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.

Global Gap Year

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.

Kelly Sanders TBB Gap Year Programs Leader

Kelly Sanders, Director of Programs

Kelly serves as the Director of Programs for Thinking Beyond Borders. In this role she manages field staff, collaborates with our in country partners, and empowers staff to create a meaningful learning space for students rooted in TBB’s pedagogy and values.

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 local 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. As 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. This role helped Kelly realize her passion is working more closely with students than in policy research. Kelly joined the TBB family in 2017 and led Latin America Semester programs and then the Global Gap Year in 2018. TBB was a life changing career move and allowed the opportunity to practice authenticity, vulnerability, cross cultural experiences, and self-care in impactful ways side-by-side with students. She is thrilled to be stepping to the Director of Program role to continue to grow in this unique space.

Isaac Galef-Brown, Director of Outreach and Program Development

Isaac serves as TBB’s Director of Outreach and Program Development. In this position, he works in student recruitment and the admissions process, represents TBB at school and college fairs and manages alumni engagement and the long-term development of programs. Driven by his background as an educator, he is excited to explore new ways to make programming accessible to all students, to continue growing the TBB community and to creating humanizing, cross-cultural educational opportunities.

After completing his undergraduate degree at the College of Wooster, Isaac returned to his hometown of Cambridge, MA. Needing to find some direction at that critical post-college juncture, he joined City Year, an Americorps Program which placed him in a public elementary school in Boston. Thus began Isaac’s career in education! Over the course of the next four years, he taught in several different special education settings and in a Spanish-English Dual-Language classroom. He observed differences in learning styles, teaching approaches, and school cultures, and disparities in resource availability, teacher training and classroom support that led him to a deeper understanding of how education systems can be profoundly inequitable. These realizations provided newfound perspectives on his own experience growing up attending urban public schools, but he also began to recognize the tremendous potential within education that, on a micro-scale, could be the catalyst for personal connection, and on a macro-scale could be a vehicle for something as broad and necessary as social change.

Having learned alongside some amazing teachers, and bolstered by a Master’s Degree in Elementary and Special Education from Wheelock College, Isaac switched his focus in 2017 to International Education to realign his teaching experience with his love of travel and experiential learning and signed on with Thinking Beyond Borders. As a Program Leader, he led two Latin America Semester Programs and a Global Gap Year Program for TBB. The most meaningful part of the work for him has been building authentic, trusting relationships with his students which continue after graduation. He is also passionate about engaging with people around the world in ways that attempt to break down cross-cultural barriers, inherent assumptions and power dynamics and instead seek greater understanding and empathy.

Cara Ferragamo Murray, Vice President Sales & Marketing

As the Vice President, Sales & Marketing for Thinking Beyond Borders and Impact Global Education, Cara leads the branding, marketing, and acquisition strategies for the gap programs. With over 25 years of experience in brand management, relationship marketing, and partnership alliances, Cara is committed to providing young adults with experiences and activities that will prepare them for a global society, and equip them with the tools they need to become the next generation of social impact leaders.

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. All Program Leaders are certified in Wilderness First Responder training and each TBB program provides (at minimum) one Master's level educator.

Global Gap Year

Airon Whitt, Program Leader

Airon is originally from southern Mississippi, and comes from a family of artists. She chose to study Sustainable Tourism and Development Management from the University of Hawaii. After graduating, she stayed in Hawaii for a total of 7 years working for some of the biggest hotels on Waikiki Beach… and learning how hard it is to be a surfer.

After Hawaii, Airon joined the Peace Corps in Costa Rica where she worked in small, rural tourism development and making arts and crafts with the senior citizen group of her community. She then went on to get a dual Master’s degree in Business Administration and International Policy and Development from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.

Airon has worked for several international education programs and has led over 350 students throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. She is currently completing her final practicum in Malaysian Borneo working with small, remote, jungle ecolodges. In her free time, she enjoys a good beach day, hiking to places with killer views, exploring new cultures, and teaching the world’s travelers about the importance of responsible and sustainable tourism.

Kandis Pogoda, Program Leader

Growing up in Southern California, Kandis attributes her initial curiosity to learn more about the world from her diverse surroundings. From living blocks away from Little India, that still to this day is not little, to attending elementary school where her classes were sporadically taught in Spanglish, Kandis always sought more exposure to anything unfamiliar to her.

Kandis attended California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Spanish. Though initially disenchanted with the idea of staying home for university, CSULB became her diving board into the world. From her first semester, Kandis became involved with international student learning community on campus then studied abroad with Semester at Sea on two consecutive summer voyages through Central America and the Mediterranean. This was Kandis’s first taste of the world and when she returned to California, she knew she was far from done.

