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Our People

Cathy Knowles
Chief Development Officer

Cathy Knowles is the Chief Development Officer of The Fuller Project, overseeing the expanding fundraising program to nurture a culture of philanthropy that supports our newsroom’s priorities. 

Cathy was born in Nairobi, Kenya, to an Ethiopian mother and an American-born Caucasian father. After living in Karachi and Geneva, she and her family moved to the American South in the late 1970s. Cathy went on to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and achieved a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Anthropology. Cathy is fascinated by the way people communicate and drawn to learning how cultures and societies evolve and affect the way people behave. 

Cathy’s love of bringing people together through corporate and individual giving, community engagement and special events shines through every facet of her work: matching companies with programs that fit their philanthropic profile, cultivating donors and helping them identify their passion projects, and implementing fundraising strategy for large charity galas. Cathy’s passion for social justice and equity, complemented by her 21 years of experience as a professional fundraiser, shapes her approach to each initiative.

Cathy is very proud of her work in top development departments in New York and Los Angeles for organizations including the American Cancer Society and The Salvation Army. Additionally, she found great fulfillment as a volunteer tutor for the International Rescue Committee in New York, and as a founding board member of South Bronx United, a nonprofit organization and youth development organization that uses soccer to engage immigrant and first-generation youth and support the broader South Bronx community. In Los Angeles, Cathy volunteered for The Salvation Army’s Territorial Anti-Trafficking Initiatives in the Social Justice Department. 

Cathy is an avid equestrian and is resisting the pull to buy a horse for as long as she can. She lives in North Carolina with her two high-maintenance rescue dogs, Lulu and Opus. Cathy currently serves as a volunteer for the Children’s Law Center of Central North Carolina.

Holly Ojalvo
Interim Editor in Chief

Holly Ojalvo is interim editor-in-chief of The Fuller Project, overseeing U.S. coverage of issues involving and affecting women and girls. She brings deep experience in strategy and operations, team management and coaching, newsroom culture, and collaborative work. 

As talent lab editor at Quartz, she led initiatives supporting the global editorial team, including hiring, onboarding, mentorship, awards, and professional development, in addition to editing articles and newsletters. At USA TODAY, she served as editorial director of the College vertical and managed partnerships and special projects. At YR Media (formerly Youth Radio), she launched and ran a national newsroom of young correspondents. At The New York Times, she was deputy editor of The Learning Network, which supports the teaching of Times content, drawing on her previous decade of experience as an award-winning high school teacher and student newspaper adviser. She also spent four years as the founding editor of the digital news startup Kicker.

Holly is especially proud of the impactful work done by journalists she has mentored and managed. She holds a B.A. from Lafayette College and two master’s degrees, one in English from the University of Delaware, the other in education from NYU, and has lived and worked in five U.S. states and two countries (so far). She enjoys running and yoga, serves on the school leadership team at an NYC public high school, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and rescue cat, Tomie Twotone.

Kimberly Abbott
Chief Communications Officer

Kimberly Abbott is the Chief Communications Officer of The Fuller Project, where she amplifies the organization’s strategic priorities including public relations and events, ensuring the newsroom’s groundbreaking reporting on women reaches diverse audiences worldwide.  

Kimberly draws on her deep experience of expanding the impact of mission-driven organizations. She has 25 years of success overseeing global communications, media training, public relations, foreign policy, and journalism with a particular focus on underreported humanitarian issues in post-conflict situations.

Kimberly started her career as a broadcast journalist and has worked as a booker, writer, producer and reporter. During Kimberly’s seven-year tenure at CNN, she covered breaking news around the country from  the 2000 Presidential Election and recount to 9/11, and was an on-air reporter for “CNN Newsroom”, filing stories from D.C., Bosnia, and Germany. Her first job was reporting for local radio covering education and government. Her journalism has also included France 3 television, Radio France, and BFM Radio in Paris. 

Prior to joining The Fuller Project, Kimberly was Vice President of Marketing and Communications for World Learning, a global development, exchange and education nonprofit. There, Kimberly established a rigorous digital media strategy that included the overhaul of multiple websites and the tripling of social media traffic to drive business growth. She also conducted media training for women around the world and created journalism fellowship programs in South Africa and India that enabled young journalists to gain international reporting experience.   

