigrants’ clients in their journey to learn English, improve the quality of their lives and seek long term employment. She believes; the service of divine purpose is a great blessing and brings great harmony to her life.
Hanna Mwanse

Hanna Mwanse

Youth Mentorship Coordinator

Hanna was born in Kansas, USA, but was raised in Nigeria. She received her Bachelor of Science from Bingham University and also holds a Masters in Business Administration and Management from Nasarawa State University, Nigeria. Before moving back to the States, Hanna worked as a professor at Bingham University. She joined NICE in March 2018 as an Immigration Specialist and was also in charge of the NICE Family Mentorship Program. Currently, she serves as the Youth Mentorship Coordinator where she ensures youth get high quality and comprehensive academic support that is culturally and linguistically sensitive. By helping refugee and immigrant youth connect to school and the community at large through blended academic enrichment activities, she hopes to foster good decision-making process which will result in healthy, productive, and prosperous lives.
Bhuwan Nepal

Bhuwan Nepal

Associate Manager of Refugee Support Services

Bhuwan was born in Bhutan but had to flee his country when he was three months old. He moved to Nepal where he lived as a refugee for 17 years. He completed high school while he was there in 2008. He came to the United States in May of 2009. Bhuwan was hired as one of the case workers at NICE in June of 2011, where he has assisted many Resettlement and Employment clients. He now works as a Refugee Support Services Specialist. Bhuwan is currently studying Pre-Nursing at Nashville State Technical College. He speaks Nepali, Hindi, Dzonkha and English.
Fozia Mohamed

Fozia Mohamed

Adult Education Student Coordinator

Fozia is originally from Hargeisa, Somalia. She moved to Pakistan, at the age of 13 where she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Development Studies. While pursuing her education, she worked as a full time Somali interpreter and translator with a local non-governmental organization and then with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. She and her husband moved to USA in 2015. Before joining NICE Fozia worked with Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition as a Multicultural Organizer were she helped serve the community by engaging them in civic participation, identifying and recruiting coalition members, and maintaining open communication between all immigrant & refugee groups. As NICE’s Adult Education Student Coordinator, Fozia connects Nashville’s adult English learners to NICE’s Adult Education course offerings while simultaneously connecting NICE students to larger services offered in the Nashville community.

Joey King

Adult Education Site Coordinator

Joey was raised in East Tennessee and went to college in Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. He served in the army as paratrooper from 1984-1987. He has been teaching English as a Second Language and citizenship in Nashville since September 2001. In 2017, Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC) honored Joey with a Lifetime Achievement award recognizing his service with veterans and refugees. He joined the NICE team in March of 2019.

Michelle Davenport

Adult Education Site Coordinator

Michelle was raised in the Nashville area. She graduated from Western Kentucky University
with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders in 2006. She then received her TEFL
certification and taught ESL in Japan, Mexico and Uganda. Once returning stateside, she
completed her Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in ESL education from MTSU in
2011. She served as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Atlanta, GA for Refugee Family Services and
found a strong desire to work with the refugee population. She first started with NICE by
teaching a math and computer class and then switched to ESL classes only. She is now the
lead teacher at The Donelson Fellowship site. She enjoys making an impact in the lives of her
students and supports the mission of NICE and the Adult Education Program.
Mulki Mohamed

Mulki Mohamud

Associate Manager of Match Grant

Mulki was born in Somali, but spent 18 years livings in a refugee camp in Kenya. When she was in high school, Mulki received a scholarship to study Public Relations at Jomokenyatta University. Mulki came to the United States in 2014 and was resettled by NICE. She joined the NICE staff team in 2016 as the Administrative Assistant, and currently serves as a Refugee Self-Sufficiency Case Manager.
Joyce Heil

Joyce Heil

HiSET Reading and Writing Teacher

Joyce graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in English and Secondary Teaching. After raising her family and years of community volunteering, she received her ESL certification in 2019. Joyce has taught beginning and intermediate English and currently teaches remotely to students in Bolivia. At NICE, she teaches reading and writing skills for students desiring to obtain their High School Equivalency Degree.
Kabita Poudel