After completing her B.A., Kandis served as a Health Educator for the Peace Corps in rural Belize, primarily focusing on the promotion of family planning and education and prevention of non-communicable diseases. Additionally, through living with host families and frequently translating for foreign medics, Kandis solidified her fluency in Spanish.

Shortly after returning from Belize, Kandis rejoined CSULB as a staff member. She began working for the Education Abroad Office where she worked as an advisor for exchange programs in Asia and Australia while simultaneously studying for her Master’s in Linguistics. Now, with her M.A. in hand and 29 international countries under her belt, Kandis decided to expand her skillset as an educator and lead students on international programs. Combining her enthusiasm to work more directly with students as well as her alignment with the philosophies and pedagogies of TBB, Kandis cannot be more excited to join the team and co-lead the upcoming GGY program!

Latin America Gap Semester

Joselin Hernandez, Program Leader

A Nicaraguan native, Joselin is an avid traveler and international leader with more than eight years experience in the field of international education. She has run programs ranging in length from two weeks to one year, worked directly with students on the ground, as well as in managerial roles leading diverse teams of local and international staff.

Joselin holds a bachelor’s degree in Management of Tourist Enterprises from UNAN-Leon, graduating as an honors student. Joselin continued her studies in Salzburg, Austria, where she graduated with distinction and with a Master's Degree in Teacher´s Training and Tourism Management. Joselin speaks Spanish, English, French and German fluently and has lived, worked and traveled in 18 different countries in Europe and Latin America.

Joselin believes in the transformational power of travel, and has observed as well as experienced firsthand how exposure to new cultures can open up new perspectives on life, as well as develop self-awareness and leadership skills. She has dedicated her career to facilitating life-changing travel experiences for youth delivering workshops, leading excursions, and engaging students in social, environmental and cultural discussions. Joselin lived in Ecuador for 3 years, which impacted the way she saw the world, and has informed her teaching methodology. This experience motivated her to learn about natural construction and ancestral healing practices from the South American native peoples as a way to interact with mother earth and one another in a more conscious and holistic way.

Joselin also facilitates alternative dance forms, such as the dance of the 4 elements: Earth, Fire, Wind and Water to improve one’s mind, body and soul connection, supporting individuals to achieve a more balanced life.

She is very excited to work closely with our TBB students this coming spring.

Jamie Hackbarth, Program Leader

Jamie identifies as a global citizen. Her roots were raised in the heartland of Columbus, Ohio and her seed has been planted worldwide from Spain to rural Peru, and most recently Colorado. Jamie’s worldview was shaped by her own impactful experiences including assisting at an orphanage in Honduras, studying the impacts of urban development throughout Central America, and diving into a language immersion program in Spain.

Jamie’s passion to make a lasting impact inspired her to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Peru for 2+ Years, focused on education and development to enhance community health and economic outcomes for youth and adults. She led a peer-mentorship program for 25+ youth and served as an environmental and financial advisor to several community residents. In addition to this, Jamie taught yoga and meditation in the community.

Jamie has spent the past two years leading rural economic development programs for the State of Colorado. This challenging yet rewarding work has taught her that many of the development challenges found abroad are directly transferable to the issues faced in rural America. Jamie is a certified small business consultant serving as a mentor and educator to entrepreneurs and small business owners. During her tenure with the State of Colorado, Jamie continued to lead student groups on community development trips to Colombia and Peru.

Jamie has a B.A. in Strategic Communications with specialties in marketing and Spanish. This has led her on an enthralling journey, gaining experience in public relations, youth empowerment and education, community development, public health, business planning, and investment. She is a mother-nature advocate, outdoor enthusiast, life long learner, and an avid traveler. Jamie believes in the power of giving back to the community and is thrilled to be apart of the Thinking Beyond Borders family!


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. Although TBB's founders no longer work directly with the organization, their combined experience and expertise made it possible to launch ambitious programs and build Thinking Beyond Borders to what it is today.

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.


Thinking Beyond Borders works with a wide array of partners abroad and in the Fall of 2018, officially partnered with the three international education organizations listed below to form Impact Global Education (IGE), an international travel and education conglomerate. These partners are crucial to ensuring the quality, educational outreach, and recruitment of exceptional students for TBB's gap year programs.

Winterline is a unique and innovative global gap, semester and summer program organization, offering high school graduates and young adults the opportunity to equip themselves with the global skills and competencies necessary to not only succeed, but to lead.

Think Impact is a leading Social Entrepreneur organization offering programming to students, educators and working professionals. Their mission is to start and grow cross-cultural social enterprises built on an asset-based approach and immersive collaboration. ​

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.


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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