Meet The Team



Mugdha Yeolekar, Ph.D.

Mugdha is a scholar of world religions and cultures. She currently teaches world religions in the context of everyday life practices at California State University, Fullerton. She believes that introducing children to global cultures from early childhood is the only way to create inter-culturally competent future generation. Recently her essay about intercultural communication between toddlers (“Toddlers and Teas: Inter-religious Play” (with Tracy Sayuki Tiemeier) was published in a book titled Inter-religious Friendship.  Mugdha has  experience teaching online as well as in person for over ten years.

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Komal Shah Kapoor, Ph.D.

An educator with an entrepreneurial mindset. Komal is a practicing anthropologist, and a marketing communication expert. She is the founder of Speaker Post, a networking platform that connects guest speakers with educators. She is also the author of International Day, an illustrated children’s book in the series, Raising Culture-Curious Kids, which exposes children to global cultures via traditional dresses and country facts. Komal teaches applied communication at UCLA-X and California State University, Dominguez Hills and is completely comfortable with both face-to-face and virtual interactions. 

Friends of Culture Journeys


Karen Reynolds

Principal, Short Avenue Elementary School, Los Angeles

Karen Reynolds is passionate about education and thrilled to to be the principal at Short Avenue Elementary School.  She has achieved over 33 years as an educator for LAUSD. Ms. Reynolds earned a Bachelor of Arts from UCLA and a Masters/Administrative Credential from CSUN. She believes strongly in a inquiry based curriculum that develops children who are thinkers and caring citizens.

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Indy Rishi Singh

Founder, iLiving

Indy Rishi Singh is an education therapist and social innovator. He balances a background of science and medicine with a deep practice of mindfulness and creativity. Indy is on the board of a revolutionary orphanage in Varanasi, India that rehabilitates and empowers children with yoga, philosophy and Ayurveda. Learn more about him at and the orphanage at

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Sukhada Deshpande

Founder, Colortual Creations

An avid artist, an aspiring illustrator and a web designer, Sukhada has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and certification in Design Communication Arts UCLA-X. Her recent work in design, branding and illustrations can be seen at

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Nirinjan Khalsa, Ph.D.

Educator, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles

Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa works at Loyola Marymount University as an Instructor of Indian Religions and as the acting Director of the Master's of Yoga Studies program.  She was born a Sikh and has studied the jori (traditional Sikh percussion) with thirteenth generation exponent Bhai Baldeep Singh since 2000.  She enjoys playing the jori at Gurdwaras (Sikh temples),  kirtan chant nights, and yoga classes, teaching students, and being a mother to her two daughters.


Swati Mukherjee

Educator, Creative Writing

Swati Mukherjee guides elementary school children in several subjects including math and creative writing. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, she was an elementary school teacher in Massachusetts for eight years. She has also taught physics at a college affiliated with Kolkata University. As an educator, she brings her expertise in creative writing to Culture Journeys.

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Virginia Minami

LAUSD Educator and Lead, Koshin Taiko, Los Angeles

California native Ms. Minami is a LAUSD educator and a performer-teacher of taiko. She has been trained in taiko drumming  for over 30 years and currently leads Koshin Taiko, a Los Angeles-based Japanese Taiko drumming ensemble known for its engaging, intense, and powerful performances. Ms. Minami's performances have been acclaimed by many including the LA Marathon, Ocean Charter elementary, and Japanese Spring Celebration at Bella Terra. 


Sej Saraiya

Documentary & Cultural Conservation Photographer 

Sej Saraiya is a documentary and cultural-conservation photographer who has spent the last several years documenting indigenous cultures around the world. Since 2009, she has  traveled to the deep interiors of Asia and the Americas, capturing portraits that tell stories of cultures on the brink of extinction. In 2014, she started shooting her on-going series “Faces of the Indigenous” living with the tribes to understand and document their rapidly fading wisdom. For these photographs, she was recognized as an Ambassador for the 7th Annual Garifuna Indigenous International Film Festival in Los Angeles, CA. Her photographs have been exhibited both in America and India and hang in the homes of private collectors in Belgium, South Africa, Switzerland, Australia, India, Canada and the United States. 


Manak Khamvongsa

Thai Culture & Music Expert

Manak Khamvongsa is a guitar teacher, martial arts instructor and world music enthusiast. Originally from Northeast Thailand, Manak now lives in Los Angeles and has been a professional musician and teacher for over 20 years. Manak has served as chairs for the Music Teachers Association of CA and the Arts and Literacy Festival of Santa Clarita.  He runs yearly ukulele camps and organizes student outreach concerts at local senior homes.  He currently performs with the Guitar Orchestra of College of the Canyons; the Gamelan group "Burat Wangi" at California Institute of the Arts, and sitar with Los Angeles International Music Academy. His other hobbies include travel, languages and cuisine of the world!

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Rebecca Johnson

Principal, Playa Vista Elementary School, Los Angeles

Bio coming soon