Rupa Valdez is the President and co-founder of Blue Trunk Foundation. She is an Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences and Engineering Systems and Environment at the University of Virginia. Her research and teaching focus on the lived experiences of people with chronic health conditions and disabilities, with concentrations in both underserved populations and the role of technology. Through this work, Rupa spends considerable time engaging with community organizations both locally and abroad. At the University of Virginia, she also serves on the Disability Action and Advocacy Committee and is a core member of the Disability Studies Initiative. Rupa received her Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering with a minor in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As an active member of her professional organizations, she serves as Associate Editor for the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association Open and as Internal Affairs Division Chair for The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. When she's not on a computer, Rupa enjoys escaping to other places and times by traveling, reading, and antiquing.
Claire Wellbeloved-Stone is the Executive Director of Blue Trunk Foundation. In October 2017 she embarked on a nine-month backpacking trip that took her to all seven continents. She received her BA in Anthropology from Connecticut College, where she spent her junior year studying in Spain and Cuba. As a selected scholar for the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, she interned with the World Wildlife Fund in the Galapagos Islands to inform her thesis. Claire went on to pursue her MPH from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, where she completed a community health internship with the Runa Foundation in Peru. After graduation, she worked as a researcher in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Virginia. When she's not traveling, Claire enjoys going to concerts at all of the local Charlottesville venues or creating new concoctions using flour, sugar, and butter.
Julie Arbelaez is a Board Member of Blue Trunk Foundation. Julie graduated from the University of Virginia in 1992 and immediately after took off for a year of solo travel that took her to Australia, New Zealand and Japan. After that trip, Julie returned to Charlottesville and opened Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters, a full-service travel agency and retail store. The travel agency was the realization of a dream to encourage people to get out and see the world. Julie works full-time as a travel consultant, crafting tailor-made trips around the world. Her retail store carries a wide variety of top travel gear to suit any travel need with the goal of making travel easy and accessible to everyone. Julie provides packing demonstrations and advice to anyone planning to travel abroad for the first time or that has specific packing and travel needs they are trying to fill. In 2016, Julie founded a group called the Charlottesville Women's Travel Alliance to support and encourage women who enjoy travel.
Melanie Miller Foster
Melanie Miller Foster is an Assistant Professor of International Agriculture at Penn State University where she combines her passions for agriculture, education and international development. She completed her graduate degrees in Rural Sociology at Ohio State University, and her B.S. in Agriscience at North Dakota State University. Melanie served as an Americorps volunteer with City Year Chicago and as an AFS volunteer in Siquirres, Costa Rica. The travel adventure she values the most is a homestay with a local family, a practice she now integrates into the study abroad experiences she designs for students. An advocate for social justice issues, Melanie volunteers locally to recycle food waste into community meals, and serves as co-president for a State College-based organization focused on building bridges across cultures. She is a proud 4-H alumna, and credits the 4-H program for her enduring enthusiasm for sewing, quilting and trying new things.
Rajan Sheth serves as Blue Trunk's Secretary and Treasurer. He is also Chairman-Emeritus of Mead & Hunt, Inc., one of the top 120 architectural and engineering consulting firms in the U.S. He was the CEO of the firm from 1994 to 2018 and the Board Chairman from 1994 to 2020. Under his leadership, the firm has grown from a local firm with 100 employees to nearly 900 employees nationwide, while the annual revenue has grown from $10 million to over $150 million. The firm specializes in improving lives by improving the country's infrastructure. Rajan has an MS degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin. He serves on the boards of many private firms, as well as on the Dean's Advisory Board of the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin and on the Board of Trustees for the College of Engineering at the University of Virginia. He loves to travel.
Dr. Sam Alper received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he focused on Human Factors, analysis of complex systems, and understanding why people break safety protocol (his thesis). He has been called on to testify as an expert witness, has presented in front of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and has reviewed communications, products, and processes across dozens of industries. He is a director at Bold Insight, a UX and human factors research agency. His work involves human factors research and evaluation of user experiences. An engineer, juggler, and father, Sam was recently honored when a business colleague referred to him as a “fellow nerd.”
Dr. JR Harding is a recognized disability leader from both personal and professional experiences. As a 2x quadriplegic, author of Now What? and ADA Adventure, accessibility expert, and international speaker, he has contributed for over 30 years to national, state, and community policy for the independence and self-sufficiency of persons with disabilities. He is a subject-matter expert for the ADA. He has served 2 US Presidents, 4 Florida Governors, and a number of community-based organizations, including Evergreen Life Services, The Family Network on Disabilities, and the Delta Disability Advisory Board. He completed his doctorate in Higher Education and Public Policy at Florida State University (FSU), where he is now faculty. He and his lovely wife Erika live and work in Tallahassee, FL.
Judith (Judy) Heumann is an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community. Her memoir, authored with Kristen Joiner, of Being Heumann "Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist," published by Beacon Press and audio recorded by Ali Stroker, who is the first wheelchair actor to perform on Broadway. Judy was featured on the Trevor Noah show. Judy is featured in Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, a 2020 American award winning documentary film, directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, produced by the Obama Higher Ground Production and available on Netflix. She has been featured in numerous documentaries including on the history of the disability rights movement, including Lives Worth Living and the Power of 504 and delivered a TED talk in the fall of 2016, “Our Fight for Disability Rights- and Why We’re Not Done Yet”. Her story was also told on Comedy Central’s Drunk History in early 2018, in which she was portrayed by Ali Stroker. As Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation (2017-2019), she wrote “Road Map for Inclusion: Changing the Face of Disability in Media.” She also currently serves on a number of non-profit boards, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Humanity and Inclusion, as well as the Human Rights Watch board.
