Critical Language Scholarship Program | Program Staff

Program Staff

Jeanette Owen
Senior Director

Jeanette Owen is the CLS Senior Director for American Councils for International Education. Jeanette oversees all programmatic components and faculty development plans for over 20 intensive summer language institutes in the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Central Asia, East Asia and Pacific, and Eurasia.

Before joining the CLS program, Jeanette administered short-term and long-term study abroad programs in Russia and Eurasia, as well as research grant programs for fieldwork in Russia, Eurasia, and Southeast Europe.

Jeanette received her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Russian and Second Language Acquisition from Bryn Mawr College. Her research examines second language acquisition in a study abroad environment, with a particular focus on intercultural communication and politeness norms. Prior to joining American Councils, she was a faculty member in the School of International Letters and Culture at Arizona State University, where she taught courses in Russian language, literature, culture and linguistics.

Becca AbuRakia-Einhorn

Becca AbuRakia-Einhorn is the Director for CLS at American Councils for International Education. Prior to joining the CLS team, she served as the Manager of Education Abroad & International Fellowships at Gallaudet University, the only university in the world designed to be barrier-free for the deaf, deafblind, & hard of hearing. She holds a BA from Pomona College, an MA in International Affairs from American University’s School of International Service, and an MPA from American University’s School of Public Affairs. She is currently completing her EdD in Higher Education Administration at The George Washington University where she focuses on programming for returned study abroad participants. In 2019, she was named the Diversity Abroad EDIIE Rising Star & the NAFSA Rising Star Young Leader. She speaks six languages (to varying degrees) and has worked professionally in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and American Sign Language.

She spends her free time with her husband, two little boys, and one large pitbull in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Stephanie Li
Program Manager

Stephanie Li works on the CLS Chinese institutes, and also manages various financial aspects of the CLS Program. In addition to the CLS Chinese institutes, Stephanie has also worked on the CLS institutes in India as well as served in the role of the Data and Reporting officer.

Originally from Beijing, Stephanie graduated from Old Dominion University with a B.S. in International Business and minors in Economics and Accounting.

Prior to joining American Councils, Stephanie established and worked in the Beijing office of a U.S.-based international trade and consulting firm, and also worked as a contractor analyst at the U.S. Department of Transportation. In addition to living in the United States and China, she has also lived in Australia.

In her free time, Stephanie keeps an active physical fitness regimen and runs two CrossFit gyms with her husband. She can also be found studying new languages, including French, Korean, and most recently, Japanese.

Nellie Manis
Program Manager

Nellie Manis is a program manager for CLS at American Councils for International Education. Nellie currently overseas the implementation of programs for Azerbaijani, Hindi, Indonesian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu languages.

Before joining the CLS program, Nellie worked on the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) at American Councils, and also completed a Fulbright U.S. Student Grant to study translation and interpretation in Russia. Nellie completed a CLS for Russian in 2011.

Nellie has an M.A. in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.A. in History and International Studies from the Pennsylvania State University.

In her free time Nellie enjoys spending time with her two little kids, running, and reading.

Caitlin Ting
Outreach and Selection Assistant Manager

Caitlin works with faculty, staff, and administrators at colleges and universities across the country to promote the CLS Program and support applicants. She also facilitates the participant selection process, working with evaluators from over 200 institutions each year to select a bright and diverse group of citizen ambassadors to send abroad.

Prior to joining American Councils, Caitlin served as the Director of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring at the Pennsylvania State University where she advised students on such opportunities as the CLS Program.

Caitlin earned a Ph.D. in Psychology and Language Science from Penn State. With support from an NSF Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) grant, she conducted part of her doctoral research in the Netherlands. Caitlin's dissertation examined the relationship between syntactic processing in language and music.

Rori DiFiore
Senior Communications Officer

Rori DiFiore works to increase the visibility of the CLS program through communications and social media. Before joining the CLS team, Rori worked in social media, member communications and event management at ISEP Study Abroad.

Rori received a M.P.P from George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Mary Washington. As an undergraduate student, Rori studied abroad in Florence, Italy, cementing her love for international travel and priming her for a second study abroad, in Japan, during her master’s degree.

In her free time, Rori enjoys exploring the many cultural and culinary delights of D.C., journaling and practicing yoga on her rooftop, and planning her next trip abroad.

Bo Knutson
Senior Program Officer, Portuguese, Swahili and Turkic Programs

Bo has a M.A. in International Development Studies from The George Washington University with a concentration in Global Health and a B.A. in English Literature and Composition from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He has also served in the Peace Corps in Eastern Ukraine as a secondary school teacher, worked in the Republic of Georgia on public health monitoring systems for high-risk populations, and worked in Tajikistan with the World Food Programme.

Mallory Oludemi
Senior Data and Reporting Officer

Mallory Oludemi is the Data and Reporting Officer for the CLS program, where she analyzes and reports on program impact, maintains accurate records, and supports program administration.

Previously, Mallory worked in the George Washington University’s Office of International Programs. She also has experience as a student success advisor for online graduate students, and as a high school math teacher in Maryland and at an international school in Germany.

