Advisory Council

Richard Lyons

Chief Innovation Officer and Former Dean of the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley

Rich Lyons is a Professor of Economics and Finance at the Haas School of Business, where he served as dean from 2008 to 2018 and acting dean from 2004 to 2005. In January 2020, he became the first Chief Innovation and Entrepreneurship Officer for the University of California, Berkeley. In his new role, Lyons oversees the development of the campus-wide ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship, including patenting and technology licensing.

As dean of the Haas School, Lyons led a sweeping culture initiative that drove the school’s historic strengths more deeply into admissions and other critical processes with four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. He oversaw the development of Connie & Kevin Chou Hall—a new academic building funded entirely by alumni and friends—and attracted eight of the 10 largest gifts in school history.

Lyons’ research and teaching are mostly in international finance, though his recent work explores how business leadership drives innovation and the importance of culture in shaping organizations. From 2006 to 2008, he took a leave from Berkeley to serve as Goldman Sachs’ Chief Learning Officer, focusing on leadership development for managing directors. Before joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1993, he was an assistant professor at Columbia Business School. He received his BS in finance from Berkeley and Ph.D. in economics from MIT.

Shankar Sastry

Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Professor of Bioengineering, Thomas M. Siebel Professor

Shankar Sastry received his B.Tech. from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, in 1977, an M.S. in EECS, an M.A. in Mathematics, and a Ph.D. in EECS from UC Berkeley in 1979, 1980, and 1981 respectively. He holds faculty appointments in the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, Bioengineering, and Mechanical Engineering and served as dean of the College of Engineering from 2007 to 2018. He was formerly the Director of CITRIS (Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society) and the Banatao Institute @ CITRIS Berkeley. He served as chair of the EECS department from January 2001 through June 2004. In 2000, he served as Director of the Information Technology Office at DARPA. From 1996-1999, he was the Director of the Electronics Research Laboratory at Berkeley, an organized research unit on the Berkeley campus conducting research in computer sciences and all aspects of electrical engineering. He is the NEC Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and holds faculty appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering, EECS, and Mechanical Engineering. Before joining the EECS faculty in 1983, he was a professor at MIT.

Hashem Pesaran

Director, USC Dornsife Institute for New Economic Thinking

Hashem Pesaran is the John Elliot Distinguished Chair in Economics at the University of Southern California, Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He also holds Directorships at USC Dornsife Institute for New Economic Thinking and the Centre for Applied Financial Economics at USC. Previously, he was head of the Economic Research Department of the Central Bank of Iran and the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education, Iran. He has also been a Professor of Economics and the Director of the Applied Econometrics Program at UCLA and a Visiting Professor at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Vienna. He was awarded Honorary Doctorates by the University of Salford, the University of Goethe, Frankfurt, Maastricht University, and the University of Economics in Prague. He is the recipient of the 1992 Royal Economic Society Prize for the best article published in The Economic Journal for the years 1990 and 1991, the joint recipient of the Econometric Reviews Best Paper Award 2002-2004, and the joint recipient of the Best Paper Award 2004-2005 in the International Journal of Forecasting. Dr. Pesaran was the founding editor of the Journal of Applied Econometrics (1986-2014) and is a co-developer of Microfit, an econometric software package published by Oxford University Press. He was named one of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2014” by Thomson Reuters in 2014. He has over 200 publications published in leading scientific journals and edited volumes in econometrics, empirical finance and macroeconomics, and the Iranian economy. He is an expert in the economics of oil and the middle-east, and his research has been cited almost 66K times, according to Google Scholar. He holds a Ph.D. degree in economics from Cambridge University. He is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors of the International Association for Applied Econometrics (IAAE). His latest book publication is Time Series and Panel Data Econometrics, 2015, Oxford University Press.