Kabita Poudel

Health Case Manager

Kabita was born in Bhutan but had to flee the country with her family when she was just a baby. Her family moved to Nepal where she lived as a refugee for 20 years. She was trained in the healthcare system and received her CMA (Certified Medical Assistant) in Nepal where she worked as a Community Nutrition Specialist. She provided daily and emergency medical assistance, nutrition and health education. Kabita responded to the medical and nutritional needs of the community. Her family arrived in Tennessee in 2012 and were resettled by NICE. Kabita was employed at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital and joined the NICE staff in October 2015. She serves as a Health Case Manager and is also responsible for the intensive case management in our Elders program. She speaks English and Nepali.

Samantha Jenkins

Administrative Assistant

Samantha was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. She began working in federally subsidized family housing in 1988 and eventually became the manager of a 250 unit complex. She went on to continue her career in housing management and worked as assistant manager and activities director for a senior living facility. Samatha thrives when she is working to help people, and it is her heart’s desire to continue this work in her position at NICE.
Kelvine Muhire

Kelvine Muhire

Youth Education Site Coordinator

Kelvine is originally from Rwanda. She was born in Burundi, moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and grew up in Rwanda.

She holds a bachelor's degree in law and a Masters in Genocide Studies from the National University of Rwanda. In 2011, as her country was transitioning from French to English, she came to the U.S. as a Romeo Dallaire scholarship recipient, to learn English at Lewis and Clark College in Portland/Oregon. In 2013, she received a Global Health Corps fellowship, and was based at the Rwandan Ministry of Health.

Kelvine moved to Nashville in 2015 and volunteered with Siloam Health as a Medical Interpreter.
She worked with World Relief as an interpreter as well. Kelvine is also a certified medical interpreter from the Tennesee Language Center. She speaks English, French, Swahili, Kinyarwanda and Kirundi. In her new role as an Immigration Specialist at NICE, Kelvine enjoys assisting refugees and immigrants in filling their application.

Jody Sostrin

Jody Sostrin

Adult Education Occupational and Training Specialist

Jody was born and raised in suburban Chicago. She received a B.A in economics from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and a M.A in linguistics from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, Illinois. She has taught and tutored ESL students at all levels in a variety of content areas. Since coming to Nashville, she has mainly been involved in helping students obtain their citizenship. Before coming to NICE, she was the citizenship manager at Nashville Adult Literacy Council responsible for administering a USCIS citizenship and integration grant. She is excited to work as the Occupational and Training Specialist in the Adult Education department at NICE and help students achieve their full potential.

Nat Martinez-White

Communications Specialist

Nat Martinez-White (she/they) is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with degrees in Cinema & Media Arts and Anthropology. Creating stories and helping others share theirs is her passion, and she seeks to do so through freelance writing, filmmaking and visual art. Growing up, Nat spent much of their time with their Mexican family, presenting a way of life that was much different than that of her peers in a small Midwestern town. In her free time, Nat loves to create art with her friends and pet her cat Tortellini.
Jonathan Turner

Jonathan Turner

Education Data Coordinator

Jonathan Turner was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2019 he graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor's degree in Aerospace and a focus on unmanned aircraft, information systems, and crew resource management. Since graduating Jonathan has served as a volunteer for NICE's Education Department as both teacher and teacher's assistant. He is currently responsible for supporting the Adult Education data team as Education Data Coordinator.
Eric Bishonda

Eric Bishonda

Reception & Placement Case Manager

Eric Bishonda prides himself in his work with people with disabilities and vulnerable groups. He has been working with refugees since 2016. He previously worked at World Relief Nashville, TN, and at Catholic Charities in Refugee Resettlement services. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Bugema University in Kampala, Uganda in 2012. In his current role as Resettlement and Placement Case Manager at NICE, Eric helps to welcome newly arrived refugees to Nashville, ensuring they are connected to necessary resources during their first 90 days in the United States.

