Critical Language Scholarship Program | Program Staff
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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.


Andrew McCullough
Director

Andrew McCullough is the Director for CLS at American Councils for International Education. He also spent four years working on CLS institutes in East Asia Pacific and the Middle East, including those in Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Oman and Morocco.

Andrew graduated from the East Asian Languages and Civilizations program at the University of Chicago and has lived extensively in China and South Korea. He has worked with progressive education organizations in Korea through the Seoul Alternative Learning Communities Network, a coalition of youth centers and schools that work to address issues in Korea's primary education system.

Andrew studied Korean literary translation at the Korean Literature Translation Institute in Seoul.


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 works on the CLS institutes for Russian and Persian languages.

Before joining the CLS team, Nellie worked as a Program Officer for the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). Prior to this, Nellie received 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. She began learning Russian in 2004 as an undergraduate and has also studied French and Ukrainian.

In her free time Nellie spends time running, reading, and baking and eating desserts.


Natalie Spencer
Outreach and Selection Manager

Natalie Spencer joined the CLS team in 2016 as the Program Officer for Alumni Affairs, working to design and implement programming for a vibrant community of over 5,000 CLS alumni. Natalie now serves as the CLS Program’s Outreach and Selection Manager. In this role, she works with faculty, staff, and administrators at colleges and universities across the country to promote the CLS Program and support student applicants. Natalie also facilitates the participant selection process, working with readers and evaluators from over 200 institutions each year to select a bright and diverse group of citizen ambassadors to send abroad.

Natalie earned her MA in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA and holds a dual BA in Mass Communication and French from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She has studied and taught in France and maintains a passion for cultural exchange and the value of the study abroad experience.


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

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.


Carolyn Arena
Program Officer, Virtual Initiatives

Carolyn Arena is the Program Officer for Virtual Initiatives of the CLS Program. Carolyn earned a Ph.D. and M.A. in International and Global History from Columbia University, and a B.A. in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With support from Fulbright, FLAS, and an exchange program with the London School of Economics, she has studied and researched abroad in the Netherlands, Barbados, and England.

Prior to joining the CLS team, Carolyn was a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Omohundro Institute at William & Mary. Most recently, she taught World History courses for the Global Connections Living and Learning Community at George Washington University, bringing U.S. students and International students together both in-person and virtually.

When she’s not working, Carolyn enjoys trivia, board games, biking, and DIY home projects.


Esha Bera
Program Officer, Arabic Programs

Esha Bera is the Program Officer for CLS Arabic. She holds a bachelor's degree in International Relations with a Near Eastern concentration from Washington College. She studied at the Arabic and North African Studies (ARANAS) program at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco.

Prior to joining American Councils, Esha worked as program staff for Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan and the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship Program where she administered the program facilitation and supported international students during their exchange program experience. She also managed operations for the MENA region at American Bar Association; Rule of Law Initiative and Relief International.

In her free time, Esha enjoys international travel and learning how to cook local cuisines.


Caitlyn Carpio
Program Officer, Chinese Programs

Caitlyn Carpio is the Program Officer for Chinese. She received a B.A. in Chinese and Global Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 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. Caitlyn previously completed the CLS Program in Suzhou, China, and was a former CLS Alumni Ambassador.

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


Rori DiFiore
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.


Jessica Klink
Program Officer, Indic and Indonesian Languages

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.


Mallory Oludemi
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.


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.


Liz Sinclair
Alumni Engagement Officer, Critical Language Scholarship Program

Liz Sinclair is responsible for programming serving all alumni of the CLS Program. Prior to joining American Councils, Liz was a student advisor at ISEP Study Abroad, advising on programs in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Western Europe. She has also worked in education abroad at Portland State University and Portland Community College.

Liz received her M.A. in International Education Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and her B.A. in French Studies and Psychology from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She studied and taught English in France prior to entering the international education field.

In her free time, Liz enjoys hiking, reading, planning trips, and exploring the D.C. area.


Sydney Sparrow
Program Officer, Japanese and Korean Languages

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.


Amber Walden
Program Coordinator

Amber Walden is a Program Coordinator for the CLS Program. She recently completed graduate studies in Russian Politics and Society at King’s College London where she also served as a student representative for the department. Her master’s thesis focused on the influence of utopian ideology on repression in the Soviet Union and the United States.

Before joining American Councils, Amber participated in a variety of internships while she completed her undergraduate studies in History and Russian at Howard University. Amber studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia twice, in 2014 and 2019. In her free time, Amber enjoys listening to K-pop and reading romance novels.


Mayya Pechenova
Program Assistant

Mayya Pechenova is a Program Assistant 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 served as the coordinator of 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.