Founder and President
Prior to committing her time and energy fully to ConnecTeach, Bhavani worked at the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District (HEB ISD) as the Global Initiative Coordinator. Bhavani has been an educator for over two decades, beginning her teaching career as a Montessori teacher, and currently serving on the board of directors of Meridian School in Round Rock. In 2000, she started the Primary School at North Hills Preparatory, in Irving, Texas, and then worked as Advanced Academics Coordinator and Curriculum Director. In 2011, she led a group of teachers on a Fulbright-Hays project to India as the Curriculum Development Specialist, and in 2014, worked with the World Affairs Council to lead a group of teachers on a study tour of Morocco,. In 2013, Bhavani won the World Affairs Council International Educator of the Year award, and in 2014, was given the Triumph of the Spirit Award by Southern Methodist University in recognition for her work in promoting human rights. She is also a recipient of the Chiapas International Women Who Give Hope award, which she received in 2015. Bhavani holds a Masters of Science in Sociology from Virginia Tech.
Co-Founder and Secretary
Ijaz is co-founder and partner at DecisionGPS, LLC, a management consulting firm. He has spent the past 15 years as a senior executive leading R&D programs in the software industry. Prior to joining the corporate world, Ijaz was a tenured professor at the University of Texas-Arlington, where he taught Aerospace Engineering. Ijaz has a Ph.D in Aerospace Engineering from Purdue University.
Bhavna has a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Central Florida, Orlando and is a licensed teacher in the state of Texas with a specialization in Gifted and Talented Education and ESL. Bhavna realized her passion for teaching when she lived in Japan and volunteered at a high school in Tokyo to teach spoken English to 12th graders. Upon returning to the United States, Bhavna began teaching in Irving ISD as a fourth and fifth Grade G/T teacher. Bhavna is currently on a sabbatical to raise her daughter.
Gene Buinger of Frisco concluded a forty-five year career as a public school educator in June 2013. His career began as a teacher in the Blue Valley School District in suburban Kansas City in the Fall of 1968 after graduating with a B.A. in History from Fort Hays State College in Hays, Kansas. After five years of teaching, he became a high school administrator serving first as an assistant principal and then for two years as the principal of Halstead High School in Halstead, Kansas. In 1978 he was selected to serve as the superintendent of Halstead USD #440, and three years later moved to Arkansas City, Kansas to serve the USD #470 school district and complete his doctorate at OSU, Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 1985 he was selected as the superintendent of the Jenks Public Schools in suburban Tulsa, Oklahoma, and In 1989 he assumed the superintendency in Odessa, Texas, a position he held until 1996. In that year Dr. Buinger became the superintendent of the public school system in Macon, Georgia, the state’s third largest city. In 1999 he returned to Texas to serve as the superintendent of schools in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District in the DFW Metroplex, a position he held for fourteen years. During his career Dr. Buinger served on the governing boards of the United Way of Texas, Texas Business Education Coalition, and the Texas Education Reform Caucus. He was a career long member of the American Association of School Administrators and Texas Association of School Administrators. In addition, he served as the president of the Texas School Alliance, a coalition of school districts that serve over 75% of Texas school children. Gene and his wife Mary Kay, a former secondary and college history instructor, have two adult children. Ann is an elementary assistant principal in Bedford, Texas, and Douglas is in IT sales in Toronto, Canada.
Joe Burke is Chief Compliance Officer at Quest Software, Inc. where he is responsible for global compliance with laws for this former Dell Inc. subsidiary. He specializes in legal support for anti-corruption, trade compliance, employment, privacy and antitrust concerns. Prior to that, Burke was Chief Compliance Counsel at Dell Inc. for five years, and was responsible for providing legal counsel to Dell’s Global Ethics and Compliance team. Burke has previously provided extensive commercial legal support across all of Dell’s sales organizations, including, most recently, providing legal advice and counsel to the US Federal Government business. During a two-year assignment as Director of Legal for Dell Canada Inc. in Toronto, Burke performed the role of Canadian general counsel. Burke received his law degree from Fordham University School of Law in New York, N.Y., where he is now an adjunct professor of law lecturing on in-house compliance practice matters. He also has a B.A. in history and French from the University of Virginia.
Rick Halperin is the director of the Embrey Human Rights Program in Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences at Southern Methodist University. He joined SMU in 1985 as an academic advisor and history teacher, and began teaching human rights courses in 1990. As a long-time activist, Dr. Halperin has served as Chairperson of Amnesty International USA and on several boards, including the International Rescue Committee.
Lekha Singh has traveled the globe for over 25 years, creating art that expresses the commonality of human experience by finding startling and impossible beauty in poor, little known places of destitution and desolation. She works in several mediums including film and photography.
Donna M. Wilhelm, as a philanthropist and activist, supports global connection and learning through enlightened learning, arts and cultural awareness and diverse civil society initiatives. She is also dedicated to environmental conservation.
In Dallas, Ms. Wilhelm serves as a Board Chair of The Arts Community Alliance (TACA); serves as Life Trustee of Dallas Theater Center; Trustee of KERA Public Broadcasting and national advisory committee members of the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at SMU. Internationally, she supports capacity building for underserved youth and equal opportunity empowerment of women and girls.
She holds a B.A. degree, magna cum laude from Hunter College, CUNY and a specialty in jewelry design form NY Parsons School of Design. Retired as an independent jewelry designer, her current creative focus is completion of her memoir.
Tricia Medrano Bridges
Tricia’s career in nonprofit began 35 years ago in Dallas. In the mid-eighties, Tricia was transferred to New Orleans to direct activities for a national nonprofit in Louisiana and Mississippi. In 1991, she returned to Dallas to be near family working with several groups including the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, serving as Vice President for Development. Recruited by the University of Dallas upon completion of the Y campaign, Tricia served as Vice President of Advancement for the University. In August of 2005, she joined the Chiapas International, founded by Dallas Real Estate Developer, Lucy Billingsley to fund microfinance to women in several countries in Latin America, including Haiti, Honduras, Bolivia, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. Chiapas International was part of a larger campaign of the Grameen Foundation. In 2010, Tricia was awarded Grameen Foundation’s “2010 Lifetime Achievement Award” for her work with Chiapas International.