Our Staff

Karuna Center is led by a staff team that works in partnership with peacebuilding organizations and colleagues worldwide.

Core Office Team

Karuna Center’s main office is located in Amherst, Massachusetts (U.S.A.)—but the team works remotely from diverse locations.

Polly Byers, M.A.
Executive Director

Polly Byers joined the staff of Karuna Center in July 2020, bringing more than 30 years of experience working both within and outside of government channels to support peacebuilding practices and to increase local collaboration and ownership of aid and peace processes. 

Full Bio

For more than thirty years, Polly Byers has worked to support peacebuilding practices and improve international development and humanitarian aid policy. Working from within and outside of government channels, she has driven efforts to make aid more responsive to communities impacted by violent conflict. As Executive Director of Karuna Center, Polly is looking forward to focusing intensively on her commitment to supporting the capacity and resilience of conflict-affected societies in order to foster peace and reconciliation.

Polly’s career has focused on developing collaborative approaches to increase local ownership of aid and peacebuilding efforts. She worked within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop the agency’s first integrated strategy for Sudan, combining relief with development assistance to support local Sudanese capacity and resilience despite intense conflict and political turmoil. Polly also led successful U.S. efforts to stop the sale of “blood diamonds” traded to fund violent conflict, helping to establish the first international diamond certification system. Later, Polly helped draft USAID’s first policy on fragile states, calling for better analysis of the sources of fragility and more strategic program responses, and played a lead role in increasing and improving the agency’s support to conflict-affected areas.

Polly also served as the Executive Director of CDA Collaborative Learning, an NGO focused on improving the effectiveness of organizations working in conflict-affected areas, and integrating the concept of Do No Harm into aid programs. Do No Harm practices seek to analyze and avoid the potential for international aid to unintentionally have negative consequences on local communities.

Ms. Byers holds an MA from Yale University in International Relations, a BA from Wesleyan University, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco.

Amela Puljek-Shank, M.A.
Program Manager

Amela joined the Karuna Center in 2020.  As a program Manager, she brings over 17 years of experience developing, managing program and collaborating with peacebuilding organizations across Europe and Middle East.

Full Bio

Amela Puljek-Shank holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Transformation from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.  She co-wrote the chapters “Journey of Healing” in Positive Approaches to Peacebuilding: A Resource for Innovators (2003) and “The Contribution of Trauma Healing to Peacebuilding in Southeast Europe” in Peacebuilding in Traumatized Societies (2007).  She also wrote the chapter “Trauma and Reconciliation” in 20 Pieces of Encouragement for Awakening and Change (2007). Amela worked as a facilitator with the Seeds of Peace Program for youth from deeply divided societies from the Middle East, Asia, and Balkans. She taught in the field of trauma healing and recovery at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University.  As Mennonite Central Committee Representative for Southeast Europe and later East Europe from 2002 until 2012, she designed and led peacebuilding and trauma healing programs as a trainer while developing innovative training aids for understanding key concepts related to trauma. Later on she took a role of Mennonite Central Committee’s Area Director for Europe and Middle East from 2012 until 2019. In this capacity she was responsible for program management and implantations, organizational policies that foster staff resilience and worker care in addition to being frequently involved in responding to crisis situations. From 2020 she has been supporting the Network for Peacebuilding in Bosnia and Herzegovina in its work of supporting the local NGOs in their peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts. Currently she is pursuing further studies in the area of Gestalt Psychotherapy and the field of peace building that focusses on resilience, healing, intercultural competence. 

Amela was born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She speaks Bosnian (Croatian, Serbian) and English. 

Daniela Westphal-Huber, M.A.
Program Manager

Daniela joined the Karuna Center in 2020. As a Program Manager, she brings more than a decade of experience developing and managing programs and advancing collaboration within international, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. 

Full Bio

Daniela has worked on capacity building, research and collaboration initiatives to advance evidence-based approaches to international security, counterterrorism, crime, human trafficking and drug policy worldwide. At the Open Society Foundations, she implemented a program aimed at fostering an organizational culture that embraced change, inclusion and diversity, coordinated a rapid response initiative to confront hate crimes and incidents, and managed a high-priority collaborative project on global drug policy reform. Daniela previously served as a consultant with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Ministry of Justice in Brasília, and worked at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.

Daniela holds an MA in International Security from Georgetown University, and a BA in International Relations from Univali in Brazil, where she was born and raised. Daniela speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish, and French.

Jessica Miller
Bookkeeper

Jessica joined the Karuna Center team in June 2014. She has years of bookkeeping and office management experience in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors.

Full Bio

Htet is a Levinger Peacebuilding Intern at Karuna Center for 2020-2021. Prior to joining Karuna Center, she interned with various organizations performing research on the Indo-Pacific as well as participating in political advocacy for the American Muslim community in Massachusetts. She holds a B.A. in Government and Religion from Smith College and was born and raised in Yangon, Myanmar. She speaks Burmese and English.

