LEARNING LIFE STAFF

Paul Lachelier, Ph.D., Founder & Director

Paul Lachelier is a sociologist and nonprofit entrepreneur passionate about making the world a better place through civic innovation.  Born and raised in France until age 11, he moved with his family to the United States in 1983.  His experience as a French-American dual national made him more curious about the world around him, and especially about societies and their cultures.  This curiosity spurred Paul to study sociology, and to learn and write about American culture and politics first as an undergraduate at Georgetown University, then as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned his Master’s and Ph.D.  Paul taught sociology, political science and social theory for over a decade at a variety of higher education institutions, including the University of Wisconsin, Tufts, Harvard, and Stetson.  In 2012, Paul left academia to found Learning Life with the mission to inform and empower more people by spreading learning in everyday life beyond school walls.  His published writings have appeared in academic journals, online media as well as newspapers including the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and the Orlando Sentinel.  You can learn more about Paul and read some of his writings on democracy, education and culture on our News & Blog page, at his personal website and his academia.edu page.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Dandan Chen, Board Representative to Fundraising Team

Dandan Chen is an instructor and Ph.D. student in educational psychology (with a focus on large-scale assessment and survey) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. With a master’s degree in international education policy from the George Washington University, Dandan has had two years of work experience with international organizations, including UNESCO, the Education Commission and the World Bank Group, three years of research experience in academia, and stints across multiple sectors, including media, nonprofit management, and social entrepreneurship. She has worked in China, Uganda and United States. She envisions learning/education as a powerful means to a societal change and an end by itself for humanity.

Khadija Hashemi, Treasurer

Khadija Hashemi is an experienced financial and accounting professional with 20+ years of demonstrated and proven success in the nonprofit sector with extensive experience of managing the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) projects’ awards for World Learning with over $50 million in grant value. Khadija’s professional knowledge, skills and commitment to excellence ensures high-quality accounting management, timely reporting, contractual compliance with laws and regulation of U.S. government funded international exchange programs–all contributing to trustworthy relationships that World Learning has built as a reliable U.S. government partner.  Khadija’s personal belief is that peace and prosperity in the world is achievable through citizen and public diplomacy, which goals are to foster greater understanding, more respect and a sense of common interests and common ideals among Americans and people of different countries, cultures, and faiths throughout the world. As an immigrant herself, being born in Kabul, Afghanistan and moved to the United States after the post-Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Khadija believes that meaningful cross-cultural communication will bring people from all parts of the world together. There is an old Afghan proverb that she believes sets a good standard for citizen diplomacy: “It takes two hands to clap.” Khadija is married, she currently lives in Herndon, Virginia with her husband Dr. Sayed B. Hashemi and her two children. In her spare time, Khadija likes reading, hiking, swimming, and spending quality time with her family and friends. One of her hobbies is international cuisine. Khadija wrote an Afghan cookbook which will be published in 2021. She holds the Bachelor of Arts in Economics degree from George Mason University (2005) and is certified by Center for Public Management for completing OMB’s Circulars and Agencies’ Guidance training (2011). Khadija travelled to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherland, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and Yemen. She speaks, English, Farci, Urdu and understands Turkish.

Suzanne Lachelier, Secretary

Suzanne Lachelier has 30+ years of legal experience working in all three branches of government, with specialization in criminal justice and national security. She began her career as legal counsel to a subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. She then served as a federal public defender, legal trainer, appellate attorney, and U.S. Navy Judge Advocate, developing expertise in criminal and military justice practice, including complex cases involving terrorism, RICO, wire fraud, drug conspiracies and immigration offenses. In her service with the U.S. Navy Reserves and as a French-American dual-national fluent in French, Suzanne has facilitated military justice diplomatic missions from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mali to Washington, DC, and led rule-of-law trainings for military lawyers and soldiers in the DRC and Chad. Since 2008, Suzanne has served as Supervisory Defense Counsel on Guantanamo Bay capital cases, developing deep knowledge of the complexities of death penalty work as well as the U.S. national security apparatus around terrorism investigations. As a volunteer, Suzanne has served as a consultant for the American Bar Association’s International Legal Resource Center-U.N. Development Program, a guest lecturer at the Boston University and Thomas Jefferson Schools of Law, a Moot Court Judge at the George Washington University Law School, keynote speaker to the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and a Learning Life mentor helping to open the world to girls from lower-income families.

