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academic affairs Leadership

Dr. Louis Berends
Vice President of Academic Affairs

Dr. Louis “Lou” Berends comes to CEA from Syracuse University where he most recently held positions as Director of Strategic and International Partnerships, and Director of Academic Programs under the Provost’s Office. Under Lou's leadership, Syracuse Abroad increased study abroad participation and is ranked highly as a national leader in study abroad. Lou has worked extensively in international education at U.S. universities and providers of global education since 2000. He holds a Ph.D. from Loyola University Chicago in cultural and educational policy studies with a concentration in comparative and international education.

Additionally, Lou studied at Brunel University (Uxbridge, UK), the University of Oxford (St. Catherine's College), as well as in Rome, Italy, and has visited and conducted research in numerous countries. Furthermore, Lou has presented many papers in various settings including Harvard's Graduate School of Education, the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES), the Forum on Education Abroad, and NAFSA (among others). Lou’s most recent publication, co-edited with Dr. Kate Patch, SIO at Grinnell College, is a book on high-impact educational practices entitled, Undergraduate Research Abroad: Approaches, Models and Challenges (2020). Lou currently serves on the 9th Annual Diversity Abroad Conference Planning Committee to be held in October 2021.

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Dr. Stina Dufour
Academic Dean of Global Programs

Dr. Stina Dufour joins CEA from the Office of Global Affairs at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. For more than ten years at NYU, Stina held increasingly responsible roles focused on academic affairs and the globalization of higher education. In this role, she was the office's lead contact with the University Registrar and worked closely with faculty from every Steinhardt department to co-create curricula at NYU's study sites and with other international partners.

Stina holds an EdD in Higher Education Administration from NYU with a dissertation titled, “Exploring the Meaning of Education Abroad to Americans: Long-Term Personal Development of Heritage-Seekers.” She also earned an MA in International Education from NYU and a BA in Sociology and Scandinavian Studies from North Park University, Chicago.

Stina entered the field of education abroad in 2009 after living for several formative years in Scandinavia, and studying abroad at Södra Vätterbygdens Folkhögskola (Jönköping, Sweden). She is active with NAFSA and the Forum on Education Abroad. In addition to presenting regularly at regional and national conferences, she served on the planning committee for the 2021 Forum Conference and is authoring a chapter in the 5th edition of NAFSA’s Guide to Education Abroad for Advisors and Administrators.

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Michelle Tolan Tomasi
Strategist for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives

Michelle Tolan Tomasi is a DEI strategist known for identifying blind-spots to improve system design and more intentionally fulfill the promise of education to all students. She is an organizational architect who believes we must bridge linguistic and cultural constructs to sustain genuine inclusion in global programming.

Known for creating several award-winning financial aid and scholarship programs, Michelle also served as chair of the Forum on Education Abroad’s Inclusive Excellence working group and has led DEI discussions and working groups within NAFSA, Diversity Abroad, and several U.S. higher education institutions. Her groundbreaking work with first-generation college students in study abroad is featured in Promoting Inclusion in Education Abroadand she was the inaugural winner of STA/GoAbroad’s “Start the Adventure Award for Advocacy.”

Michelle knows personally the power of global education on students and, indeed, their entire communities. She was first in her family to graduate high school, going on to study abroad and earn a Master’s degree in Spanish Literature. First-gen, child of a single parent, educational advocate, tribal member, working mother, military spouse—Michelle has many identities that inform her passion to pull up and support students facing barriers to high-impact education.

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academic affairs Team

Alex Henderson, M.Ed.
Senior Academic Coordinator

Alex Henderson is CEA’s Senior Academic Coordinator. In addition to supporting the Academic Team in day-to-day operations, Alex is responsible for managing our Moodle LMS, assisting in the creation and implementation of academic policies, and chairing our scholarship committee. Before moving to the Academic Team, Alex previously worked as a CEA Admissions Counselor.

Alex is an alumnus of the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC, where he earned a B.A. in History. He is also an alumnus of Northern Arizona University where he earned his Master’s in Educational Leadership.

Before moving to Phoenix to join CEA, Alex also lived in Japan, Italy, and the United Kingdom. He enjoys long weekends with his wife and cats in his backyard perfecting his brisket recipe.

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Lenka Vystrčilová, Ph.D
Academic Director - Prague

As CEA Prague Academic Director, Lenka provides leadership, oversight, and quality control for all academic matters and serves as the primary contact for students and staff regarding academics. At the CEA Prague Study Center, Lenka is responsible for faculty management, curriculum development, student academic advising, and for safeguarding the high academic quality of the program and adherence to academic policies. She is also responsible for maintaining strong ties with our partner institution, Anglo-American University, to ensure that program content and delivery meet the needs of U.S. universities and students.

Lenka spent a significant portion of her life studying in the U.S. and has worked in study abroad for over fifteen years. She holds a doctorate in Political Science from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich, a master’s degree in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from Stanford University, and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and German Studies from Lewis & Clark College. Her academic interests include democratization, Central European politics, and EU studies.

