Ummul Maunu Kathawalla
Ummul Kathawalla, Ph.D. is the loving older sister of Zahara. Ummul is a licensed psychologist and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Practice at Suffolk University in Boston, MA. Ummul has many years of volunteering experience and was previously on the board of AshaUSA, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit focused on supporting the health and wellbeing of the South Asian community. She received her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Minnesota and a B.S. in human development and psychological services with a minor in global health from Northwestern University. Her research examines how the societal context, life stress, and discrimination contributes to the development and persistence of identity and psychological conditions in minorities. In her clinical work, Ummul conducts therapy with clients with diverse backgrounds and psychological concerns. She uses integrative, client-centered approaches and focuses on identity and values exploration. She enjoys activities Zahara loved as well: yoga, reading, watching live music, traveling, cooking, trying new foods, and crafting.
Jane Nienhuis is a loving friend of Zahara Kathawalla. Jane graduated with Zahara from UW-Madison in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources and Marketing. Jane has many years of volunteer service, including work with the Salvation Army and the Madison Public School System. Jane currently works as a Customer Development Associate with Kimberly-Clark in Chicago, IL. In her free time, she enjoys running, yoga, hiking and working on her Grandma’s farm. She is proud to work with the board to create a lasting and meaningful way to preserve Zahara’s love, energy and values.
Salim Kathawalla, MD is the lucky father of Zahara and Ummul. He is the co-founder of the Zahara Kathawalla Foundation and is honored to continue his daughter’s legacy through initiatives that serve young adults. Dr. Salim Kathawalla was born in Mumbai, India and moved to the United States of America at 27 years old to begin his Residency and Fellowship in Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. For the last 25 years he has primarily worked at Park Nicollet Clinics near the Twin Cities. He also commutes a couples time a month to provide care to folks living in rural communities in Minnesota. Dr. Kathawalla has been awarded the Best Doctor Award multiple years in a row. He is passionate and committed to provide the best care to all his patients irrespective of their insurance and financial status and racial, cultural or ethnic background. When Salim is not with his patients, he is a true family man- enjoying food, movies, hikes, and travel with his family and friends. He brings the same level of enthusiasm and hard work to support young adults’ goals through the ZKF. Salim will strive to keep Zahara’s legacy and spirit alive forever.
Erin Stauch is a proud and loving friend of Zahara Kathawalla. She attended The Blake School in Minneapolis, MN where she met Zahara and then continued her education at the University of Denver. She received her B.S.B.A by majoring in Finance with minors in Business Ethics & Legal Studies and Real Estate. She currently works as a financial analyst at Polaris. She has various volunteer experiences including attending a service trip with the Starkey Hearing Foundation as well as volunteering at Bridging and Hope Academy, all based in Minnesota. She enjoys similar activities to Zahara such as traveling and exploring new places, cooking, staying active and spending time outdoors.
As a family friend of the Kathawallas for almost two decades, Denise enjoyed seeing Ummul and Zahara grow into beautiful, smart, talented women. Denise was a former advertising and marketing professional working on global brands. Since shifting her focus to social impact work, she has continued to contribute to strategic development, stakeholder engagement and fundraising for several nonprofits, while also actively volunteering with youth. In 2015, she launched the Indika Alliance – a U.S. based human rights nonprofit to support domestic workers in India. In 2017, she moved to Berkeley, to work at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, customizing and executing training programs for policymakers from international governments. Denise is honored to be a founding board member at the Zahara Kathawalla Foundation and work with the Kathawalla family, and some of Zahara’s close friends to build a meaningful legacy that celebrates Zahara and the inspiring impact she had during her short, beautiful life. Denise was the board secretary from 2020-2023.
Olivia Priedeman is a close friend of Zahara Kathawalla dating back to the very first year Zahara joined the Blake School in Minneapolis, MN. Olivia and Zahara grew together throughout high school, noting that photography was when they became best friends, and remained close through college and their early careers. Olivia attended the University of Michigan where she studied Neuroscience and looked forward to Michigan vs. Wisconsin sporting events. Following graduation, she joined Huron Consulting Group in Chicago where she works as a Higher Education Analyst, assisting Universities and colleges with research administration and compliance. Olivia enjoys engaging with her community through volunteering initiatives and she currently serves as a Mentor for iMentor in Chicago Public Schools. Some of Olivia’s hobbies include yoga, biking, cross-stitching, baking, and anything else that will get her outdoors. She looks forward to working with Zahara’s family and close friends to spread Zahara’s energy and create new opportunities in education, wellness, and travel for young adults.
