OUR TEAM

Our Team

Thinking Beyond Borders' team is comprised of exceptional educators who are deeply committed to providing transformational learning and growth through our gap year programs and impact fellowships. Collectively, we are determined not just to help each of our students find the purpose and direction they need to build a fulfilling life, but also to help them understand how they can create meaningful impact on critical global and local issues.

US 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 program safety, quality, and success for TBB’s gap year students.

Cassandra Tomkin, Chief Operating Officer

Lauren Maitland, Director of Programs

Ivory Price, Recruitment Manager

Ivory’s first steps outside of the US were in 2010 to Nicaragua. Along with a group of high school peers, she spent time in the rural community of La Soledad participating in the construction of a local school fundraised by the youth of her hometown of Detroit. Prior to this Ivory committed herself to serving her local community in a variety of ways. Ivory went on to pursue a BA in International Studies and Ethnic Studies from Bowling Green State University. Her focus areas being Latin American Development while exploring how issues of globalization and development affect women of color. While in her undergrad she was a member of the President’s Leadership Academy, which instilled within her the values of Service-Learning and becoming a Social Change Agent. An unlikely next step, Ivory pursued a job as an educator in Japan before getting back to her roots of service and joining the team at Cross Cultural Solutions as a Program Specialist. During this time she was able to eat her way through Latin America by trying the best empanadas each country had to offer- Costa Rica still holding the title. Currently based in the Kachiquel Maya community of Tecpan, Guatemala, Ivory continues to work toward being a social change agent while influencing others to do the same- while spending her free time playing guitar, checking out local music scenes, and of course, searching for the world’s greatest empanada.

Jennica Betsch, Program Manager

A two-time study abroad alumna and returned Peace Corps volunteer (Burkina Faso), Jennica's favorite way to travel is through long-term full cultural immersion experiences. She is from Connecticut and a graduate from Bowling Green State University with degrees in French and International Studies. Jennica first studied abroad in Belgium during her senior year of high school and spent the entire year being homesick, loving her host family, and building her foundation in French. She has since spent significant time solidifying her French living life in Grenoble, France, Burkina Faso, and Morocco with Cross-Cultural Solutions. In her free time she skis or dreams about skiing. Her favorite job has been with the Peace Corps, spending her days making friends in her local community and finding ways to be useful, and her least favorite job was working for an elevator company, answering panicked calls from people stuck in said elevators. Passionate about responsible travel and re-immersion education that uplifts local communities, Jennica wants to help guide students through that learning process, encouraging them to always look for the helpers in the world, always focus on how easy a smile is made, and keep working to positively influence any given moment.

Gary Robinson, Psychological Consultant

Gary has dedicated himself for over 30 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 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 at 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. At Hartwick, he helps 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. In 2016 he was appointed for a 3-year term to the International Committee of the American Counseling Association.

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 young adults, Gary has found no better program than TBB for gap year students. Strongly influenced by his work with TBB, Gary recently joined with two other licensed therapists to form P3 Mental Health Advisors. “P3” now assists a growing list of Gap Year and Experiential Education programs both domestically and abroad.

Program Leaders

Thinking Beyond Borders' Program Leaders bring an outstanding array of skills, knowledge, and experience to their work educating TBB students. Strong program management skills, diverse educational backgrounds, impressive teaching experiences, and extensive international travel make each of these individuals a powerful addition to our programs for gap year students.

Global Gap Year

Isaac Galef-Brown TBB Gap Year Programs Leader

Isaac Galef-Brown, Program Leader

Having spent four years teaching in public elementary schools in and around my hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts I realize that I am the product of more than simply extraordinary teachers and schools, but also from some incredible experiences traveling abroad with family, friends, and on solo ventures. For all that a good teacher can do within a well-funded and supported classroom, students benefit so much from traveling, getting hands on experience, meeting people that are entirely different from them, and then returning home to reflect on how the experience changes the way they see the world. This return to home has always been my favorite aspect of traveling, because I always return with questions that challenge my personal values and lifestyle, but also those of the society I live in. Traveling is the best form of education I’ve ever had, and I’m sure my mental picture of how I fit in with the world would be different without it.

Whenever the chance has risen to work with and learn from people that are different from me, I take it. This has ranged from working with students of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent in a Spanish-English Dual-Language classroom in Boston, to studying abroad in Spain, to doing research in a Bolivian silver mine, to working with special needs students on the way to getting a Masters Degree in Elementary and Special Education, to traveling the world and seeing sights outside of my own bubble.

