Chair – Ambassador Charles A. Ray

Ambassador Charles A. Ray, a member of the Board of Trustees at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, served as U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Republic of Zimbabwe. In addition, he was the first U.S. Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, opening the Consulate General there in 1998.

From 2006 to 2009, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs, responsible for DoD efforts to account for those missing in combat from World War II to the then current conflicts and for policy related to the rescue of personnel who become isolated, missing, or taken in service abroad.

During his diplomatic career, Mr. Ray served as deputy chief of mission in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and at consular posts in Guangzhou and Shenyang, China, and Chiang Mai, Thailand. He was diplomat-in-residence at the University of Houston during the 2005-2006 academic year; responsible for outreach and recruiting at colleges and universities in South Texas.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1982, he served 20 years in the United States Army, with postings in Europe and Asia, including two tours in Vietnam during the war. He retired in 2012 from the Foreign Service and is now engaged in consulting, public speaking, and writing. He is the author of more than 30 works of fiction and nonfiction, including a historical series about the Buffalo Soldiers, the African-American soldiers who served on the western frontier, and is the author of an Amazon best-selling mountain man adventure series. His nonfiction works include books and articles on management, leadership, international relations, and history.

Ray is currently a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Diplomacy, communications director for the Association of Black American Ambassadors, and a member of the board of the Cold War Museum.

In addition to his government service, Mr.Ray has worked as a newspaper/magazine journalist, photographer, and artist, and was editorial cartoonist for the Spring Lake (NC) News, a weekly newspaper in central North Carolina during most of the mid to late-1970s.

He has a B.S. in business administration from Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kansas; an M.S. in systems management from the University of Southern California; and an M.S. in national security strategy from the National Defense University. In 2001, he received the Thomas Jefferson Award from American Citizens Abroad (ACA) for his work in support of American business in southern Vietnam.


Dr. Carla D. Jones is a Templeton Fellow in the Africa Program at FPRI and an Associate Professor in the Management, Marketing & IS Department of the College of Business at Sam Houston State University. Her research interests focus on the influence of executives. She primarily examines how the leadership of a firm influences firm outcomes. More specifically, she studies how the board of directors and members of the C-Suite influence firm strategy and performance. Among these groups, several advancements have been initiated to improve governance and the link between executives and performance, such as increasing independence among board members and tying compensation incentives to stock performance. Her current projects examine heterogeneity among the leaders of an organization and its influence on group dynamics and group outcomes. Several of her projects examine how the dynamics among the upper echelon of an organization influence competitive dynamics and ultimately firm performance. Carla is also developing research projects to track how increasing cultural diversity impacts the ability of teams to work together to achieve success. A few of her current projects have been accepted at the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Management, and Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice.

Dr. Mengge Li is a Templeton Fellow in the Africa Program at FPRI and an Assistant Professor at University of Texas at El Paso, where he teaches international business and corporate strategy classes. He received a Ph.D. in Business Administration from University of Houston and a M.S. in Information Systems and Operations Management from University of Florida. His research interests are mainly in strategic management, and he has published in journals such as Journal of Management, Group & Organization Management, and Journal of Management & Governance. His current research examines the effects of leaders on interorganizational relationships and international business strategies.

Dr. Hermann A. Ndofor is a Templeton Fellow in the  Africa Program at FPRI. He is currently a faculty member at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University and Associate Editor for the Africa Journal of Management. He received a Ph.D. in Management from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. Prior to joining the Kelley School of Business in 2015, he was on the faculty at the Mays Business School, Texas A&M.



Jessica Pickering (she/her) is a Templeton Fellow in the Africa Program at FPRI. She also works for Emergent Risk International as a strategic risk intelligence analyst covering Sub-Saharan Africa, North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. She previously worked as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea, West Africa where she taught secondary mathematics and English and established gender equality initiatives through an after-school girls program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations with a focus on foreign policy, diplomacy, peace, and security from the University of Washington in Seattle as well as a master’s degree in homeland security studies with a certificate in intelligence studies from Tulane University in New Orleans. Her research interests include international security, foreign policy, and the effects of gender equity, climate change, and governance on policy and stability in West Africa.


Mandira Bagwandeen is a Non-resident Senior Fellow in FPRI’s Africa Program. She has experience working at think tanks, in the corporate sector, and lecturing at universities in South Africa. Mandira is a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, and an alumna of Fudan University in China. She is also a Research Associate at the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique (Foundation for Strategic Research) in France, a Research Fellow at the Afro-Sino Centre of International Relations in Ghana, and a Research Contributor for the Nanyang Technical University-Singapore Business Federation (NTU-SBF) Centre for African Studies. Her research interests include, but are not limited to, China-Africa relations, Africa’s regional integration, infrastructure development on the continent, emerging powers and Africa, and African and Asian geopolitics.


Ned Rauch-Mannino is a Non-resident Senior Fellow in FPRI’s Africa Program. He is a former U.S. senior official with U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Agency for International Development, Ned Rauch-Mannino served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Operations and Senior Advisor for Global Markets to support U.S. commercial diplomacy worldwide. He contributed to U.S. policies and strategies on development finance, trade capacity building, private sector engagement, and global fragility, among other measures, as well as to the launch of multiple trade and investment programs and was a co-chair and secretariat member for the White House’s Prosper Africa initiative. Prior to his federal service, he directed government affairs, strategic consulting, and economic development in various roles, and lectured for Temple University’s Economics Department as an adjunct faculty. Today, Mr. Rauch-Mannino provides strategic consulting for economic security, energy, and natural resources, and sustainability initiatives. He is a Royal Geographical Society Fellow and serves on the Smithsonian-affiliate National Museum of Industry History Board of Directors. He earned his Master’s degree from Penn State University with field research in Kenya and undergraduate degrees from Temple University.