The Experiment staff have extensive experience developing and managing international youth exchanges. They have expertise in international education, safety and risk management, youth development, virtual exchange, and program management, among others.

Christina Thomas

Divisional Vice President, Youth Exchange

Christina Thomas is the Divisional Vice President for Youth Exchanges at World Learning, which includes World Learning’s flagship program, the Experiment in International Living. The Exchange portfolio serves 2000 in-person and virtual high school age US and international students and adult educators and hires up to 150 program leaders annually. At the Experiment, Christina oversees the Experiment virtual exchange programs, the Experiment Abroad’s scholarship portfolio, program operations, and participant risk management.

Christina also serves as the Board President of the Federation EIL providing member support in strategic planning, capacity building, and quality assurance. The Federation is a nonprofit association representing a global network of international educational program providers supporting 12 members around the globe who offer programs in volunteerism, group travel, language training, and study abroad.

Before joining World Learning in 2003, Christina taught English to junior and senior high school students and designed teacher training programs for Japanese English teachers on the Japan Teaching and Exchange Program (JET) for three years. Christina received her master's degree in international communications from the School of International Service with an emphasis on international education and management from American University in Washington, DC.

Eric Wirth, MA

Associate Vice President, Enrollment Services

As the Associate Vice President of Enrollment Services (AVP), Eric Wirth is the central leader for EIL and SIT enrollment and retention efforts, working directly with admissions, registration, program units and academic offices to ensure that new and continuing students have a seamless and transparent enrollment experience.

Eric has worked in the field of higher education for almost two decades and has held roles as an admissions counselor, program manager, resident director, and associate director/dean at various study abroad and university programs. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Eric holds a Master of Arts in applied Hispanic linguistics, a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, and a Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant, and Travel Administration. He has lived and worked extensively in Spain, with travel experience in Canada, the Czech Republic, Cuba, England, France, Greece, Morocco, Portugal, the Netherlands, Serbia, Singapore, Uganda, and Vietnam. When not basking in the great satisfaction that comes from working at a mission-driven institution, Eric enjoys languages, technology, traveling, and spending time in his local community in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.

Mory H. Pagel, MA

Vice President of Innovation, Strategy, and Partnerships

Mory joined SIT Study Abroad as the university relations manager for the Southeast region in 2008 and became director of university relations in 2016 and vice president for innovation, strategy, and partnerships in 2021. In his current role, Mory supports the university relations, custom programs, graduate programs outreach, and Experiment recruitment teams. He is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mory has two decades of experience working in international education and exchange programs. Prior to joining SIT Study Abroad, Mory completed his graduate studies at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, DC, and he holds an MA in international communication. Mory’s entry point into international education was through a high school exchange year in Germany on the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program. He then went on to work in youth exchange at Youth for Understanding USA where he helped promote international exchange to high schoolers and their parents. Mory has worked with the National Council for International Visitors as a graduate assistant, helping with their ongoing advocacy efforts for the International Visitor Leadership Program, and at American University where he assisted with communications. Mory’s specific interests include increasing access to study abroad for underrepresented populations and promoting study abroad in nontraditional locations. He has been an active presenter at conferences hosted by NAFSA, Forum on Education Abroad, HACU and Diversity Abroad. As a student, he also participated in study abroad programs to England, Australia, and Italy. Originally from northeast Iowa, Mory holds a bachelor’s degree in international business and German from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.

Heather Beard, MFA

Director of Enrollment Management & Partnerships, Youth Exchanges

Heather Beard is an international education professional with nearly two decades of admissions and business development experience in higher education and the non-profit sector. Heather joined World Learning in 2010 as an admissions officer for the School for International Training. In 2013, Heather transitioned to associate director of admissions for The Experiment in International Living and was promoted to director of admissions in 2015. In 2019, Heather transitioned to director of admissions & outreach for World Learning Youth Exchanges and now manages enrollment for USG-funded youth programs including the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP), Youth Ambassadors, and Jóvenes en Acción. Heather also directs The Experiment’s partnership and scholarship programs. Before joining World Learning, Heather served as admissions coordinator for The Putney School and Membership Coordinator for the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College.