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Ana Martínez, Ph.D
Academic Director - Barcelona

Ana's role is to ensure the academic quality of all CEA Barcelona programs. She reviews the curriculum and coordinates the development of new courses, reviews and maintains consistency of academic policies and practices, oversees the resolution of all important student academic issues, and provides support to faculty to guarantee academic excellence.

Prior to joining CEA, Ana worked with another study abroad organization as a resident coordinator and faculty member. She's also held several university positions: Assistant Director of the Advanced Spanish Language Program at Georgetown University (Washington D.C.), Teaching Associate at Georgetown University and Universidad Antonio de Nebrija (Spain), and Teaching Assistant and Director of the Spanish House at Middlebury College (Vt.). Ana earned her Ph.D. in Spanish Applied Linguistics at Georgetown University, which also conferred to her a Master of Science in Linguistics. She also holds a Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish as a Second Language from Universidad Antonio de Nebrija and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Philology from Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain).

Ana first travelled to Dublin, Ireland in high school and subsequently studied in London for four months. She also spent her senior year of college studying in Pisa, Italy and completed her graduate studies in Washington, D.C. She loves traveling and believes that understanding the world from different perspectives is the one of the most enriching lessons that students can learn while living abroad.

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Alexandra Massini, Ph.D
Academic Director - Rome

Alexandra serves as academic leader for faculty and students and provides oversight for academic integrity, program and course design, faculty hire, training and assessment, relations with local universities and select US partner colleges. She responds to all inquiries relevant to academic matters and offers support for educational development and student mentorship. A faculty member since the opening of the Rome campus in 2008, she also teaches History of Art and Archaeology.

Alexandra was raised in Italy and Germany, before moving to the UK where she studied History of Art. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Warwick, BA and MA degrees with Double Distinction from the Courtauld Institute of Art, as well as a Diploma from the Study Centre for the History of the Fine and Decorative Arts. Her main research interest is the Renaissance and the reception of Classical Antiquity. Her doctoral thesis on ‘Dionysus in the Arts of the Modern Era’ is currently under review for publication.

Prior to joining CEA, Alexandra has taught for various study abroad programs in Florence, Siena and Rome. Aside of her academic activity she works as author, consultant and speaker for documentaries on art and history, collaborates with the Colonna and Doria Pamphilj galleries and curates the Art Collection of the Rome Cavalieri Hotel (Waldorf-Astoria). As a licensed guide she conducts specialized visits for embassies, governmental institutions, collectors and museum curators and has acted as study leader for U.S. organizations such as the World Monuments Fund and the National Trust USA. In the past she has written for Blue Guides and has published her own guide book to Rome, has worked for the Thyssen Museum in Madrid and Sotheby’s Auctioneers and has organized large scale events for international investor groups. She is tri-lingual in German, Italian, and English, fluent in Spanish and has a working knowledge of French.

Alexandra’s international background make her a firm believer of global education. Curiosity and a passion for ‘piecing together the puzzle’ of the cultures she encounters help her enrich her own. To her students and her children (who are Mexican/Italian) she hopes to transmit the tools to ‘think outside the box’, broaden their horizons and become aware of the globalized world they live in.

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Monica Francioso, Ph.D
Academic Director - Florence

Academic Director Monica Francioso joined the CEA Florence team in 2015, and is responsible for the oversight of all aspects of Florence academics including academic integrity, curriculum development, and faculty training and assessment. She serves as a leader for students and faculty, and her work ensures compliance with the standards established by our School of Record agreement with the University of New Haven. Monica holds regular on-campus office hours and is always happy to talk to students and faculty on academic matters, and to respond to all substantive inquiries and concerns. 

Monica obtained a BA in English and Russian from the Università degli Studi di Padova, an MA in English Studies, and a Ph.D. in Italian Studies from Royal Holloway, University of London. Her thesis, which she is currently editing for publication, focuses on narrative theory in post-war Italy. She has published articles and books, both in Italian and English, on Celati, Calvino, Palandri, and migrant writers. 

Monica lived abroad in the United Kingdom and Ireland for 13 years. Prior to joining the CEA Florence team, Monica held several teaching positions in Italian language, literature and culture at various higher-ed institutions, including Royal Holloway University of London, University of Durham, University of Bath and University College Dublin. She earned a CELTA certificate to teach English as a foreign and second language. She also taught English to students of all levels, preparing them for the Cambridge English exams. Monica also holds a DITALS II certificate to teach Italian as a foreign and second language, and she worked as a teacher trainer for the same program. 

Monica firmly believes in the importance of studying abroad as a means to broaden horizons and better oneself. Her experiences have shown her how enriching speaking/learning other languages and knowing other cultures can be. She believes she would be a different person today had she not experienced life abroad.

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Christopher Edwards, M.A.
Academic Director - Paris

Christopher oversees academic programs offered through CEA Paris. His responsibilities range from curriculum development to faculty training, as well as student advising and partner program oversight. He has developed an extensive working knowledge of academic approaches to topics ranging from world health care systems to global management information systems.

Christopher holds a Masters of Arts in French from New York University (N.Y.) and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and French from Auburn University (Ala.). Prior to joining CEA, Christopher was an Instructor of French at Clemson University (S.C.). In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he facilitated study abroad programs for Clemson's College of Art, Architecture and Humanities, and directed a summer language program in Paris.

