Malaika Board of Directors, Ambassadors and Council Members

student at graduation

A Bhutanese student graduating from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Douglas Christensen
Dr. Douglas Christensen
Chairman of the Board

Dr. Douglas Christensen, Chairman of the Malaika Foundation Board of Directors, 30 year Nebraska teaching career, Nebraska Superintendent of the Year, 1990, Emeritus Commissioner of Education, Head State Team Coach in advising State Agencies in implementation of the new Common Core State Standards, Professor of Practice in Education Leadership, Doane College. Extensive research and publications, including Curriculum Planning, High Performance Learning and Schools for our Future. He was graduated from the Midland Lutheran College, B.A.) and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Natalie Hahn
Dr. Natalie D. Hahn

Dr. Hahn worked with United Nations programs for nearly 40 years, primarily in Africa. Her work involved introducing new food crops and nutrition with the Institute for International Agriculture in Nigeria, women and finance with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, youth initiatives with the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF Representative to Malawi and Senior Private Sector Advisor at the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships.

For her work in Africa, she received two honorary chieftaincy titles, in Malawi and Nigeria. She was graduated from the University of Nebraska, B.A., The Ohio State University, M.A. and Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, MPA, and The College of Education, Ed. D. Dr. Hahn has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Nebraska Wesleyan University. In order to give back to her home state, she founded the Malaika Foundation with a mission to globalize Nebraska education. She is a native of Polk and now resides in Central City and Lincoln, Nebraska.

Alicia Dallman Shoemaker
Alicia Dallman Shoemaker

Alicia is a graduate of one of the last remaining one-room schoolhouses on the Nebraskan prairie. Before serving as a secondary and university educator of English, world languages, modern language methods, and world cultures for the past nine years, she lived and taught in South American and European countries.

She received the 2016 Freda Drath Battey Distinguished Educator honor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the Department of Education STEM Fellowship. As a two-time Fulbright scholar, Alicia facilitated the Global Classrooms program and has brought hundreds of speakers from nearly all continents to her classrooms. She is the Past-President of the Nebraska International Languages Association, which serves all language teachers throughout the state. She co-founded the Cross-Nebraska Education Community to connect local champions of human rights, particularly those related to education policy and access. She is the Malaika advisor for Reach the World and her contributions were honored at a Reach the World Gala in New York City, 2018, and continue into May 2020 with a Fulbright International Education seminar.

Mark Theisen
Mark D. Theisen
Omaha, Nebraska

Mark is General Counsel at Greater Omaha Packing Company, Omaha. Formerly Vice President, Finance and Treasure, Woodmen’s Board of Directors and Chairman of the Board of Woodmen Financial Services and President of Woodmen’s Foundation. Mark is a member of the Nebraska Bar Association and was a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. He is past president of the Labor & Employment Law Section of the Nebraska Bar Association and past President of the Insurance Federation of Nebraska and the Nebraska Fraternal Congress.

Active in the Boy Scouts of America, he is a member of the Mid-America Council Board of Trustees and was inducted into the Soaring Eagle Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement. Mark has also served on the Advisory Boards of the Salvation Army, Red Cross Heartland Chapter, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, Citizens Flag Alliance, Omaha Symphony Association, Creighton University Medical Center, the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Business Administration, the Mount Michael Benedictine School, the Malaika Foundation and on the Consultation Committee of U.S. STRATCOM (the United States Strategic Command). In addition, Mark is a member of the Omaha (Downtown) Rotary Club and the UNO EMBA Alumni Board of Directors.

A native of Osmond, Nebraska, Mark graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nebraska/Lincoln in 1973, received his Juris Doctor degree from Creighton University in 1976 and his EMBA from the University of Nebraska/Omaha in 2003.

Dean Jacobs
Dean Jacobs
Fremont, Nebraska

A global explorer and traveler, Dean Jacobs has traversed across the globe exploring over 50 countries on a low budget adventure, propelled by a desire to understand the world we share.

He is Malaika’s most popular speaker and has inspired educators and students throughout Nebraska. Dean states, “I want to inform, educate and inspire kids — to teach them to be engaged in the world instead of afraid of it”.

Born on a farm, Dean is from Fremont, Nebraska. He was graduated from Wayne State College earning a degree in Biology, with minors in Earth Science and Art. After graduating he worked in the administration of Wayne State College as the Assistant to the President before moving on to Purina Mills. And he also worked with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals for 10 years in marketing and sales. He left the corporate world to pursue his dream of a global traveling adventure.

