Since his retirement from the federal government in December 2016, Dr. Yamashita has been serving as an Executive Mentor and Coach for the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID). In this capacity he has travelled to various USAID Missions in Latin America, providing support to senior managers and the staff on matters ranging from leadership skills, strategic direction, and engagement with other U.S. government agencies, such as the State Department. During his over 25 year career, Yamashita served as a USAID Foreign Service Officer, attaining the rank of Career Minister, the highest rank in the Senior Foreign Service at USAID. Immediately prior to his retirement, Yamashita served as a White House Senior Executive Service Appointee as the Associate Director for Global Operations at Peace Corps. In this role, Yamashita was responsible for all operational aspects of Peace Corps programs and offices in over 60 countries supporting over 7,000 volunteers. Prior to this appointment, Yamashita was the U.S. State Department Coordinator for Economic Assistance, Rule of Law and Law Enforcement at Embassy/Kabul. In this Ambassador-rank position, Yamashita directed policy and operational coordination across 13 US Departments, Agencies, and Offices operating in Afghanistan on matters related to economic and development assistance, law enforcement, and rule of law. He was the principal point of contact for NATO and US military assistance in Afghanistan. Yamashita is one of the few three-time Mission Directors at USAID, having served in Kosovo, Colombia, and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, he was the first Mission Director to serve two consecutive years after USAID re-started its operations in 2002. In this role he oversaw the surge in development personnel from 250 to 500 and an annual program budget of over $2.0 billion. He was instrumental in starting the first ever Women’s Empowerment program in Afghanistan and the largest of its kind in USAID worldwide. In Colombia Yamashita was instrumental in starting the first-ever dedicated program for Afro-Colombians and Indigenous Colombians. In South Africa as Director of the Health Office, Yamashita and his team started the USAID’s first HIV/AIDS program for the country. This program and the Regional Corridors program that Yamashita directed were key inputs into the design and creation of the PEPFAR program. Yamashita brings over 35 years of development experience in policy and field operations across all major regions of the world. In addition to his leadership in policy and program matters, he has been instrumental in inspiring and empowering staff by serving as mentor and coach. He has been recognized for his service and accomplishments, including a Presidential Rank Meritorious Award in 2008.
Dr. Alex Harris is an academician, humanitarian, singer/songwriter and a Cross the Line Music/SONY-Orchard recording artist. Beyond his billboard hits, 4 # 1 singles, and traveling the world Dr. Harris is co-founder of the Arts Conservatory for Teens (ACT).
Carole Anne Seidelman grew up outside of New York City, where she now is based. With a degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in linguistics, having done graduate work there as well in Romance linguistics, she has lived and worked in four countries, in international tourism and education. She speaks five languages, studies others regularly, has her own multi-lingual tour company, and compares languages to windows: if you only speak one language, then you are in a room with just one window.
Janet K. Keeler is a journalism instructor and coordinator of the Graduate Food Writing and Photography Certificate Program at University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Her paper “Inhospitable Chairs: Everyday Insults that Negatively Impact Higher-Weight Individuals” was presented at the Sixth Annual Weight Stigma Conference in Leeds, England, in 2018. Keeler is a 35-year daily newspaper veteran with 15 years as the food editor at the Tampa Bay Times. She is a contributor for The Zest podcast on WUSF Public Media and is a judge for the annual James Beard Foundation journalism awards. Keeler is a doctoral candidate in Education Program Development at the University of South Florida and her research emphasis is on what university students learn when they study food writing.
Mary Shedden is news director at WUSF Public Media, where she oversees a team of broadcast and digital journalists covering 13 counties on Florida's west coast.
Dr. Prager is a marine scientist and author, widely recognized for her expertise and ability to make science entertaining and understandable for people of all ages. She currently works as a freelance writer, consultant, and science advisor to Celebrity Cruises in the Galapagos Islands. She was previously the Chief Scientist for the Aquarius Reef Base program in Key Largo, FL, which includes the world’s only undersea research station, and at one time the Assistant Dean at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Dr. Prager has built a national reputation as a scientist and spokesperson on earth and ocean science issues and is a sought-after speaker for public-oriented events. She has appeared on The Today Show and NBC News, Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, CBS Early Show, The Weather Channel, in shows for the Discovery Channel and was a consultant for the Disney movie, Moana.