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 founder and alpaca-in-chief of the World Scholar's Cup. In high school, Daniel 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, it inspired him to overcome his fear of public speaking, and it 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 all 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. In his spare time, Daniel has also led strategic innovation for CASIO, worked in venture capital, and volunteered for progressive political campaigns, including Obama for America. He spends much of his time on the road hosting tournaments, speaking at schools, and losing his passport. Daniel loves nothing more (except maybe alpacas) than interacting with and learning from students around the world.
 
Zachary Ellington is the tournament director of the World Scholar’s Cup. As a high school student, Zac not only won the United States Academic Decathlon, but participated in the first-ever world finals of the World Scholar’s Cup. A recipient of the prestigious American Posse Scholarship, Zac chose to study linguistics at Grinnell College in Iowa. Since joining the World Scholar’s Cup in 2011, Zac has visited over thirty countries and organized almost 80 tournaments. For those of you on Twitter, he tweets as the Wayward Alpaca. Like Daniel, Zac travels everywhere with his own pillow. Unlike Daniel, Zac has not cut his hair since 2007. Outside of DemiDec and the World Scholar's Cup, Zac has led a diverse career, including a stint as a bartender in Puerto Rico and as a series regular on the American soap opera General Hospital. You can contact him at zac@scholarscup.org.
 
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: 1500 students at the Global Round in Dubai. This peak moment followed a more dubious achievement: his epic tearing of his Achilles’ tendon dancing Gangnam Style in the final five minutes of the first-ever Delhi Round in 2012. 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 over fifteen years. Someday, they plan to write a musical together. It will feature alpacas.
 
Grace Yang led a simple and alpaca-free life in a small town in Zhejiang, China, till she became the first student from China ever to participate in the World Scholar’s Cup back in 2009. Since then, her life has changed dramatically: she became part of the World Scholar’s Cup tournament team and travels the world to promote and organize this uplifting, inspiring, and ultimately fun event. Grace is currently completing a Sociology degree at New York University. When she’s not busy studying Durkheim or getting stuck at immigration for visa issues, Grace enjoys finding cheap tickets to Broadway shows, writing hotel reviews for Tripadvisor, and locating the best dessert places in NYC. She was recently crowned Scavenger Hunt Goddess by Daniel Berdichevsky for creating tasks like “eat Zac’s hair” at the Tournament of Champions at Yale University.
 
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), teaching herself economics, masterminding the production of DemiDec materials, and not taking international flights.
 
Jeremy Chumley (a.k.a. "J-Chum") is the Managing Director (and resident optimist) at the World Scholar's Cup. When Jeremy is not championing the program at schools, conferences, or Shake Shack, he can be found wandering into dodgy Dubai establishments 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 his nose for serendipity. Jeremy is also known for a peculiar obsession with Lorde's "Royals" and for deploying his smooth Texan accent on the telephone—making even the coldest call a little warmer.
 
Nathan Levin is the Associate Program Director at the World Scholar's Cup, with a special emphasis on building participation in emerging regions and on overseeing scoring at new and existing rounds. Nathan grew up in the bustling metropolis of Toledo, Ohio, where he ached to see rest of the world, including Iowa and Michigan. He earned his B.A in Computer Science from Grinnell College, where he discovered both Ultimate Frisbee and Zac Ellington. His friendship with Zac has led him from Disney rides in Orlando to scooter rides in Kaohsiung, and now to wrangling alpacas at the World Scholar's Cup. During his free time Nathan likes to play guitar, hike, play frisbee, deny any resemblance to Seth Green, and trade relics known as paperback books.
 
Sara Syed is the newest and un-oldest member of the World Scholar's Cup team. She doesn’t quite understand how she’s gone in just two years from not knowing what an alpaca looks like to being questioned at Toronto Pearson Intl. Airport about the bright purple “llama-esque creature” in her backpack. A chance meeting with Daniel Berdichevsky at a debate tournament in Dubai in 2011 led to her becoming a scholar in 2012 and a volunteer and staff member in 2013. She envisions that, by the end of 2014, she will have metamorphosed entirely into an alpaca, although hopefully not a purple one. Until then, she hopes to promote and help organize the program at schools across the Middle East. (Afterward, she will still attend tournaments as a prop.) When she’s not praying for responses to her invitation letters, she enjoys drinking tea, teaching debate, and finding the best kebab spots in Dubai.
 
Patrick McDonald is the Chief Operating Alpaca of the World Scholar's Cup and, like once-upon-a-time roommate Daniel Berdichevsky, a graduate of Stanford University, where he studied philosophy and Hotel California. Until recently, he was the Director of the Huntley Public Library in the exurbs of Chicago, Illinois; he now brings to the World Scholar's Cup his deep love of learning and literacy, his relentless knack for organization, and his Chromebook. The team's only pescaterian, he is also the most likely member of the staff to be found meditating and/or drinking things that are green.
 
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.