Program Leaders for TBB’s Gap Year Programs
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 West
Born in New York with origins in the East Mediterranean, Maria comes from a sundry background translated to a life of work in education, the arts, and social justice. She has taught gender and sexuality studies to undergraduate students, co-founded both a dance and a writing collective, and worked with countless NGOs, non-profits, and public institutions on issues of gender, education, and migration across New York City and Cyprus.
Maria received her Bachelor of Arts in political science and women and gender studies from Hunter College, CUNY. While at Hunter, Maria worked for the Women and Gender Studies program organizing social justice-oriented events, as well as with the community organizations We Got Issues, where she coordinated a Women’s Leadership Institute, and Esperanza del Barrio, where she supervised a free after-school tutoring program.
Following her undergraduate studies, Maria received a Fulbright fellowship and moved to Cyprus, a small island in the East Mediterranean where several members of her family had lived as refugees. While in Cyprus, Maria worked on projects with several organizations, including the Cyprus Oral History Project and the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies. She also volunteered with the Center for Prevention and Handling of Violence in the Family and KISA, coordinating two weekly discussion groups for Cypriot and migrant women.
After returning to the United States, Maria worked in higher education administration at New York University supporting, mentoring, and teaching undergraduate students while pursuing interdisciplinary graduate studies in international politics at NYU. Meanwhile, Maria produced and directed a film in association with Third World Newsreel, a Manhattan-based media organization, profiling the experience of street vendors in New York.
Maria’s experiences working with various non-governmental organizations and educational institutions have strengthened her commitment to supporting students in learning about social justice and thinking about social transformation, and she looks forward to working with students at Thinking Beyond Borders!
Laura has cultivated a spirit of adventure and cross-cultural understanding from a young age. Originally from Israel, she immigrated to the United States and grew up in suburban Boston and Atlanta. She has also lived in New York City and San Diego.
She began traveling and studying abroad when, as a senior at the Atlanta International School, she participated in the Model United Nations conference in the Netherlands. As an adult student, Laura has pursued interdisciplinary, collaborative, and experiential approaches to her education. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Thought & Political Economy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. After participating in a study abroad program at Tel Aviv University, where she tutored immigrant college students in English and Economics, she took a summer to teach international high school students at a residential program on the Yale University campus. She went on to earn a Juris Doctorate from the City University of New York, a public interest law school, where she served as a mediator and mentor in the Mediation Clinic.
Continuing to pursue an interest in conflict management and international affairs, she earned her Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts Boston. As a graduate student, she worked with a non-governmental organization in Rwanda, focusing on post-genocide reconciliation. She then volunteered on various development projects in Haiti with a local non-profit organization. She also interned at the U.S. Embassy in Mauritius, where she earned a commendation from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for her work supporting a counter-piracy operation within the Seychelles. Upon returning to the U.S., she participated in a pilot program at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the U.S. Agency for International Development, where she supported policy efforts to combat human trafficking abroad.
More recently, Laura worked in international education administration, first as a registrar and then as a housing coordinator, at a school for international students in Boston. In this capacity, she enjoyed facilitating and enhancing students’ experiences. Laura loves film and theater, having partly grown up on a film production lot as a kid, and having studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute and HB Studio in New York City. She is very excited about joining TBB out in the field with students as they explore new places and make new personal connections.
A Midwestern at heart, Jaci has also found homes in Vermont, the Philippines and New York. Growing up as a middle child in a family of 7 children, Jaci soon realized her role as a listener, peace maker and negotiator. Naturally drawn to the teaching profession, Jaci studied elementary education and anthropology in her undergraduate studies. Weaving these two disciplines together, Jaci spent a semester in Kenya and summer in South Africa studying, exploring, and forming questions about educational practices, systems, and theories on a global level. It was through these influential study aboard experiences that Jaci was exposed and completely immersed in an experiential learning environment. She continues to believe that these critical experiences have and continue to shape her personal and professional life.
Post undergrad and in determination to continue to teach and broaden her understanding and knowledge of education in an international context, Jaci joined the Peace Corps and soon found herself teaching English at a tertiary institution in the Philippines. The relationships formed, experiences had and mutual knowledge shared in the Philippines continued to expand Jaci’s belief that education and access to quality education is fundamental in the development of any society. Soon after the Peace Corps, Jaci continued exploring the dynamic relationship that education plays in the field of development at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studied International Educational Development. During this time she continued to expand her educational teaching methodologies in an early childhood environment, in addition to working at the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, a humanitarian non-profit focused on protecting the right to education for all children.
Most recently, Jaci explored the field of local agriculture in upstate New York, where she worked and lived on a produce farm. She finds her happiness in family, friends, cooking and yoga. Jaci is thrilled to be joining the TBB team and to be a part of providing a space for students to critically analyze and challenge the complex nature of global issues.
Global Gap Year East
A Pacific Northwest native, Patrick grew up daydreaming and building forts. After being dared to study abroad, he spent his senior year of high school living in Costa Rica, and then three years later he spent another academic year in Spain. An alumnus from the University of Oregon, Patrick played collegiate lacrosse and studied Spanish and Psychology. In 2010, he joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to Ukraine, where he learned Russian, taught high school English, and collaborated with locals to create projects focused on healthy lifestyles, anti-human trafficking, and young/outdoor leadership. Post Peace Corps, Patrick worked for two years in youth development at an at-risk elementary school where he taught classes, coordinated after school and summer school programs, and managed multiple non-profit partnerships with the school. He is currently finishing his Master’s in International Education Management from the Middlebury Institute for International Studies.
Patrick speaks Spanish and Russian, is WFR certified, and is an avid backpacker and acroyogi. His personal mission is to challenge students to get out, and learn more about themselves, and the world, than they could have ever thought possible.
Experiential education has always been an aspect of Laura’s life, growing up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s, Laura spent her free time playing monopoly with her twin sister, gardening with her mom and backpacking with her dad. Wanting to spend as much time as possible outside, Laura went to Humboldt State University. It was here that she went on her first Service Learning trip to Joshua Tree and through her service experiences and working within Residence Life, Laura became cognizant of the values of others, equality, and the necessity of everyone having their basic needs met. Looking beyond school, Laura knew she wanted to continue working with students outside of the classroom becoming the outlet for her to give back and create positive social change.
Working at a small college in North Eastern Vermont, she went on her first trip abroad, taking students to Guatemala, again Laura experienced the value and transformation of experiential learning, but this time was different. Combining international education with experiential learning was nothing she had ever expected or done before.
With these experiences in mind, Laura moved to San Diego to study Leadership at the University of San Diego. During her two years of grad school, she went on an immersion trip to El Salvador, traveled alone for the first time to Costa Rica, and wrote her thesis on taking students to Peru and studying how short term immersion trips impact and transform students around their understanding of social justice.
Laura has most recently come from living and working at a small private liberal arts college in Los Angeles called Occidental College; working with students living on campus, overseeing the Residential Education program, supporting students in crisis, and supervising and developing graduate students who manage the Resident Advisors.
Despite her land-locked Colorado upbringing, Emily has always been drawn to the coast and the mysteries of ocean life. Her passion for water was fueled by an uncle who made sure she had regular adventures on the Outer Banks. This experience inspired her to leave Colorado behind and attend The University of North Carolina – Wilmington to pursue a B.S. in Marine Biology. After a particularly fascinating course in ichthyology, the study of fishes, Emily decided to continue her education at The University of New England where she earned a M.S. in Marine Science focused on environmental conservation and fish diversity on the coral reefs of Belize. Alongside all of this, her experiences in Residence Life and a graduate teaching assistantship sparked her love of teaching and working with students.
After a year teaching environmental education at the Don Lee Center in North Carolina, Emily accepted an invitation to the Peace Corps where she taught biology for two years at a secondary school in rural Mozambique. Despite the many challenges associated with “mato” living and giving lessons in a second language, Emily developed a strong bond with her community and considers the tiny village of Dombe a second home. This experience cemented her love for travel and helped her understand what it means to truly immerse oneself in another culture. After spending the summer of 2013 in Rwanda advising students on a community-design project, Emily decided to continue to blend her love of the environment and the physical world with her passion for teaching by working with groups like TBB that value social change and personal growth in addition to international development.
She feels that living and working abroad is a necessary supplement to a good education as young people begin developing their sense of self and their awareness of the world around them. Emily looks forward to traveling and learning with a passionate group of students!
South America Gap Semester
Danielle calls Kentucky home, but also has strong family roots in California and New England. While an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky, Danielle majored in Spanish language and culture, studied in Seville, Spain for an academic year, and cultivated a love for travel. She was also active with local social and environmental justice groups and worked on grassroots campaigns for voting rights and sustainable energy practices.
After graduation, Danielle was able to combine her love of the Spanish language and social justice by working towards equal access to quality education through AmeriCorps service with City Year Boston. During her first year of service, she was a tutor and mentor in a Spanish language 4th grade classroom in a two-way immersion dual language school in turnaround status. She returned to the school for a second year as a team leader to support the staff and team of corps members.
Her experience with City Year motivated her to earn a master’s degree in Urban Education Policy at Brown University. It is her goal to make sure that all students have access to linguistically and culturally competent quality education. While at Brown, Danielle was a research assistant for a team focusing on family engagement in early childhood education in a low income, mostly immigrant, Latino community. Also while at Brown, she and a classmate designed and conducted an international research project on technical higher education in Pereira and Bogotá, Colombia.
Danielle is excited to join the TBB team to have critical conversations and enjoy genuine camaraderie. She also gets really excited about baking, animals, colorful doors, and historical fiction.
Born and raised in a diverse neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, Chris learned from a young age the importance of cultural sensitivity and acceptance. In attempts to quench his insatiable curiosity, Chris double majored in Spanish and Psycholinguistics while attending University of Connecticut and was able to study abroad for a semester at the Universidad de Granada in Spain.
Upon graduation, Chris began teaching Spanish at Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School (KHELS) in Brooklyn, NY. Being that KHELS was an Outward Bound school, Chris had the opportunity of integrating outdoor education into his daily practice as a teacher. During his time at Millennium High School (MHS) in Lower Manhattan, he was awarded a Fund for Teacher’s grant to travel to Bolivia, Guatemala, and Peru to interview indigenous people about political representation, access to education, and race as part of a case study regarding socialist revolutions in Latin America.
Currently, Chris is an international Director for Global Leadership Adventures. Working in Los Santos Region of Costa Rica, he is working with several groups of students on an initiative to convert conventional coffee farms into organic ones. He is super excited to join the TBB South America Gap Semester to continue his love of teaching and learning about international development.
Asia Gap Semester
Abby grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. As an undergraduate, she studied psychology and planned to pursue an academic career as a teacher-scholar of child and family development. A trip to the eye doctor derailed her domestic career plans and launched her interest in international development. While waiting for an eye exam she picked up a copy of Reader’s Digest that featured Angelina Jolie’s work with the United Nations and with refugees. Bartering ensued at the reception desk, where she promised to return for an annual check-up in exchange for lifting the magazine from the premises. Article read, and mind buzzing with questions about the implications for children who grow up in situations of forced displacement, Abby conducted her master’s research with Liberian refugees living in Ghana. She went on to pursue a DPhil (PhD) in International Development at the University of Oxford, where she turned her attention to the topic of conflict and ex-combatant reintegration. Her ethnographic research looked at the life chances and trajectories of former child and youth soldiers who fought in the civil war in Liberia. She completed her thesis, Life after Guns, in 2012. Since then she has continued to research and write about the social and economic limitations and possibilities that affect the lives of young people around the world.
Abby joins Thinking Beyond Borders with a love for travel, adventure, and critical reflection about persisting, global inequalities and social justice. She believes that the best way to learn about something is to experience it first-hand, and that effective, sustainable change is the product of much experience, reflection, and empathy. She is excited to bring her enjoyment of learning, teaching, and mentoring into a dynamic, shared experience on TBB’s gap year programs. Abby served as a Program Leader for TBB’s Global Gap Year Class of 2015.
Born in Southeast Michigan and raised on a sailboat the first year of his life, Joshua continues his pursuit of unique experiential learning opportunities to the present day. As an undergraduate student at Kalamazoo College, he studied with the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute in Chiang Mai, Thailand and quickly fell in love with Thailand and Southeast Asia. His passion for this part of the world motivated him to complete an MA in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Michigan, specializing in urban planning and development. As part of his MA thesis, he conducted fieldwork in Bangkok focusing on access to public transportation services and social equity.
Over the past decade, Joshua has professional experience as an Asia Pacific Leadership Fellow and Research Delegate with the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii and as a Fulbright-Clinton Fellow working with the Thai Ministry of Transport on high-speed rail development. He is also an avid Thai language learner and a runner, having competed in races in Hong Kong, Thailand, and India.
From living with a multitude of exchange students as a child to couchsurfing the far corners of Asia and Latin America as an adult, Joshua is a passionate believer and a personal testament to the life changing power of international exchange and cross cultural sharing. He is thrilled to lead a new group of talented young adults to thriving and challenging parts of the world that make for an ideal classroom. Josh served as a Program Leader for TBB’s Global Gap Year Class of 2015.