Kelly Sanders TBB Gap Year Programs Leader

Kelly Sanders, Program Leader

Kelly graduated from North Carolina State University in 2011 with a B.A. in International Studies/International Relations. During her time at NC State, she had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester in Santander, Spain. This began a love for living abroad and learning Spanish. After graduation, she completed two years of AmeriCorps service in Chapel Hill, NC working with newly resettled refugees with a literacy center. Her AmeriCorps experience helped facilitate a cultural exchange within the United States, and inspired a new career path in International Education.

In 2014, Kelly moved to Guatemala City to work with a Guatemalan women's cooperative, Unidas Para Vivir Mejor, as the English Program Coordinator. She created English curriculum for a primary school and provided training for English teachers. She completed her M.A. in International Education Policy at the University of Maryland in 2017. She was a Graduate Coordinator with the office of Leadership and Community Service Learning at UMD. She worked with undergraduate students to help facilitate their leadership in various service-learning programs. She staff-advised Alternative Break experiences, conducted international research in Cuba, and worked as an instructor with the Global Communities program. Kelly is passionate about sharing transformative international experiences with students and is excited to begin this next chapter with TBB.

Latin America Gap Semester

Andrea Woods, Program Leader

Andrea Woods is a chameleon. (She’s always prepared for the “identify the kind of animal that describes you” icebreaker.) Her interests are varied: nomadness, teaching, learning, nature, roller-coasters, softball, tv/film, minimalism, podcasts, and social justice (just to name a few). While she loves to travel across the states and abroad, no place ever compares to her beloved hometown - Saint Louis, Missouri, USA. Her greatest accomplishment in life (thus far): visiting every Six Flags Theme Park in the world! (She’s also always prepared for the “interesting fact” icebreaker.)

Her interest in film & technology led her to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Radio/TV/Film (unofficially Black American TV & film) from Northwestern University. However, she decided to become a teacher in under-resourced communities, communities very much like the one she grew up in (northside STL 4eva), after interning with Children’s Defense Fund: Freedom Schools. She joined Teach for America, earned her Masters in Education from Arizona State University (where the Sonoran Desert stole her heart), and has since become a nationally recognized award-winning educator/instructional coach committed to designing learning experiences that empower students to be liberated leaders committed to creating a more equitable world.

Chapter 1 of Andrea’s international education journey began at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Her life and work was forever changed after teaching and living in Bangladesh for a year (where she joined a Bangladeshi walking/running community) and discovered a new calling: international education (and girls’/women’s education). It is now time for chapter 2 of her international teaching and learning journey, and she couldn’t be more ecstatic to collaborate with TBB students, international partners, and staff as a Program Leader with the Latin American Gap Semester.

JoLyn Rekasis, Program Leader

JoLyn is from the Midwest and graduated with a double B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and Spanish. Her first abroad experience in Ecuador ignited her passion for the Spanish language and Latin America. It was then that she realized that she wanted to continue working, living, and learning about the vibrant cultures of Latin America. After undergrad, JoLyn was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic and for two years she lived in a small border town with limited access to amenities. Being immersed in the Dominican culture taught her the importance of treating everyone as if they were family and to share not only material things like food but your time and gratitude.

After Peace Corps, she graduated with her M.A. in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA. She learned about various approaches to educational programs abroad and how to implement them in a responsible, transformative way so that students leave their abroad experience seeing life from a refreshed perspective. JoLyn loves international education because it gives students the opportunity for growth outside their comfort zone and empathize with a new culture. She strives to empower students to look inward on how they are projecting the world outward and to be the catalyst for true impact. In her free time, she enjoys to spend time in the sunshine, explore new places, experiment cooking, and improve personal practices like running, meditation, and yoga. JoLyn is thrilled to spread her passion for Latin America with TBB Gap Semester!

Founders

As a team, the founders of Thinking Beyond Borders endeavored to create educational programs for gap year students that would develop the skills and capacities shared by great agents of social change. Their combined experience and expertise made it possible to launch ambitious programs and build an independent non-profit organization.

Robin Pendoley, Founder & President

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.

Chris Stakich, Founder

Chris has lived with a passion for community service and international travel almost his entire life. While growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Chris was the president of his high school community service organization, worked for the United Way, and traveled to the Dominican Republic during his senior year to help build a hospital. During his four years at Harvard University, Chris grasped the importance of perspective and dedicated valuable time to experiencing the world. He studied abroad in Australia and traveled throughout Europe while earning an economics degree, playing on the Crimson varsity football team, and holding a part time job. After graduating college, Chris accepted a position as the Business Development Director for Rustic Pathways, an international education, community service, and adventure travel company. In 2007 Chris co-founded Thinking Beyond Borders with Robin Pendoley and Sandy Cooper. Thinking Beyond Borders is a cultivated dream for Chris, integrating education and international travel, providing service to communities in need, and mindfully developing future leaders who embody broad perspective and global compassion. Currently, Chris serves as the Chairman of the Board for Thinking Beyond Borders and also as the President of Operations for Rustic Pathways.