Naama Kathawala Singh
Naama Kathawala Singh is Zahara’s double first cousin. Naama’s parents, Durriya and Zuzar Kathawala are sister and brother of Farida and Salim respectively, so that makes Zahara and Naama double first cousins and more like sisters. Naama lived with Salim, Farida, Ummul, and Zahara between 1997 to 2001 and had the privilege of seeing Zahara grow at every stage. Naama received her BS in Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota. As an entrepreneur, Naama then returned to Mumbai, India to start various businesses in the education and wellness areas. First, she started a successful school for children with learning difficulties. Naama continued to open other play centers for children to learn in Mumbai. Most recently, she opened Circles & Cycles, a preschool that fosters children’s growth, creativity, and exploration. Naama’s family is her number one. She is also a proud mom of three toddlers. She says she learned her parenting style from Farida and Salim, who created such beautiful family values that she experienced whilst growing up. With Zahara’s passing she realizes the fragility of life and makes sure in Zahara’s spirit of living each day to its fullest, she too finds more meaning with her genuine connections to loved ones, whilst remembering Zahara is with her every moment. Serving on the ZKF board helps to keep Zahara’s legacy alive whilst inspiring many, which is a great honor to her.
Farida Kathawalla is the dedicated mother of Zahara and Ummul. She is the co-founder of the Zahara Kathawalla Foundation and is grateful to continue her daughter’s legacy through meaningful initiatives. Farida was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka and came to the United States of America first as an AFS exchange student to Anchorage, Alaska, and then back again to complete her degree in Business Administration at Alaska Pacific University. A true adventurer and traveler, Farida showed her daughters how to not be scared to try something or go somewhere new. She is an active member of the Minnesota community and has many years of volunteering experience. Farida was previously on the board of AshaUSA, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit focused on supporting the health and wellbeing of the South Asian community, where she led the “Mental Health Matters” initiative and she organized and hosted multiple events. Farida also manages a small real estate business and the Kathawalla household. Farida brings her energy to the ZKF to provide young adults new opportunities and keep Zahara’s spirit alive.
Claire Simcox is a proud friend of Zahara Kathawalla. Claire and Zahara attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison together from 2015-2019, where they met while moving into their freshman dorm, and remained close friends over the years and after graduation. Claire studied Communication Sciences & Disorders and Spanish at UW – Madison before completing a Master’s Degree in Speech and Language Pathology at Northwestern University. Claire currently practices as a Speech and Language Pathologist at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, where she aids in the recovery of adults experiencing disorders of speech, language, cognition, and swallowing, primarily of neurologic origin. Claire has many years of volunteer experience, including teaching English as a second language while living in Madrid, Spain, and tutoring school aged children throughout the years. In her free time, Claire enjoys spending time with friends, reading, running, and trying new restaurants. Claire is honored to be a part of an organization that helps to maintain the legacy and spirit of her beloved friend.
Sarah Levi is a dear and loving friend of Zahara. Attending middle and upper school together at The Blake School, Sarah and Zahara built a beautiful friendship that would last a lifetime. Since their first adventure together, sledding in Zahara’s Eden Prairie backyard mid-blizzard, to their sporadic Monday night dance parties, Sarah and Zahara have always been close friends into college and their early careers. At present, Sarah is a first-year medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine where she plans to focus her studies on women’s health and research. For the past four years, Sarah has worked as a research coordinator in New York City hospitals, volunteered as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and spent her weekends playing with and helping cats at her local cat clinic. She is thrilled to be on the ZKF board withthe Kathawalla family and friends to help celebrate Zahara’s beautiful spirit.
Julia Smadja is a dear friend of Zahara. Julia and Zahara were freshman year roommates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where the two forged a special friendship. They learned how much they had in common, and bonded over their mutual love of travel and adventure. Like Zahara, Julia graduated from the Wisconsin School of Business. Julia double-majored in International Business and Marketing, and minored in French. After graduation, Julia transitioned into the real estate industry to join her family’s business in multifamily property management. Julia now lives in Los Angeles, California, where she loves to hike with her dog, rollerblade (a Zahara-inspired activity), and explore the many beautiful national parks that the West Coast has to offer. Julia is proud to work with the Kathawalla Family and close friends to share Zahara’s zest for life, kind spirit, and youthful wisdom with others through the Foundations’s 3 pillars: travel, education, and wellness.
Previous Board Members
Gia Dinon is a close friend of Zahara. Gia and Zahara met at the University of Wisconsin, where they lived in the same dorm together and bonded over their shared love for music, food, and sunsets at the Wisconsin Union. Gia graduated with a degree in Journalism and an emphasis in reporting. Since graduation, Gia has remained steadfast in her commitment to public service and currently works as the Development & Grants Specialist for a local nonprofit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family, travel, getting active, and curating playlists. Gia was a board member 2021-2022.