Our Team

The World Scholar’s Cup draws on the spirited contributions of staff, volunteers, and affiliates and partners all over the world; there is no way to introduce all of them here. Below are just a few of our core team members:

Daniel Berdichevsky is the program's founder and alpaca-in-chief. In high school, he achieved the highest score in the history of the United States Academic Decathlon; he has been a professional nerd ever since. For Daniel, Decathlon was life-changing: it introduced him to cross-curricular thinking and to the joy of teamwork, inspired him to overcome his fear of public speaking, and launched him into college with new confidence. It was after studying science, technology, and society and public policy at Stanford and Harvard Universities that Daniel came to three realizations: first, that there was no opportunity like Academic Decathlon for students around the world; second, that such a global program could be for students in the 21st century what Decathlon had been for him in the 20th; and, third, that he had just discovered his life’s work. Daniel has also led strategic innovation for CASIO, worked (with great non-success) in venture capital, and volunteered for progressive political campaigns, including Obama for America. He spends much of his time on the road hosting rounds, speaking at schools, and losing his driver's license. Daniel loves little more (except maybe alpacas) than interacting with and learning from students around the world.
Burch Wang is a composer, actor, and entertainer—and, since the beginning of 2012, World Scholar’s Cup director of social stuff. He also recently emceed the largest-ever dance in the program’s history: 2700 students at the Global Round in Kuala Lumpur. His other peak moments at the World Scholar's Cup include tearing his Achilles' tendon dancing Gangnam Style in Delhi and accidentally flying to Almaty instead of Astana on a recruiting trip to Kazakhstan. (It was Daniel's fault.) At Stanford University, he was Daniel’s student in bioethics and then Daniel’s tutor in singing, commencing a friendship and creative collaboration that has endured for nearly two decades. Someday, they plan to write a musical together. It will feature dancing alpacas.
Jeremy Chumley (a.k.a. "J-Chum") is the program's Managing Director (and resident optimist). When Jeremy is not championing the program at schools and conferences or conducting advanced statistical analysis of registration data in order to ensure the smoothest possible tournament experience, he can be found wandering into dodgy Kuala Lumpur mini-marts, undertaking mileage runs on Aegean Airlines, and retrieving dead drops from abandoned rental cars. No one else on the team can match his facility with prose, his fascination with packaging, or (except in New Haven) his nose for a good burger. Jeremy is also known for a peculiar obsession with the Polyphonic Spree and for deploying his smooth Texan accent on the telephone—making even the coldest call a little warmer.
Sara Syed is the program's Tournament Director. She doesn’t quite understand how she went in just two years from not knowing what an alpaca looked like to being questioned at the Toronto airport about the bright purple “llama-esque creature” in her backpack. A chance meeting with Daniel Berdichevsky (who was posing as an experienced debate judge) at a debate tournament in Dubai in 2011 led to her becoming a scholar in 2012, an indispensable staff member by 2013, and a semi-professional darts player by 2015. When she’s not praying for responses to her invitation letters or running tournaments in cities as diverse as Tokyo (mm, seaweed triangles) and Johannesburg (mm, malva pudding), she enjoys drinking tea, watching musicals, flanking rows on airplanes, and attending university in Montreal.
Josephine Richstad is the Director of Curriculum at the World Scholar's Cup. She holds a Ph.D. in English from UCLA and a BA, also in English, from Columbia University. She first joined DemiDec as a writer in 2008, beginning her alpaca-centric collaboration with Daniel over breakfast at a Malibu diner shortly before going underground at a Charles Dickens festival. She is pictured here at her desk in sort-of-upstate New York, where she divides her time between tending her family (including a daughter who infamously savaged Daniel's favorite stuffed alpaca, and a son whom she did not name after Jerry), teaching herself economics, masterminding the production of DemiDec materials, and not taking international flights.
Joseph Harr (codename: Joga) is one of our leaders of outreach and curriculum instruction. An experienced international educator (after a slightly less international childhood in alpaca-free South Dakota), it was during his time as a Learning Support teacher in Jordan that Joseph was introduced to the World Scholar’s Cup: first as a coach at the Dubai II Round in 2012 and in 2015 as the host of the first-ever Amman Round. The World Scholar's Cup left Jordan two days later with a delicious bag of dates and its newest full-time team member. When he is not walking from airports to hotels, Joseph enjoys traveling, answering questions from scholars about his shiny bald head, learning languages, losing things, hosting karaoke parties, and trying to convince people he will not die eating a Vegan diet.
Natalie Ehlers is our newest team member. While pondering what to do with a degree from South Africa's Rhodes University in Drama, Classical Studies and Post-Colonial Literature, Natalie stumbled into a hall filled with stuffed alpacas and three very happy (and malva-pudding-stuffed) members of the World Scholar’s Cup staff. By some happy accident, about twenty seconds later she was on a plane to Kuala Lumpur trying to figure out how to use Google Apps. When she isn't spreading the pwaa at new schools in new continents, teaching camps, or negotiating with food vendors named Rambo, Natalie enjoys Euripides, Lord of the Rings puns, shopping for laptops in Argentina and mango juice.
Tom Brazee is the program's resident programmer and lead scoring specialist and the member of team most likely to have developed an allergic reaction to the word certificate. A computer science instructor and Academic Decathlon coach for many years from the great state of Nebraska, Tom has been working with the World Scholar's Cup (and its predecessor, DemiDec) since 1999 (when Daniel briefly mistook him for a curriculum writer); his travels began ten years later with a trip to Singapore. Tom's many distinctions at the World Scholar's Cup include being the only staff member ever to fall asleep on stage during the Scholar's Show and one of the few to have survived the 2010 Scholar's Scavenge in Shanghai; he also jams a mean air guitar.
Vishal Verma is the World Scholar's Cup India Regional Director and the leader of our Mini-Global Rounds, the most recent of which was held in Ireland in July 2015. After a chance meeting with Daniel at a conference in Singapore, he was infected by the alpaca virus and does not want to be cured. When he is not driving nine hours to bring the World Scholar's Cup to a school in the Himalayas, he is busy introducing students to astronauts at NASA and to diplomats at the United Nations headquarters. Vishal has a Bachelor's degree in Electronics and Telecom Engineering from Pune University, and an MBA in Finance from the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management. He spends his free time on photography, reading, and discussing grand plans with Daniel about World Scholar's Cup global domination.
Tania Asnes contributes to curriculum and test development for the World Scholar’s Cup out of her secret footnote-infested lair in New York City. A graduate of Barnard College and a wily veteran of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, Tania has been a vital part of the World Scholar’s Cup team, and, just as importantly, its voice, since 2007. In that time she has learned about everything from guillotines to space travel, and has evolved into an expert at offhand alpaca references, which can prove awkward in everyday life, especially at the supermarket and at dinner parties. When detached from her desk, she can be found performing off Broadway, practicing monologues, and purchasing copious quantities of bliny.

The many jetlagged members of the World Scholar's Cup traveling team would like to thank their friends and families for their relentless love and support as they tote alpacas all around the world; it helps make the tough times bearable and the good times truly joyful.