Sandy Cooper, Founder

Sandy's deep determination to contribute proactively to society began in middle school. After volunteering at a nursing home in her hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts, she worked with the YMCA through high school and college to develop children’s self-esteem and social skills. While earning an honors degree from Skidmore College, Sandy studied abroad and taught conversational English at La Universidad Autonoma in Madrid, Spain.

Following her growing passion for educating and traveling, Sandy spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Kiribati. As a teacher, Sandy designed culturally appropriate curriculum to teach language and math skills to junior secondary school students. Her students’ performances on national exams surpassed all previous classes.

With new understanding for the needs of developing communities and the importance of informed leadership, Sandy became a Team Leader for AmeriCorps*NCCC upon her return to the US. Through her diligent and creative guidance, Sandy’s team of 9 Corps Members completed various service projects, including the supervision of 1500 volunteers in gutting the homes of hundreds of Hurricane Katrina victims.

Managing her team challenged Sandy to hone her conflict resolution and business organization skills. She also holds a certificate in Nonprofit Management through American Humanics. These many years of volunteerism, community service leadership, and formal study both abroad and within the United States endow Sandy with a focused and powerful vision for Thinking Beyond Borders.

Partners

Thinking Beyond Borders works with a wide array of partners abroad. These incredible organizations are crucial to ensuring the quality, educational outreach, and recruitment of exceptional students for TBB's gap year programs.

Cross-Cultural Solutions has has placed over 35,000 volunteers in its sites around the world over the last two decades. CCS believes that through meaningful volunteer service we can build relationships and connections that are essential components to increased tolerance and global awareness.

Advisors

The Thinking Beyond Borders gap year curriculum for all of its programs has been developed and refined with the support of a highly qualified group of advisors. With broad ranging expertise, these individuals have brought insight with regard to curricular content, delivery, and assessment. Their work in collaboration with the Thinking Beyond Borders staff ensures that each student has a powerful learning experience during the course of the program.

Eleanor Duckworth, Curriculum Advisor

Eleanor Duckworth is a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the author of several books including The Having of Wonderful Ideas: And Other Essays on Teaching and Learning and “Tell Me More”: Listening to Learners Explain. A former student and translator of Jean Piaget, she grounds her work in Piaget and Inhelder’s insights into the nature and development of understanding and in their research method, which she has developed as a teaching/research approach, Critical Exploration in the Classroom. She seeks to bring a Freirean approach to any classroom, valuing the learners’ experience and insights. Her interest is in the experiences of teaching and learning of people of all ages, both in and out of schools. Duckworth is a former elementary school teacher and has worked in curriculum development, teacher education, and program evaluation in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and her native Canada. She is a coordinator for Cambridge United for Justice with Peace, and is a performing modern dancer.

Amanda Frost, Curriculum Advisor

Once Mandy Frost’s children were raised, which she realizes now is never a completed job, she needed to make full use of the dynamic changes happening in South Africa after years of feeling powerless. Her experience in various bookkeeping and labour management jobs gave her the admin skills needed to develop an NGO. Her passion for human rights and human development, defined by the Montessori education method, gave her the faith and sensitivity needed to work in a highly politicized milieu.

Mandy was appointed, in 2003, as coordinator of what was intended to be a planning body monitoring local HIV & AIDS projects and identifying needs. Three months of local networking revealed that there were no projects to monitor, but the needs were clear. She got clearance from the NGO governing body and started initiating and implementing projects that were in line with the national strategic plan for HIV in South Africa. Two of their biggest projects, Bitou Community Home-based Care/Hospice and Invicta House Womens’ Shelter, are firmly established and integrated with other services. The Plettaid Foundation employs 35 people, has achieved membership of Hospice Palliative Care Association of SA and has a dream to build and run a grassroots hospice to support home-based care.

Sam Mitchell, Curriculum Advisor

Sam Mitchell passed away in the Fall of 2011. His belief in, contributions to, and support of TBB were fundamental to the formation of our programs. He was truly a friend. In celebration of his life and work, Thinking Beyond Borders created the Sam Mitchell Scholarship, awarded to a deserving TBB student each year.

