Honorary Chair

Art Gensler is the founder Gensler, a global architecture, design, and planning firm with 44 locations and more than 5,000 professionals networked across Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and the Americas. Founded in 1965, the firm serves more than 3,500 active clients in virtually every industry. An architect, he is widely credited with elevating the practice of interior design to professional standing. He is a Fellow of both the American Institute of Architects and the International Interior Design Association, and a professional member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Art graduated from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning and is a member of its Advisory Council. A charter member of Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame and a recipient of IIDA’s Star Award, he has also received Ernst & Young LLP’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In 2015, he wrote Art’s Principles to offer today’s entrepreneurs the business insights he wishes someone had given him when he was starting out.

Chair and Secretary

Christian Wistehuff brings over twenty-five years of corporate development and management consulting experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations to his work at The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women. Trained as a lawyer, Christian began his career in 1991 as a gaming and hotel development analyst at ITT Sheraton Corporation in Boston, Massachusetts. Shortly thereafter he began developing hotel, gaming and entertainment projects in South America and Europe for ITT Sheraton’s parent company, ITT Corporation, based at its headquarters in New York. Nine years later in 2000, one year after ITT Corporation’s merger with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Christian became Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Church Pension Group, a conglomerate of retirement, publishing, health and life insurance companies serving the clergy, lay employees and families of the Episcopal Church.


In 2006, Christian became a trusted advisor on regulatory and operational compliance issues to clients in the for-profit education sector. In 2012, he assumed leadership of The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women as its Executive Director. Christian is a member of the US-Afghan Women’s Council, co-chaired by First Lady Laura Bush, Secretary Hillary Clinton and Her Excellency First Lady Rula Ghani of Afghanistan, where he serves on its congressional and communications committees. He received WomenTogether’s Humanitarian Award at the United Nations in 2015 for his work on behalf of Afghan women. Christian attended the Bienen School of Music and is a 1987 honors graduate of Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in Evanston, Illinois. In 1991, he earned a Juris Doctor degree from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts.


Rosalind (Roz) Rustigian is the owner of V. George Rustigian Rugs located in Providence, RI. The store, which specializes in handmade imported oriental rugs was born in the basement of her current home by her father in 1930 and was awarded “Retailer of the Year” by the Atlanta Merchandise Mart some 80 years later. She has catered, owned a gourmet shop, taught at a cooking school in New York City and was twice president of the Oriental Rug Retailers Association of America. Most recently she has lectured to Afghan weavers on how to sell to the American market and has participated in a USAID program to establish relationships between Afghan wholesalers and American rug retailers. She has a BA from Connecticut College and was one of the first women to attend the MPS program at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration.


Chip Brian is an American financial services, information technology and construction entrepreneur, based in New York City. Brian began his career in management positions with (which was sold to Bank of New York and Nyfix Incorporated. Brian joined Comtex in April 2004 as Vice President, Operations; was appointed President and Chief Operating officer in May 2005; and served as CEO from 2006 to 2014. At Comtex, Brian created products which include a daily stock market letter (Morning Call), stock news and market analysis generated by the SmarTrend Analytics Group, the SmarTrend Video Channel, and its flagship product SmarTrend Alerts. Comtex also formed a wholly owned subsidiary, LeGarde Capital Management LLC, which has begun to use the underlying quantitative process for investing capital.


From 2009 to 2010, Brian served on the Board of Directors of PastFuture, Inc., the parent company of the technology and social media website, Brian is also co-founder (with Mike Daddio) of Design Development NYC (Best and Company) an interior construction company committed to innovative restoration, architectural, and design solutions for city or country residences. Brian served as the Chairman of the Annual Sporting Clays Shoot for the Boy Scouts of America Greater New York Council, where he also served on the Board of Directors. Brian is a member of the Trinity School Alumni Giving Board, and has contributed time to the fundraising committees of the New York Blood-center, the Grosvenor House Benefit Committee and the Young Alumni Development Council of Duke University. Brian attended The Trinity School on the upper West side of Manhattan and graduated from The Avon Old Farms School located in Avon, Connecticut. Brian earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Duke University, where he joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Brian and his wife, the former Nina Sisselman, live in NYC with their two sons.