Keenyn McFarlane, M.B.A.
Financial Director

Keenyn McFarlane joined the Karuna Center in 2020. As Financial Director, he brings extensive experience in non-profit finanical and administrative management.

Full Bio

Mr. McFarlane has served as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for several nonprofit organizations and privately-held companies, as a senior executive in government, and as a cabinet-level administrator in higher education.

McFarlane is a dynamic and agile business leader with more than two decades of professionally developed leadership, strategic, financial, operations, and interpersonal skills. In several CFO roles, he has been responsible for the delivery of comprehensive finance, information technology, human resource management and facilities management functions. The breadth of his experience consists of traditional CFO responsibilities of accounting and audit, budgeting and resource planning, risk management and insurance, tax and compliance, asset management, treasury services and capital investment, and also includes program design and evaluation, facilities and construction management, security operations and business continuity planning, marketing, philanthropy and resource development and enterprise strategic planning. He has provided leadership to the full spectrum of financial management disciplines as well as to fundraising, human resources, information technology and facilities management, communications, marketing and public relations.

Mr. McFarlane has lectured in Economics and Management as a member of the adjunct faculty at Emmanuel College in Boston. He serves on the Board of the National Blood Foundation Research and Education Trust and is a Posse Foundation Career Coach. After graduating from Regis High School in Manhattan, he attended Brown University, and later earned a B.A. in Economics from the University of Massachusetts and a MBA from Bentley College. He is a native New Yorker, raised in the East New York section of Brooklyn.

Kristine Downing
Program Associate

Kristine came to Karuna in 2018 after years of admiring the center’s work from afar. Before landing in Western Massachusetts, Kristine spent several years in Kathmandu, serving at numerous Nepal based NGOs.

Full Bio

Kristine came to Karuna in 2018 after years of admiring the center’s work from afar. Before landing in Western Massachusetts, Kristine spent several years in Kathmandu, serving at numerous Nepal based NGOs, from Tashi School yoga instructor to program manager at Good Earth Global. Her most recent experience with Saathi, Nepal’s first VAWG-focused NGO, led her to an exploration of conflict transformation and the gendered dimensions of peacebuilding.

Kristine holds bachelor’s degrees from McGill University in Russian Language and Religious Studies, with a focus on Tibetan Buddhism, as well as a certificate in conflict transformation from SIT’s CONTACT program. Born in Denmark, she is fluent in Danish and conversational in French, Russian, and Nepali.

Laura Anderson
Communications and Development Coordinator

Laura Anderson joined Karuna Center in 2010 with experience in not-for-profit communications and fundraising.

Full Bio

Laura Anderson joined Karuna Center in 2010 with experience in not-for-profit communications and fundraising. She has been in the position of both grant-maker and grant-writer for grassroots organizations, worked in video and other visual media, and been involved in various community-based organizing projects. She has a BA in Social Justice and Media of Communication from University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Htet Thadar Aung
Levinger Peacebuilding Intern

Prior to joining Karuna Center, Htet interned with various organizations performing research on the Indo-Pacific and participating in political advocacy for the American Muslim community in Massachusetts. She holds a B.A. in Government and Religion from Smith College.

Senior Peacebuilding Associates

Olivia Stokes Dreier, M.P.A., M.S.W.

Senior Peacebuilding Advisor and Former Executive Director of Karuna Center

Olivia Stokes Dreier has extensive international experience in conflict transformation, including the development, design, and delivery of multi-year programs in peacebuilding, inter-communal dialogue, reconciliation, and conflict-sensitive development for diverse stakeholders.

Full Bio

Olivia Stokes Dreier is a former Executive Director and lead trainer at Karuna Center. She has extensive international experience in conflict transformation, including the development, design, and delivery of multi-year programs in peacebuilding, inter-communal dialogue, reconciliation, and conflict-sensitive development for diverse stakeholders.

Since 2002, Ms. Dreier has designed and led programs in over fifteen countries, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Central African Republic, Kosovo, Macedonia, Georgia, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, and Senegal. She frequently conducts conflict assessments, and has consulted with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank on conflict-sensitive development. From 2002-2012, Ms. Dreier also directed the Conflict Transformation Across Cultures (CONTACT) Graduate Certificate Program at the School for International Training (SIT) in Brattleboro VT.

Earlier in her career, Ms. Dreier worked with the Gandhian movement in India on rural development and non-formal education for two years. After returning to the United States, she served as a community mental health practitioner for over 20 years, working with individuals, families, and groups from both narrative and systems orientations. Ms. Dreier holds a B.A. in Psychology from Yale University, a Masters in Social Work from Smith College, and a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.  She has professional proficiency in French, and speaks conversational Hindi and Urdu.

Paula Green, Ed.D.

Founder of the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding and Senior Peacebuilding Advisor

Dr. Green has extensive international experience in peacebuilding and conflict transformation as an international consultant, facilitator and lecturer in U.S. Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and brings a sense of social responsibility and spiritual awareness to her work as a psychologist, educator and leader in the peacebuilding field.

