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university relations Leadership

Aaron Yerkes
Senior Director of Institutional Relations

Aaron joins the CEA team after spending 19 years at the Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA). He served the organization through a variety of roles, most recently as the Assistant Vice President of Institutional Engagement, where he managed their nationwide recruitment team and custom program division. Prior to serving as the AVP for Institutional Engagement, Aaron served as the Field Director, Great Lakes Region and Enrollment Manager, where he was responsible for increasing program participation, growing the number of affiliated programs, as well as expanding the base of sending institutions across a 9-state region. He also served as the Senior Program Advisor for programs in the U.K. and New Zealand, where he actively engaged with students, parents, and advisors to educate them on programs that fit students’ academic needs, as well as exploring ways to remove barriers to make students’ dreams of studying abroad a reality.

Aaron is a graduate of Butler University and holds a BS degree in Finance. During his undergraduate experience, Aaron studied abroad in London, England at Birkbeck, University of London. His time abroad was so transformative for him that he wanted to devote his professional career to promoting life changing, international experiences to other students.

When Aaron is not advocating for students to learn abroad, he can be found planning his next travel adventure and spending time with his family. He is an avid hiker, skier, and golfer, and enjoys seeing live music and collecting vinyl records. Aaron is also very active in his community, engaging and volunteering with a number of organizations throughout his community, specifically with the Indiana Humane Society, Second Helpings, and Newfields.

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Laura Madden
Partnership Director – Custom Programs

Based out of Los Angeles, Laura works closely with faculty and staff from CEA’s institutional partners and the University Relations Team to help our partners achieve their internationalization goals through custom and faculty-led programming.

With 15+ years of diverse experience in international education, from international student support and teaching to study abroad management and business development, she has a holistic understanding of the field and is an enthusiastic champion for innovative programming to meet the unique needs of higher education institutions and their students.

Laura obtained her Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business & Marketing from DePaul University and her Bachelor's Degree in International Relations & Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Laura studied abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico and Madrid, Spain during her undergraduate studies, and conducted field research in Havana, Cuba during her graduate studies. Laura taught and worked in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which launched her career in international education and where she discovered how her study abroad opportunities had exponentially enriched her career, and her life.

Laura is a passionate international educator and thoroughly enjoys the opportunities to create programming that builds globally competent graduates, an increasingly important endeavor for higher education. When she isn’t working or planning her next travel adventure, Laura thoroughly enjoys exploring the cultural, environmental, and culinary diversity of Los Angeles.

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Carissa Williams Murray
Partnerships Director - Internships

Based in Atlanta, GA, Carissa works closely with university advisors, faculty and staff to support the exploration and development of career-focused programming that supports CEA’s institutional partners’ student mobility and internationalization goals.

Carissa is a passionate international educator with 14+ years of experience in education abroad. She is enthusiastic about career-focused programming and enjoys collaborating with institutional partners to identify innovative programming that meets the needs of institutions, and helps shape and strengthen their students’ career readiness upon graduation. Before joining CEA in January 2012, Carissa worked at the University of Wisconsin-Stout as the Study Abroad and National Student Exchange Coordinator. She was named 'Advisor of the Year,' an award voted on by students. Carissa obtained her Master's Degree in International Education from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT and her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Carissa is also a graduate of the NAFSA Academy (Class 10).

Carissa credits her love for travel and curiosity of other countries and cultures to her parents who encouraged her to participate in a German exchange program in high school. Some of Carissa's travels have taken her to Mexico, Canada, Germany, Scotland, Taiwan, Japan, England/Wales, Turkey, India, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Argentina, and Ireland. She one day hopes to visit Russia, South Africa and Fiji (to name a few). When traveling abroad, Carissa reminds students to go with an open mind and positive attitude; the experience is what you make of it!