Nancy Overholt, Co-Chair

Nancy Overholt, Principal and CEO of Overholt International, is an expert in creating long-lasting impactful public diplomacy programs, and has 30+ years in international professional training. In her previous position at the Institute of International Education (IIE), her work focused on IIE’s high visibility public diplomacy programs: Department of State, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program and International Visitor Leadership Program; USAID and the US Department of Agriculture; and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).  Prior to joining IIE, Ms. Overholt designed and administered trend-setting programs for international professionals through appointments at the University of Pennsylvania and University of California, Santa Barbara. She is licensed to administer the Cultural Intelligence Certificate.

Linda Stuart, Co-Chair

Linda Stuart is the Head of Digital Education Innovation at AFS Intercultural Programs, Inc. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Building Bridges Coalition.  Linda most recently served as the Interim Executive Director of the International Volunteer Programs Association. She  is President of Alma, Inc. – a cross-cultural leadership development consultancy and previously was Global Citizens Network’s (GCN) Director (2005-2015), where she tripled the size of GCN and gained national recognition by National Geographic, The New York Times, Oprah, and USA Today as “One of the Best Family Volunteer Experiences.” She is a qualified administrator of the IDI, GCI, IES etc.) and holds an executive coaching certificate from the Carlson School of Business, U of MN. Linda has an MA from the University of Chile Studies and a BA from Augsburg University.

BOARD OF ADVISORS

Golnar Abedin, Ph.D., is a visionary founder and accomplished leader in the field of education. She completed her doctoral studies in Organizational Leadership and Education Policy at the University of Maryland, her Masters degree in Special Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Rutgers University.  Dr. Abedin founded Creative Minds International Public Charter School in Washington D.C. in 2012, and was the Head of School until July 2019. As founder/executive director, she was responsible for the design of the School’s  innovative, international, projects and arts-based program,  with the goal of implementing a student-centered and inclusive pedagogical approach to address the needs of students with a wide range of learning profiles. She is currently a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, and an inclusive education consultant who supports schools, teachers and parents, providing training to implement innovative approaches, including Universal Design for Learning (UDL), to maximize student engagement in learning.

Heidi Bloom is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland in the International Education Policy Program. She has designed and written a program proposal for Sudan NextGen to build the capacity of youth and civil society organizations in Sudan and designed a participatory action research project to be led by youth in Myanmar.  She is a member of the Sudan Taskforce moderating virtual events and facilitating a medical residency exchange between the University of Sennar in Sudan and the University of South Dakota. Additionally, she has led peace studies trips to Korea and Cuba, consulted on numerous USG grant proposals and projects, and worked as a study abroad program officer at George Mason University.  During her Master’s education at American University (AU) she designed and co-led an alternative break program focusing on Africa refugees in Israel, was selected as the Service-Learning Fellow for the Pre-Collegiate Program in Myanmar, and received both the Mellon Research Grant and the AU School of Education’s Teaching and Health Research Award.

Bert Brandenburg is a senior advisor at Ward Circle Strategies, where he advises nonprofit organizations.  He currently chairs the Board of Directors of the National Institute on Money in Politics. Bert previously served on the boards of the Lois Roth Endowment, which supports cross-cultural exchange and cultural diplomacy, and the National Peace Foundation, which supported conflict resolution programs around the world.  Prior to his current job Bert was President of Appleseed, a nonprofit network of 17 public justice interest centers in the United States and Mexico working to break down barriers to equal opportunity.  For more than a dozen years he was Executive Director of Justice at Stake, a national, nonpartisan partnership to keep courts fair, impartial and independent. Bert was the U.S. Justice Department’s Director of Public Affairs and Chief Spokesperson under U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, where he supervised media strategy and press relations for the Justice Department, the FBI, DEA, INS, and 93 U.S. Attorney’s offices. He served in policy and communications positions for the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, the National Performance Review, the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign and presidential transition team, Congressman Edward Feighan, and the Progressive Policy Institute. Bert holds a J.D. and a B.A. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia.

David L. Caprara is a Strategic Advisor to the Global Peace and Development Service Alliance.  He previously served as National Director of VISTA and Faith-Based Initiatives at the Corporation for National and Community Service, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Director of Housing and Community Development for the Governor of Virginia. In the past decade, David has served as Vice-President for Strategic Partnerships with the Global Peace Foundation advancing peace and global service enterprise with young leaders and partners in Asia and Africa.  He served as nonresident Fellow on International Service with the Brookings Institution in Washington, and founding board member of the Building Bridges Coalition.