His book, Wondrous Creatures - Explore a World of Animals from A to Z, is a favorite for children and is available as an iBook. His book, Wondrous Journey, described his adventures to better understand the world and portrays his 22 ½ month journey with 190 pages of stories and 140 of his magnificent photographs. More information from

Charles Ahovissi
Charles Ahovissi
Omaha, Nebraska

Hubert “Charles” Ahovissi is a professional artist, dancer, drummer, choreographer, educator, stage costume designer and tailor. He is an approved teaching and performing artist through the Nebraska and Iowa Arts Councils. Charles began his dancing career in 1984 when he joined the National Ballet Company of Benin, West Africa. He left the National Ballet in 1987 and joined the Super Anges Dance Troop that toured extensively throughout the world performing and teaching traditional African dance and music. Charles moved to Omaha in 2000 and since has shared his knowledge and love of Africa through traditional dancing and drumming to foster better understanding of Africa’s diverse and beautiful cultures.

In 2006, he founded the African Culture Connection (ACC) as a non-profit organization to teach African culture. Under Charles' leadership, ACC & Charles have received the following awards: 2010 Girls Inc Angel Award; 2012 Nebraska Governor's Art Award for Heritage Arts; 2012 National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award; 2015-2018 Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards-nominated ('15) and selected ('16 & '18) Best Local Dance Production; 2017 US Air Force Excellence Through Diversity Award. Also, Charles was the 2018 Metropolitan Community College Alumni and in April 2019, he was the first Nebraskan that receive the National Community College Association award in Orlando Florida.

Throughout the Omaha community, Charles shares his passion through dancing and drumming during public performances, school assemblies, residencies, and workshops. Charles provides multicultural lessons by giving students authentic, hands-on experiences with African culture. He creates an authentic African village ambiance and uses ceremonial African clothes as well as traditional instruments to teach about African culture. Charles promotes unity and multiculturalism while offering students a fun, social and physical activity.

Malaika Board of Directors, Ambassadors and Council Members

Malaika Foundation Board of Directors

Dr. Douglas Christensen, Chairman of the Board
Founder & Emeritus Commissioner, Nebraska Department of Education
Lincoln, Nebraska

Dr. Natalie D. Hahn, Founder
Central City, Nebraska

Ms. Alicia Dallman-Shoemaker, President
English and Spanish Teacher and Department Chair
Elkhorn Public Schools

Mr. Kevin Witte, Co-President
AP World History Consultant & College Board Advisor
National Geographic Certified Educator and Trainer
Social Studies Teacher, Kearney High School

Ms. Kelli King, Secretary
Director, W.H. Thompson Scholars Learning Community
University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Charles Ahovissi
Founder & Executive Artistic Director, African Culture Connection
Omaha, Nebraska

Dr. Kevin Bower
Associate Professor of History, Nebraska Wesleyan University
Lincoln, Nebraska

Dr. Charles Chevalier
Dean, College of Culinary Arts, Hospitality and Horticulture, Metropolitan Community College
Omaha, Nebraska

Dr. Beth Doll
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor, College of Education and Social Sciences
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Ms. Connie Duncan
former educator, Southeast Community College
Manager, Duncan Family Trust
Lincoln, Nebraska

Mr. Dean Jacobs
Global Traveler and Photographer
Fremont, Nebraska

Ms. Katrin Kuhlmann
President and Founder, New Markets Lab, Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School
Washington, D.C.

Ms. Ann Masters
former Executive Assistant to the Commissioner of Education, Nebraska Department of Education
Lincoln, Nebraska

Ms. Marilyn Pierpont
Farm Manager
Central City, Nebraska

Ms. Karen Stevens
Member, High Plains School Board
Polk, Nebraska

Ms. Liza Smith
Staff Development Specialist, Hastings Community College

Mr. Mark Theisen
Omaha, Nebraska

Ambassadors for Global Education

Dr. Douglas Christensen, Malaika Chair
Nebraska Emeritus Commissioner of Education
Lincoln, Nebraska

Ms. Judi Gaiashkibos
Executive Director, Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs
Lincoln, Nebraska

Dr. Sheila Ryan
Director of International Programs, College of Nursing, University of Nebraska Omaha

Mr. Tobin Beck
Assistant Professor of Global Studies, Concordia University
Seward, Nebraska

Dr. Matthew Mims
University of Nebraska at Kearney

Mr. Larry Johnson
Adjunct Professor, Columbia Law School and former Assistant Secretary General, Legal Affairs, United Nations
New York, New York

Ms. Laura Thomas
Director, Nebraska World Affairs Council

Ms. Megan McNeil Helberg
2020 Nebraska Teacher of the Year, Secondary Language Arts Teacher
Burwell, Nebraska

Council Members/Advisors

Dr. Ron Hull
Senior Advisor, Nebraska Educational Television (NET)
Lincoln, Nebraska

Ms. Elaine Banks
Superior, Nebraska

Ms. Barbara Bartle
President, Lincoln Community Foundation

Ms. Susan Seacrest
Founder, Groundwater Foundation, and former counselor, North Star High School
Lincoln, Nebraska

Ms. Beverly Austin
former Executive Director, Malaika Foundation
Lincoln, Nebraska

Mr. Jerry Fox
former Director of International Education, University of Nebraska at Kearney

Ms. Joyce Baird
Lincoln, Nebraska