Meet the SAAPRI Team

Shobhana Johri Verma

Executive Director

Shobhana brings to South Asian American Policy and Research Institute (SAAPRI) a unique blend of public policy, outreach, advocacy and public relations experience.

Most recently she has built and also leads one of the first and most effective South Asian Voter Engagement Programs at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Thanks to her untiring efforts since 2014, unprecedented numbers of South Asian Americans in the city have begun to exercise their right to vote and participate in local, state and federal level electoral process. Prior to joining the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, Shobhana held numerous roles as a researcher, educator, volunteer and journalist advocating for environmental causes and gender and immigrant interests, including challenging roles supporting victims of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and domestic violence. She has written for and been published in both the digital and print media in both the United States and India. Shobhana holds two Masters Degrees in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Cincinnati and Lucknow University. She is a certified Sexual Violence Prevention Educator and is trained in Medical and Legal Advocacy. She is a past student board member of the Cincinnati Chapter of Planned Parenthood. Shobhana is also a member of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Equity that advises the Mayor and City Council of Chicago on policy matters regarding civil rights issues.

Shobhana has been an active and trusted leader within the South Asian American community in Greater Chicago Area and as SAAPRI’s Executive Director, she looks forward to continuing her work as a researcher, organizer, and strategist on a wide range of human rights and social justice issues with diverse and collaborative coalitions in Chicago and beyond.

Jordan Stalker

Research & Program Development Advisor

Jordan Stalker earned his doctorate in Mass Communication from the University of Wisconsin. His dissertation focused on the media uses of Indian Americans in the Greater Chicago area and how that media use helps them connect to India and Indians. His other areas of expertise are in race and ethnicity, media history, public relations and research. His work considers how communication mechanisms and ideologies can contribute to democracy and dignity, how journalism and public relations function in democratic societies and how media products and industries contribute to the formation of group and individual identity.

Jordan’s wife is from New Delhi and their daughter gives him a vested interest in understanding and supporting the flourishing of the South Asian American community in and around Chicago. Jordan is happy to associate with SAAPRI and support with research and writing on various topics, using his connections in academia in Chicago and internationally.

Kartik Ramkumar

Development & Communications Specialist

Kartik Ramkumar is excited to empower the South Asian American community in Chicago and around the country with great policy and education-related work. He comes to SAAPRI with a background in advocacy, social justice, and South Asian community work. Kartik works as a Customer Success Manager for VAMONDE, a technology company working with museums to showcase their stories to digital visitors. He has a Master’s in Information Design and Strategy from Northwestern Univerisity and received his undergraduate degree from Cornell, where he studied labor, history, policy, and urban planning under the ILR major. In his free time, Kartik enjoys drawing, attending comedy shows, and exploring the Chicago restaurant scene.

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Community Research Fellow

Mahima Manchanda did her Masters in Gender Studies at University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. Prior to this, she pursued her Bachelors and Masters in History from St Stephen’s College, University of Delhi, India. Mahima has diverse research interests and has worked extensively on women-based issues. Her work has been published in reputed journals and she has presented her research in conferences across the world.

Mahima is keen to work with the South Asian community in Chicago and its suburbs, especially on gender related issues, voter engagement and healthcare.

Varsha Kalangari

Research & Civic Engagement Intern

Varsha Kalangari is working to completing her BBA in Information Systems with a minors in statistics and accounting at Loyola University Chicago and has been involved in research dealing with income inequality. She is currently working with the Information Systems department at Loyola to assess the effectiveness and validity of public bike-sharing programs in low-income communities using data visualization tools. Varsha has a keen interest in the South Asian diaspora and would like to use data-driven solutions and analytics to provide a voice and proper representation for the South Asian community here in the US. As an intern at SAAPRI, she is dedicated to bringing awareness to topics that impact the South Asian community as well as combining the areas of data and people to advocate for policy changes.

Varsha hopes that her time at SAAPRI will allow her the opportunity to serve and connect with her community.

Kainat Mohammed 

Communications & Research Intern  

Kainat is an undergraduate student working towards her B.A in Political Science and English at Loyola University Chicago. Kainat has focused her research in South Asian communities through frameworks like gender, colonialism, and literature. Research designed to highlight marginalized groups and their significance in society in contrast to their validity as citizens has been a key factor in driving Kainat’s research and outreach strategies. She strives to be an individual who works to decolonize through creative channels and active research while collectively shaping the real experiences of the men and women. Kainat works to understand not only the idiosyncratic experiences of the diasporic community but also the generation of college students in respective countries across South Asia.

As an intern here at SAAPRI Kainat hopes to actively participate in enacting change and amplifying the voices of our Chicagoland community. In her free time Kainat loves to read and explore new food in Chicago.