Dr. Ștefan Cibian is Executive Director of the Făgăraș Research Institute, and an Africa Program Academy Associate with Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs).  Stefan also teaches international development courses at Babeș-Bolyai University.  Previously, Stefan worked with the Association for Community Relations, the European Commission, the EU Delegation to Senegal, and the Central European University (CEU).  In his teaching and research, Stefan focuses on development and statehood in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central & Eastern Europe, and the European Union, as well as Africa relations, development policy, international relations theory, peacebuilding, democratization, civil society, migration, and human rights.  Stefan is the President of FOND, the Romanian NGDO Platform and GRASP, the Global Romanian Society of Young Professionals and the Treasurer of CONCORD – the European NGO Confederation for Humanitarian Aid and Development. He serves on the Board of the following organizations: Țara Făgărașului Community Foundation; the Romanian Federation of Community Foundations; the Romanian Association for International Cooperation and Development; and UiPath Foundation. Stefan graduated with a B.A. in political science from Babeș-Bolyai University, and an M.A. in public policy and Ph.D. in political science and international relations from CEU.  He has also studied or conducted research at UCLA, the University of Ljubljana, and Salzburg University.

Matt Clausen recently completed a three-year tenure as President of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), fighting for human rights in Latin America and at the U.S. border. He currently serves as Senior Advisor to the Texas International Education Consortium (TIEC), and is Vice President of the Board of the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE).  Previously, he spent fifteen years in the senior leadership of Partners of the Americas, a non-profit organization that brings people, governments, and local organizations together to address challenges in the hemisphere, including building resilient civil societies, and promoting transparency and citizen engagement.  Matt was part of the Brookings Initiative on International Volunteering and Service, working with global and cross-border volunteering advocates to form the Building Bridges Coalition (BBC), and then served as the BBC’s Chair.  He also led President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund.  Under his leadership, Partners of the Americas joined IAVE as co-host of the 2nd World Summit for Youth Volunteering in 2011 in Barranquilla, Colombia with over 900 participants from across the world.

Michael Deal is a freelance journalist with a particular interest in grassroots reform movements, particularly surrounding voting rights, anti-corruption, and money in politics. His articles have appeared in The Philadelphia CitizenNext Avenue, The American Leader, the Solutions Story Tracker, and on his website Democracy4Change.org. By highlighting compelling stories of ordinary citizens standing up for common sense solutions, his writing and podcasting (Citizen Reformers) strives to motivate others to become involved and make democracy work for their communities, states, and the nation as a whole. He is a member of the Solutions Journalism Network. Michael is also an international development leader, having served in a number of executive management positions in the non-profit, business, and government sectors, with professional relationships in over 40 countries.  His career included 28 years with the US Agency for International Development as a Foreign Service Officer. He continues to advise several international nonprofits.

Oliver Hugo is professor of media, communication and marketing at the University of Applied Sciences in Aschaffenburg, Germany.  Oliver helps organizations create and market successful products and services as a professor, brand strategist, communications planner and researcher.  His focus is on advertising planning, marketing concept writing, creative research design and the identification of consumer insights. He has worked internationally (3 years USA, 5 years UK, 9 years in an international Japanese corporation) and has a track record in industries such as digital entertainment (Nintendo) and consumer goods (Procter & Gamble). Oliver holds a Master’s in marketing, and a Ph.D. in entrepreneurship from the University of Cambridge.  He is also a certified Qigong teacher.

Darrell D. Irwin is a sociologist and criminologist, and Assistant Professor in Residence at the University of Connecticut and former Dean of the School of Sociology at Central China Normal University.  For over 25 years he has been actively involved in internationalizing higher education, and  is the 2009 recipient of the Faculty Global Citizen Award at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.  Dr. Irwin played a major role in working towards internationalization of Central China Normal University, a leader in higher education in China.  He has given invited lectures throughout China, including at Beijing University and Jiao Tong University-Shanghai.  Dr. Irwin has a great appreciation of cultural diversity, an entrepreneurial drive, and a positive attitude.  His own research portfolio explores comparative sociology, criminology, and economics.  Dr. Irwin is the author of numerous scholarly articles, and the book, Case Studies of the Use of Drug Testing in Large Corporations.