At World Learning, Kimberly launched a communications department and led a team of 18 to drive brand awareness and elevate the importance of individual programs, including that of The Fulbright Specialist. Her work drove recognition of a range of development programs, from teaching Syrian refugees in Lebanon to STEM education in Egypt. She produced professional videos that won several awards, including four Gold, one Silver, and three Bronze Telly Awards. Her robust content production resulted in earned media placements in PBS NewsHour, Christian Science Monitor, Inside Higher Ed, US News & World Report, AARP, and many local outlets.

While Communications Director for North America at the International Crisis Group, an independent, nongovernmental organization, Kimberly was responsible for developing strategic approaches for communicating its policy prescriptions. This included partnering to create news reports with legacy media outlets such as “60 Minutes”, “Nightline” and “PBS NewsHour” to cover underreported stories in Darfur, DRC and Northern Uganda, and producing multimedia that enhanced the visibility of the organization as a highly recognized, go-to source for news and analysis on conflict situations.  Her podcasts and stories about Crisis Group reports appeared in Foreign Policy, The Christian Science Monitor, CNN Global Public Square and Huffington Post. She produced over a dozen documentaries about Crisis Group’s impact, including “Crisis Group On the Frontlines”, which was a finalist for the CINE Golden Eagle Award, and interviewed global leaders including U.S. President Bill Clinton, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, and U.S. General Colin Powell.

At InterAction, an alliance of international development and humanitarian NGOs, Kimberly served as Acting Communications Director and successfully brought attention to lesser known humanitarian and development stories, while collaborating with InterAction’s 160 member organizations to develop media and advocacy campaigns on collective humanitarian and development priorities. 

She has been a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is the recipient of numerous fellowships in journalism and international affairs, from the Radio Television News Directors Foundation, German Marshall Fund, Atlantik-Brucke German-American Foundation, French American Foundation, and others. Her career has also included time on Capitol Hill, in U.S. presidential politics, and as an envoy and translator for the Centennial Olympic Games.

A French speaker, Kimberly earned a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism from Boston University and studied French media at the Ecole Française des Attachés de Presse in Paris. She now lives in Maryland with her husband and son.

Lilian Tan
Chief Operating Officer

Lilian Tan is the Chief Operating Officer of The Fuller Project — focused on strategy, operations, institution building and culture —  ensuring the organization’s groundbreaking reporting on women reaches diverse audiences around the world. Lilian collaborates closely with the internal Fuller team, along with editors and partners working on women and journalism to boost the success and impact of our reporting.

Lilian is an experienced strategy and operations professional with a focus on socially conscious organizations. She has worked across Fortune 500 companies, Forbes 100 largest non-profits, high growth startups, Corporate Social Responsibility departments, and educational institutions to help them grow in a financially sustainable manner and support their missions.  

Before joining The Fuller Project, Lilian worked as a management consultant for Grant Thornton’s Not-for-Profit & Higher Education Advisory practice, one of the largest in the country. There, she advised a range of organizations focused on humanitarian needs, social services, foundations, health, and education as they sought to revise their long-term strategies to ensure maximum impact. She also directed them in how to best evaluate investments in new programs and services to meet their beneficiaries’ needs and assess and improve their fundraising, operations, human relations, finance, and technology practices to promote sustainable and effective growth.

Most recently, Lilian lived and worked in Kampala, Uganda for an organization focused on providing renewable energy and financially inclusive products to more than 600,000 low-income rural households in Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mozambique. She has worked with organizations including USAID, Save the Children, Open Society Foundation, Rotary International, National Marrow Donor Program, World Bank, Signify Foundation, and UNICEF.

Lilian received her Master of Business Administration from New York University, where she was a Forté Foundation Fellow, and her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Business Administration from The University of Texas at Austin. She is now based at The Fuller Project headquarters in Washington, D.C., and, when not working, Lilian enjoys hiking, camping, running, and relaxing behind her piano or a good book. 