Hanan Shaibu

Transportation Specialist

Hanan is originally from Sudan and came to the U.S in 2014, along with her family. Hanan joined St. Thomas Hospital in Feb. 2015 through Compass Group. Also, she attended Nashville State Community College for 2 years as a full-time student. Ms. Shaibu helps drive for NICE’s after school program.

Rayaan Bashir

Reception & Placement Case Manager

Rayaan recently graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis and was an intern with NICE assisting Youth ED with the after-care and summer programs.

Chol Rambang

Gallatin Interim Site Manager

Chol is South Sudanese, born in Ethiopia. Fleeing war torn Sudan, Chol and her family immigrated as refugees to the United States when she was a little girl. Chol received her Bachelor of Science and minor in Nonprofit Administration from the University of Memphis. In college Chol worked for the Multicultural Affairs office at UofM and volunteered at the Refugee Empowerment Program in Memphis. She is also a member of the Tennessee National Guard. Her passion is giving back and advocating for her community. Chol currently serves as the Gallatin Interim Site Manager.
Sarah Lonn

Sarah Lonn

Employment & Cash Assistance Manager

Sarah is originally from Columbus, Ohio. She received her Bachelor's from Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied French language and systems of oppression. She then worked as a Program Manager at a supported living agency for adults with developmental disabilities, before returning to school at Vanderbilt University where she received a Master's in Education in the Community Development and Action program. Sarah currently serves as the Refugee Support Services Program Manager.
Dr. Monte Talley

Dr. Monte Talley

Reception & Placement Program Manager

Monte grew up in Nashville and is a cultural and medical anthropologist by training. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from Vanderbilt University and has a Master’s degree in Sociology from Middle Tennessee State University. Over the last 15 years, she has collaborated with foreign research institutions, NGOs, government agencies, independent consultants, and communities on projects addressing issues of human rights, child labor, health, education, and the environment. Her doctoral research, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, examined the açaí (palm fruit) commodity boom and its socioeconomic consequences in two rural Amazon communities in eastern Brazil, focusing on children’s labor contributions, dangers involved in extraction, and the effects on children’s health, education, and wellbeing. She also has been a visiting professor at colleges and universities in Tennessee, including Vanderbilt University and Sewanee: The University of the South. Monte is fluent in Portuguese and speaks basic Spanish.
Tiffy Barnett

Tiffy Barnett

ESL Instructor

There is no one braver or more committed than my students, who come from all over the world to Nashville – so different and so disorienting for them – yet they surmount so many barriers to plug away at learning English despite all the difficulties! I’m originally from Washington, D.C., and received my undergraduate and graduate degrees from UT. After several careers at Metro Nashville government as a counselor for teens and their families, as a program director in child welfare services and finally as a grants manager for the Metro Finance Department, I retired. Following several years at Camelot Care services working on reaccreditation and quality assurance, I got TEFL certification from the Tennessee Language Institute. For the last 6 years, I have found great satisfaction in teaching ESL (and Citizenship) to so many wonderful students, at the Nashville Adult Literacy Council, as a volunteer at St. Luke’s church, and at NICE.

Sabine El Khoury

Immigration Associate Manager

Sabine was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. Her passion for human rights led her to pursue a career in law. She holds a law degree from Saint Joseph University in Beirut and a Master of Laws from the University of Iowa, which focuses on human rights and immigration. Sabine currently serves as the Match Grant Specialist at NICE.

