President - Nina Fiore EdM

Nina Fiore is the Founder and Executive Director of Astoria Film Festival. An Astoria native, Nina has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University and has long been involved with television production, afterschool education, and nonprofit management. 


Nina managed the team at Viacom that created and launched the Noggin Channel. She produced video, digital, and social media content for Noggin and also created and produced content for MTV, Comedy Central, PBS, Sesame Street, Paramount TV, Nickelodeon, VH1, Comedy Central, Sesame Workshop, USA Neworks, WE Networks, Merrill Lynch, Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Channel.

Nina also has over 25 years experience in Education. She managed an After School Program in the Mission Hill Housing Complex in Roxbury, MA, created a Digital After School program at the Children's Aid Society in Harlem, NYC that served as a pilot program for Intel's Computer Classrooms, and, after graduate school, served as Communications Director and Grants Director at The PEAR Institute: Partnerships in Education and Resilience at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School. 


At Harvard Medical School, Nina produced video training programs for in-school and after school inclusion programs, developed curriculum for and taught graduate classes in Developmental Psychology, authored and managed grants, organized psychology/ education conferences, and was Managing Editor of a peer-reviewed Academic Research Journal on Developmental Psychology. 


Nina has been homeschooling her son the past 7 years, during which time she began teaching inclusive science and art classes, advocating for autistic inclusion and acceptance, writing grants for local nonprofits, and creating curriculum for local after school programs. It was while teaching classes at local after school programs that Nina conceived of creating the Astoria Film Festival, as she saw a demand among young students for filmmaking skills, and wanted a way to connect them with the filmmakers in the community.  She resides in her hometown of Astoria, NY.

Treasurer - Slavko Bogdanov PhD is an Astrophysicist at Columbia University where he conducts research on high-energy astrophysical phenomena utilizing space-based NASA observatories. Previously, he was a Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Global Fellow at McGill University in Montreal, QC, and a research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA.   Slavko holds a PhD and MA from Harvard University and a BS with Honors and Distinction from Penn State University. He resides in Astoria, NY.

Secretary - Swati Thakkar has a Masters from the University of Mumbai and works in Early Intervention Education in Queens, NY. Swati was the first to volunteer to help get the first Astoria Film Festival off the ground and has been a key part of our team.  She resides in Astoria NY.

Rebecca Bratspies, JD is the founding director of the CUNY Center for Urban Environmental Reform (CUER). She is a Professor of Law at the CUNY School of Law where she teaches environmental justice, human rights and the environment, environmental law, administrative law and property law.  Before joining the CUNY faculty in 2004, Professor Bratspies was an Associate Professor at the University of Idaho College of Law. She has also been an acting Assistant Professor of Law and Lawyering at New York University and a visiting Associate Professor at Michigan State School of Law. Rebecca also served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable C. Arlen Beam of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. In 1994, she was selected to be a Henry Luce Foundation Scholar. Professor Bratspies spent a year seconded to the Republic of China (Taiwan) Environmental Protection Administration. Upon her return to the United States, she was a litigation associate with Dechert, Price and Rhoads where she worked with civil rights groups.  Rebecca has a JD from UPenn Law School and a BA in Biology from Wesleyan University. She resides in Astoria NY.

Maria Hantzopoulos PhD is an Associate Professor, Chair of Education, and Coordinator of Secondary Teacher Education​ at Vassar College.  Before Vassar, she supervised pre-service student teachers at Columbia University’s Barnard and Teachers Colleges and conducted staff development for middle and high school teachers throughout New York City and nationally. She also taught and worked in New York City public schools for 13 years, served on several public school planning teams, and worked with (and continues to work with) a variety of established youth organizations and professional educator organizations. Professor Hantzopoulos’ work has appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed publications and she is the author of the book Restoring Dignity in Public schools: Human Rights Education in Action (Teachers College Press, 2016). She is also co-editor, with Alia Tyner-Mullings, of the volume Critical Small Schools: Beyond Privatization in New York City Urban Educational Reform (Information Age, 2012) and Peace Education: International Perspectives (Bloomsbury, 2016) with Monisha Bajaj. She is currently conducting a multi-sited research project, funded by the Spencer Foundation, on project-based assessment in NYC schools. Professor Hantzopoulos earned her BA from Boston University in History, her MA in Social Studies Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and her doctorate at Teachers College in International Educational Development with a specialization in peace education.  She resides in Astoria, NY.

