Authentic Connections Foundation

Who We Are

Nina Kumar

Nina Kumar is committed to fostering the welfare of girls and women.  She has volunteered for mentorship programs benefiting middle school, high school, and college students, and at "My Sisters’ Place", a non-profit organization that works to end violence in intimate relationships and to reduce ill effects of domestic violence and human trafficking. 
Nina is a Business Analyst at IBM in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  She graduated from Williams College with a BA in Computer Science and Psychology, and a concentration with Honors in Cognitive Science.  In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, playing the drums, and snowboarding. 

Thomas Benenson - Member Board of Directors

Thomas Benenson has demonstrated life-long support and commitment to promoting gender equality and the welfare of women and particularly mothers. For many years, he has served as an escort at a Planned Parenthood health clinic. Additionally, he served an eight-year term as a founding member of the board of a non-profit organization, SAFE, the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, during which he was actively involved in fund-raising and other responsibilities of a "working" board. Mr. Benenson has followed and supported Dr. Luthar’s advocacy efforts for youth and families over many years, and is very pleased to bring his talents to the Board of Authentic Connections. Mr. Benenson and his wife live in New York City.

Susan Budinger - Secretary

Susan Budinger is a developmental scientist dedicated to fostering the well-being of women and children through science-based interventions. As such, she supported the formation of Authentic Connections © and intends to play a supportive role in its governance.

Budinger is a Founding Director of The Rodel Foundations, a group of private and public philanthropies dedicated to helping improve primary and secondary public education in the U.S. The Foundations, which have operating organizations in Delaware and Arizona, were founded in 1999. Before the formation of the Foundations, Budinger was a director of Rodel, Inc., manufacturers of products used in semiconductors and other precision surfaces worldwide. Her work experience includes marketing, sales and organization development.

Budinger is a past board chair of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware and member of the Arizona Community Foundation, where she chaired the committee responsible for education programs and grants. She is a past member of the boards of the Arizona Early Education Funds, The Ellis Center for Educational Excellence and Phoenix Country Day School. In 2008 Governor Napolitano appointed her to the Arizona P – 20 Council.

Budinger has a M.A. in developmental psychology from Arizona State University and a B.A. in mathematics and economics from Hamilton College. She is the mother of two children who are now in college, and she lives in Santa Barbara, California.​​

Nikhil (Nik) Kumar

Nikhil (Nik) Kumar is an advocate of women's education and welfare around the world. He has spent years volunteering with Blue Rose Compass, an initiative focused on providing university scholarships to talented female refugees from the Middle East and Africa. 

Nik has served as a Consultant at Bain & Company in the firm’s New York and Dubai offices. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013 with a BA in Philosophy, MA in Mathematics, and MS in Physics. He enjoys traveling and photography in his spare time.

Suniya S. Luthar - President

Founding Director of Authentic Connections, Dr. Suniya S. Luthar is Foundation Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University and Professor Emerita at Columbia University’s Teachers College. After receiving her Ph.D. (Distinction) from Yale University in 1990, she served on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and the Child Study Center at Yale. Between 1997 and 2013, she was at Columbia University’s Teachers College, where she also served as Senior Advisor to the Provost (2011-2013).

Luthar's research involves vulnerability and resilience among various populations including youth in poverty, children in families affected by mental illness, and teens in upper-middle class families (who reflect high rates of symptoms relative to national norms). Her recent research has been focused on motherhood, with exploration of factors that best help mothers negotiate the challenges of this life-transforming role, and applying these research-based insights to foster their resilience through supportive group-based interventions.

In addition to numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, Luthar has published several books including Resilience and Vulnerability: Adaptation in the Context of Childhood Adversities and Poverty and Children’s Adjustment. She has served as Associate Editor of the journals Developmental Psychology and Development and Psychopathology, and as Chair of a grant review study section at the National Institutes of Health. Luthar is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, and was elected to the Governing Council of the Society for Research on Child Development, and to the American Psychological Association's (APA) Council of Representatives.  She has been recognized as a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) and is also Fellow of the APA, and of APA’s Divisions 7 and 37. From APA, she received a Dissertation Award (Div. 37) and the Boyd McCandless Young Scientist Award (Div. 7). Other awards include a Research Scientist Development (K) Award from the National Institutes of Health, and an Mensa Foundation Award for Excellence in Research. Luthar is the mother of two adult children, Nikhil and Nina Luthar Kumar. She lives in Tempe, AZ.

Judith P. Benenson - Member, Board of Directors

Judith P. Benenson has been an advocate for women’s rights since the time she ran a household at the age of thirteen. Throughout her adult life, she has consistently contributed both time and funds to non-profit ventures supporting women and their families. As a free-lance film editor she participated in such independent films as “Dadi’s Family” a study of rural women in India, as well as a documentary about the establishment of a Women’s Bank in Ahmedabad, India. Familiar with Dr. Luthar’s research and professional outreach over the past three decades, Ms. Benenson is delighted to be on the Authentic Connections Board. Ms. Benenson lives with her husband, Thomas Benenson, in New York City.​​​