Kevin Hunter

ESL and Citizenship Instructor

Kevin A Hunter was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. His family moved from Toledo to
Bowling Green, KY in 1968. On completion of high school, Kevin enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Returning home, he completed a BA degree in history with minors in folk studies, anthropology, and library science at Western Kentucky University, followed by completion of a MA degree in Intercultural Studies with an emphasis in Historic
Preservation at the same university. His employment with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development in computer maintenance began in 1996 where he met his wife, Robbie Ann Ziegler. Shortly before marriage to Robbie, Kevin transferred to the Tennessee Department of Health in computer maintenance and maintenance of the department’s internet and intranet sites. Upon retirement from the state in 2014, Kevin and Robbie obtained certification at the Tennessee Language Center for teaching English as a Second Language. He volunteered teaching ESL for NICE in June 2014 and soon became employed as a part-time teacher. Kevin has had much satisfaction in helping immigrants and refugees adapt to U.S. by teaching English and citizenship classes. He also teaches ESL part-time for the Nashville Adult Literacy Council.
Emmanuel Semahoro

Emmanuel Semahoro

Refugee Support Services Specialist

Emmanuel Semahoro was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and grew up in Rwanda. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Library and Information Science from Cheikh Anta Diop University and a diploma from Kigali Institute of Education. He has been working as a librarian for seven years, volunteered in different international organizations including Compassion International Rwanda. In his new role as Refugee Support Services Specialist at NICE, Emmanuel enjoys assisting refugees and immigrants in finding employment and ensuring that they are self-sufficient as quickly as possible. Emmanuel speaks Swahili, English, French, Kinyarwanda, and Kinyamulenge.
Max Rykov

Max Rykov

Director of Development & Communications

Max was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and his family moved to the United States as refugees in 1993. Max received a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Religious Studies from the University of Alabama, and began his professional career by organizing fundraising events for non-profit organizations in Alabama. Max's community involvement led him to City Hall in Birmingham, where he worked as the Community Engagement Officer for the Birmingham City Council - helping develop campaigns and events to increase interest in the participatory processes of local government. During his time at City Hall, Max continued producing community events to benefit local organizations, served on local non-profit boards, and managed a micro-grant foundation. Max moved to Nashville in 2020, and his non-profit fundraising work led him to serve in the role of Associate Director of Development at NICE.
Kipkosgei Magut

Kipkosgei Magut

Community Engagement & Sponsorship Coordinator

Magut is an avid runner and Kenyan native. He graduated from Belmont University with a double major in Accounting and Information Systems Management. Over the last ten years, he has built a wealth of knowledge as an accountant, techie, and serial entrepreneur. Magut will assist with the development and execution of a Community Engagement & Sponsorship Program in conjunction with the NICE leadership team. Additionally, he will help cultivate relationships and partnerships across organizations in Middle Tennessee. He speaks Swahili, English and Kalenjin.

If you ever want someone to talk your ear off about social enterprise, blockchain, crypto, farming, and anything trivia-related, you can always count on Magut.

Elizabeth Harrington

Elizabeth Harrington

Associate Manager of Program Metrics & Quality Evaluation

Elizabeth was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Having grown up learning from friends and mentors with culturally diverse backgrounds, Elizabeth finds foundational importance in inclusivity, communication, empathy, and diversity as our greatest strengths. In 2019, Elizabeth earned her Bachelor of Science in Social Psychology and Organizational Behavior at the University of California, San Diego.

After moving to Nashville, TN, Elizabeth worked as Director of Human Resources in the sales & marketing industry, before getting an opportunity in 2021 to align her passions with her work. She started at NICE as a Youth Summer Camp Coordinator, where she became invested in furthering opportunities for the refugee community in Nashville. Elizabeth now works as NICE’s Volunteer & Training Coordinator, where she aims to connect role models and passionate individuals to spaces they can provide the most impact. She approaches each day with the mentality that we have multitudes to learn from each person we meet.

Matty Templeton

Refugee Support Services Specialist

Matty grew up in New York and moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University, where he studied Communication Studies and Jazz Guitar Performance. His research focused on the intersection between language and social justice, including a partnership with Workers’ Dignity immigrant worker center in which he designed a language justice-centered training curriculum for new interpreters. Outside of NICE, Matty enjoys making music and cooking. Matty speaks English, Spanish, and some Russian.
Robbie Manauis