Full Bio

Dr. Paula Green is the Founder and Former Director of the Karuna Center. She directed, designed, and implemented multi-year programs in peacebuilding, inter-communal dialogue, and reconciliation for diverse stakeholders for the first 15 years of the organization’s existence. 

Dr. Green has extensive international experience in peacebuilding and conflict transformation as an international consultant, facilitator and lecturer in U.S. Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and brings a sense of social responsibility and spiritual awareness to her work as a psychologist, educator and leader in the peacebuilding field.

As a Professor of Conflict Transformation at the School for International Training (SIT) in Brattleboro, Vermont, Dr. Green co-directs the Conflict Transformation Across Cultures (CONTACT) program, a summer institute, and a graduate certificate program designed to strengthen and support the community-building and conflict intervention efforts of peacebuilders worldwide.

During Dr. Green’s subsequent tenure as Senior Fellow at the Karuna Center, she authored the training guide Peacebuilding in Divided Communities: Karuna Center’s Approach to Training and co-edited the textbook Psychology and Social Responsibility: Facing Global Challenges. She has served as an active board member for several international peace organizations, including the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, and continues to engage with the Karuna Center as a senior peacebuilding advisor and consultant.

Mirsad “Miki” Jacevic, M.S.

Senior Peacebuilding Advisor, Washington, D.C.

Mirsad “Miki” Jacevic is Vice Chair at the Institute for Inclusive Security, Director of the Bosnia program at Global Youth Connect and a professor at various universities.

Full Bio

Mirsad “Miki” Jacevic is Vice Chair at the Institute for Inclusive Security, Director of the Bosnia program at Global Youth Connect and a professor at various universities. He directed the conflict resolution programming in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan, and previously managed country programs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, and Liberia. He was instrumental in building an inclusive Afghan Peace and Reconstruction Programme, Liberian post-conflict development strategy, Colombian transitional justice and disarmament structures, and Pakistan police reform initiatives. In addition, he has worked in Guatemala, Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, and has extensive experience in various aspects of post-conflict reconstruction in his native Balkans region.

Mr. Jacevic has overseen Inclusive Security’s training programs and strategic consultations around the globe and led the development of strategic partnerships with UN Development Programme, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and Organization of American States, among others. He was the primary author of the Institute’s groundbreaking curriculum, based on several decades of experience in teaching conflict analysis and resolution around the world, and has overseen creation of curricula on advocacy for sustainable peace, inclusive security sector reform, and creation of government policies on UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Mr. Jacevic has been at the forefront of Inclusive Security’s efforts to design and implement high-impact national action plans (NAPs) across the globe. Over the last five years, he worked closely with the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in designing their new NAP. In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Mr. Jacevic led a comprehensive assessment of the country’s plan at the request of the Agency for Gender Equality of BiH and continues to provide comprehensive technical assistance for the development of BiH’s new plan and corresponding monitoring and evaluation system. Mr. Jacevic was also part of Inclusive Security’s assessment that evaluated the impact of Liberia’s NAP at the direct request of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In Indonesia, he supported members of our Women Waging Peace network as they drafted and launched their country’s plan. In addition to leading specific country engagements, Mr. Jacevic assists in shaping the program’s strategic vision and guides development of the NAP team’s curricula.

Originally from Sarajevo, Mr. Jacevic assisted efforts to stop the bloodshed and promote post-war reconciliation.  He directed the Emerging Leaders Project at the State of the World Forum and managed global reintegration efforts for child soldiers at Search for Common Ground. He and his wife co-founded Global Youth Connect, an organization dedicated to mobilizing young people to prevent genocide. As the director of its Bosnia program, for the last decade he has led delegation of international students on a month-long tour of Bosnia, including annual commemoration of the genocide at Srebrenica. He is a PhD candidate at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and he teaches at American University, Prescott College, and the School for International Training, with a special focus on transitional justice and monitoring/evaluation of peacebuilding programs. He and his wife, Guatemalan human rights leader Eva Contreras Morales, have two teenage children.

Maria Jessop, M.A.

Senior Peacebuilding Advisor, Washington, D.C.

Maria Jessop has over ten years of international and U.S. experience using mediation, facilitated dialogue, and capacity-building programs to bridge divides, find solutions, and catalyze groups for peaceful change from the grassroots to the national level.

Full Bio

Maria Jessop is a Senior Peacebuilding Advisor with Karuna Center in Washington, DC. and also consults independently. She has nine years of international experience and ten years in the U.S. using mediation, facilitated dialogue, and capacity-building programs to bridge divides, find solutions, and catalyze groups for peaceful change from the grassroots to the national level.  She has conducted programs in over fifteen countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, the Central African Republic and many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

© Karuna Center for Peacebuilding
447 West Street, Amherst, MA 01002 USA
PHONE: +1 413.256.3800

Registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization