Our Team


Deniz is a personal branding and career management consultant with over twenty four years of experience in corporate and non-profit settings. Deniz is an active member of the Turkish-American community in the Houston area, having served as president of the American Turkish Association (ATA). She founded the Education for Women in Turkey Fund (EWT Fund) because she herself came from a background of rural poverty, and escaped that cycle through education she would never have had access to without the generosity of programs like EWT Fund. A life-long learner, Deniz holds an executive MBA.


SAMIYE ARDIC – Vice President

Samiye graduated from Hacettepe University Department of Information Management in Ankara. She is a retired librarian with extensive work experience at the Middle East Technical University and the Central Bank of Turkey. Samiye has been an active member of American Turkish Association in Houston for 18 years. She believes that educating future mothers will ensure continuing improvement of the society and the world for the generations to come.


MUGE SIMSEK – Board of Director

Mugé received her undergraduate degree in Psychological Counseling from Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey, in 1999. In 2002, she completed her MBA at The University of Houston-Clear Lake in Texas. She works as a research analyst at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Over the last 15 years, Mugé has been very active in the American Turkish Association of Houston where she served as a member of executive committee and board of directors.  Mugé believes that educating girls is crucial to have healthier families and better-educated generations, to increase economic growth and decrease in infant and maternal mortality. Educating women creates healthy communities from which humanity can benefit. 

ELCIN KALELI – Treasurer

Elcin has been in real estate business since 2002. She is a former diplomat and translator/interpreter holding a Masters degree in this field. Ms. Kaleli is married and lives in Houston. She is an active member of the American-Turkish community and has formerly served in the Executive Committee for American Turkish Association as the Marketing VP. A passionate animal-rights advocate, she is a volunteer with SPCA Houston. Her biggest inspiration to take an active role with EWT Fund is her own mom who wasn’t able to continue her education due to financial problems.


JULIA (HULYA) UNAY – Secretary

Julia (Hulya) worked at Gillman Honda for 19 years, holding various positions. She has worked as Radio DJ in Istanbul before coming to Houston. Julia has been involved with the Turkish community for many years and actively participated at several events. She also participates in the “ABC 13’s Share your Holidays Food Drive” and “March of Dimes” events thru her company each year. The idea of funding underprivileged girls’ education through a charity became clear to her when she met Deniz many years ago. Julia believes there is no greater satisfaction of being part of something that can make a difference in people’s lives. Every child is a star in the sky, it falls on us to make them shine brighter.


YEŞİM JONSSON – Board of Director

Yesim feels fortunate to have a supportive family that made her and her sister’s education a priority, which enabled her to come to the United States as an 18 year-old college student to follow her dreams. Yesim has been a supporter of the EWT Fund since its inception, hoping to help other girls reach their full potential. Yesim has worked for Shell Exploration and Production Company for over 15 years, first in New Orleans and for the past 10 years in Houston. She is currently the Commercial Excellence Manager for Shell’s Shales business. After graduating from Robert College in Istanbul, Yesim received her B.A. degree from Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. She also holds MA and MBA degrees from the University of New Orleans. Yesim is passionate about the education of girls, its power to unlock opportunities for women, and improve the lives of families.  While education should be a right for every child, bias against the education of girls is unfortunately a reality in many parts of the world and requires conscious effort and support. 

ŞUUR BİLİCİLER - Board of Director

As a member of a family of two daughters, Suur was given all the tools to shape her path into being an independent woman by her parents from an early age. She knows she was among the few in her country and wants to help other females who are not as fortunate. She believes gender inequality is a major issue and needs to be fixed if we want to solve the problems of our world.

Suur graduated from English High School for Girls as a valedictorian and graduated with an MD degree from Istanbul University, Istanbul Faculty of Medicine. She completed her residency in adult neurology and her fellowship in neuromuscular medicine in St. Louis University and Baylor College of Medicine respectively. She is currently an associate professor of Adult Neurology at UT Health Science Center at Houston. Suur believes if you educate a woman you educate the whole household, education leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to understanding and creating solutions. Therefore empowering women should be each individual’s priority. With this motto as her guide Suur feels privileged to be an active member of EWT Fund and is in full gear to help girls enable their dreams in Turkey and across the world.

Past Board Members


Derya is a Bilkent University graduate with Archaeology and History of Art degree. She also holds a degree in Business Management from Houston Community College. Derya and her husband, Scott, are active volunteers of American Turkish Association of Houston (ATA) and Women for Education sub-group. Derya works as a sales manager at “It's All About You,” a unique women’s clothing store. Derya is very passionate about education, especially education that leads to the economic independence for young women.

JANA CANAN BEYOGLU – Board of Director

Jana Canan is graduated from Istanbul University where she received a BS degree in Geophysics. She is currently working in TGSNopec Geophysical Company as a Team Leader/Senior Processing Geophysicist. She is from Bursa, Turkey and she has been living in Houston since 1990 with her husband. She has two children. She believes in girl’s education, and supports women rights. There are so many reasons why we should support girls education, but the most important one is they improve prospects for the next generations.