Robbie Manauis

Youth Education Associate Manager of Mental Health

Rob was born in Manila, Philippines and grew up in Chicago, Illinois, USA. He graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a B.A. in Psychology. His primary focus was studying social psychology and genocide. He worked at a mental health crisis unit and substance abuse treatment center, where he discovered his passion for education. He served as a volunteered leader of human rights activism with Amnesty International and worked as an educator with various schools and non-profit organizations, including the Holocaust Museum of SWFL and Teach For America. He graduated from the University for Peace in Costa Rica with an M.A. in Peace Education. His primary focus was developing a pedagogy of peace that uses art to challenge invisible systems of oppression and transform cultures of violence. He has years of experience teaching all age groups in the USA, Indonesia, and Maldives. He was an adjunct professor of First Year Experience and Co-Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Committee at Florida SouthWestern State College. He moved to Nashville in June 2021 and now serves as a Youth Education Site Coordinator. He speaks some Spanish and some Tagalog.

By encouraging empathy, creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking, his goal is to help students improve their lives and empower them to create positive change in the world!

Dylan DePriest

Dylan DePriest

Refugee Cash Assistance Specialist

Dylan is originally from Providence, Rhode Island. He moved to Nashville to study at Vanderbilt University, where he received his B.S. in Public Policy Studies and Human & Organizational Development in 2020. His research interests include mass incarceration and statelessness. Before working full-time for NICE, he was the Match Grant Intern in the summer of 2021 and the Self-Sufficiency Intern in the fall of 2019. Prior to finishing his undergraduate studies, he worked for the UNHCR as a Registration Intern in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2019, and as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member in 2018. He currently serves as NICE’s Refugee Cash Assistance Specialist, and is also currently an M.Ed. candidate in the Community Development & Action program at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College.
Victoria Jenkins

Victoria Jenkins

Immigration Specialist

Victoria Jenkins was born and raised in East Nashville. Being brought up in a racially isolated community and school system, the struggles and tribulations of people of color and immigrants has been ever present in their life. Victoria studied Multimedia Design at Nashville State Community College, and enjoys a night in with their cat and partner of six years.
At NICE, Victoria hopes to be able to help others rise up and build a better, fulfilling life in America as an Immigration Specialist.
Dameion Cowans

Dr. Dameion Cowans

Youth Education Program Manager

Dameion Cowans is an educational stakeholder-driven by his fervent desire to close achievement gaps, achieve equity in education, and employ responsive teaching strategies. He is a doctoral student set to defend his dissertation on October 23rd. He has served in several capacities within the Metro Nashville Public School system, such as 7th & 8th Grade Science Curriculum Writer. Also, he served as an instructional coach for private schools. Most recently, he served as the S.T.E.A.M. Director for the Metro Action Commission, and Assistant Principal. Dameion is a native of Birmingham, AL, and enjoys traveling with his family in his spare time.
Fuad Suleman

Fuad Suleman

Reception & Placement Case Manager

Fuad was born and raised in Iraqi Kurdistan. He moved to the US in early 2017. Throughout his long career, he has worked with different; local and international organizations, institutions and corporates holding various positions. His love of languages led him to study English language and literature and get Bachelor of Arts from Salahaddin University. Then he received his MBA from American University in Iraq. He joined NICE in September 2021 as Reception and Placement Case Manager. He loves his job and really enjoys helping immigrants and refugees. He is married and have three kids. He speaks Arabic, Kurdish, English and Farsi.
Hawzheen Sarmamya

Hawzheen Sarmamya

COVID 19 Trusted Messenger

Hawzheen arrived in Nashville three years ago after living in Erbil, Iraq. She studied Biology and architecture design in Salahaden University and Cihan University. Hawzheen began as an ESL student in the adult education program and is so happy to be working at NICE and helping immigrants and refugees. She has two young children and enjoys visiting Long Hunter State Park with her family to hike, play on the playground and picnic. She speaks English, Arabic and Kurdish.
Waris Ashkier

Waris Ashkier

Childcare Coordinator

Waris Ashiker is a part of the NICE childcare team in adult education. Waris was born in Somalia and moved to London, England in 1996. Waris is a seasoned caretaker and has worked as a teacher and nurse in centers across the world. She is the mother to four children and loves to watch movies and cheer for her son on the soccer field.
Amiira Ahmed

