BOD     Our Board Members (in alphabetical order) are as follows:

Bülent Ender, M.D. - Chair of the Board (Raleigh, North Carolina)

Dr. Bülent Ender is a gastroenterologist at Wake Gastroenterology. He has been on the staff of Rex Hospital of Raleigh, North Carolina since 1993. Dr. Ender is a member of multiple medical societies including the American Gastroenterological Association and the American College of Physicians.

Bülent is an active member of the Turkish-American community in the Triangle area and is a founding member and the Chairman of the Board of Bridge to Turkiye Fund. He also manages BTF’s Endowment Fund, established with Board of Directors’ charitable contributions. Bulent lives in west Raleigh with his wife Deniz, and enjoys tennis, cycling, swimming and traveling.

Ela Eskinazi - Director (Charlotte, North Carolina)


Ela Eskinazi born in Ankara, Turkey is a graduate of TED High School and Middle East Technical University with B.Sc. In Management. She attained MBA degree at Purdue University in 2000. She has worked at GE Healthcare for 6 years at various leadership roles and she is certified black-belt. She moved to Charlotte NC in 2006. She has worked in Consumer Banking for the first 5 yrs of her bank tenure at Bank of America, and is currently working as Sales Performance Manager in Healthcare & Institutions Commercial Banking team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Ela is married, has 2 sons. She likes outdoor sports, and cycling and she does painting as a hobby. She has been member of BTF family since 2007 and been involved in different fund raising activities and events. She is a strong advocate of education as a way of liberating minds and societies, and especially women living in poverty.

Gül Bahtiyar, M.D. - Director (Brooklyn, New York)


Dr. Gül Bahtiyar was born in Erzurum, Turkey in 1974. After studying at Beşiktas Atatürk Anatolian High School, she earned her medical degree at Istanbul University, Cerrahpaşa Medical School and moved to the US in 1998 to pursue with her residency. She did research as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University, completed her internal medicine residency at Tufts University and endocrinology fellowship and master of public health at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. She holds a clinical associate professor of medicine degree at NYU Langone Medical Center and works at Woodhull Medical Center.

A daughter of an academic family, Gül is a firm believer in education, vision and gender equality. She is committed to creating opportunities and making differences in the lives of underprivileged and underserved girls and boys in Turkey. She has been actively involved at BTF since 2013 and feels privileged to be part of a community based on trust and compassion. She lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Gül Yanmaz-Karsligil, CFA - Director (Boston, Massachusetts)

Gül is a native of Izmir, Turkey and a graduate of Bornova Anadolu High School and Bogazici University. She moved to the U.S. in 1993 to pursue her MBA at Cornell University’s Johnson Business School. Gül is an experienced financial professional and portfolio manager, with close to two decades of experience. She is currently a Senior Managing Director and Vice President of Liberty Mutual Group Asset Management Inc., where she has worked since 1998. Gül represents Liberty Mutual on numerous fund advisory and corporate boards. In 2011, Gül served as the LMGAMI Chair for Liberty Mutual’s successful charitable giving campaign, Give with Liberty.

Previously, Gül served two terms as a Director on the Board of Riverside Children’s Center, a not-for-profit preschool in Newton, MA, where she was a Finance Committee member. She also served as VP of Community Service, Board of Directors, Johnson School Alumni Club of Boston.  She is a CFA Charterholder, and a member in good standing with the CFA Institute and Boston Security Analysts Society. She is married and is a mother of two daughters. Gül is very interested in issues of poverty, development and microfinance. She also passionately believes that raising strong, independent women is of vital importance to the future of societies, and that no country is ever able to advance while holding back its women.

Hande Can Uzun - Director (Mountain View, California)


Hande Can Uzun was born in 1981 in Ankara, Türkiye. She received her B.Sc. degree in Management and M.A degree in International Relations from Bilkent University. In 2005, she received her M.A. degree in Organizational Leadership from Chapman University.

Hande has been an active member of Turkish community in California since 2005. She served as the Social Events Chair and then as the President of Orange County Turkish American Association. She has received organization’s Emerging Leader Award in 2008. She was a founding member of Orange County Turkish School and volunteered there as a teacher. Volunteering and especially helping underprivileged children has always been a passion of Hande’s; and therefore, she considers being a part of Bridge to Turkiye Fund a great privilege.

Hande is currently employed by Aviat Networks as a project manager, and resides in Northern California with her husband, Ersin

Iffet Balak Savas - Director (Raleigh, North Carolina)

Iffet Balak Savas, was born in Kayseri and grew up in Izmir, but her family’s roots extend back to Tokat, hence she considers herself from Türkiye. Iffet is a graduate of Ege University and holds a Master’s degree in Agricultural – Life Sciences. She has been a resident of Raleigh, NC since 1989. Iffet is employed by LabCorp at the Center for Molecular Biology and Pathology in Research Triangle Park, NC and lead’s Dianon Anatomic Pathology Lab.

A BTF supporter since 2004, Iffet has been a member of BTF’s Leadership Circle since 2007. She has served as a fundraising coordinator and lead BTF’s BUVAK and ZICEV projects in Izmir. Music, dancing, swimming, hiking and singing are among her hobbies. She has been a folk dancer since she was in elementary school and enjoys international folk music and dance during her spare time.

Jill Stockwell - Director (Temple, New Hampshire)

Jill Stockwell was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in New Hampshire. Jill graduated from Harvard University in 2008, and spent her first year out of college in Turkey as a Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Fellow. After volunteering with the Biga Women’s Cooperative in Canakkale, she contacted BTF about a collaborative fundraising effort for the Biga Women and Children’s Center in the spring of 2009. After a successful fundraising campaign, the center opened in the summer of 2011.

