Thinking Beyond Borders’ USA Staff
Thinking Beyond Borders is fortunate to have a talented and committed USA staff to offer support to students, family, and the Program Leaders. Their tireless work helps to ensure the safety, quality, and success of TBB’s gap year programs.
All roads in Robin’s life lead to co-founding Thinking Beyond Borders. Born and raised near San Francisco, he discovered at an early age that youth can affect the disparities and challenges of our world. Robin also learned the need to truly understand a problem and oneself before proactive changes can be made. He sees Thinking Beyond Borders as the actualization of those lessons.
Robin equipped himself by earning a B.A. in International Development Studies from UCLA and a Masters in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has lived and worked abroad extensively, both as a student and educator. Robin committed eight years to public schools in Los Angeles and Boston. He served as a teacher, administrator, coach, and college access program administrator.
Robin’s blog posts on education and social change have been featured on Forbes, Ashoka, and Innovation Excellence. He also served for three years as the Co-Director of the Colloquium for the Common Good at Opportunity Collaboration, a global poverty conference for sector leaders. Today, he helps shape the US gap year market as both the Co-Director of the USA Gap Year Fairs and as a Board Member for the American Gap Association.
Working for TBB is the perfect combination is Stephen’s academic, professional and personal interests. Having graduated from the University of Warwick in 2005 with a degree in Politics and International Studies, he spent 6 months volunteering in rural Nicaragua. There he discovered his passion for learning about other cultures and whet his appetite for discovering more about international development. Leaving Nicaragua almost fluent in la lengua española, he returned to London where he graduated from the School of Oriental and African Studies with a Masters degree in Development Studies in 2007.
Stephen worked for Fundación Yanapuma – one of TBB’s partner organizations in Ecuador – first as a leader of volunteer groups in remote communities across the country, and then overseeing the foundation’s volunteer and internship programs out of their Quito office. His time in Ecuador grounded him with a wealth of experience in designing programs to best utilize the skills of student volunteer groups and building partnerships with local communities. Having seen many aspects of community development in Ecuador – from placing trainee midwives in hospitals on the coast to helping build chicken coops in the Amazon – Stephen set off as a Program Leader for TBB’s 2009-10 Global Gap Year Program, both teaching and learning about international development in equal measure. After a brief stint back in the UK working for the international arm of one of the UK’s most prominent climate change campaigns, Stephen returned to TBB in spring 2011 to work as Director of Programming, overseeing the development and implementation of TBB’s gap year and semester programs.
Traveling around Southeast Asia during and after university, Scott saw a world vastly different from the Colorado town he called home. He followed his interest in cross-cultural experiences to a semester at the University of Vietnam-Hanoi, and a BA in Japanese and Asian Studies in 2004 from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He immediately jumped headlong into a teaching position with the JET Program where he taught at a high school in Nagasaki, Japan for three years where he discovered a passion for teaching.
In 2008, Scott pursued his interest in international development by entering Tokyo’s Waseda University Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies. There he had the opportunity to study with a broad multi-cultural student body and obtain his MA in International Relations with a focus on Development Anthropology. His thesis examined how international NGOs can better apply local cultural values and norms in the Philippines to improve the outcomes of environmental conservation projects for all parties. Working with Thinking Beyond Borders, Scott combines his interests in teaching, travel, and development to aid students in becoming agents of positive change. He served for two years as a Program Leader for the Global Gap Year program before joining the US staff as the Recruitment Director.
Jim grew up in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. He attended California Concordia College in Oakland, California, and Concordia Senior College in Fort Wayne, Indiana, graduating with a pre-seminary BA degree.
Following college, Jim worked in the marking device industry for ten years, owning his own business for part of that time. He then entered Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California. After graduating in 1988 he was called as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, San Rafael, California, where he served for six years. During a hiatus from parish ministry Jim worked as a fundraising professional for a homeless services agency, CASA of Colorado Springs, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the East Bay.
Following reinstatement to the clergy roster in 2001, Jim accepted a call to Christ Lutheran Church in Fortuna, California. While serving there, a nearby congregation – Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Ferndale – became vacant, and he guided a process to bring the two churches together into a single parish. Jim left the cool climes of California’s North Coast in 2010 to serve as a member of the bishop’s staff in Fresno, California, and while there took on the role of Director of Finance and Administration. Jim dotes on his five grandchildren, loves to read science fiction novels, and he and wife Karen have a collection of more than 300 nativity scenes from around the world…now being downsized.
Gary has dedicated himself for over 25 years to helping college-aged students to maximize their potential and overcome barriers to learning. His clinical specialties have included stress management, mood and anxiety disorders and life coaching/mentoring.
He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. After completing his graduate work in Counseling Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, Gary felt a need to “internationalize” his experience and was hired to work for the Semester at Sea program, mentoring students as they visited eleven countries on this around-the-world shipboard voyage of discovery. For Gary, Semester at Sea cemented his interest in intercultural learning and he found applications for this interest in his subsequent positions including a stint as a Foreign Student Advisor in Keystone College in Pennsylvania.
Gary has served in a variety of professional counseling roles in several university and college settings and currently holds the post of Director of Counseling at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, a position he has enjoyed for the last sixteen years. At Hartwick, he assists students during study abroad experiences to negotiate the numerous challenges they face as they confront cultural environments different than their own. He is licensed as a mental health counselor in two states and is board certified nationally.
Gary finds his consulting work with TBB to be a perfect environment to ply his skills by training, advising, and supporting TBB’s Program Leaders in their work with students. As an advocate for cultural immersion and a true believer in the life-changing impact overseas travel and education can have on a young person, Gary has found no better program than TBB for gap year students.