Amiira Ahmed

COVID 19 Trusted Messenger & Childcare Coordinator

Amiira Ahmed holds two positions at NICE: Childcare Coordinator and COVID 19 Trusted Messenger. Amiira was born in Somalia and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2003. She graduated from Washburn high school and helped her family to raise her 11 siblings. Amiira is trained and certified in Child Development and Guidance, Discipline in Child Care, Child and Infant CPR, Keeping Infants Safe, Emergency Preparedness in Child Care and Safety in Child Care Setting. Amiira enjoys working at NICE because “they encourage me to achieve my full potential as a child care educator for the next generation.” Amiira moved to Nashville in 2012 and has become a pillar of the local Somali community. She is thrilled that her position at NICE allows her to serve her community. She often translates for families and helps parents navigate the school system. As a trusted messenger, she teaches immigrants from all backgrounds about the importance of the COVID 19 vaccine. She is the mother of three lovely kids and loves to watch tv and visit new restaurants on the weekends.
Baraka Ntibonera

Baraka Ntibonera

Refugee Benefits Specialist

Baraka is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Migrated to the United States the year 2009. Baraka received his Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and an MBA from Liberty University. Baraka worked for Ntibonera Foundation in NC, and was in charge of shipping of 50k pairs of sneakers to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Baraka spent Five months working as an operation’s intern in the DRC for Samaritan’s Purse. He also worked as a Swahili translator for new arrival refugees in North Carolina. Baraka Currently serve as NICE's Refugee Benefits specialist.

Timothy Brass

Associate Manager of PC

Timothy Brass was born in Uganda. After his parents passed when he was at the tender age of one, he moved with his extended family who later agreed to put him up for adoption. He was adopted and moved to the States in 2006. He went on to pursue his undergraduate in Global Policy and Service Studies at Southern Adventist University and later went on to get his Masters in Public Health with a focus on Health Services, Management and policy at East Tennessee State University.

He has worked as a Patient Service Representative at Covenant Health, Behavioral Respite at Frontier Health, and developed a Care Navigation program focused on assisting children with chronic and complex health conditions at Niswonger Children’s Hospital with Ballad Health. Prior to joining the team at NICE, he served as a Public Health Specialist and Project Manager for the African Regional Covid-19 Food Security Project at ADRA International in Uganda.

Connor Georgopulos

Housing and Resource Specialist

Originally from Denver, Colorado, Connor relocated to Nashville from Wheaton, Illinois in October 2021. He graduated from John Brown University in 2018, playing soccer as a student athlete and earning a degree in International Business. For the last 3 years he has worked with a soccer ministry organization called the Chicago Eagles as a coach, accountant, international trip leader, and a leader for urban outreach and ministry in a refugee and immigrant neighborhood that he lived in.

Tomoka Kawamura

Childcare Coordinator

Tomoka, or Tomi, was born and raised in Southern Japan, Shikoku Island. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Bukkyo University in Kyoto and then taught students ages 13-18 grammar, reading, writing, and classic Chinese & Japanese literature. Tomi also served as the school librarian. In 2004 she earned her masters degree in education and developed a national curriculum for secondary education in Japan on moral & character development and social responsibility.In 2019, she moved to Nashville. Tomi currently is a childcare teacher at the Donelson Fellowship. She also teaches Japanese language and calligraphy at the TN Language Center. Her interests are vast and include kendo,a martial art similar to Japanese Traditional Fencing and neighborhood walks with her dog, Blue.

Fariba Jafari

Reception & Placement Case Manager

Fariba is originally from Iran, and she won the visa lottery back in 2000. She moved to the USA when she was 21 with a Bachelor degree in Nursing. She worked for 15 years as a nurse with a passion for helping sick people. She went back to school and earned a Bachelor's degree in Administration and Planning Care. She worked at a bilingual clinic as a Persian speaker to help refugees. Her passion remains serving refugees, which is why she joined the team at NICE.
Mohammad Sharif Jamshidy Headshot

Mohammed Sharif Jamshidy

Match Grant Case Manager

Mohammad was resettled by NICE in 2016, along with his family. In Afghanistan, he worked with coalition forces providing interpretation services for a period of 5 years.

