Board of Directors


Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture’s Board of Directors includes members of the Arab-American community and those interested in Arab cultural education — parents, educators, and professionals with various community affiliations. “Friends of Al-Bustan,” was formed in Fall 2006 as a committee of volunteers to support the board and raise funds for the organization.

Georgette Hamaty, Co-chair

Ms. Hamaty is second-generation Lebanese. She has a degree in music education from West Chester University (WCU) and still enjoys performing. She currently serves as a Major Gifts Officer at WHYY.  Prior to that, she worked at the Barnes Foundation, WHYY, Saint Joseph’s University, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Opera Philadelphia, and The Philadelphia Orchestra. All of Ms. Hamaty’s professional experience has been devoted to the non-profit sector and much of that experience was in arts administration. Her volunteer work includes: current member, Middle East Collaborative, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends; past board member, WCU’s School of Music Advisory Committee; former chairman, Old York Road Volunteer Committee for The Philadelphia Orchestra; former board member and former board secretary, Commonwealth Youthchoirs. Her now adult daughter has benefited greatly from participating in Al-Bustan’s camp and percussion programs.

Regina Morgan, Co-chair

Ms. Morgan has 20 years of experience in international financial industry. Her expertise is in governance, compliance, risk and project management as well as in systems and training design. Her civic engagement includes serving on the board of Philadelphia Fabric Workshop and Museum, chairing the Board of a Montgomery County-based music education non-profit organization (2013-2016), serving on Penn Museum Director’s Council (2016-2018), and as volunteer for the arts for the Greater Philadelphia Arts & Business Council. Originally from Moscow, Ms. Morgan has lived in Washington DC and Philadelphia for the past 25 years. She received her Masters of Science degree in Finance from George Washington University and Bachelors of Science in Economics and Advanced Mathematics from Moscow State University. Her passions lie in arts, reading, languages, and advocating for cultural diversity.

Lisa Denberry, Treasurer

Ms. Denberry relocated to Philadelphia from Amman, Jordan where she lived with her family for 12 years. While in Amman, she was a volunteer accountant for the international development organization Mercy Corps, and a part-time consultant for Integrated Services, Indigenous Solutions-a socioeconomic and technical consultancy in the Middle East. She has a BA in Finance from Illinois State University. Ms. Mowafi is currently a real estate agent in Philadelphia. She is always excited to share her knowledge of Arab culture with others.

Ikram Masmoudi, Secretary

Dr. Ikram Masmoudi is an Associate Professor, a writer and a literary translator. She grew up and was educated in Tunisia and France. She currently teaches Arabic Language, Literature and Culture at the University of Delaware. She has taught at Princeton University, Duke University, Université de Provence and Middlebury College. She is the author of a monograph on Iraqi fiction: War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction, Edinburgh University Press, 2015. She translated Hadiya Hussein’s novel Beyond Love (Syracuse University Press, 2012). She is currently working on a new book project about Apocalyptic Imaginings in Arabic Fiction. Her research interests are in Arabic language and modern Arabic Literature. She travelled to and lived in many places in the Middle East and Europe such as: Egypt, UAE, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, France, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Finland and Denmark.

Mehrnoosh Aryanpour

Mehrnoosh is currently pursuing her doctorate in energy and environmental law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.  She is an Attorney in the State of NY and earned her LL.M. degree from Georgetown University Law Center.  She graduated from Tehran University Law School and ranked number one (out of 496,797 participants) in the country’s National University Entrance Exam.

An International Monetary Fund alum, she has the distinction of opening and running the first and only branches of international law firms in Kabul Afghanistan and Tehran, Iran after the War on Terror in 2009 and the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, respectively, specializing in handling minerals and mining, infrastructure, and hydrocarbons client matters. She represented international oil and gas companies in the wake of the lifting of sanctions against Iran, constituting more than $15bn of provisionally allocated foreign direct investment. She has previously practiced with major international law firms in various jurisdictions New York, Abu Dhabi, Washington DC, and Paris. Over the past two years, she has researched and written extensively on the effects of U.S sanctions on energy and climate.