Jill is now a PhD student in Comparative Literature at Princeton University, studying Turkish, German, and Ottoman literatures. Her work focuses on labor migration in the Twentieth Century, and how Turks and Turkish-Germans have reflected on domestic and international migration. She has been fortunate enough to return to Turkey each summer for language and literature classes, and always visits her dear friends in Biga. Broadly intersted in girls’ education and rural library development, Jill’s current focus within the BTF community is fundraising for the growing children’s book collection at TÜRGÖK, Türkiye Görme Özürlüler Kitaplığı, Turkey’s first and only lending library for the blind. She hopes many will join her in dedicating their marathon or half-marathon fundraising efforts to TÜRGÖK – she’s always looking for running buddies, no experience necessary!

Jordan Michael Scepanski - Director (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)

Jordan Scepanski is Dean Emeritus, California State University, Long Beach. He holds an undergraduate degree from Manhattan College, and graduate degrees from Emory University and the University of Tennessee at Nashville. He most recently was Dean of Library and Learning Resources at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates, prior to which he held the position of Executive Director of the Triangle Research Libraries Network, a consortium of Duke, North Carolina Central, and North Carolina State Universities, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has worked in libraries, library organizations, and academic institutions in California, Georgia, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, and Tennessee, in Ankara, Turkey, and in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the U.A.E. Mr. Scepanski has taught at California State University, Long Beach and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and he has lectured and made numerous presentations at other institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

His acquaintance with Turkey dates from the mid-nineteen sixties when he lived in Turkey for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching English as a foreign language to elementary, middle, and secondary school students in Elazig and Sakarya. He returned with his family in 1981 as a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Librarianship at Hacettepe University in Ankara and since has been a regular visitor and a presenter at Turkish professional conferences and other scholarly events. Mr. Scepanski resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, H. Lea Wells.

Michelle Deniz Drousé Woodhouse - Director (Troy, Michigan)


Michelle Deniz Drousé Woodhouse is a social entrepreneur, consultant, dancer and new mom currently living in Troy, Michigan. She has 15 years of experience managing organizations and projects focused on community development, urban design, innovation, women’s empowerment, and Middle Eastern dance in California, Michigan and the United Kingdom. She has a BA in Environmental Analysis and Design and a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of California, Irvine.

Michelle co-founded the Orange County Turkish American Association and served as the Chairman of the Board. She also served as Vice Chairman of the Association of Turkish Americans of Southern California and led the Orange County Multicultural Coalition. Michelle is married to David and they have a daughter Ava Elâ.

Sevda Küpoğlu Aleckson - Director (Orange County, California)

 SevdaKidSevda was born in Istanbul, Turkey and moved to the US in 1975 to pursue her university education in Chemistry from UNLV. She is a principal scientist with over 30 years of experience in the environmental consulting field and Quality Assurance management. She is also the President of SKA Consulting.

Sevda has been living in Aliso Viejo (Orange County), California area since 1995 and has been an active member serving on the Boards of the Association of Turkish Americans of Southern California (ATASC), Orange County Turkish American Association (OCTAA), and the Orange County Turkish School. In 2004, Sevda led the formation of OCTAA as a regional chapter of ATASC and served as the President and Membership Chair and, in 2006, she helped found the Turkish School in Irvine, California where she continues to serve on the school committee.  In 2010, she led the establishment of the grassroots initiative: Medine Memi Memorial Girls’ Empowerment Scholarships Program for BTF. In addition to being passionate about promoting Turkey to the greater communities, Sevda is a constant advocate for girls’ education and empowerment in Turkey and globally. Sevda is married to Keith Aleckson, and has two daughters, Michelle Deniz who lives in London, UK and Semrin who is studying at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Şule Kivanç-Ancieta - Director (Oak Park, Illinois)


Şule was born in Samsun, Turkey. During her childhood years, her family relocated several times within rural Turkey as a result of her father’s work. It was during those years that she developed a keen sense of community values and the importance of education to build a better future.

After receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics at Middle East Technical University and a Teaching Certificate from Gazi University in 1993, Şule worked as a Physics teacher and a High School administrator in Ankara.  She relocated to the US in 1997 and now lives in Oak Park, IL with her husband Victor and son Lucas. She has a successful private tutoring practice in the Chicago area and works as an off-campus teacher with the Oak Park River Forest High School.  Şule is fluent in English, Spanish, and Turkish. When she is not busy at work, she enjoys running, yoga, scuba-diving, nature walking, traveling, reading, and photography. The early experiences developed during her childhood years stayed with her and became a moral compass throughout her life to pass on the gift of education to others who are less fortunate regardless of location.

Vicdan Babaloğlu Akyürek- Director (Tenafly, New Jersey)

Vicdan grew up and went to school in Ankara. She earned her BA in American Culture and Literature in 1992, and MA in English Language and Literature in 1994, from Bilkent University. After working for 2 years as an English Instructor in the Faculty of Humanities and Letters at Bilkent, Vicdan moved to Austin, TX in 1996. There, she volunteered to teach English to Vietnamese refugees while working part-time for a research company. She moved to Charlotte from San Francisco Bay area in 2003, where she currently resides with her husband and daughter. She serves on the board of ATA-NC Charlotte since last year.

Vicdan met Bridge to Türkiye in 2004 and feels lucky to be working with such a dedicated group of people to help kids in Türkiye.

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