Tanya LeMelle is AVP at TD Bank in charge of a variety of Special Projects with a focus on Corporate Social Responsibility.  Tanya has been at TD Bank for 15 years, where she has demonstrated a successful track record of managing small to large projects from start to finish. Additionally, Tanya is on the PTA for Frank Sinatra School of the Arts Film Department and the mother of a sophomore in the FSSA Film Department.  Tanya graduated with a degree in Marketing from New York University and resides in Queens, NY.

Pete Tien is IT Manager at Partnerships for NYC and has years of experience with systems engineering, project management, and systems analysis for technology-driven business transformation, with a focus on nonprofit organizations.. Prior to Partnerships for NYC, Pete worked at God's Love We Deliver and Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow.  Pete grew up in Queens, graduated from Queens College, and resides in Astoria, NY.

Dauna Williams JD is a global, world-class attorney, an expert in leading and managing legal teams and operations, and devising cutting-edge, legal solutions and cost-saving, process improvements.  Dauna has practiced intellectual property, technology, outsourcing, privacy, marketing/advertising, entertainment, new media and general corporate law for over 25 years. As in-house counsel, she managed these legal practices and related global teams for corporations in the financial and insurance industries, namely Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and MetLife.  She is currently the Founder/Director of LexROI LLC, a legal and business consulting firm. Additionally, Dauna is a writer, producer and director of independent film and theatre, often with a focus on interactive storytelling. She founded an interactive digital marketing company in 1999 called Content360 and was one of the producers for the Tony-nominated, Broadway production of The Scottsboro Boys.  Dauna has a JD from Harvard Law School and a BA from Brown University. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.


Kathleen S Wilson PhD is a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in the Interactive Telecommunications Program and is a founding co-partner of the Rikaroo Film Collective. She has been involved in digital media design, development and strategy since she created interactive multimedia projects for Bank Street College of Education in the 1980s, co-designed SimTown with Maxis and worked as an Executive Producer at Paramount Pictures’ Media Kitchen in the early 1990s. Kathleen was part of the founding team that created Viacom Interactive Services, Viacom’s in-house digital media development group, where she was the VP/Creative Director from 1995-2001. Since then, she has taught, consulted, and created digital media products, participated on a variety of judging panels, and given presentations on digital media creation and strategy to organizations worldwide. Kathleen has an EdD from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, a Global Executive MBA from TRIUM (a joint MBA offered by NYU- Stern, The London School of Economics, and HEC-Paris), an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BA from Middlebury College. In her spare time she’s a app reviewer for School Library Journal and has published several novels for children and young adults.  She resides in Manhattan, NY.


Christine Serdjenian Yearwood EdM, MST is Founder/CEO of UpSTAND, where  she works to improve family-friendly accessibility efforts in a group setting for business coalitions, colleges, HR teams, and citywide organizations. Christine has worked for the NYC Department of Education, Counterpart International, Teach For America, the Harlem Children’s Zone, and in the Athletic Department at Yeshiva University where she was in charge of their women’s programs and Title IX Compliance. She serves on the Board of Directors of Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer and on the Advisory Board for Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait (Queens), and served as a 2017 CIDNY Poll Site Accessibility Monitor in the NYC General Election. Christine has been awarded two 2018 neighborhood grants from the Citizens Committee of New York City to improve accessibility locally, The Ramp Project NYC and One Stop Family Pop Up. Christine has an EdM from Harvard University, a M.S.T. in ESL from Pace University, and a BA from Brown University.  She resides in Astoria NY.