Mark Dato

Mr. Dato is a Program Director at SYPartners, a design and strategy consultancy. He has partnered with leaders from AARP, WW (formerly Weight Watchers), Google, and The Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation to help them envision the future they want and design the strategies, culture, and human behaviors required to make that vision a reality. Prior to SYPartners, Mr. Dato worked in philanthropy at Goldman Sachs and in corporate relations at New York Cares. He obtained a B.A. in Art History from Columbia University and is a firm believer in the power of the arts to build community and promote social justice. His work, travels, and education have instilled a deep appreciation for the beauty and richness of Arab culture. He lives with his husband and mini schnauzer in Center City, Philadelphia.

Omar Harb

Dr. Harb is a Palestinian-American who grew up in Ramallah. He obtained his bachelors from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana and a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. After completing a Post Doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, he joined the genomic database group at the University’s Department of Biology where he works as their scientific outreach manager. The genomic database provides online tools for scientists worldwide working on parasites like those that cause malaria. Dr. Harb and his family have attended several Al-Bustan music performances and are firm believers of the role that music can play in cross-cultural communication and understanding.

John Ghazvinian

John Ghazvinian is Executive Director of the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania as well as an author, historian and former journalist, specializing in the history of US-Iran relations. His latest book, America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present (Knopf, 2021), is a comprehensive new survey of the bilateral relationship, based on years of archival research in both Iran and the United States, which he has been working on since 2008. He is also author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil (Harcourt, 2007), as well as coeditor of American and Muslim Worlds before 1900 (Bloomsbury, 2020). He has written for such publications as Newsweek, The Nation, the Sunday Times and the Huffington Post, and has taught modern Middle East history at a number of colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area. He earned his doctorate in history at Oxford University, and was the recipient of a “Public Scholar” fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2016-2017, as well as a fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation’s special initiative on Islam in 2009-2010.

Alexa Firat

Dr. Alexa Firat came into her studies of Arabic and Arabic literature circuitously. After college graduation, she lived and worked in NYC for almost a decade during which she started learning Arabic at Columbia University. A few months studying Arabic at Birzeit University in Palestine in the mid-1990s was formative in shaping her trajectory, the first step beginning a master’s degree in modern Arabic literature from UT-Austin, as well as studying in Damascus. After a summer studying Arabic in Egypt, she came to UPenn to start her PhD program followed by a year in Cairo studying Arabic and then a Fulbright-Hayes to Syria for dissertation research. She later went to Amman where she had a Fulbright Scholar fellowship spring 2013. Alexa Firat now works as a professor at Temple University teaching a wide range of subjects such as: Arabic language, Arabic literature courses, Arab cinema, and cultures of dissent.

Emily Neumeier

Dr. Emily Neumeier specializes in the visual and spatial cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean, with a focus on the Ottoman Empire. Her research addresses issues of architecture, cultural heritage, the history of archaeology, and nationalist discourses through art.

Betsy Mesard

Dr. Betsy Mesard moved to the Philadelphia area in 2019, and she, her husband, and her children quickly connected with the mission and programs of Al-Bustan. Betsy is a scholar of religion, ethics, and culture, with a PhD from the University of Virginia and teaching experience at multiple institutions of higher education. Beginning in 2007, Betsy lived for numerous periods in Egypt, where she developed extensive professional and personal ties. While in Egypt, she collaborated with the American University of Cairo’s Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement to conduct research on a large youth volunteer organization. She has also been a close observer of the 2011 uprising in Egypt and its fallout, with components of her research examining the Kefaya movement, the “Wasat” stream of political thought, and the role of media and art in political and social change. She is currently teaching at Bryn Mawr College.

Mohannad Ghawanmeh, Executive Director

Dr. Ghawanmeh is a teacher of communication and media for twenty-five years. He is co-founder of the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival produced by Mizna and curated the first editions of the Arab American National Museum’s film festival and the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival, as well as the series Melnitz Movies at University of California, Los Angeles. Mohannad is well awarded and published, having earned in 2020 his PhD from UCLA in Cinema and Media Studies. Born to Palestinian refugees and an immigrant to the United States, Mohannad has also lived in Egypt, Japan, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Mohannad thrives on conjoining education and cultural production, connecting people and places, enriching and inspiring.