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Program Staff

Jeanette Owen

Jeanette Owen is the CLS Program Director for American Councils for International Education. Jeanette oversees all programmatic components and faculty development plans for over 20 intensive summer language institutes in the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Central Asia, East Asia and Pacific, and Eurasia.

Before joining the CLS program, Jeanette administered short-term and long-term study abroad programs in Russia and Eurasia, as well as research grant programs for fieldwork in Russia, Eurasia, and Southeast Europe.

Jeanette received her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Russian and Second Language Acquisition from Bryn Mawr College. Her research examines second language acquisition in a study abroad environment, with a particular focus on intercultural communication and politeness norms. Prior to joining American Councils, she was a faculty member in the School of International Letters and Culture at Arizona State University, where she taught courses in Russian language, literature, culture and linguistics.

Andrew McCullough
Assistant Director

Andrew McCullough is the Assistant Director for CLS at American Councils for International Education. He also spent four years working on CLS institutes in East Asia Pacific and the Middle East, including those in Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Oman and Morocco.

Andrew graduated from the East Asian Languages and Civilizations program at the University of Chicago and has lived extensively in China and South Korea. He has worked with progressive education organizations in Korea through the Seoul Alternative Learning Communities Network, a coalition of youth centers and schools that work to address issues in Korea's primary education system.

Andrew studied Korean literary translation at the Korean Literature Translation Institute in Seoul.

Stephanie Li
Program Manager

Stephanie Li works on the CLS Chinese institutes, and also manages various financial aspects of the CLS Program. In addition to the CLS Chinese institutes, Stephanie has also worked on the CLS institutes in India as well as served in the role of the Data and Reporting officer.

Originally from Beijing, Stephanie graduated from Old Dominion University with a B.S. in International Business and minors in Economics and Accounting.

Prior to joining American Councils, Stephanie established and worked in the Beijing office of a U.S.-based international trade and consulting firm, and also worked as a contractor analyst at the U.S. Department of Transportation. In addition to living in the United States and China, she has also lived in Australia.

In her free time, Stephanie keeps an active physical fitness regimen and runs two CrossFit gyms with her husband. She can also be found studying new languages, including French, Korean, and most recently, Japanese.

Nellie Manis
Program Manager

Nellie Manis works on the CLS institutes for Russian and Persian languages.

Before joining the CLS team, Nellie worked as a Program Officer for the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). Prior to this, Nellie received a Fulbright U.S. Student Grant to study translation and interpretation in Russia. Nellie completed a CLS for Russian in 2011.

Nellie has an M.A. in Russian, East European and Eurasian studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.A. in History and International Studies from the Pennsylvania State University. She began learning Russian in 2004 as an undergraduate and has also studied French and Ukrainian.

In her free time Nellie spends time running, reading, and baking and eating desserts.

Natalie Spencer
Senior Outreach and Selection Officer

Natalie Spencer joined the CLS team in 2016 as the Program Officer for Alumni Affairs, working to design and implement programming for a vibrant community of over 5,000 CLS alumni. Natalie now serves as the CLS Program’s Senior Outreach and Selection Officer. In this role, she works with faculty, staff, and administrators at colleges and universities across the country to promote the CLS Program and support student applicants. Natalie also facilitates the participant selection process, working with readers and evaluators from over 200 institutions each year to select a bright and diverse group of citizen ambassadors to send abroad.

Natalie earned her MA in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA and holds a dual BA in Mass Communication and French from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She has studied and taught in France and maintains a passion for cultural exchange and the value of the study abroad experience.

Esha Bera
Program Officer, Arabic Programs

Esha Bera is the Program Officer for CLS Arabic. She holds a bachelor's degree in International Relations with a Near Eastern concentration from Washington College. She studied at the Arabic and North African Studies (ARANAS) program at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco.

Prior to joining American Councils, Esha worked as program staff for Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan and the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship Program where she administered the program facilitation and supported international students during their exchange program experience. She also managed operations for the MENA region at American Bar Association; Rule of Law Initiative and Relief International.

In her free time, Esha enjoys international travel and learning how to cook local cuisines.

Jay Forrester
Program Officer, Indic Programs

Jay Forrester works on the CLS institutes for Bangla, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu languages. Originally from Florida, Jay has a J.D. and M.B.A. from American University and a B.A. in Philosophy from High Point University.

Prior to joining American Councils, Jay lived in China for six years where he taught and later worked as a field director for WorldTeach. In addition to the United States and China Jay has also spent time living and working abroad in Turkey and Jordan.