Dr. Lunsford is a Pediatric Rehabilitation physician and an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedics and the Department of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine. He is a member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM). He also serves on the Board of Directors for AACPDM. Dr. Lunsford graduated from Wake Forest University with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy before completing his medical doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. He completed his residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation(PM&R) at the University of Virginia, followed by a fellowship in pediatric rehabilitation medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. Outside of work, Dr. Lunsford spends time with his family and church. A kid at heart, Dr. Lunsford enjoys games and outdoor activities.
David Thomason is Special Olympics Virginia’s Vice President of Advancement, and has worked with that organization for more than three decades. He works closely with the Global Messenger initiative, promoting leadership opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities around the world. This part of his work inspires David as he stewards donor relationships across Virginia. An alumnus of the College of William and Mary, he has committed his professional life to non-profit organizations. Prior to his work at Special Olympics, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, and then worked for The American Heart Association. He has served on the boards of the Virginia Association of Fundraising Executives, the YMCA, Hampden-Sydney Music Festival, Orthopaedic Research of Virginia, and the Greater Richmond Association of Volunteer Administration, among others. David enjoys travel, biking, hiking, music, and time with his two sons.
Lucy grew up in Newport News, VA, and graduated from the University of Virginia in 2017 with a B.A. in Anthropology and Global Development Studies. Through several sources of grant funding, she had the opportunity to conduct cross-cultural, international research on barriers to chronic disease management in low resource communities and present her team’s research at several conferences. Acquiring her disability in 2016 turned Lucy into a passionate disability rights advocate. Lucy received the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship to pursue her passion for disability rights work at NYU Law. In her first year, she started the Government Assistance Benefits Project to support individuals applying for Social Security Disability Income. She also became deeply involved in the Disability Allied Law Students Association and will serve as co-chair for the 2020-2021 academic year. In the summer of 2020 she interned at the ACLU’s Human Rights Project.
Alicia Tenise Chew
Alicia Tenise Chew is a full-time fashion and lifestyle blogger who provides attainable style and travel inspiration for the every-girl. After interning in the fashion industry for 1.5 years and working in various marketing roles after college, Alicia decided to take the leap and pursue blogging full-time a few years ago. In May 2021, Alicia relocated from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles to further tap into her creative passions. AliciaTenise.com is a fashion and lifestyle blog for women who wish to live stylishly. Through a variety of style, home décor, travel, and entertaining posts, Alicia’s blog combines affordable and quality lifestyle tips that are sure to encourage and inspire the fashion-forward adventurer.
Fueling her passion for wine, Alicia received her WSET Level 1 Certification in Wine in August 2020. She plans to study for the Level 2 certification next. Since launching her blog in 2011, Alicia has been featured in Teen Vogue, Elle magazine, Essence Magazine, The Washington Post, Glitter Guide, and Refinery29, and has been named a top D.C. Instagrammer by Washingtonian Magazine.
David MacDonald is the web accessibility consultant for Blue Trunk. He is president of CanAdapt and has been an Invited Expert with the international Accessibility Guidelines Working Group since 2002, which developed WCAG 2.0 in 2008, WCAG 2.1 in 2018, and is on the core team developing WCAG 2.2 due out in 2020. Most W3C accessibility documents include him as a named contributor. He was the web accessibility consultant to the Government of Canada in the new Accessible Canada Act legislation and has provided accessibility audits for dozens of Fortune 500 companies. He is on Certification Committee for the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). David is fluent in both English and French, and is a husband and father. He wrote the WCAG theme song with over 55,000 combined views on YouTube.
Himika Rahman is the graphic designer for the Blue Trunk Foundation website and mobile application. She received her BA in Cognitive Science with a concentration in Neuroscience from the University of Virginia (UVA). Himika then continued her education by pursuing an MPH and an MD from the UVA School of Medicine, making her a "triple Hoo.". Throughout her undergrad, graduate, and medical career, Himika has worked as a designer focusing on health communication, thus combining her love for the arts and sciences. Some of her projects include app design for a health technology firm in in Washington D.C. and editorial design for Conflux, the first global health and research journal at UVA. Himika is now living in Houston, Texas, and works as a Population Health Analyst for Harris Health, a large integrated healthcare system serving her county, where she is able to use her clinical skill as an MD with public health experience.
Mary Kurbanov is the social media and marketing intern for the Blue Trunk website and their various social media platforms. She is an undergraduate student at UVA., and is currently thinking of majoring in Media Studies or Computer Science. Mary furthers her passion for journalism and communications by working as a staff writer and video staffer at the Cavalier Daily, and by writing for the V Magazine. Working at a non-profit that is dedicated to easing the lives of people with disabilities is incredibly meaningful to Mary, especially because of her family members’ own experiences having disabilities. When Mary is not drafting up a post for Blue Trunk, she enjoys going on hikes, exploring antique shops, and hanging out with her friends.