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Andrew Gordon, CEO & Founder
Andrew Gordon is a social entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of Diversity Abroad. As an international education expert, he has written and spoken extensively on topics pertaining to access, diversity, inclusion, and equity in international education. With a passion for international education Andrew founded Diversity Abroad in 2006 with a simple vision, that the next generation of young people from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds be equipped with the skills and experience to compete in the 21st century global marketplace. Currently Andrew is responsible for the daily operations at Diversity Abroad and serves as the chief national advocate for promoting diversity and inclusive excellence within international education.
A native of San Diego, CA, Andrew is a graduate of the University of San Francisco and studied and interned abroad in Mexico and Spain. He is fluent in Spanish, proficient in French and Portuguese and has traveled throughout Europe, South America, and parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Based on his extensive experience abroad Andrew fully appreciates the value of international education and the power it has to prepare young people for leadership in an increasingly interconnected world.
Andrew has consulted higher education institutions, non-profit and for-profit organizations, and government agencies on developing strategies for increasing access to international education for diverse, first generation and high financial need students. He is a member of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, AIEA, EAIE, National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), and the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA). Andrew is an alumnus of INROADS and Association for the International Exchange of Students in Economics and Commerce (AIESEC).
Arielle Gousse, Senior Program Coordinator, Professional Services
As the Senior Program Coordinator for Diversity Abroad, Arielle's role is responsible for assisting in managing the operations and logistics for a variety of Diversity Abroad initiatives including the annual conference, student scholarships, and the AIDE Roadmap Initiative.
Arielle graduated from the University of Florida (UF) with a Bachelor's Degree in Tourism and Recreation Management with a concentration in Event Management. During her time at UF, Arielle had worked in various departments managing events, office operations, and student organization related activities. Post graduation, she managed multiple international exchange programs at UF in the Department of Tourism, Recreation, and Sport Management. Arielle recently graduated from the George Washington University (GW) with a Master's degree in International Education with a focus on education and inequality, specifically in Afro-Caribbean countries. During her Master's program, Arielle participated in the Kakehashi Exchange in Japan as well as developed a pre-departure orientation for American teachers who participated in a Teacher Training Conference for Haitian educators in Haiti.
The connection to the mission of Diversity Abroad is very personal to Arielle. As an undergraduate student, she always had the desire to study abroad but did not have the means or resources to do so. It was not until her professional career at UF and her time at GW that she had the study abroad experience and saw how valuable it was to her growth.
Through her role at Diversity Abroad, Arielle hopes to help students realize how invaluable an international education experience is to their education and growth.Arielle was born and raised near Fort Lauderdale, FL but currently resides in the DC/Maryland area. Haitian Creole and French were languages learned from her parents growing up, and living in South Florida lent itself to pick up conversational Spanish. She is excited to continue connecting professionals and students to Diversity Abroad's resources.
Wagaye Johannes, Director of Operations & Organizational Development
Wagaye Johannes is the Director of Operations and Organizational Development, where she oversees the infrastructure of the company and works closely with senior leaders to map out and implement Diversity Abroad’s five year strategic plan.
Born in Ethiopia and raised with a foot on either side of the Atlantic, Wagaye’s personal and academic background led her to the field of international education. In 2014, she launched the Institute of International Education (IIE)s national campaign “Generation Study Abroad” to increase and diversify study abroad participation, which now has grown to a global network of 800+ partners from higher education institutions, study abroad organizations, foreign governments and the private sector.
Erica Ledesma, Director of Professional Development & Member Services
As the Director of Professional Development & Member Services, Erica is responsible for managing Diversity Abroad’s professional development offerings, overseeing the member consortium, and leading the Diversity in Global Education task force initiative. Throughout her career, Erica has been committed to educational initiatives that promote success & inclusion for students of all backgrounds and is a champion of global learning, with over a decade of experience in international education. She holds a Masters degree from the University of MN in Education Policy & Administration with a focus on International Education. Her culminating research examined how a cross-cultural experience abroad can impact the intercultural competence of pre-service teachers, a topic of great importance given the changing demographics in today’s public schools. Erica has studied in Guatemala, Cuba, Jordan, Israel, and Argentina, where she completed an internship for her graduate studies.
Elisabeth Lee, Administrative and Marketing Assistant
As Administrative and Marketing Assistant, Elisabeth works to support all members of the Diversity Abroad team in a variety of areas. Originally from a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Elisabeth has a Bachelor’s degree in History and French from Mount Holyoke College. Her first experience studying abroad was as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Pune, India during her senior year of high school. It was a transformative experience that sparked a passion for intercultural learning and exchange that has continued to today. Internships within international education at the Belgian Fulbright Commission and World Endeavors, a local provider organization, cemented her interest in facilitating global exchanges and learning. Her personal experiences studying abroad in India and France informed her particular passion for student support, having seen the challenges students face first hand. She is excited about working to expand international opportunities to more students and ensuring that they have the resources and support to give them the best possible experience before, during and after study abroad.