Carissa served as the Chair for the Lessons from Abroad Conference in Georgia from 2013–2018. Carissa has also presented at GAIE, TAIE, and NAFSA Regional conferences

 

ORGANIZATIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

  • NAFSA: Association of International Educators
  • NACE: National Association of Colleges and Employers

EDUCATION

  • MA, International Education – SIT Graduate Institute (VT)
  • BA, Business Administration – University of Wisconsin – River Falls (WI)
  • NAFSA Academy Graduate (Class 10)
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university relations Team

Sara Fulmer
Regional Director - Southeast
Sara is originally from South Carolina and is joining CEA after three years as the International Admissions Counselor at Clemson University. She has a strong passion for international education and is excited to join the CEA team. Sara loves travelling, spending time with friends and family, and all things Disney.
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Rebecca James
Regional Director - East

Originally from North Carolina, and now a long-time resident of New York City, Rebecca has been a member of CEA’s University Relations team since 2009. She works closely with study abroad offices and university faculty at institutions of higher education in the Northeast (NAFSA Regions X and XI). Her primary goal is to establish long-term partnerships that support and increase participation in study and internship abroad programs, therefore contributing to her college and university partners’ broader strategic goals for internationalization. Just as important, as one of her former university partner contacts remarked, these partnerships allow institutions to “exit” better students – “better” being defined as young adults with a broader worldview and, hopefully, compassion and empathy for people beyond the U.S. border.

In addition, Rebecca serves as NAFSA’s France Country Coordinator through NAFSA’s Education Abroad Regulatory Practice Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee (CAL). She has been on the CAL Visa Subcommittee since 2010. The French visa process can be challenging, and Rebecca enjoys being of service to advisors in the field who need support and guidance.

Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Arts in French, History and International Studies from the University of Chapel Hill at North Carolina (UNC) and a Master of Arts in TESOL for adult learners from New York University (NYU). Before joining CEA, Rebecca developed a study abroad program for Dublin Business School, where she established partner institution and third party provider relationships that doubled the program's annual revenue. She was also solely responsible for admissions and overall program management and administration.

A trip abroad to England at the age of 14 sparked Rebecca’s life-long love of international travel and culture; keen to learn French from an early age, she participated in a French immersion program in Chicoutimi, Quebec and spent a year in Paris as an au pair after graduating from UNC, both deeply enriching experiences. She has maintained her proficiency in French ever since.

Rebecca is a passionate international educator and thoroughly enjoys the opportunities for relationship building that come with her role. When not planning her next trip abroad, she is perfectly content being at home, watching Hitchcock films and planning meals. She is an avid cook, whose palette and cooking have been heavily influenced by her travels.

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Matthew Janus
Regional Director - West

Matt Janus' role at CEA is to oversee CEA's institutional relationships with schools in the Western United States. Matt and his team work closely with university advisors, faculty and staff to support the student exploration, advising and registration processes, as well as to identify ways in which CEA can assist in the success of the campus' agenda for internationalization.

Prior to joining CEA, Matt worked as a Mortgage Consultant at Countrywide Loans and as a National Accounts Manager at Alansis Corporation. Matt obtained his Bachelors of Arts in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz (Calif.). While there, he studied abroad in Morelia, Mexico and Barcelona, Spain. His next anticipated adventure will be a tour through Southeast Asia, with extended stays at each notable surf spot.

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Jon Jorgenson
Regional Director - Midwest

Based out of Wisconsin, Jon Jorgenson works with our university advisors, faculty and staff to support student exploration, advising, and registration processes, in addition to identifying ways CEA can help its university partners be more successful in internationalizing its curriculum.

Prior to joining CEA, Jon worked Expeditors International, PMT Corporation, RAM Center, and Red Wing Shoe Co. Jon's travels have taken him to 24 different countries, and he is most looking forward to visiting the Czech Republic next. Jon holds a Bachelor of Science in International Business and Spanish from Minnesota State University – Moorhead.

Jon advises first time international travelers that: "Studying abroad is magical. Make the most of your time while abroad plus stay true to yourself and your goals. Your time abroad will fly by quickly and if you experience it to the fullest it will be most rewarding, challenging, exciting and fulfilling time of your life."

ORGANIZATIONAL MEMBERSHIPS
  • Forum on Education Abroad
  • NAFSA: Association of International Educators
  • AIEA: Association of International Education Administrators
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Erin Pendle
Regional Director - West/Northwest

Based in Seattle, Erin works closely with study abroad advisors, administrators, and faculty at higher education institutions in the West/Northwest to support student growth through international study and internship opportunities. Erin also coordinates with CEA’s campus partners to develop custom and faculty-led programs.

Erin brings over 10 years of university-based study abroad experience to the Regional Director role. Prior to joining the University Relations team at CEA, Erin was at Georgetown University where she managed undergraduate programs in Spain and Latin America and served as the NAFSA Consular Affairs Liaison to the Spanish consulate in Washington, D.C.