Jayaprada (Jaya) Kasaraneni, MD, MSHA, completed her Family Medicine residency training at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Odessa, Texas. Jaya has a MS in Healthcare Administration from Oregon Health & Science University and has completed an Administrative Fellowship at Parkview Health, Fort Wayne, Indiana. She currently serves patients via Unity Health Center and community partners across Washington, DC.  Jaya hopes to grow professionally by working with community partners and underserved communities to understand healthcare issues affecting local communities, with a special interest in burnout and suicide prevention, as well as teaching medical students. She hopes to bring change in how access to healthcare impacts communities and populations across the US. When not practicing medicine, Jaya enjoys spending time with her family exploring the Washington DC metro area, and traveling to new places.

Dr. Liudmila K. Mikhailova is an international educator and evaluation practitioner with 25+ years of experience in designing, managing and evaluating U.S. foreign assistance and diplomacy programs.  Over the last twelve years Liudmila served as CRDF Global Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Director managing M&E capacity building. She developed and successfully implemented the M&E Champions’ Certification Training Program, trained over 40 M&E Champions in the CRDF Global offices in the U.S., Ukraine and Jordan, and trained colleagues in partner institutions on M&E skills in Armenia, Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia & Ukraine.   Currently, contracted through Q-Q Research Consultants (QQRC), Liudmila works as a senior evaluation specialist leading the team of research analysts in conducting evaluations of the 98 U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) funded project activities globally.  She is a recipient of the U.S. Department of State, ECA Meritorious Honor Award (1995) for her excellence and creativity in program design, management and evaluation work in the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, Belarus, and the White House Special Achievement Award (1994).  Liudmila was a recipient of the State Department ECA award as a research fellow at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center (2002), and the ECA Regional Scholar Exchange Fellowship Program (1996). In 2006, as World Learning Program Officer, Liudmila was nominated by Global Ties as one of the five best IVLP Program Officers of the Year for creativity and success in designing and managing the ECA IVLP.  She holds Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Educational Policy and Administration with a concentration on International Development Education and Evaluation Studies. Since 2007, Dr. Mikhailova teaches two graduate courses on International Program Design and International Program Evaluation as a professorial lecturer at George Washington University’s International Education Program. Liudmila speaks native Russian and Belarusian as well as English and German, and has a good comprehension of Polish.  She is currently studying Finnish.

Yadira Pinilla-Soto is Head of Human Development for the Department of Human Development, Education and Employment of the Organization of American States (OAS). Previously, Ms. Pinilla was a senior advisor on Conflict Management, Democracy and Peacebuilding for the OAS Department for Sustainable Democracy and Special Missions.  Ms. Pinilla has over 25 years of experience in international affairs and multilateral diplomacy.  She has worked extensively with UN agencies, regional organizations, donors & civil society organizations in promoting a critical role for multilateral peacebuilding.  She is the OAS Focal point for International IDEA on the Inter-Regional Dialogue on Democracy Program.  She has held a variety of OAS positions, including political advisor tasked with issues of security, democracy, and political crisis.  Ms. Pinilla’s experience and expertise in peacebuilding missions has enabled her to contribute to OAS best practices in post-conflict development and reconstruction at the international level.  She has published several works on the development of regional policies to mainstream conflict management mechanisms within governmental entities as a means of strengthening democratic governance in the Americas. Recently she directed the OAS chapter on Gender Equality & Political Participation in the Americas as part of a joint effort with International IDEA.  In 2009, she produced a publication on best practices in dialogue facilitation, a collaborative effort between IDEA International (Stockholm), UNDP and OAS. This book has been translated into French, Spanish and Arabic by the UN.  She holds a MA in Conflict Management in Public Policy (1995), a BA in Latin American Studies (1988) from George Mason University, and graduate diplomas in peacebuilding from American University and Eastern Mennonite University.  She is the President of the Young Americas Business Trust, an OAS affiliate promoting youth entrepreneurship in the Americas. She also sits on the board of Mentoring International, a nonprofit mentoring youth at risk in Central America.

Kate Raftery currently serves as an expert consultant in the U.S. Peace Corps Office of the Director. Prior to that she was the Corps’ Director for Service Innovation. Kate has been the Peace Corps Country Director in Paraguay, Peru, Eastern Caribbean and Honduras. Among the other roles she has held at Peace Corps include the Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response Program Team Lead and Chief of Operations in the IAP region. Kate served as the Director of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). NCCC engages 2,800 young people 18-24 years of age in a 10 month national service experience. She also served as the Vice President for Learning and Citizenship at the International Youth Foundation where she worked with young people across the globe to increase their participation in political dialogue and community service. Kate began her journey with Peace Corps international development and service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay in the early ‘70s.

