Continuing a longstanding American commitment to the Baltic region, the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation (BAFF) mission is to deepen the ties between and among Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the United States through programs of education and exchange centering on economic growth and democratic values.
Current Baltic-American Freedom Foundation scholarship opportunities include:
Individuals and organizations seeking funding are invited to apply to the appropriate Baltic-American Freedom Foundation program. Please contact BAFF for more information.
In 1989, the United States Congress enacted the Support for East European Democracy Act (SEED), which authorized the creation of enterprise funds to assist the development of private market economies in Central and Eastern Europe. SEED established the funds as unique “public-private partnerships” for the purpose of investing U.S. government funds to support the private sector and nascent market economies of Poland and Hungary. Subsequent Foreign Appropriations Acts extended the authorization to establish funds in other Central and Eastern European countries, including the Baltic states.
From 1989 to 1994, the U.S. Congress, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), appropriated $1.3 billion to establish 10 new investment funds, known collectively as the Enterprise Funds, throughout Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
The Baltic-American Enterprise Fund or BalAEF was established in 1994 to contribute to the private-sector development in the Baltic States. BalAEF’s work in the region was focused on the development and funding of primary and secondary mortgage market activities and the provision of capital to growth-oriented companies. The fund originated some 19,800 mortgage loans and financed more than 125 businesses. By late 2008, as BalAEF prepared to exit its investments, the fund’s leadership turned attention to what the fund might “leave behind” as a legacy to continue to enrich ties between the United States and Baltic citizens. Taking a cue from other Enterprise Funds, BalAEF’s leadership began setting up a legacy foundation, which became the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation or BAFF. The board saw BAFF as a natural outgrowth of the fund’s original mission.
In 2010 BAFF was established and authorized by USAID to fund educational exchange programs collectively known as BAFF Scholarships. With an endowment from BalAEF that would exceed $35 million after returning $25 million to the U.S. Treasury, BAFF has thus far disbursed more than $12 million in Scholarships to over 500 participants.
The Scholarships provided by BAFF are intended to be a gift from the American people to the citizens of the Baltic states, to further build and strengthen the friendship and goodwill existing between Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the United States.
BAFF Fifth Anniversary
The Baltic-American Freedom Foundation celebrated its Fifth Anniversary on June 20, 2016 in Riga. The celebration featured an anniversary address given by Ambassador Kurt Volker, former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, and dinner for 275 guests, including 125 BAFF Alumni.
A highlight of the event was an exhibition celebrating the stories of 22 BAFF Alumni who had the opportunity to travel to the United States to complete professional internships, study, learn, and grow.See All Their Stories
The First Five Years 52MB PDF booklet
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ speech at BAFF’s 5-Year Anniversary celebration event
5-Year Anniversary photos
Former NATO ambassador in an article in the Lithuania Tribune “Biggest threat to NATO is its own inertia”
Former NATO Ambassador Volker’s Speech at BAFF 5th Year Anniversary
Discover the impact of BAFF programs
CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange is responsible for the administration, management, and program support for BAFF Scholarship programs.
Since 1947, CIEE has been in pursuit of its mission, “to help people gain understanding, acquire knowledge, and develop skills for living in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world.” CIEE is a non-profit organization designated by the U.S. Department of State to administer international work and study exchange programs. Founded as a non-profit, non-governmental organization in 1947, CIEE is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected names in study abroad and exchange programs.
Each year, CIEE sponsors nearly 50,000 young professionals, university, and high school students, helping them to grow personally and to develop their potential through participation in a wide variety of exchange programs across the globe.
CIEE is designated by the U.S. Department of State as a sponsor of Intern, Trainee, and Research Scholar programs.
Danguole Altman is a highly experienced and innovative entrepreneur, CEO and Director with an accomplished record of founding, leading, growing, and selling unique life science and health care services companies. Ms. Altman currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Cx Precision Medicine, a company developing a suite of groundbreaking tools to improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
She led CxPM’s initial equity raise in 2020 and licensed the company’s first product to a national diagnostics company, slated to become the first blood-based biomarker test to screen for Alzheimer’s Disease in the nation. Prior to that, she founded Vapogenix, a drug company focused on novel non-opioid pain products which she led through multiple financings from pre-clinical stage to Phase 2 clinical trials. Ms. Altman’s experience in the services industry began at McKinsey, and culminated in a role as CEO and co-Founder of FemPartners, a private equity backed women’s health care services company. Prior to that, she led managed care contracting at a large multi-specialty clinic, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, laying the foundation for its eventual designation as the nations’ first Accountable Health Care Plan.