Mallory holds a M.A. in International Education from the George Washington University and a dual B.S. in Mathematics and Secondary Education from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Elizabeth Beaton
Program Officer, Arabic Programs

Elizabeth is the CLS Program Officer for Arabic. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations with a minor in Arabic from Mount Holyoke College. She has completed study abroad programs in Madrid, Spain and Rabat, Morocco. Before joining American Councils for International Education, Elizabeth worked at the English Language Institute at Pine Manor College and then as the Assistant Director of Admissions at William James College.

In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys biking, travelling by train, and listening to music.

Caitlyn Carpio
Alumni Engagement Officer

Caitlyn Carpio is the Alumni Engagement Officer for the CLS Program at American Councils. She oversees all alumni programming and works to engage the CLS alumni community with one another, as well as prospective applicants, finalists, and campus advisors. Caitlyn received a B.A. in Global Studies and Chinese from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Caitlyn previously served as the CLS Program Officer for Chinese, working with overseas partners, managing virtual and in-person CLS Chinese institutes, and supporting students. Before joining American Councils, she served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan for three years, designing global curriculum and working with K-6 educators. She previously completed the CLS Program in Suzhou, China, and was a former CLS Alumni Ambassador.

In her free time, Caitlyn enjoys watching sports, eating seafood, and traveling with friends.

Yulia Efremova
Program Officer, Virtual Initiatives

Yulia Efremova is a Program Officer for Virtual Initiatives and works on administering CLS Spark.

Before joining American Councils, she worked for the International Visitor Leadership Program welcoming rising leaders from across the globe to the United States for professional exchange. Yulia also served as a recruiter and a global ambassador for outreach at the University of South Florida promoting study abroad opportunities. She also worked on communications and outreach for Girl Reports, a small nonprofit helping young girls from Nepal become journalists. Yulia speaks Russian and Spanish and studied abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica and Exeter, UK. She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from University of South Florida and M.A. in International and Comparative Education from George Washington University.

Jessica Klink
Program Officer, Indic and Indonesian Programs

Jessica Klink is a Program Officer for the CLS Program focusing on the Indic and Indonesian institutes. She began with CLS as a Resident Director in 2019 for the Swahili program in Arusha, Tanzania.

Prior to joining American Councils for International Education, Jessica studied Social Work and International Studies at Goshen College, and went on to serve as a Community Health and Development Officer with the Peace Corps in Tanzania. In her free time, Jessica enjoys spending time in nature and practicing yoga.

Jay Ritch
Program Officer, Persian and Russian Programs

Jay has an M.A. in Second Language Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and B.A.s in German, Persian, and Linguistics from the University of Maryland, College Park. Jay was the Program Coordinator for the Persian Flagship Program for two years and a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at the American Space in Bokhtar, Tajikistan. Jay is an alum of the Persian CLS program and served as the Resident Director in Dushanbe for two years.

Sydney Sparrow
Program Officer, Japanese and Korean Programs

Sydney Sparrow is the CLS Program Officer for Japanese and Korean. She holds a bachelor's degree in International Relations with an Asian studies minor from James Madison University. During her time as an undergraduate, Sydney studied abroad at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan.

Before joining American Councils for International Education and the CLS team, she worked as a study abroad advisor at George Washington University and as the Communications Coordinator for the Charles B. Rangel and Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship Programs at Howard University. Sydney also taught English abroad as an Assistant Language Teacher in Toyota City, Japan. She is committed to promoting cross-cultural dialogue and understanding, civil discourse, and respect for cultural diversity.

In her free time, Sydney enjoys reading, watercolor painting, and trying out different types of tea.

Jake Speirs
Program Officer, Chinese Programs

Jake Speirs is the CLS Program Officer for Chinese. He received his B.A. in International Studies and Chinese Language & Culture from Macalester College and his M.A. from the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Jake also holds a Certificate in Chinese Studies from the Hopkins Nanjing Center.

Prior to joining American Councils, Jake worked in the international education industry in several capacities, including as a Princeton in Asia Teaching Fellow in the Macau Special Administrative Region of China. Jake completed the CLS Program in Beijing, China in 2015.

In his free time, Jake enjoys amateur rock climbing and is an avid LEGO collector.

Mayya Pechenova
Program Coordinator

Mayya Pechenova is the Program Coordinator for the CLS Program. While pursuing a B.A. in Russian and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, she studied abroad at Lomonosov Moscow State University, which sparked a passion for making language immersion more accessible. Prior to joining American Councils, Mayya worked in refugee resettlement and administered a statewide program for Russian-speaking survivors of domestic violence in Wisconsin. In the Midwestern spirit, she enjoys practically any outdoor adventure activity, as well as gardening, writing, and visiting museums.

Netta Kaplan
Program Associate

Netta Kaplan is the Program Associate for the CLS Program. She holds a B.A. in Linguistics from Pomona College, where she ran an English tutoring program for Arabic-speaking immigrants and refugees. Prior to joining the CLS team, Netta served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Turkey for two years, working to improve language assessments and teaching university students. In addition to Turkish, she has studied French and Arabic.

In her free time, Netta enjoys biking, baking, and doing crossword puzzles.