Akanksha Education Fund

Our Team

Team Members

Sejal Desai, Executive Director
Sejal has been a passionate advocate and supporter of various US and India based nonprofits focusing on education, hunger relief and women’s issues. Her 30-year career includes work in sectors like venture capital, M&A, accounting, entrepreneurship, nonprofit and corporate social responsibility. Most recently, she worked at Communities Foundation of Texas, where she led a strategic initiative focused on engaging businesses in the community. She also has experience supporting individuals and families with their philanthropic giving and engagement. Among other career highlights, she also started a social venture, SevaYatra focused on engaging US based universities and multinational corporations with India based NGOs. Sejal was born in India and lived and worked in Mumbai for 20 years. She is a Chartered Accountant from India and holds a Masters in Business Administration from University of Texas at Dallas and Masters in Liberal Studies from Southern Methodist University. Sejal is a passionate and engaged citizen of both countries and joined Akanksha in 2021 with a strong desire to transform lives through education.
Sagarika Senapaty, Corporate and Donor Engagement Officer

Sagarika brings with her extensive experience in project management, program development and stakeholder engagement. She was most recently the Head of Special Projects at the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore developing and launching its new and large scale programs. As part of her role, she oversaw all project aspects, from ideation to execution, and partnered closely with the Chamber’s corporate members. Sagarika also worked with the World Bank in Washington D.C. after completing her Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University. She holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Chicago. While studying in Chicago, she also worked with the Neighborhood Schools Program as a teaching assistant. Sagarika has always had a keen interest in the education sector, and having grown up in India, understands the challenges associated with equitable access to quality education. Through her role at the Akanksha Education Fund, she aims to contribute towards positively shaping the lives of underserved children in India.

Keerti Kharod, Marketing and Communications Officer

Keerti joins the team with an extensive background in education, writing, and UI/web design. Her recent work focuses on parenting and leadership through the lens of Social/Emotional Learning, and work with young people using the foundations of emotional intelligence, SEL, and Compassionate Integrity Training. She is also a passionate advocate for art education, DEI, women’s issues, and community service and outreach.

Keerti has worked with art museums including the Dallas Museum of Art, the Blanton Museum, and ArtPace to create engaging interdisciplinary curriculum for young visitors. Her background also includes significant community and civic involvement, with previous experience on the Arts Board in the City of Irving, The Friends of the Irving Archives and Museum, CFB-ISD Parents of Gifted Students Board, leadership in various parent-teacher associations, and as an educator/Co-Coordinator at the Sathya Sai Baba Center of Dallas.

Keerti holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgetown University, and a Master’s from the University of Texas at Austin. In her role at the Akanksha Education Fund, she aims to add to the strong public voice of this organization, and continue her advocacy for holistic education for children and families, and transforming society through education.

Chandrima Poddar, Alumni Engagement Officer

Chandrima joins us with over 8 years of work experience in the financial sector. She has performed various roles including project management, corporate finance, strategic consulting and analytics at American Express. Chandrima grew up in India and completed her bachelors and Masters in Mathematics and Economics respectively from the University of Delhi. After which she moved to the US to pursue her second masters at the University of Chicago. Having grown up in India, Chandrima understands the struggles of the underprivileged to access a decent level of education. She has often volunteered her time to teach and work with kids at the underserved schools in Delhi and Manhattan. Her passion for education and dedication brings her to Akanksha. After a successful career at American Express, Chandrima took a break to raise her family, and is now very excited to resume her career with Akanksha.

Sherie Salzwedel, Program Associate

Sherie is an independent consultant joining Akanksha as a Program Associate with nearly twenty years in the education and nonprofit sectors. In her most recent role at EL Education, she supported directors, teachers, and public school districts with the implementation of a K-8 language arts curriculum with the goal of reaching higher levels of student achievement and equitable access for students. Prior to EL, she was at the American Leadership Forum of Oregon (ALF), an organization specializing in bringing diverse leaders throughout the state together to work on meaningful change initiatives. Sherie oversaw the operations, bookkeeping, and finances of the program. Before ALF, Sherie spent nearly ten years at AFS Intercultural Programs (AFS-USA), an international student exchange organization supporting and guiding students with their unique cross-cultural experiences. Her great joy was working with colleagues, volunteers, families, and students across the globe with the focus of making a more peaceful and just world. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Sherie graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Oregon State University. She is passionate about being in service for the public good, working tirelessly to help create more equitable access opportunities for all learners.

Pragati Raskar, Development and Operations Associate

Pragati is a recent graduate of the University of Rochester, where she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Before college, she completed her IB diploma at Robert Bosch United World College in Germany, with a focus on Political Science and Legal Studies, Pragati is passionate about the nonprofit sector, particularly in the areas of fundraising and development. Drawing from her personal experience as an Akanksha alumna, she deeply understands the transformative impact of nonprofit educational initiatives on the lives of underprivileged children in India. 

During college, Pragati was a Development Intern with the Accountability Counsel—an international nonprofit organization committed to safeguarding human rights and the environment. She assisted the Executive Team to exceed their annual fundraising goal of $2 million, while also contributing to strategic plans for increasing the organization’s annual budget. She later undertook an internship with AEF where she delved into various aspects of nonprofit and donor management, and researched Corporate Social Responsibility Law and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. 

Pragati also served as a Student Assistant and Student Fundraiser at the U of R Alumni Center. She also represented AEF, Teach for All, and Teach for India at the Transforming Education Summit held at the United Nations last year.