In addition to her service as a Director and Vice- Chair of the Baltic American Freedom Foundation, Ms. Altman serves as a Director and past- Executive Committee member of the Harvard Alumni Association Board. She holds an A.B in Economics magna cum laude from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management. She received the highest honor for alumni services both from Harvard University (HAA Award, 2019) and from the Yale School of Management (Donaldson Fellow, 2017-18). In addition, Ms. Altman was recently recognized as one of the 100 most honorable women of Lithuania.
Richard C. Sheridan
Richard C. Sheridan is a private investor and consultant with a proven track record of strategy formation and execution, team building, and value creation in emerging markets. He was previously President & CEO of SEAF, an investment manager providing growth capital and business assistance to small and medium enterprises in over 30 emerging markets underserved by traditional sources of financing.
Prior to SEAF, Rich was President & CEO of Baltic American Enterprise Fund, which was chartered by the U.S. Congress to catalyze private sector development in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. At BalAEF, he established a growth strategy based on the startup of two wholly-owned subsidiaries, AmCredit and Hanseatic Capital. AmCredit became the first regional provider of standardized residential mortgage products in the Baltics, created a secondary market for mortgage assets, and completed the first internationally recognized mortgage securitization from the CEE market. Over $250M in external financing was raised for AmCredit, which originated 19,000 mortgages for new homeowners during BalAEF’s ownership from launch to divestiture. Hanseatic Capital became the first dedicated commercial finance company in the region, providing mezzanine and equity-linked loans to emerging growth companies in a range of industries. AmCredit and Hanseatic Capital were each subsequently sold to institutional investors, and under an agreement with the U.S. Congress, proceeds capitalized the Baltic American Freedom Foundation, of which Rich was a Founding Director. He presently serves as Chairman of the Endowment Committee. Before BalAEF, Rich was Managing Partner of Cornell Capital Group, an advisory firm he co-founded in 1989. He holds an MBA from Villanova University and a BA from Boston College.
Kim G. Davis
Kim Davis is co-chairman and a founding partner of Charlesbank Capital Partners, a private equity firm with more than $5 billion under management. The firm focuses on middle-market management-led buyouts and growth capital financings. In 2017, Charlesbank closed Charlesbank Equity Fund IX, a $2.75 billion fund backed by a range of institutional investors, including leading endowments and foundations, public retirement plans, corporate pension funds and funds of funds.
Before cofounding Charlesbank Capital Partners in July 1998, Kim was a managing director of its predecessor firm, Harvard Private Capital Group. He joined Harvard Private Capital in 1997, having worked with the principals since a joint investment in 1992. Previously, Kim was at Kohlberg & Co. as a general partner, at Weiss, Peck & Greer as partner, and at General Motors and Dyson-Kissner-Moran in various positions.
Kim serves on the boards of directors of HDT Global, Kinship Trust Company and Optomi. He was appointed by President Clinton to the Baltic American Enterprise Fund in 1994, and is chairman of its legacy institution, the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Dean’s Advisory Council of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. In 2019, he received the Cross of Recognition from the President of Latvia. He graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in history and also holds an MBA from Harvard.
Joanne Medero joined the Board of the Foundation in July 2019. Until recently Joanne was a Managing Director at BlackRock, a global diversified asset manager, where she was a member of its Global Public Policy Group. She also served as a Senior Advisor to BlackRock’s Vice Chairman on corporate governance and stewardship issues. Joanne was a Member of BlackRock’s Public Policy Steering Committee and its Global Operating Committee.
Prior to its merger with BlackRock in 2009, Joanne was a Managing Director at Barclays Global Investors serving as the Global Head of Government Relations and Public Policy of BGI, Barclays Capital and Barclays Wealth, and before which she was BGI’s Global General Counsel. Prior to joining BGI, she was a partner with Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, where she specialized in derivatives and financial markets regulation issues. She served as General Counsel of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1989 to 1993 and was Deputy Associate and then Associate Director for Legal and Financial Affairs at The White House Office of Presidential Personnel from 1986 to 1989.
