Director of Communications and Public Relations
College of Arts & Sciences
ATLANTA — Philanthropist and businesswoman Gelila Assefa Puck has joined the newly formed advisory board of the Center for Studies on Africa and Its Diaspora (CSAD) at Georgia State University.
Puck is partner and global creative director for the Wolfgang Puck group of companies and oversees overall brand creative direction, including restaurant interior design and aesthetic. She is married to famed chef and global restaurateur Wolfgang Puck. The Pucks have two sons, Oliver and Alexander.
She is also founder of the Dream For Future Africa Foundation. She was born in Ethiopia, where her philanthropic and community work has focused on building opportunities for financial literacy and economic independence. Her advocacy work, both in Ethiopia and in the United States, has also involved children, women with HIV and increased opportunities around education.
“I am passionate about education,” she said. “Being connected to Georgia State University will enable me to engage with a broad range of students.
“Atlanta is the heartbeat of the civil rights movement, and there is no better place to engage on some of the important issues at the center of CSAD’s mission. Addressing matters that affect Africa and its diaspora and finding solutions to build a world that is fairer and just are causes close to my heart.”
Puck is the inaugural member of the advisory board, which will serve as CSAD’s external facing body, enabling the center to connect more broadly outside the academy. The center also has a board of directors made up of Georgia State faculty members. Together, the boards will help build CSAD as “a go-to source for research, innovation and public discourse on Africa and its diaspora,” said Edvige Jean-François, executive director of CSAD.
Jean-François said Gelila Puck embodies the center’s ethos of “Africa Everywhere.”
“Ms. Puck’s role at the center expands our outreach — both domestic and international — to connect people of African descent wherever they are in the world,” Jean-François said.
“Her career, experience, personal narrative and public profile will enable CSAD to connect outside the academy more broadly. I am thrilled to have her on our advisory board.”
Puck moved to Los Angeles from Addis Ababa as a 16-year-old. She went on to study fashion design and merchandising, ultimately launching her own line of handbags. In 2010, she founded the Dream For Future Africa Foundation with a mission to empower passionate, hard-working individuals, especially in Ethiopia.
Elizabeth West, director of academics for CSAD, said Puck brings essential expertise to the center’s advisory board.
“As a philanthropist, businesswoman and daughter of Ethiopia, Ms. Puck brings vital knowledge and experience about the continent,” West said. “Moreover, her desire to expand the narrative about the continent and celebrate the achievements of Africans and people of African descent will be key for CSAD.”
Jonathan Gayles, the CSAD board chair, points to Ethiopia’s rich imprint on African history.
“I look forward to the insight Gelila Puck will bring to the center through her strategic focus and cultural heritage,” Gayles said. “I extend her a warm welcome.”
CSAD is working with Puck’s team to plan a visit, where she will engage with the Georgia State community and members of Atlanta’s Ethiopian community.
The Center for Studies on Africa and Its Diaspora is an academic research center in the College of Arts & Sciences at Georgia State. The center is focused on increasing worldwide understanding of the people from Africa and the African diaspora and their ongoing contributions to the world. CSAD brings together public- and private-sector scholars, thinkers and innovators with a shared purpose of addressing critical issues affecting Africa and its diaspora, and finding solutions to build a more equitable, just and principled society.
The four major areas of focus for the center are society and culture; innovative research and dialogue; global and business engagement; and trauma and mental health and recovery.
To learn more about the Center for Studies on Africa and Its Diaspora, visit csad.gsu.edu.