Created in 2010, the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation (BAFF) mission is to enrich the ties between the United States and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania through programs of education and exchange centering on economic growth and democratic processes.
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.
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.
Danguole Altman, an experienced health care entrepreneur, is the Founder and immediate past President and CEO of Vapogenix (www.vapogenix.com). Vapogenix is a clinical stage pharmaceutical company developing a suite of innovative, non-opioid products for preventing and treating localized pain. Ms. Altman lead Vapogenix from pre-clinical development through to a Phase 2 Proof-of-Concept trial for its lead product, a topical analgesic for use in painful wounds.
Ms. Altman was previously President and CEO of FemPartners, Inc., a private-equity backed women’s health care services firm that she co-founded and grew to be one of the nation’s largest women’s health care services firms. Prior to FemPartners, Ms. Altman held management positions at HCA and Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, as well as at McKinsey and Co., where she served as an engagement manager in the health care practice.
Ms. Altman serves on the Advisory Board of the Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Healthcare Industry Foundation, as a member of the Greater Houston Partnership’s Executive Women’s Partnership, and in 2008 was named a Woman on the Move by Texas Executive Women and the Houston Chronicle. In addition to her service as a Director of the Baltic American Freedom Foundation, she also serves on the Executive Committee of the Harvard Alumni Association Board. Ms. Altman holds an A.B in Economics magna cum laude from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management. Last year, she was named a Donaldson Fellow by the Yale School of Management for her contributions to business and society, its highest alumni honor. Ms. Altman was recently recognized as one of the 100 most honorable women of Lithuania.
Joanne Medero joined the Board of the Foundation in July 2019. She is a Managing Director at BlackRock, a global diversified asset manager, where she is member of its Global Public Policy Group. She also serves as a Senior Advisor to BlackRock’s Vice Chairman on corporate governance and stewardship issues. Joanne is a member of BlackRock’s Public Policy Steering Committee and has served as a member of 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 assumed his new position as Senior Director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership on October 1, 2012, after concluding his 35-year diplomatic career and following his most recent assignment as Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia. Mr. Polt also served previously as U.S. 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. 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.
Richard C. Sheridan
Richard Sheridan was appointed president and CEO of SEAF in June 2008 after joining the SEAF board of directors in 2006. SEAF is an investment management group that provides growth capital and business assistance to small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) in emerging and transition markets underserved by traditional sources of capital. Through a network of offices in Central & Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America, SEAF invests via country-specific and regional equity and structured debt funds, realizing attractive returns and measurable economic development impact for 30+ institutional investors. SEAF has 140 professionals engaged in investment management and business acceleration programs across its network, with $380 million under management.
He was previously president and CEO and remains a member of the board of the Baltic-American Enterprise Fund (BalAEF). Mr. Sheridan was associated with BalAEF from its inception in 1995 and appointed president in 1999.
BalAEF is an investment fund established by the U.S. Congress to promote private sector development in the Baltic States. Originally capitalized with $50 million, the fund was chartered to make direct investments, provide technical assistance, establish a track record to catalyze private capital participation, and return proceeds through the divestiture of its holdings to the private sector. As CEO, Mr. Sheridan established a growth and external capitalization strategy for BalAEF through the formation of commercial finance and residential mortgage subsidiaries, Hanseatic Capital and Arm Credit, the development of the senior management team, and fundraising for both businesses. In aggregate, these businesses attracted $300 million in multilateral and private-sector financing, invested substantially in the Baltic economies as part of BalAEF, and subsequently were acquired by Acro Capital Corporation and AIB in 2007-2008 in transactions originated and led by Mr. Sheridan.
Rich is a member of the board of the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation, the successor to BalAEF.
Before joining BalAEF, he was a management partner of Cornell Capital Group, a finance and business planning consultancy he cofounded in 1989. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and an MBA. from Villanova University.
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.
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 and his wife Susan Sullivan have two children.
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, Evli Bank 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.
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