Sam Mitchell received his PhD in Asian History at the University of Hawaii, where he was an East-West Center fellow. While undertaking language training in Hindi, Urdu, and Nepali, he lived in Pakistan for one year, Nepal for three and India for four. Sam lived in Yunnan Province, China for 16 years. Dr. Mitchell served as Academic Director of the School for International Training Nepal program from 1990-93 and was a visiting assistant professor of East Asian History at Western Washington University during the 2001-2002 academic year. He helped to curate an exhibition of his photographs, as well as clothing, cultural artifacts, and music from the ethnic minority groups of Northwest Yunnan entitled, “Yunnan: Enchanting Region of Ethnic Diversity” on display at the East-West Center and the University of Hawaii during February and March of 2004. Sam and his wife, Lu Yuan, created and initiated the Chinese Culture and Ethnic Minorities Program for what is now SIT Study Abroad, based in Brattleboro Vermont, in 1994. They resided in Kunming ever since.

Under the auspices of the Center for Cultural Learning and Development Sam facilitated cultural and Traditional Chinese Medicine programs for various universities, colleges from throughout the United States, including the gap year program, Thinking Beyond Borders. He was an avid hiker, snorkeler and photographer.

Joshua Muldavin, Curriculum Advisor

Dr. Joshua Muldavin has a long and distinguished record as a researcher and teacher concerning his interests in globalization, China, Japan, and Asia, policy analysis, rural development, international aid, agriculture and food, climate change, political economy, and political ecology. He has completed thirty years of field research, primarily in rural China, as well as in Japan, Nepal, India, Russia, Hungary, northern Europe, Cuba, and Mexico.

He was Chair and Director of International Development Studies at UCLA from 1994-2001. He was a Resident Research Fellow with the East West Center's Program on Environment in 2003, Visiting Scientist at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Research and Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu from 2006-2008, Visiting Professor at China Agricultural University from 2007-2008, Visiting Scholar at Sophia University in Tokyo 2006-2010, and is currently a Visiting Scholar at the China Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, as well as the Executive Director of the Action 2030 Institute, a small policy think tank.

While at UCLA he won the Distinguished Teaching Award, and was also given the Eby Award as the best teacher of the year. He is a frequent contributor to international news reporting on China and Asia, including for the BBC, International Herald Tribune, South China Morning Post, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. At the annual meetings of the AAG in Washington, D.C., he was given the Award for Media Achievement of the Association of American Geographers for 2010 for his long-term efforts to bridge the gap between academic research and public awareness on key contemporary global issues. He is currently Professor of Geography at Sarah Lawrence College.

Manda Parikh, Curriculum Advisor

Dr. Manda Parikh earned a Masters in Economics at Gujarat University and a Ph.D. in Economics at M.S. University, Baroda. Her career pursuits reflect her deep commitment to the people and communities in and around the city of Ahmedabad, India. Currently, Dr. Parikh is the Director of the Rural Development and Management Institute at Ahmedabad, specializing in rural area research, training, and extension; the Director of Pranava Industrial Services Pvt. Ltd., a professional consultancy firm specializing in market, financial, and pre-investment studies with international operations; and the Director of International Programs for the Indian Association of Experiment in International Living. Additionally, she serves as a Trustee of the Indian Society For Population Education, the Indian Society for Community Education, Yuvak Vikas Trust, and Green Serve India Ltd. Through these diverse professional opportunities, Dr. Parikh works to empower urban and rural communities with education, sound and just economic practice, and conscious engagement. She draws inspiration from the work and writing of Mohandas K. Gandhi and his vision of a diverse, peaceful, and sustainable India.

Sherman Teichman, Curriculum Advisor

Sherman Teichman is the inaugural Executive Director of the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University. The programs under his direction include Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC), a rigorous interdisciplinary program for analysis of global issues and active citizenship; the Tufts Initiative for Leadership and International Perspective centered in Hong Kong and Beijing; [EXPOSURE], a photojournalism, documentary studies and human rights initiative and a range of global immersive education student initiated research projects.

A lecturer in the arts and social sciences at Tufts since 1984, Mr. Teichman was a former fellow and lecturer at the Institute of Politics, the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and a faculty member at Boston University and Emerson College. As a journalist, he was a Peabody Award-winning foreign policy analyst for National Public Radio, WBUR, in Boston and a social science editor of the Boston Review. An adviser on counterterrorism and long-range strategic planning for the Israeli government, Mr. Teichman was also active with Amnesty International in the former Soviet Union and Central America. He was educated at the United States Naval Academy, The Johns Hopkins University, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Chicago's Committees on International Relations and Social Thought.

An Olympic saber fencer, Mr. Teichman is currently the Tufts University saber fencing coach. He previously coached fencing at Boston University, the University of Chicago and Harvard University. TBB is fortunate to work with Mr. Teichman and the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University. With similar core values and program goals, it is an organizational relationship with great potential for future developments.

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