Introducing Learning Life’s New Board of Directors

Learning Life is pleased to present our inaugural Board of Directors!

For most of our existence since founding in 2012, Learning Life has been a fiscally-sponsored program of a larger nonprofit called United Charitable. This has allowed Learning Life to quickly change and experiment to develop our three programs: the Family Diplomacy Initiative, International Mentoring Program, and Democracy Dinners. Now, in 2021, we are in the process of forming our own independent nonprofit, and expanding our volunteer base, programming and fundraising. “This year promises to be an exciting year of growth for Learning Life. We are blessed and honored to have a bright, skilled, connected and dedicated new Board of Directors to lead us forward,” said Paul Lachelier, Learning Life’s founder and director. Learn more about each of the Board members below.

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 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 the United States. Dandan envisions learning/education as a powerful means to societal change and an end in itself for humanity.

Khadija Hashemi, Treasurer

Khadija Hashemi is an experienced financial and accounting professional with 20+ years of demonstrated success in the nonprofit sector, and extensive experience managing U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) project awards with over $50 million in grant value for World Learning. 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, fostering greater understanding, respect, common interests and ideals among people of different countries, cultures, and faiths throughout the world. As an immigrant herself who was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and moved to the United States after the 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 lives in Herndon, Virginia with her husband Dr. Sayed B. Hashemi and their 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 a BA in economics from George Mason University (2005) and is certified by the Center for Public Management for completing OMB’s Circulars and Agencies’ Guidance training (2011). 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 & 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, and holds an executive coaching certificate from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota. Linda has an MA from the University of Chile, and a BA from Augsburg University.