As a long-time U.S. citizen living overseas, Christopher thinks that "students should be increasingly aware of the monumental competition they will face in an increasingly globalized job market. Learning languages and developing an ethical and responsible contact with non-U.S. cultures through structured study abroad programming is one way in which to do so."

ORGANIZATIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

* Phi Beta Kappa

* APUAF : Association des Programmes Universitaires Américains en France

PRESENTATIONS/PUBLICATIONS

* Facebook training for study abroad professionals, APUAF Annual Meeting of U.S. Program Directors in France, March 2010

* Student travel abroad: ensuring your student's safety, APUAF Annual Meeting of U.S. Program Directors in France, March 2013

* Digital Video Conference (DVC) Presentation, U.S. Department of State, Africa Regional Services, Paris, France (with US Embassy in Cotonou, Benin). Activism and the LGBT Community. June 2013.

Digital Video Conference (DVC) presentation, U.S. Department of State, Africa Regional Services, Paris, France (with US Embassy in Brazzaville, Congo). Study in the US. November 2013.

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Mary Alice Soriero, M.S.Ed.
Academic Director - Seville

As Academic Director, Mary Alice ensures that CEA Sevilla’s academic operations seamlessly develop and implement programs of academic excellence; reviews and maintains academic policies and practices; oversees the coordination and resolution of student academic issues; and supports faculty to ensure academic quality.

Originally from the U.S., Mary Alice brings over 25 years of international work and volunteer experience to her position at CEA. She’s lived in various cultures all over the world and uses her acquired knowledge to both inform her thinking and enable others to understand culture.

Mary Alice earned a Master's of Science in Education, Culture and Society from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned an undergraduate degree in East Asian Studies from Pennsylvania State University.

Upon arriving in Spain in 1998, she worked as a cultural advisor for newly arrived U.S. military personnel and U.S. university students and spent more than 10 years with TCU coordinating their Sevilla program. These experiences allow Mary Alice to help students arriving in Sevilla quickly transform from excited traveler to awed and informed long-term visitor.

Mary Alice's love of foreign cultures and her knowledge of English, Spanish, Japanese, and Thai have taken her all over the world, including Peru, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Spain, and the U.S. Her work as a Peace Corp volunteer, a language teacher, and a public speaker on cultural values, combined with her travel and language experiences, have provided Mary Alice with a knowledge of extreme cultural differences and supplied her with a series of personal anecdotes that help her empower students to analyze and investigate cultural values and differences.

ORGANIZATIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

Teaching English of Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

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Darragh O Briain, M.A.
Academic Director - Dublin

As Academic Director for CEA Dublin Center, Mr. Darragh O Briain manages faculty relationships and appointments, schedules courses, manages student and faculty grievances, assists in recommending curriculum updates, provides academic advising, and oversees the day-to-day academic activities of the CEA Dublin Center.

Mr. O Briain has vast lecturing experience in Market Research, Event Management, Marketing Communications, Sales Management and Entrepreneurship with the American College Dublin, Griffith College and the European Business School. In 2005, he was elevated to the position of Academic Director of the European Business School, where he was responsible for overseeing faculty and academia for visiting U.S. and European semester students. Mr. O Briain is the Academic Dean of The International School of Business, where is responsible for faculty, students, curriculum development, assessments and course validation. Mr. O Briain has also sat on the Academic Executive Board of Dublin Business School and been involved with an expert panel for degree course validation on behalf of HETAC (Irish State Higher Education Accreditation Committee).

Mr. O Briain holds an MA from Trinity College, where he focused his thesis studies on advertising, communication and media. He also has an Advanced Diploma in Marketing techniques and a BS in Marketing, jointly awarded by Dublin Institute of Technology and Trinity College.

ORGANIZATIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

* HETAC (Irish Government Accreditation Agency) Expert Panel for Programme Validation

* Sat on Dublin Business School's Executive Committee

HONORS/AWARDS

* Diploma in Advanced Marketing Techniques - Dublin Institute of Technology

* Certificate in Applied Merchandising and Display - Dublin Institute of Technology

* London Chamber of Commerce Certificate in Advanced Business German

* 2007 Acknowledged for "Outstanding Contribution to Youth Work" by Dublin City Vocational Education Committee

* 2008 Honoured by the President for 10 years of quality adult service to Gaisce/The President's Award (The Presidents Citizenship scheme for young people)

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Jose Balza, B.A.
Academic Coordinator, Buenos Aires

Jose has a BA in Communication from Arturo Michelena University in his home country Venezuela and is a TEFL certified instructor from the Hunter College of the City University of New York.

Before relocating to Buenos Aires, Jose spent eight years working as an English professor for private institutes and universities, gaining experience in teaching and supporting students from all ages and with different language needs. He also has a professional background as a cultural events producer, handling logistics and social media presence and in management assistance for a health-related organization.

Having travelled through the USA and visited different Latin American countries, Jose is passionate about working in an international environment and using his communication, teaching oriented and social skills to bring cultures together and provide a great academic experience and support for CEA students in Buenos Aires.

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