For the last 3 years, he has joined Stanley Steamer International as a professional driver. Mohammad has received multiple certifications and recommendations from US army and coalition forces based on his ethic and interpretation skills.

Mir Ansari

APA PC Case Manager

Mir is from Afghanistan and came to the U.S. as a result of the recent evacuation, his educational background is in nutrition and health within the context of sports. His most recent work includes coaching adults/young adults develop plans for nutritional and holistic well-being.

Aidan Sullivan

Volunteer & Training Coordinator

Aidan was raised in Nashville, TN. He graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 2020. After graduating, he worked as a teacher at the Covenant School and participated in the Nashville Fellows program. Aidan currently serves as NICE's Instructional Support Specialist for our Adult Education program.
Nick Lloyd Headshot

Nick Lloyd

Reception & Placement Case Manager

A recently graduated German and Philosophy major from Belmont University with a work-background in mental health and substance-abuse, I bring to N.I.C.E. a systemic, trauma-informed perspective that I use to best serve the newly arrived persons. Outside of work you can find me hiking at one of the local parks, working through my insurmountable reading list, and playing music with friends.

Emily Behr

Distance Education Coordinator

Emily was born and raised in Nashville, and she attended the University of Louisville to study music and Arabic. In 2019, she volunteered with an organization called LEAP (Learning for the Empowerment & Advancement of Palestinians) which provides English and music programming for Palestinian and Syrian refugee students in Lebanon. Working with these English language learners solidified her desire to continue supporting refugee education. In addition to teaching in Lebanon, she has experience teaching English online and mentoring refugee students at Overton High School. She also enjoys studying applied psychology and counseling through the University of Santa Monica’s online program. She’s grateful to be part of the NICE team and is delighted to serve as the distance education coordinator.

Nasreen Seddiqee

APA PC Case Manager

Nasreen is originally from Afghanistan, and worked as a physicians’ assistant at Malalai Hospital in Afghanistan. Before joining the team at NICE, she worked at Siloam Health as a medical interpreter.

Lisa Zhito

ESL Instructor

Lisa Zhito is a certified English as a Second Language instructor with eight years’ experience teaching Nashville’s refugee and immigrant community. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science from Pitzer College in Claremont, California. Prior to her teaching career, she spent 30 years as a magazine writer and editor, and worked in marketing and public relations for non-profits and government agencies. Over the past eight years she has taught students with a wide range of English language ability, from basic Literacy to Business English clients. She and her husband love to travel. Lisa still plans to finish her novel some day.

Karawan Alhamadani

Refugee Support Services Specialist

Karawan comes to NICE with a deep background in community service and energetic work. Before joining the team at NICE, she worked at a photography studio, volunteered with Siloam Health, and served as a SNAP Outreach Coordinator. She enjoys studying ancient wisdom practices, and loves meeting people from different backgrounds to expand her knowledge and to share and grow with others.

Fatemeh Tavassoli

Adult Education ESL Instructor

Fatemeh is from Babol, a city in the north of Iran, and has also lived in Australia and Mexico before moving to the States. She has a B.A. in English Literature and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English Language Teaching. Fatemeh has been teaching ESL for about 15 years and loves her job. She is also interested in analyzing media discourse around refugees and migrants and has done a linguistic analysis of British media portrayal of Syrian refugees for her Ph.D. dissertation.

Carrie Heusinkveld

Development Coordinator

Carrie grew up in Nashville and received a BS in neuroscience and a BA in French from the University of Rochester. She previously lived in Rennes, France, where she taught English at the University of Rennes, and completed a master’s in French literature in the United Kingdom before returning to the United States. She currently serves as a development coordinator at NICE.

