Sharon Prince, Chair & President of Grace Farms Foundation recently wrote about why hopeful spaces matter, particularly when working toward advancing good in the world. “While I believe that space can be inspirational and communicate, space alone can’t drive change, she said. “It takes people who can envision what can be, who can make a commitment, and then vigorously work to accomplish it.”
Since opening this new kind of public space in 2015, an 80-acre expanse of preserved natural land in Fairfield County, Connecticut, Prince has built an accomplished team of visionaries in their respective fields of nature, arts, justice, community, and faith. “Together, they have helped create a distinctive, boundary-defying culture of grace, peace, and excellence.”
Volumes have been written about what makes a great leader and how they successfully actualize their vision throughout an organization. Within three years, Prince has created a hopeful space and vision that takes a distinct interdisciplinary approach to address complex humanitarian and social issues, including human and wildlife trafficking and restoring nature. The Foundation and its interdisciplinary leaders in the areas of nature, arts, justice, community, and faith, invite
global thought leaders and the community into conversation to consider society’s most pressing issues. Within the reflective and welcoming space of the River building, meaningful questioning and engagement often raises awareness and can lead to community involvement in the solutions.
“Our programs have become a catalyst for global systemic change in some of the most pressing and ignored humanitarian issues of our time,” Prince says, including shifting public policy to better protect hotel workers against labor and sex trafficking.
To accomplish the impossible, great leaders say passion, purpose, and skills are essential. “These skills are just as important in building a diverse leadership team with entrepreneurial capacity – with experience, ancillary accomplishments, and boots-on-the-ground skills,” she says.
As new leaders look to emulate the attributes of what makes a great leader, Grace Farms is emerging as new style in leadership. Prince and her accomplished leadership team could indeed inspire future generation of leaders aiming to accomplish the impossible.
Chair and President
Spearheading the vision for Grace Farms, Sharon Prince has been instrumental in varying aspects of creating the forward-thinking public space. Through her involvement in the thoughtful design of Grace Farms, Ms. Prince was honored with various accolades, including her appointment to the 2018 AIA Institute Honor Awards for Architecture Jury. As a macro-level thinker, poised to create systemic change, Prince has successfully disrupted the status quo through her ongoing work with Grace Farms Foundation. Though her work spans many arenas, Prince has focused efforts to fight child exploitation, human trafficking, and violence against women on a local, national, and global scale.
Prince co-hosted a symposium with the United Nations University, titled “Fighting Human Trafficking in Conflict”. As a result of this renowned convening, a published report to the United Nations Security Council led to the UN Resolution 2331 in December of 2016. Collaborating with other organizations, Prince is also currently joining forces with WPP agencies Geometry Global and J. Walter Thompson, along with Shazam, in the development of a global media campaign called “Unchain: Freedom Needs Fighters”. The campaign aims to end modern day slavery, and increase global awareness of the ways in which slavery exists in a modern, globalized world.
Prior to developing Grace Farms, Ms. Prince was the President of 66North, an Icelandic technical outerwear brand that she developed and distributed in 100 stores in North America. She holds a BS/BA and MBA from the University of Tulsa. Notably, Prince received NOMI Network’s “Abolitionist Award” and Auburn Seminary’s “Lives of Commitment Award”, both in 2017. Prince continues to be an advocate for systemic change, to champion human rights for all, and to dedicate her professional life to these ongoing goals.
Justice Initiative Director
Krishna Patel’s legal portfolio spans the length of two decades, during which time, she served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut from 2003 to 2015. Impressively, from 2010 to 2015, Patel also served as the Deputy Chief of the National Security and Major Crimes Unit. Patel’s impressive legal career, background, and experiences, have parlayed into vastly successful endeavors throughout her time with Grace Farms Foundation.
As an active strategist within the expansive initiatives to end human trafficking on a local, national, and global level, Patel lends her expertise to initiate systemic change. Organizing actions against human trafficking, Patel has notably assisted in the drafting of amendments intended to bolster Connecticut’s anti-trafficking laws, the results of which went into effect on May 17, 2016.
In addition, Patel spearheads educational sessions, teaching law enforcement officers ways to utilize big data platforms to locate and apprehend traffickers, and to reunite survivors with their families. Firm in her conviction that education is the best tool for change, Patel also works within many disciplines to educate hospitality staff and industry leaders regarding successfully identifying and reporting potential cases of human trafficking.
Krishna is a sought-after speaker and has appeared on TEDx. She is the 2019 recipient of the Citizen of the Law Award, presented by the Connecticut Bar Association. The award is given to a legal professional who has made significant contributions to a charitable or public service cause that provides inspiration and contributes to the good of society.