Sara Akbar

CEO of OiLSERV Kuwait and the Chairman of the Board of OiLTECH Iraq

Sara Akbar has over 40 years of experience in the oil and gas industry with a unique insight into the Middle Eastern region. She also has wide-ranging international experiences and significant operational and project management capabilities.   Sara is currently the Chairperson and CEO of OiLSERV Kuwait and the Chairman of the Board of OiLTECH Iraq, an indigenous oilfield services company operating in IRAQ. Since 2018, Sara has also served as a Non-Executive Director of Petrofac. In addition to her roles in the oil and gas industry, Sara was also a member of the Kuwait Supreme Council for Planning and Development as well as an active member of the Board of Trustees of Kuwait’s Silk Territory project. Since 2016, Sara has served as the Chairperson of Advisory Board to the American University of Kuwait [AUK] College of Business & Economics [CBE].

Sara previously served as Director on various Kuwaiti companies and industry Societies, including the Society of Petroleum Engineers [ SPE], Kuwait Society of Engineers [ KSE], Kuwait Gulf Oil Company [ KGOC] and Kuwait Drilling Company [ KDC]. Sara started her career in 1981 working for Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) and then at Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC), where her roles included the Head of the Planning unit and the Manager of New Business Development. In 2005, Sara co-founded Kuwait Energy, the first MENA-based private independent oil & gas exploration & production company. Up until December 2017, she served as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Deputy Chairman.

Sara has received many acclaims for her key role in Kuwait’s Wild Well Killers fire-fighting team which was responsible for extinguishing Kuwait’s oil well fires post the Iraqi invasion in 1991. The heroic act earned Sara the designation of ‘Firefighter’ and a ‘Global 500 Award’ presented by the United Nation’s Environmental Program. She was also awarded the prestigious ‘Leader in Energy’ award at the Women in Leadership Awards & Forum in 2009 recognizing her as the first and only woman leader in the Oil and Gas industry in the Middle East. In 2013, she received the AIME Charles F. Rand Memorial Gold Medal. Sara was named among the top 100 Most Powerful Arab Businesswomen of 2017 by Forbes Middle East. In September 2018 she received the Hall of Fame award recognizing her as pioneer in Oil and Gas industry. 

Fadi Ghandour

Founder and CEO, Aramex

Fadi Ghandour is a Jordanian entrepreneur who co-founded Aramex in 1982 and has served as its CEO since. He is a Founding Partner of, the world’s largest Arab online community, which was acquired by Yahoo! in 2010. Ghandour is also a member of the Board of Abraaj Capital, the largest private equity firm in the Middle East and South Asia, is a Founding Board Member of Endeavor Jordan, and serves on the Advisory Board of the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business at the American University of Beirut. Between 2003 and 2006, he was the Middle East and North Africa Area Chairman of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Ghandour is passionate about supporting entrepreneurship in the Arab world and is an active angel investor focusing on start-ups in the Middle East and North African countries.

Mehdi Zarghamee

Former Chancellor, Sharif University of Technology; Founder, Isfahan University of Technology; Senior Principal, Simpson, Gumpertz, and Hager

Dr. Mehdi Shaghagi Zarghamee is a former chancellor of the Aryamehr University of Technology (currently the Sharif University of Technology) in Iran, a former professor at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Sciences, and a founder of the Isfahan University of Technology. He currently works as Senior Principal in the Division of Engineering Mechanics and Infrastructure of Simpson, Gumper, and Heger, Inc. He was the principal investigator for the structural modeling of the 9/11 collapse of the World Trade Center Towers for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Dr. Zarghamee has forty-five years of consulting, academic, and management experience. His experience includes analysis and design of complex structures and mechanical systems, investigation including condition assessment, failure risk analysis of structures and infrastructures, and repair, rehabilitation, and asset management of deteriorated infrastructures. His expertise also includes wind and earthquake engineering.

Noor Sweid

Founder of Global Ventures

Noor Sweid is the founder of Global Ventures, a UAE-based, growth-stage venture capital firm with a presence in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Jeddah, and San Francisco focused on global mindset, innovative growth-stage companies seeking to transform emerging markets through disruptive enterprise technologies. Previously, Noor was the Chief Investment Officer at The Dubai Future Foundation, where she helped enable the technology and innovation ecosystem in Dubai, and a Managing Partner at Leap Ventures, a growth-stage venture capital firm based out of Dubai and Beirut.