Emily Samose is the founder and principal of ECS Consulting, LLC. Emily established her consulting practice after more than 20 years of experience leading education programs and partnerships in support of children, youth and families. She is skilled in developing cross-sector partnerships, designing and conducting research, creating content, facilitating networks and managing projects that cultivate a community’s education ecosystem. Recent clients have included the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Higher Achievement, the Institute for Educational Leadership and Parents for Public Schools, among several others. Emily was previously the director of education and learning initiatives for the Urban Libraries Council, a membership association of North America’s leading public library systems. In this role, she conceptualized and led national initiatives to advance public libraries as essential education institutions. Prior to joining ULC, she spent seven years with the Corporation for National and Community Service (now called AmeriCorps) and over ten years at the intersection of national service and education in California, developing and executing service-learning programs for universities and afterschool programs. Emily holds a Master’s degree in education from San Francisco State University and is a graduate of the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Education Policy Fellowship Program.

John Schorr devoted his career to teaching and research as a professor of sociology first at the City University of New York, then for forty years at Stetson University in Florida, where he taught courses in community sociology and developing societies.  During his career, he also served as a Fulbright Fellow and a Kellogg International Fellow, and conducted research in Germany at the Paedagogische Hochschule Freiburg and Universitaet Kiel, and in Austria at the University of Innsbruck.  For many years he was very active in community service projects in Latin America through Partners of the Americas (POA), including as Vice-President of the POA International Board. He retired to Chiang Mai, Thailand in 2014.  That same year, he became a charter member of the first English-speaking Rotary Club in Northern Thailand, The Chiang Mai International Rotary Club (CMIRC), the focus of which is community service, especially in child safety, health, and education.  John has since served as the CMIRC’s treasurer, president, membership chair, and fundraising chair, and developed and chaired its Children’s Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Program and School Vision Screening Program.  In addition to his CMIRC work, John serves on the Rotary District 3360 Youth Exchange Committee.  John received a BA from Hartwick College, MA from the New School for Social Research, and Ph.D. from Brown University, all in sociology.  He speaks English, German, Spanish and Thai.

Sharon Sobel is the owner of a video production company, Picture This Video, in the metro Washington DC area.  Her career has brought her experience in videography, editing, writing and producing, and she focuses her work on projects supporting businesses, non-profits and organizations.  Sharon started with video production, but her business has evolved to include video marketing strategy and video packages. These solutions are customized to the intended goals and audiences of her clients. This enables her clients to do cost-effective and efficient planning in incorporating video as part of a larger marketing and communications strategy.  Sharon is a lifetime member of the Virginia Jaycees, and was also made a lifetime member of the Alexandria Jaycees, due to her strong commitment and support of the organization’s place in supporting community projects. She was involved with the George Washington Birthday Celebration Committee in Alexandria, Virginia for twelve years, and served as chair of the committee for two years.  She has been a member of the DC regional chapter of Women in Film and Video for twelve years, and currently sits on their board of directors.

James H. Williams, Ed.D., is the UNESCO Chair in International Education for Development at The George Washington University.  Dr. Williams received his doctorate from Harvard University in international educational planning, administration, and policy.  He has done extensive educational development work in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia; worked with USAID in the Africa Bureau; taught in Japan for a number of years, and served as Director of GW’s International Education Program.  He currently directs GW’s PhD Program in Education. He teaches classes in education and development.  His research interests include education and conflict; education for marginalized and conflict-affected populations; school textbooks and national identity; incorporating social and emotional learning into textbooks in low and middle income and conflict affected settings; and the internationalization of higher education in East and Southeast Asia.

Ben Yavitz is the Founder of B. Yavitz Consulting LLC. As an education and design consultant, he collaborates with companies to bring their visual concepts and messages to life. He serves clients across industries, including finance, technology, agriculture, education, real estate, and healthcare.  His success in this area is a culmination of his background as a public school educator and administrator as well as a corporate trainer and project manager in the private sector. He holds a Master’s in Education from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Ben’s mantra is “always strive to live the art of possibility!”, and his unique career journey and approach to life speaks to this concept. While Ben resides in Chicago, Illinois, as a world traveler, he looks forward to new adventures!