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Kristin Van Busum

Founder & Director

Kristin has over ten years of experience as a scholar and an advocate for resilient communities. She has worked in New York City on public health initiatives to prevent obesity, helped families in need in Mexico secure stable housing, and provided counseling to incarcerated women in Indiana. Prior to founding Project Alianza, she served as Manager of Health Advisory Services at RAND Corporation, a global policy think tank. Kristin has earned degrees from Butler University and New York University, and is a Fulbright Scholar. 


Mahana Lugo

Education Manager

As a member of the Project Alianza team, Mahana brings a passion for promoting equality and improving opportunities for low-income populations on a global scale. Born and raised in Masaya, Nicaragua, Mahana moved to the US after receiving the Fulbright Fellowship, to pursue her Masters in Psychology and Education at Western Michigan University. While in the U.S., Mahana worked to promote education in low-resource urban communities. After completing her graduate work, Mahana returned to Nicaragua to use her educational expertise as a school counselor, working with bilingual populations, and as a partner of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, implementing educational programs for children in coffee communities.

Mahana currently develops education strategies for Project Alianza, to make education accessible to children isolated from traditional systems. She lives and works directly with teachers on the ground to develop relevant, meaningful solutions for rural communities.


Niki Hrusa Castillo

Princeton in Latin America Fellow

Niki understood from a very young age the importance of education as a means to create opportunities in a person’s life, especially in the developing world. A dual Honduras/USA citizen, Niki grew up in an agricultural town in southern Honduras. Lacking access to a good education system in her hometown, Niki moved to the capital, Tegucigalpa, in search of better opportunities. Niki developed her passion for the development of education systems while studying in São Paulo, Brazil and through hands-on experience working on infrastructure and teaching strategies with rural primary schools around Tegucigalpa. Her research experience includes exploring the affect of religious affiliations on school curricula and community attitudes towards education. Niki aims to help Project Alianza improve impact by collaborating with teachers on education programming, developing a monitoring and evaluation strategy and managing outreach and communications. 

Niki is a graduate of Vassar College where she majored in International Studies with an emphasis on political science and education, while maintaining a regional concentration on Latin America. She was awarded a Princeton in Latin America Fellowship in 2016.