Charlotte M. (Charlie) Ponticelli (Charlie) is an international consultant currently serving as Program Director and Advisor for the American Committees on Foreign Relations.  She has 23 years of US Government experience, serving most recently as Deputy Undersecretary for International Labor Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor and Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues at the State Department.  Charlie is a member of the US-Afghan Women's Council and is on the board of the Bayat Foundation, which focuses on alleviating the plight of at-risk Afghans, particularly in the areas of political leadership, economic opportunities, education and health. She received her BA from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, and her MA through New York University's program in Madrid, Spain. 


Latifa Yusufi Woodhouse was born in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the daughter of an Imam, the

eldest of 12 children, and the first woman from Kandahar ever to be awarded a

Fulbright Scholarship to study in the United States. Latifa has Masters Degrees in English as a

Second Language from SUNY Albany and Counseling from Ohio University. She recently retired

after a distinguished 40-year career teaching in Kandahar, on Long Island and in New York City.

Latifa is a tireless advocate for human rights, social justice and women’s equality. She was a

founding member of Women for Afghan Women and currently serves on the Board of Trustees

of The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, Manhasset, NY; The Initiative To

Educate Afghan Women, Providence, RI; and Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality

and Equality (WISE), NY, New York. Latifa has dedicated her life to working for peaceful alternatives to oppression, discrimination and violence. She is a member of Peace Action on Long Island, The Interfaith Alliance of Long Island and a United Nations NGO, Ribbon International, which promotes the healing power of peace as an antidote to violence.


Latifa has volunteered for more than a decade as the NY Metro Coordinator for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, which partners with grassroots organizations worldwide to foster social justice and a world free from oppression. Latifa and her husband, Colin, sponsored 15 members of her family, who were granted asylum in the US after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Latifa and Colin are founders of the nonprofit Shared Humanity USA, which works with refugees in Greece. She also works with Catholic Charities and Church World Services on refugee settlement on Long Island and New Jersey. Latifa served as a UU/Muslim partner on the Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky, III PBS documentary film, Defying The Nazis: The Sharps War. She has written a book, Latifa Unveiled, about her life.

Vice Chair

Sara Mizener (née van Wie) currently serves as Gender and Development Consultant to The World Bank in Washington, DC. She brings to The Initiative a distinguished career in non-profit and NGO program research, management and communications. Sara has been an active friend and philanthropic supporter of The Initiative through the Van Wie Family Foundation since we were introduced at the US-Afghan Women’s Council two years ago at which time she was lead research associate of the Afghan Women’s Project and publisher of the Leading Change Blog at the Women’s Initiative of the George Bush Presidential Center. During her tenure there, Sara published the paper, Elections in Afghanistan: What’s at Stake for Afghan Women. Prior to her work at the George Bush Presidential Center, Sara was a researcher for the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management team of the Latin American and Caribbean Region of The World Bank.


In 2011 Sara conducted research and co-authored a concept note and final report for the United Nations Development Program and Fund for Women Conference on Development, Reparation and Gender in Kampala, Uganda. In 2010 Sara designed and conducted an ethnographic study on youth access to Sierra Leone’s national reparation program for war victims for Feinstein International Center. Sara began her career in as International Programs Manager at Heroes of the Nation, a Kenya-based NGO developing self-sufficient school campuses focused on quality education, vocational and leadership training for orphans and children at risk. In 2002, Sara graduated with distinction in Spanish, International Relations and Latin American Studies from Cornell University where she participated in women’s varsity lacrosse In 2011, Sara graduated from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy where she specialized in human security and transitional justice.