Prior, Noor had joined her family business, Depa (NASDAQ: DEPA.DU), one of the world’s largest interior contractors. Here, she developed and executed the growth strategy, achieving tenfold revenue growth and employee growth to 9500 employees, expanding from 6 to 22 countries, including four cross-border acquisitions. Noor led the region’s first listing on the NASDAQ Dubai and the London Stock Exchange, reaching a billion+ dollar valuation, and led all associated investor relations and regulatory compliance. She enabled the implementation of best-in-class corporate governance, board practices, and back-office integration across all support functions.  

In parallel, Noor also founded ZenYoga, the first yoga studio in MENA, which grew to become the largest chain of wellness studios in the Middle East before successfully exiting a private equity firm.

Farzad Naimi

Serial Entrepreneur

Farzad Naimi is a serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, CEO at Naimi Group, and co-founder – managing partner at RONA Holdings investment company. He brings over 30 years of successful Silicon Valley startup leadership, including co-founding and being part of the initial team of four startups with successful IPOs in the U.S., Japan, and Brazil Centex Telemanagement – NASDAQ, Prestige International – NIKKEI, Genesys Labs- NASDAQ, subsequently acquired by Alcatel for nearly $2 billion in 2000 and Cielo – BOVESPA, raised over $4 billion, one of the largest IPOs in the world in 2009).
Naimi also co-founded RONA Holdings investment company to address opportunities in Biotechnology, Artificial Intelligence, and Disruptive Technologies with 16 successful M&As and 2 IPOs.
Naimi believes mentorship is the cornerstone of successful entrepreneurship. His philosophy and life’s mission are promoting and internationalizing responsible entrepreneurship for youth with social and environmental impact. Naimi is an advisor to UC Berkeley AMENA Center for Entrepreneurship & Development and is actively involved with the non-profit organization World Innovations Network (WIN), focusing on engaging the private sector in Project and Mentor based learning for community colleges.

Shane Tedjarati

Chairman and CEO, Tribridge Group; Senior Advisor, Honeywell International

Shane Tedjarati is the Senior Advisor of Honeywell International and the Founder & Chairman of the group of companies under the Tribridge Group. Tribridge is a global investment group dedicated to solving real-world challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. The Group aims to build bridges between diverse teams worldwide, applying leading technologies to global megatrends. Shane has been instrumental in globalizing and transforming Honeywell over the past 18 years into one of the world’s most successful and global industrial companies. Based in Shanghai for over 25 years, Shane’s experience has been enriched by China’s unparalleled societal transformation over this period. His passion and deep knowledge of China led him to co-found Aspen Institute’s China Fellowship Program as his Aspen Venture. Shane is also the co-founder of the Aspen Institute’s Middle East Leadership Initiative. Shane is committed to supporting these two initiatives as they deliver lasting impact on their communities and for the world. Shane is a Co-Chair of China Leaders for Global Operations (CLGO) – a dual master’s degree program by MIT and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Shane is an avid aviator and licensed commercial pilot and flight instructor. He graduated from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, with a BS in Computer Science and Mathematics and earned an MBA from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom. He speaks six languages and divides most of his time between Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dubai, London, and the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a 2006 Henry Crown Fellow of The Aspen Institute and a member of and moderator for the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Allen Collinsworth

President and Founder of Fara Group

Allen is the President and Founder of Fara Group, a U.S.-based global management consulting firm. Established in 2005 as a MENA-focused project management company, today Fara Group specializes in developing international partnerships and providing sanctions regulatory management, asset tracing, audits and various services involving cross-border disputes and investigations to financial institutions and other businesses operating in diverse jurisdictions.

In the non-profit and policy areas, Allen served initially as a staff member and later as a fellow and a member of the board of counselors at the EastWest Institute, where he arranged track two discussions on building Eurasian energy security and increasing cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey. He is also the former creator and producer of Corridor39, a television program on geopolitical trends impacting economies in the Middle East and Central Asia. Allen helps build digital economy capacities in developing economies as an Advisory Board member of the University of California Berkeley’s AMENA Center for Entrepreneurship and Development.

Allen graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 1992 where he was an All-American tennis player. He holds master’s degrees from the London School of Economics (MSc in Economic Geography) and the University of Alabama in Birmingham (MBA with honors).