Elaina Chovanec

Associate Manager of Employment & Cash Assistance

Elaina was born and raised in Ohio. She attended Bowling Green State University, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders and her Master’s Degree in Public Administration. Before joining the NICE team, she volunteered with organizations that served migrants, immigrants, and refugees. Elaina also has professional experience working with children and adults with disabilities. She is currently serving as the Refugee Support Services Administrative Assistant.

Azadeh Najafian

Match Grant Specialist

Azadeh Najafian is from Shiraz, Iran. She moved to the United States in 2015 with her husband. She has a Ph.D. in Persian Literature and recently has graduated from Western Kentucky University with an MA in Folk Studies. Azadeh’s research interests include gender, immigration, community outreach, museums, and most importantly fiction and pop culture. Before joining NICE, she was helping victims of crimes, domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking find resources to support their needs. She currently serves as the Match Grant Specialist at NICE.

Consuela Reed

Adult Education ESL Instructor

This is her 1st year with NICE and her 6th year teaching English as a second language. She has taught international students from Nashville, South America, and Asia! She is compassionate about teaching and majored in Education at Lipscomb University, where she also earned her Master of Education degree. In her spare time, she enjoys writing poetry and volunteering. Her favorite quote, " I don't teach you how to be perfect with the English language, I teach you how to improve."

Adili Ntibonera

Finance Manager

Adili is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was raised in Nairobi, Kenya for 9 years then came to Greensboro, NC in 2009. She attended Liberty University and got her Bachelor's Degree in Accounting, and then relocated to Nashville in 2020. She am currently enrolled in an MBA in Human Resources at Liberty University, and serves as the Finance Manager at NICE.

Andalyn Hosking Borden

Site Coordinator

Originally from Utah, Andalyn relocated to Nashville to pursue her Master's Degree in International Education Policy and Management at Vanderbilt's Peabody College. In her previous experience as an Educator, she has worked as a Grade School Teacher, Special Education Specialist, Department Lead, and Coordinator for Adaptive Learning and taught English in multiple foreign countries.
Andalyn is excited to transition her career out of the classroom to help provide resources to the refugee community in Nashville. She is passionate about working with children and fostering environments where they can grow and learn.

Marissa Moore

Community Engagement & Sponsorship Specialist

Marissa Moore grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and is a graduate of Pepperdine University, where she earned bachelor's degrees in psychology and sociology. Upon graduating in 2021, she moved to Chicago and worked as a teaching assistant at a preschool for children with disabilities. She recently moved to Nashville and is passionate about helping others. Her position at NICE allows her to work closely with sponsorship groups in the area and assist them in providing the best care possible for our clients.

Board of Directors

Advisory Members

Andrea Ayers | Law Office of Andrea M. Ayers

Asrar Babikir | Catholic Charities, Nashville

Bruce Buchanan | Office of Siskind Susser PC

Chuol Both | Toshiba

Joseph Dickson | HealthTrust Purchasing Group/HCA

Mahmoud Eltighani, PhD | Tennessee State University

Mohamed Shukri Hassan | Metro Nashville Arts Commission

Julia Lydon, PhD | Retired

Tom Negri | Community Volunteer

Jeff Pack | Community Volunteer

Avi Poster | Nashville for All of Us

Anatina Sharma | Google

Dr. Stan Thangaraj | City College of New York

William Thompson, MD | Doctors Without Borders

Chair: Muna Muday, PhD Can. MPH | Vanderbilt University

Chair/Secretary: John Uwok, MA, MPH, PhD Can. |University of Tennessee

Treasurer: Lelan Evans | Lelan for President, LLC

Past Chair: Rosemary Lokule | Self-Employed

Beatrice Gatebuke, MA | FASHA

Nawzad Hawrami | Salahadeen Center of Nashville

Alex Sekwat, PhD | Tennessee State University

President/CEO: Dr. Gatluak Ter Thach | NICE


Nashville International Center for Empowerment would like to say thank you to each of our generous donors. We would not be able to offer the services we do without your contributions.