Xanthe Scharff, PhD
Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer

[ZAN-thee SHARRF]
Dr. Scharff is the CEO and Cofounder of The Fuller Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to groundbreaking reporting on women worldwide that raises awareness, exposes injustice and spurs accountability.

Under her leadership, The Fuller Project has evolved from a grassroots start-up to the global newsroom dedicated to reporting on women and publishing with leading outlets. Since its cofounding in 2015 from Turkey, The Fuller Project newsroom has won various accolades including the Military Reporters & Editors Award, the One World Media Award, the Amnesty International Media Award, the Milwaukee Press Club Silver Award; reporting has also been shortlisted for the Biedler Prize for Cancer Journalism, One World Media Award, South Asia Journalism Association Daniel Pearl Award, and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Award. 

At The Fuller Project, Xanthe heads an organization that includes several dozen editors, reporters, global contributors, and senior business leaders. The team’s reporting has spurred the introduction of new legislation to protect women and girls in the U.S., the hiring of hundreds of policewomen in India, the banning of virginity testing in state hospitals in The Philippines, and much more. She has raised nearly $25 million for The Fuller Project and other nonprofits that raise the voices of women and girls, and she has led The Fuller Project through year-on growth, more than tripling organizational resources between 2019 and 2020. In 2021, Xanthe was awarded the Helen Gurley Brown Genius Grant for her visionary leadership in bringing to light groundbreaking stories affecting women.

Xanthe is an award-winning nonprofit founder and journalist whose reporting has been featured in Newsweek, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and beyond. During the coronavirus pandemic, she was among the first to write about the disproportionate impact of the economic crisis on women in a major U.S. news outlet (TIME). Xanthe then called for a federal release of data to better inform policies in The Boston Globe. She and her team reported based on exclusive statistics received from 17 state agencies to show women as the majority of unemployment seekers in all states. Over a dozen journalism outlets including The New York Times sourced The Fuller Project’s data reporting, which led the national news cycle three weeks ahead of federal data releases.

In 2019, Xanthe was named among the top 40 under 40 by the Leadership Center for Excellence for outstanding public service. Xanthe is the Founder and Board Chair Emeritus of Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa, a thriving nonprofit in East Africa which has served 3,000 girls with secondary school opportunities. The UN gave AGE Africa a good practice award, and Michelle Obama endorsed the organization’s work. CBS’s The Early Show, Voice of AmericaThe Christian Science Monitor, and several African media outlets have covered their work. The nonprofit named the Xanthe Scharff Workplace Experience project in her honor.  

Formerly, Xanthe was the Associate Director at the Center for Universal Education at Brookings where she led research and programming on girls’ education. There, she published extensively and edited a volume on girls’ education, built a partnership with Brookings India, and facilitated a network of 60 global foundations. She was an Education Pioneers Fellow and a Peace Scholar at the United States Institute of Peace during her investigation into government and donor failures to support the survivors of a devastating 20-year war in Northern Uganda.

The Fletcher School awarded Xanthe her doctorate in International Relations for research on post-conflict education, during which she was named Minear Fellow, Earhart Fellow, Henry Leir Fellow, and was an Active Citizenship Fellow. She was also a D.C. Education Fellow and worked at the District of Columbia Public Schools. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and she has worked with organizations including The World Bank, United Nations, Arabella Advisors, CARE, and Save the Children. Xanthe graduated with honors from New York University and completed executive education courses at Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School at Harvard.  

Xanthe serves on the Board of Advisors of The War Horse, an award-winning nonprofit newsroom that supports military spouses and educates the public on military service, having herself been a military spouse during numerous 9/11 deployments. Having lived in Argentina and Peru, Xanthe speaks Spanish. She has also lived and worked in Turkey, Uganda, Sudan, and Malawi and now leads The Fuller Project’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she lives with her two children. If not working, you can find her running, reading, or heading to the woods. 

Recent Reporting by Xanthe:

Federal Government Needs to Change How it Releases Unemployment Data – Boston Globe

Why the Coronavirus Outbreak Could Hit Women Hardest – TIME


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