Joanne served on the CFTC Global Markets Advisory Committee, and has been actively involved in financial industry associations, serving as Chair of the Steering Committee of the Securities Industry Financial Markets Association Asset Management Group, and Chair of the Managed Funds Association CTA & CPO Committee. She currently chairs the Executive Committee of the Federalist Society’s Corporation, Securities and Antitrust Practice Group. Her non-profit experience includes the Independent Women’s Forum (Director and member of the Finance Committee) and Financial Industry Institute (Trustee).
Joanne earned a BA degree, magna cum laude, phi beta kappa, from St. Lawrence University in 1975 and a JD degree, with honors, from the National Law Center of George Washington University in 1978.
Ambassador Michael C. Polt
Ambassador Polt lends his lifetime career experience as a U.S. diplomat to the students and faculty of Arizona State University. With his office in ASU’s Barrett and O’Connor Center in Washington, D.C., the Ambassador focuses on foreign policy leadership, diplomacy, and international affairs. From 2012 to 2020, Mr. Polt led the international leadership development programs at ASU’s McCain Institute in Washington, D.C. as Senior Director.
During his 35-year diplomatic career, Mr. Polt served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia and as Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro. Prior to his ambassadorial missions, the Ambassador was Principal Deputy and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs in the Powell and Clinton State Departments. During his three decades as a career diplomat, Mr. Polt served as U.S. Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany and Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge’ d’ Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland. He has also served as Senior Advisor to the Director General of the Foreign Service for Management Reform and was a key member of the Senior Management Steering Board directing the State Department’s 2003-2005 multi-million dollar reinvention of its Diplomatic Communications System.
Ambassador Polt has held other senior positions in the Department of State, as Deputy Director for European Security and Arms Control issues, and in Panama City as Political Counselor of the U.S. Embassy during the time leading up to the U.S. military action against the Noriega regime in 1989. During his earlier career, Mr. Polt was assigned to Embassies in Bonn, Mexico City, and Copenhagen, as well as the U.S. Consulate in Bremen, Germany. The Ambassador has been the repeated recipient of the Presidential Meritorious Service Award and numerous Department of State Meritorious and Superior Honor Awards for Outstanding Policy Leadership, Management, Crisis Performance, and Political Analysis. He has been awarded the Thomas Jefferson Award for Service to U.S. Citizens Overseas by American Citizens Abroad.
Ambassador Polt was born in Austria. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree and an Honorary Doctorate from American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Tennessee. He and his wife Hallie live in suburban northern Virginia. They have two grown children, Nicholas and Lindsay, and three wonderful grandchildren. The Polts enjoy sailing and skiing for relaxation and a good cup of coffee with time to savor it.
Peter A. Ragauss
Peter A. Ragauss joined the BAFF Board of Directors in 2015. He was appointed Honorary Consul of Latvia to Texas in December 2017. Mr. Ragauss is a member of the Board of Directors of Apache Corporation and The Williams Companies. Mr. Ragauss retired from Baker Hughes in November 2014 after eight years as senior vice president and chief financial officer.
Prior to joining Baker Hughes, he was controller, Refining and Marketing, for BP Plc from 2003 to 2006; chief executive officer for Air BP from 2000 to 2003; and assistant to the group chief executive for BP Amoco from 1998 to 2000. Mr. Ragauss was vice president of Finance and Portfolio Management for Amoco Energy International when Amoco Corporation merged with BP. From 1996 to 1998, he served as vice president of Finance for El Paso Energy International and held positions of increasing responsibility at Tenneco, Inc., from 1993 to 1996, and Kidder, Peabody & Co. Incorporated, from 1987 to 1993. Mr. Ragauss holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. He also serves on the Board of the Alley Theatre in Houston. Mr. Ragauss has recently been honored by NACD Directorship magazine as one of the “NACD 100”, which recognizes those who participate in corporate board work and influence how that work is done.
Dr. Asta Sendonaris
Dr. Asta Sendonaris is an experienced economist and business strategy consultant. She advises founders and CEOs of startup companies at Founder Institute, the world’s premier pre-seed startup accelerator, that have helped launch over 3,500 companies across 180+ cities and six continents since it was founded in 2009. In total, Founder Institute graduates have raised over $800M and are worth an estimated $20B. Dr. Sendonaris’ clients include startups in a variety of industries, including high tech, consumer products, healthcare, marketplace platforms, blockchain technology and social entrepreneurship. She serves on Advisory Boards on several of these companies.