Erin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a Master in Teaching degree, both from the University of Washington in Seattle. After spending her junior year abroad in Granada, Spain, and later working as a teacher in London, Erin knew that her path as an educator would be centered in intercultural development. She feels incredibly fortunate to work alongside so many dedicated professionals who are committed to making transformative international opportunities accessible to every student.

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Kira Rysiewicz
Regional Director - Central States

As a Regional Director based in Indianapolis, Kira works closely with study abroad advisors, administrators, and faculty at higher education institutions to support student growth through study and internship opportunities. Kira also coordinates with CEA’s campus partners to develop custom, faculty-led programs.

Kira comes to CEA after 5 years at the Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA), where she served in several university relations roles, most recently as the Field Director for the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. Prior to entering the field of international education, she worked in Greek Life at her sorority’s national headquarters. Kira obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, Journalism, and Leadership Studies from Bradley University and her experience studying abroad for a semester in Granada, Spain furthered her love of travel and language learning. Kira has traveled to 20 countries, and she hopes to visit New Zealand or Southeast Asia next.

Kira is passionate about equity and making sure study abroad is accessible to all students. Her advice to students considering study abroad is to not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, be endlessly curious, ask questions, and remember that cultural differences are what make our world a better place.

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Seth Weil
Regional Director - Mid-Atlantic

Based in Philadelphia, Seth works closely with university advisors, faculty, and staff to identify ways in which CEA can support campus internationalization efforts through study abroad programs, internships, and customized faculty-led programs.

Seth graduated from Juniata College with a B.S in Biopsychology and spent a semester of his junior year studying in Newcastle, Australia. He also participated in two short-term programs in the Dominican Republic and Cordoba, Argentina. Through these experiences, he developed a passion for working in International Education, wanting to provide these same experiences to other students. Seth has years of professional experience in education abroad administration, working in the areas of advising, program development and management, and university relations. 

Seth has traveled to over 18 countries and has been on every continent except Antarctica. His favorite experiences while traveling involve trying new cuisines and building a global network. Seth's advice for first time travelers is "Be open to new experiences, ask questions, and reflect on your experiences." 

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Kelly Wilkinson
Regional Director - Southwest

Kelly's role is to work closely with university advisors, faculty and staff to support the student exploration, advising and registration processes as well as to identify ways in which CEA can assist in the success of the campus' agenda for internationalization.

Kelly obtained his Master's Degree in International Education from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vt. and his Bachelor's Degree in History from Principia College in Elsah, Ill. He credits his high school study abroad experience in Germany with sparking his interest in obtaining a career in international education.

Kelly has traveled to over 35 countries after first getting a taste of travel through a high school exchange to Germany. After graduating from college, he spent a year each teaching in both Chile and Honduras. Leading high school groups to Mexico kickstarted his professional career in Study Abroad. And since then he has traveled throughout Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia including some of his favorite locations: Iceland, South Africa, Spain, and The Maldives. Kelly would love for his next personal adventure to take him to Lithuania – where he can do some heritage seeking, explore the Trakai Castle, trace the ancient Amber Road, and see a statue and museum in Vilnius dedicated to one of his ancestors.

ORGANIZATIONAL MEMBERSHIPS:
  • NAFSA Member
  • NAFSA Region III Team and Texas State Representative
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Kathryn Theisen
Operations Manager
As a Operations Manager based out of Phoenix, AZ, Kate works closely with the rest of the University Relations team to support the formation of new university partnerships and maintenance of established partnerships. She also works with her team to identify how CEA can help each of our university partners reach their internationalization goals.

Prior to joining the university relations team, Kate worked as an admissions counselor in the Enrollment department, advising students from all over the country on CEA Programs. She helped students through the enrollment cycle and made sure they were confident and prepared to study abroad.

Kate received her BS in Business Administration and Economics with a minor in German from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, where her passion for travel and international education grew. Kate then returned to help students at her home campus study abroad on a variety of faculty-led and exchange programs all over the world.  Kate believes that studying abroad is an impactful experience that pushes students outside their comfort zone and teaches them how to learn in a totally new environment. She believes study abroad programs lead young people to gain many skills they can use in their careers after college graduation, and she’s proud to be a part of the team that helps them participate in study abroad.
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