Director of Law Enforcement & Risk Officer
As a Federal Agent since 1995, Rod Khattabi has investigated a vast variety of federal criminal violations, and through the Department of Homeland Security, has overseen the New Haven field office. Throughout his illustrious career, Khattabi has received many accolades for his bravery, including the Medal of Valor, for his selfless heroism during the events of 9/11.
Within his multifaceted role with Grace Farms Foundation, Khattabi is responsible for developing, implementing, and executing the risk program, and assessing and reporting his findings. Parlaying his expertise, Khattabi provides valuable education for law enforcement on a local, state, national, and even international level, focusing on the successful combatting of organized crime involved in human trafficking, and the illegal wildlife trade. His tactics are taught globally, further bridging the gap between collaborative efforts throughout various countries, in an effort to increase awareness, develop networks of law enforcement, and increase efficacy.
J. Mark Fowler
Nature Initiative Director
Vastly regarded for his work within nature filmmaking, Mark Fowler is a filmmaker for the National Geographic channel and an Emmy-nominated wildlife television host. As the Vice President of Wildlife and Conservation at the Explorers Club, his role leads him to integrate educational programming at Grace Farms through guided tours and thoughtfully crafted event programming. Devoting his professional life to preserving the natural world, restoring endangered species, and encouraging individuals to explore their natural surroundings, Fowler spearheads Earth Day celebrations annually at Grace Farms and several programs aimed at celebrating biodiversity and restoring local habitats for wildlife. Within his role, Fowler has collaborated with leaders from various initiatives to create programs designed to combat wildlife trafficking and stop criminal activity associated with the illegal wildlife trade.
Karen Ludwig Kariuki
Community Initiative Director
Karen Kariuki has spent the last twenty years building a career in the philanthropic, nonprofit, and private sectors - leading innovative solutions at the crossroads of the respective fields. Her broad-based experience and deep expertise have given her a passion for creating social impact, driving change, and delivering results. Before joining Grace Farms Foundation, Kariuki founded Factor Philanthropy, where she partnered with companies to bring purpose in from the periphery to engage deeply at every level—from executives to employees to consumers—to radically transform both companies and the communities they partner with. Previously, she led strategic efforts at the GE Foundation in their Education and Skills Initiative, managing a philanthropic portfolio across school districts and non-profit organizations nationally and globally.
Kariuki was formerly a Director at The Fund for Public Schools – the largest nonprofit in the US dedicated to building public-private partnerships in an effort to improve a city school district. In her role, Kariuki was responsible for raising and managing private funds for system-wide education reform initiatives in New York City; facilitating strategic public-private partnerships; managing a targeted set of programs to support city schools; and building citywide public awareness. In the private sector, Kariuki worked in the Private Wealth Management Group at Morgan Stanley where she focused specifically on advising clients on the management and investment of philanthropic assets.
Kariuki has her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and her BA from Stanford University.
Director of Faith Initiative
Matt Croasmun is Associate Research Scholar and Director of the Life Worth Living Program at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture (YCFC) and Lecturer of Divinity & Humanities at Yale University. He began working with YCFC after completing his Ph.D. in Religious Studies (New Testament) at Yale in 2014. Croasmun also received his B.A. in Music from Yale College and an M.A.R. in Bible from Yale Divinity School (YDS). After his Divinity degree, he spent a summer at the Akrofi-Christaller Institute in Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana, studying with the great African theologian, Kwame Bediako.
He served regularly as a teaching fellow at YDS, and has taught the Life Worth Living seminar in the Humanities program in Yale College, supported by YCFC, and designed and co-taught with Miroslav Volf the ”Christ and the Good Life” course at YDS.
An advocate of interfaith dialogue, Croasmun has facilitated sacred text readings of the New Testament and Quran in partnership with local churches and mosques. He also serves as a faculty advisor for the Yale Humanist Community and the Life Worth Living Fellows.
Arts Initiative Curator
The Arts Initiative at Grace Farms is carefully curated to inspire thoughtful introspection, spark human interaction, and garner unexpected results. At the helm of the Arts Initiative, Pamela Ruggio brings her expertise, aesthetic eye, and intuition to bring life to thoughtful questions. Ruggio joined the team of interdisciplinary leaders at Grace Farms in 2015, after yielding unparalleled experience in roles within The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Christie’s, the Yale University Art Gallery, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery.
Throughout each Initiative at Grace Farms, thoughtful leaders parlay their extensive histories, experiences, and innate characteristics for the betterment of Grace Farms, and its patrons. Often collaborating with their peers within the Foundation, each leader brings their own well-considered opinions, respectful insights, and desire to create systemic change in a variety of important categories, on a hyperlocal, national, and global scale. Through their passion, dedication, and perseverance, this team of leaders tackles global issues, creates legislative change, and works tirelessly to create a better experience for all.