She was previously a Vice President at Analysis Group, an Economic, Financial and Strategy consulting firm. She advised Fortune 500 companies, governments and international organizations on business issues relating to competition, intellectual property, business valuations and strategy. Her clients spun a wide variety of industries, including high-tech, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, financial services and others.
Dr. Sendonaris taught Economics and Finance courses at Stanford University, University of Houston and Cyprus College. She also conducted economic research at the United Nations Development Program and for the Central Bank of Cyprus.
Dr. Sendonaris is an advisor to the Lithuanian Competition Counsel. She is an immediate past board member of the Lithuanian City of London Club, a non-profit organization for Lithuanian professionals based in London. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from University of Houston, a Master’s in Leadership and Strategy from London Business School, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics from Lomonosov Moscow State University. Dr. Sendonaris was recently recognized as one of the 100 most honorable women of Lithuania.
Secretary Rodney E. Slater
Secretary Slater is head of the Washington, DC law firm Squire Patton Boggs’ transportation practice and works on projects related to transportation infrastructure. His current practice focuses on transportation policy objectives set during his service as Secretary of Transportation under President Bill Clinton. He is also a partner in James Lee Witt Associates, a risk management firm.
Previous to his tenure as transportation secretary, Secretary Slater served as Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, in a number of posts during Bill Clinton’s terms as Governor of Arkansas, and as Assistant Attorney General of Arkansas and Director of Government Relations at Arkansas State University.
Secretary Slater currently serves on the corporate boards of Delta Air Lines and Verizon and on the boards of Africare, a non-profit providing development aid to countries in Africa, The Dance Theater of Harlem, and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of United Way.
Secretary Slater earned an undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University and a J.D. from the University of Arkansas.
The Honorable Mark Sullivan
Mark Sullivan serves on the board of directors of both for-profit and non-profit institutions including the Baltic-American Enterprise Fund and the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation.
Mark was appointed by the President of the United States to serve from 2002 to 2008 as the U.S. Executive Director for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). He was a member of the bank’s Financial Operations Policy Committee until 2003, when he became a member of the Audit Committee for the remainder of his tenure. Before joining the bank, he was an attorney and advisor in connection with the securitization of small business loans and president of a company formed to assist small business lenders in accessing secondary markets. As an attorney, he provided advice to senior management of financial services holding companies and depository institutions on markets, policy, regulatory and trade matters.
Mark’s previous public service included positions in the administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. From 1985 to 1988, he was Associate Director for Legal and Financial Affairs in the Office of Presidential Personnel, where he recruited individuals for appointments to positions in the Commerce, Justice and Treasury departments, independent regulatory agencies and multilateral development institutions. From 1988 to 1989, Mark served as General Counsel at the Department of the Treasury. In this position, he was the department’s principal legal advisor and supervised a division of about 2,000 attorneys in Washington, DC, and regional offices. He also served as a director of the Federal Financing Bank and as a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States. Before joining the EBRD, Mark served on the boards of directors of publicly and privately held corporations, as well as nonprofit institutions.
He graduated from Yale University in 1964 and from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1967. In 1997, he completed a Harvard Business School Executive Education Program, “Making Corporate Boards More Effective.” He is the father of two children and grandfather of three.
Andres Trink is the CEO of Merko, the largest stock market listed real estate and construction group in the Baltic region. Prior to joining his current position at Merko, Andres has held senior management positions at Swedbank, and Bank of Estonia (central bank). From 2002-2006 he worked as the chairman of the Estonian Financial Supervision Authority and was actively involved in financial regulatory committees at the European level, including as a chairman. His experience also includes several board directorships of companies operating in the region, including Swedbank Investment Funds where he is currently a Director.
Mr. Trink graduated from Tallinn University of Technology (Tallinn, Estonia) with a Master of Science degree (With Honors, Summa Cum Laude) in Systems Engineering and INSEAD (Fontainebleau, France) Advanced Management Program.
From 1997-1998 Mr. Trink was the country managing director of the Baltic-American Enterprise Fund, a 50 million US dollar debt and equity investment fund. From 1993-1997 he worked at the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including three years as an economic diplomat at the Estonian Embassy in Washington, DC.
He has been a member of the Pärnu Yacht Club since 1976. A native Estonian, he also speaks English, Russian and Finnish languages. He and his wife Kristina are also involved with raising six children.
The Honorable Rozanne L. Ridgway, Chairman Emeritus
Hughlyn Fierce, Director Emeritus
Daniel Rose, Director Emeritus