Christopher LeGrant, Partnership Development Manager
Christopher is a professional with over 8 years of experience in international education. He completed his last year of undergraduate education in London, England and soon after returning to the United States he began working for the volunteer and teach abroad organization, GeoVisions, helping to build the outbound division of that organization from scratch. During his six years with GeoVisions, he traveled to 17 countries on five continents, creating and sustaining partnerships to create an influential and growing organization. As Director of Recruitment, he was personally responsible for 40 percent of all annual enrollments, which allowed him to speak with thousands of people about the rewards and challenges associated with living, teaching and working in another country.
These experiences (especially in the Global South) lead to his Masters degree in International Studies from the University of San Francisco, instilling a deep understanding and appreciation of global issues, cultures and theories. His education was heightened by living on a farming cooperative in rural Nicaragua, during which he worked with the cooperative members and conducted over two months of sociological fieldwork. This life changing period reinforced the passion for social justice and equity that underlies all of his work.
Before coming to Diversity Abroad, Christopher worked as the Learning Center Manager for Berlitz San Francisco, which also serves as one of the largest study abroad locations for that company in North America. During this time, he managed the daily operations of the school, including the supervision of roughly 25 employees and instructors, setting performance goals, and managing the school’s monthly and yearly financials.
Christopher is passionate about international education and its role in developing the leadership skills necessary to thrive in the 21st century. He believes deeply that these experiences be made accessible and relevant to all people, and is excited to use his global mindset, critical thinking skills and managerial experience to increase the accessibility of international education for underserved populations.
Christopher grew up in Colorado and New England and has lived in the Bay Area for six years. He speaks conversational Spanish and remains active in promoting the importance of social science in creating a globally minded and active citizenry.
Ruby Shields, Program Coordinator, Student Services
Ruby’s commitment to increasing access to global education began with her own experience as an undergraduate at the University of Portland (UP). With the help of a Gilman Scholarship and the support of a dedicated Office of Studies Abroad, Ruby was able to spend a semester studying abroad in Granada, Spain. During this time, Ruby greatly advanced her Spanish skills and discovered a deep appreciation for experiential learning. This experience influenced Ruby’s career in higher education and has led her to work towards making these opportunities accessible to all students.
Ruby received her B.A. in Political Science and Spanish from UP and went on to work for the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation where she managed operations for national conferences and supported a diverse member network. A desire to pursue a career in international education led her back to UP where she earned a Masters in Higher Education and Student Affairs. During this time, Ruby interned in the Office of Studies Abroad and worked as an Assistant Hall Director in a residence hall where she gained valuable experience in direct student support services. She also spent an inspiring summer leading a group of diverse high school students on a month-long trip to Spain with Student Diplomacy Corps. This experience solidified Ruby’s dedication to working towards increased access in the international education field.
Prior to joining Diversity Abroad, Ruby worked on the Faculty-led Program team at University of Washington Study Abroad (UWSA). While at UWSA, Ruby worked closely with faculty to plan, promote and support faculty-led programs around the world. She also helped manage UWSA’s Peer Ambassador Program which provides critical advising and outreach support to UWSA. As the Student Services Program Coordinator at Diversity Abroad, Ruby is excited to support DA’s student programming including the Global Student Leadership Summit and the Passport Tour.
Ruby is based in the Seattle area where she lives with her husband and enjoys spending time hiking with their dog, exploring the local food scene and volunteering with the Seattle UP Alumni Chapter.
Joelle Tolifero, Associate Director, Student Services
Joelle Tolifero’s passion for international education and access began when she realized she did not have funding to study abroad as an undergraduate student and instead began leading student travel/community service programs for high school students. She has explored the countries of Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galapagos, the United States, Peru, and Greece alongside students for over 7 years. Joelle believes that cultural exchange is a means to peacemaking and cross-cultural understanding and believes all people, in particular students, should have access to this opportunity.
Experiences navigating global education with students led Joelle to pursue her Master’s in International Education with a concentration in Peace Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. There she developed her theoretical understanding of international education and applied it to her development of a Peace Education curriculum and school design for students, which served as her thesis. Joelle also served as the NAFSA Youth Representative to the United Nations where she attended the UN Department of Public Information briefings and represented the voice of youth working towards becoming international education professionals.
As a Student Affairs professional Joelle has worked for Northeastern University as an Assistant Site Director for N.U. in program in which first year students study abroad in there first semester of college and in Residential Life at Columbia University, Georgetown University, and Barnard College. Joelle’s direct student experience paired with her desire for every student to have access to global education led her to Diversity Abroad to serve as the Associate Director for Student Services where she oversees DiversityAbroad.com, manages scholarships, and supports student programming such as The Passport Tour, Campus Fellows program, and Overseas Ambassador program.
Joelle is based in New Jersey where she enjoys time spent with family, volunteering with her chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, exploring nearby cities, and blogging about her adventures and community service abroad.