Jonathan Poser
Program Officer, Russian and Persian Programs

Jonathan has a dual M.A./M.P.P. from the University of Michigan’s Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He studied abroad in Moscow while completing his B.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of California at Santa Barbara and participated in an eight-week Russian language immersion program at Middlebury College. He was the Resident Director for CLS in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in the summer of 2019 and recruited for the Future Leaders Exchange [FLEX] program in Ukraine and Moldova in 2015. In addition to his experience at American Councils, Jonathan has worked on social inclusion programs targeting Roma communities at a nonprofit in Bulgaria, represented the United States at a World Expo in Kazakhstan, and taught English in Ukraine. In his free time, Jonathan enjoys traveling, reading, hiking, playing music, and getting to know the Washington, D.C. area.

Jessica Jost
Data and Reporting Officer

Jessica Jost is the Program Officer for Data and Analysis, assisting all sites in administering the CLS program. Prior to joining American Councils, she served as an Americorps VISTA in Rockville, Maryland.

Jessica earned her dual BA in Russian Language and Literature and Central European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies from the University of Maryland. She has studied and taught in Russia.

Syejeong Kim
Program Officer, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean

Syejeong Kim works on the institutes for Indonesian, Japanese and Korean languages. Syejeong first joined the CLS team as a Resident Director for the 2017 Korean program which was located in her hometown of Gwangju, South Korea. She has also worked with the CLS alumni community in the role of the Program Officer for Alumni Affairs.

Syejeong completed a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature at Korea National Open University and a Master’s degree in English Language at Chonnam National University. Her M.A. thesis focused on first language influence in production and perception English among non-native speakers.

Prior to joining American Councils, Syejeong worked as an international admissions and recruitment specialist for Kapi'olani Community College, University of Hawai'i. She also worked as a bilingual marketing agent for Hilton Grand Vacations Company in Honolulu, Hawai'i.

In her free time, Syejeong enjoys travelling with her husband. In 2011, she had a cross country motorcycle trip with her husband from San Diego to Washington, D.C.

Bo Knutson
Program Officer, Portuguese, Swahili and Turkic Languages

Bo has a M.A. in International Development Studies from The George Washington University with a concentration in Global Health and a B.A. in English Literature and Composition from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He has also served in the Peace Corps in Eastern Ukraine as a secondary school teacher, worked in the Republic of Georgia on public health monitoring systems for high-risk populations, and worked in Tajikistan with the World Food Programme.

Liz Sinclair
Alumni Engagement Officer, Critical Language Scholarship Program

Liz Sinclair is responsible for programming serving all alumni of the CLS Program. Prior to joining American Councils, Liz was a student advisor at ISEP Study Abroad, advising on programs in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Western Europe. She has also worked in education abroad at Portland State University and Portland Community College.

Liz received her M.A. in International Education Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and her B.A. in French Studies and Psychology from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She studied and taught English in France prior to entering the international education field.

In her free time, Liz enjoys hiking, reading, planning trips, and exploring the D.C. area.

Christopher Stiles
Program Officer, Chinese Programs

Chris Stiles works with the CLS Program institutes in Chinese. He has a bachelor’s degree in Chinese from Arizona State University and has spent 11 years living in China and Taiwan. Chris served as Resident Director for the Critical Language Scholarship in Suzhou, China in the summer of 2017. He studied abroad for an academic year in 2007 at National Taiwan University as a recipient of the NSEP David L. Boren Scholarship. In his free time, Chris enjoys playing piano and has been freelancing as a musician for over 15 years both at home and abroad. He has had the opportunity to perform with the Temptations, as well as with Asian artists Stefanie Sun and Karen Mok.

Jessica Klink
Program Assistant

Jessica Klink is a Program Assistant for the CLS Program. She was previously a Resident Director for the Swahili program in 2019, and subsequently an Outreach Specialist focusing on interviewing alumni and writing their stories for the CLS website.

Prior to joining American Councils for International Education, Jessica studied Social Work and International Studies at Goshen College, and went on to serve as a Community Health and Development Officer with the Peace Corps in Tanzania. In her free time, Jessica enjoys spending time in nature and practicing yoga.

Amber Walden
Program Assistant

Amber Walden is a Program Assistant for the CLS Program. She recently completed graduate studies in Russian Politics and Society at King’s College London where she also served as a student representative for the department. Her master’s thesis focused on the influence of utopian ideology on repression in the Soviet Union and the United States.

Before joining American Councils, Amber participated in a variety of internships while she completed her undergraduate studies in History and Russian at Howard University. Amber studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia twice, in 2014 and 2019. In her free time, Amber enjoys listening to K-pop and reading romance novels.