Rupa Valdez is the President and co-founder of Blue Trunk Foundation. She is an Assistant Professor of Public Health Sciences and Engineering Systems and Environment at the University of Virginia. Her research and teaching focus on the lived experiences of people with chronic health conditions and disabilities, with concentrations in both underserved populations and the role of technology. Through this work, Rupa spends considerable time engaging with community organizations both locally and abroad. At the University of Virginia, she also serves on the Disability Action and Advocacy Committee and is a core member of the Disability Studies Initiative. Rupa received her Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering with a minor in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As an active member of her professional organizations, she serves as Associate Editor for the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association Open and as Internal Affairs Division Chair for The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. When she's not on a computer, Rupa enjoys escaping to other places and times by traveling, reading, and antiquing.
Claire Wellbeloved-Stone is the Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Blue Trunk Foundation. In October 2017, she left for a nine-month adventure backpacking around the world. She received her BA in Anthropology from Connecticut College, where she spent her junior year studying in Spain and Cuba. As a selected scholar for the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, she interned with the World Wildlife Fund in the Galapagos Islands. Claire went on to pursue her MPH from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, where she completed a community health internship with the Runa Foundation in Peru. After graduation, she worked as a researcher in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Virginia. When she's not traveling, Claire enjoys going to concerts at all of the local Charlottesville venues or creating new concoctions using flour, sugar, and butter.
Julie Arbelaez is a Board Member of Blue Trunk Foundation. Julie graduated from the University of Virginia in 1992 and immediately after took off for a year of solo travel that took her to Australia, New Zealand and Japan. After that trip, Julie returned to Charlottesville and opened Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters, a full-service travel agency and retail store. The travel agency was the realization of a dream to encourage people to get out and see the world. Julie works full-time as a travel consultant, crafting tailor-made trips around the world. Her retail store carries a wide variety of top travel gear to suit any travel need with the goal of making travel easy and accessible to everyone. Julie provides packing demonstrations and advice to anyone planning to travel abroad for the first time or that has specific packing and travel needs they are trying to fill. In 2016, Julie founded a group called the Charlottesville Women's Travel Alliance to support and encourage women who enjoy travel.
Kary Beck is a marketing, public relations and communications professional specializing in social media and web outreach. She is supporting Blue Trunk Foundation with marketing and communication tasks. Kary is also introducing Blue Trunk to Wisconsinites, who may be interested in using the resources of and/or becoming involved in this exciting new venture.
Melanie Miller Foster
Melanie Miller Foster is an Assistant Professor of International Agriculture at Penn State University where she combines her passions for agriculture, education and international development. She completed her graduate degrees in Rural Sociology at Ohio State University, and her B.S. in Agriscience at North Dakota State University. Melanie served as an Americorps volunteer with City Year Chicago and as an AFS volunteer in Siquirres, Costa Rica. The travel adventure she values the most is a homestay with a local family, a practice she now integrates into the study abroad experiences she designs for students. An advocate for social justice issues, Melanie volunteers locally to recycle food waste into community meals, and serves as co-president for a State College-based organization focused on building bridges across cultures. She is a proud 4-H alumna, and credits the 4-H program for her enduring enthusiasm for sewing, quilting and trying new things.
Rajan Sheth serves as Blue Trunk's Secretary and Treasurer. He is also Chairman of the board of Mead & Hunt, Inc., one of the top 150 architectural and engineering consulting firms in the U.S. He was the CEO of the firm from 1994 to 2018. Under his leadership, the firm has grown from a local firm with 100 employees to over 700 employees nationwide, while the annual revenue has grown from $10 million to $140 million. The firm specializes in improving lives by improving the country's infrastructure. Rajan has an MS degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin. He serves on the boards of many private firms, as well as on the Dean's Advisory Board of the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin and on the Board of Trustees for the College of Engineering at the University of Virginia. He loves to travel.
Dr. Sam Alper received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he focused on Human Factors, analysis of complex systems, and understanding why people break safety protocol (his thesis). He has been called on to testify as an expert witness, has presented in front of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and has reviewed communications, products, and processes across dozens of industries. His work involves human factors research and evaluation of user experiences. An engineer, juggler, and new father, Sam was recently honored when a business colleague referred to him as a “fellow nerd.”
Dr. JR Harding is a recognized disability leader from both personal and professional experiences. As a 2x quadriplegic, author of Now What? and ADA Adventure, accessibility expert, and international speaker, he has contributed for over 30 years to national, state, and community policy for the independence and self-sufficiency of persons with disabilities. He is a subject-matter expert for the ADA. He has served 2 US Presidents, 4 Florida Governors, and a number of community-based organizations, including Evergreen Life Services, The Family Network on Disabilities, and the Delta Disability Advisory Board. He completed his doctorate in Higher Education and Public Policy at Florida State University (FSU), where he is now faculty. He and his lovely wife Erika live and work in Tallahassee, FL.
Dr. Lunsford is a Pediatric Rehabilitation physician and an assistant professor in the Department ofOrthopaedics and the Department of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine. He is a member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM). He also serves on the Board of Directors for AACPDM. Dr. Lunsford graduated from Wake Forest University with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy before completing his medical doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. He completed his residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation(PM&R) at the University of Virginia, followed by a fellowship in pediatric rehabilitation medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. Outside of work, Dr. Lunsford spends time with his family and church. A kid at heart, Dr. Lunsford enjoys games and outdoor activities.
Sarah O' Dorisio
Sarah O'Dorisio is a businesswoman, philanthropist, cancer survivor, and mother. She worked as a radiologic technologist and MRI technologist immediately following high school, but moved into hospital administration at age 24 to become administrator of the largest orthopaedic practice on the peninsula. She now manages a variety of medical offices in the Hampton Roads area, specializing in medical incentive and stimulus programs, workflow efficiency, human resource management, and business organization. Sarah's activities outside of work are no less numerous, working at various points with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Peninsula Food Bank, Newport News Judicial Screening Committee, and Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula, among others. Most importantly to her, she is a mother of two wonderful children. She is also a stage four cancer survivor and continues to battle the residual effects of her illness.
Alia currently serves as the Director of Transition Services at Unity Prep High School in Brooklyn, New York. She began her career in the disability advocacy space teaching special education in the South Bronx and then managed the youth and transition services department at INCLUDEnyc, where she ran their post-secondary counseling program for young people with disabilities. Alia is deeply passionate about ensuring that youth with disabilities have access to an appropriate and high quality education as well as opportunities to be successful in their transitions out of high school. As a person with chronic PTSD and an anxiety disorder, as well as a sibling to an individual with Intellectual Disabilities, Alia is a strong advocate for access to supports, accommodations, quality mental health care for youth and young adults in New York City. She believes that self-advocacy in educational spaces and the work-place will continue to challenge the pre-existing system, and hold service providers and employers accountable for providing appropriate accommodations. Alia also serves as a Court Appointed Service Advocate (CASA) for children and youth in foster care in New York City and teaches yoga in various spaces, specializing in trauma-informed and adaptive yoga. She has a bachelor's degree in Political Science and Human Development from Connecticut College as well as her master's degree in Secondary Education from the City College of New York.
David Thomason is Vice President of Advancement for Special Olympics Virginia (SOVA), where he has enjoyed a thirty year career. He works closely with the Global Messenger initiative, which promotes leadership opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities around the world and provides inspiration for David as he stewards donor relationships across Virginia. An alumnus of the College of William and Mary, he has committed his professional life to non-profit organizations—with the Peace Corps in Morocco, and then the American Heart Association, prior to his work with SOVA. He is a Past President of the Virginia Association of Fundraising Executives (VAFRE) and has served on multiple boards including the YMCA, Hampden-Sydney Music Festival, Orthopaedic Research of Virginia, and the Greater Richmond Association of Volunteer Administration. When not working, David enjoys biking, hiking, music and traveling—especially when it involves time with his two sons.
Lucy Trieshmann serves as the Blue Trunk Foundation's Director of Operations. She received her B.A. in Anthropology and Global Development Studies from the University of Virginia in 2017. As an undergraduate, she conducted international research on barriers to chronic disease management in low-resource communities. She stayed in Charlottesville after graduation where, in addition to her Blue Trunk duties, she works as a private tutor. Never one to be inactive, Lucy is also co-authoring a book on disability theory with Blue Trunk Founder Rupa Valdez and studying for the LSAT. In a few years, she will pursue a JD and fulfill her goal of becoming a disability-focused civil rights lawyer.
David MacDonald is the web accessibility consultant for Blue Trunk. He is president of CanAdapt and has been an Invited Expert with the international Accessibility Guidelines Working Group since 2002, which developed WCAG 2.0 in 2008, WCAG 2.1 in 2018, and is on the core team developing WCAG 2.2 due out in 2020. Most W3C accessibility documents include him as a named contributor. He was the web accessibility consultant to the Government of Canada in the new Accessible Canada Act legislation and has provided accessibility audits for dozens of Fortune 500 companies. He is on Certification Committee for the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). David is fluent in both English and French, and is a husband and father. He wrote the WCAG theme song with over 55,000 combined views on YouTube.
Himika Rahman is the graphic designer for the Blue Trunk Foundation website and mobile application. She received her BA in Cognitive Science with a concentration in Neuroscience from the University of Virginia (UVA), where she trained bomb-sniffing rats in a behavioral neuroscience lab. Himika then continued her education at UVA by pursuing an MPH. Throughout her undergrad and graduate career, Himika has worked as a designer focusing on health communication, thus combining her love for the arts and sciences. Some of her projects include app design for a health technology firm in in Washington D.C. and editorial design for Conflux, the first global health and research journal at UVA. Himika is now a medical student at the UVA School of Medicine, making her a "triple Hoo." When she's not reviewing her flashcards, Himika enjoys cooking allergy-friendly meals and browsing local Charlottesville bookstores.
Generate Impact is a software product company that partners with humanitarian organizations to help them fulfill their mission. Generate Impact is a team of partners, designers, and developers passionate about using their skills and expertise for the good of others to be a catalyst for change. Blue Trunk partnered with Generate Impact to build their application to accomplish its mission make travel accessible for everyone. Generate Impact seeks out world-changing projects and organizations to help build a better tomorrow by creating today.