Heather has studied abroad throughout Europe and traveled to Costa Rica and Argentina, and she looks forward to more travel opportunities. Heather also enjoys spending time with her family and supporting her local community in southern Vermont, as well as photography, running, and hiking.

Education
• MFA, Maine College of Art
• BA, Emerson College

Kirstin French-Kray

Director of Operations and Youth Programming

Kirstin is a youth program professional who specializes in program logistics, staff training, and risk management. Kirstin has been managing international youth programs at World Learning since December 2011 and joined The Experiment in 2015. Prior to World Learning, Kirstin worked as a Program Manager for US-based youth programs focusing on service learning and social justice in the Central Appalachian Region. Kirstin earned a B.A. in Sociology and Africana Studies from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and an M.A. in Conflict Transformation & Youth Program Leadership from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Kristen Dowling

Operations Manager for Youth Exchange

As the Operations Manager for Youth Exchange, Kristen focuses on logistical, financial, staffing, and risk management planning for World Learning’s youth exchanges. She is a program operations professional with over 13 years of experience in non-profit and small business administration, managing event and travel logistics and back end support for international and domestic travel programs. Kristen currently manages the Operations team’s work hiring and supervising temporary staff, coordinating travel, and managing relationships with program partners. She received her BA in Mass Communication and Spanish Language from Boston University and is an alum of the International Honors Program. Kristen has worked for The Experiment in International Living and World Learning Youth Programs since 2016 and enjoys cooking, paddling, scuba diving, and skiing in her free time.

Education
• MA, American University’s School of International Service

Anna Gail Caunca

Senior Program Officer

Anna Gail holds a BS in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MA in intercultural service, leadership, and management from SIT Graduate Institute. She also received her licensure in secondary education (social studies), incorporating social justice in the classroom. Anna Gail is currently a doctoral student in Global Education at SIT Graduate Institute.

Anna Gail has over ten years of experience working with youth and young adults as a volunteer manager, educator, residential life director, and traveling group facilitator. Building on her graduate studies in social justice and international education, Anna Gail worked with World Learning’s Youth Leadership and Peacebuilding Programs, facilitating workshops on current issues and youth activism with the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont and traveling with and supporting students through the LondonX and Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program for two years. In 2013, she was the Trustees’ Fellow for the inaugural year of the IHP: Human Rights program. From 2010 to 2015, she lived in Wellington, New Zealand, where she worked in residential life at Victoria University of Wellington and supported human rights education with the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand. From 2015 to 2021, Anna Gail was the Program Manager for IHP where she worked with in-country partners and traveling faculty to run semester-long global comparative programs centered on social justice, for undergraduate students.

Keegan Amrine

Admissions Officer

Keegan Amrine received a BA in International Studies from American University in Washington, D.C. and an MPhil in Race, Ethnicity, and Conflict from Trinity College Dublin. His studies focused geographically on Russia and Eastern Europe, with a policy concentration of peace and conflict resolution. He has lived and studied in the UK, Ireland, and Russia, and traveled broadly across five continents.

Passionate about helping young people learn about and experience different cultures, Keegan has worked with students in many roles. In Seoul, Republic of Korea, he taught English at the middle school level. He has also worked in residential life, including time as a House Parent at the Leelanau School in Glen Arbor, Michigan.

Keegan’s focus is to enable students to explore their interests and passions in new and unique contexts. He knows from experience how transformative international experiences can be, opening up a world of ideas, struggles, and success. His goal is to facilitate such positive and life-changing experiences for young people. Originally from Washington State, Keegan enjoys hiking, reading, and baking.

Marianne Spenser

Admissions Officer

Marianne, Admissions Officer at the Experiment, has had a varied career in non-profit organizations, including higher education, legal advocacy, international relations, and the arts. She has travelled extensively in Europe, as well as North Africa, Asia and Central America.

A lifelong learner, Marianne earned her BA at New York University with a degree in English Literature and French language, and a JD from Northeastern University. She is currently enrolled in the M.Ed. program at Boston University. As an undergraduate, she studied at NYU’s program in Paris, France. Her son and several nieces were Experimenters, so she understands the parent’s perspective on sending a teenaged student off for an international experience.

Marianne’s purpose is helping people of all ages to develop their potential and increase their cultural awareness. She is dedicated to helping teens and young adults identify their strengths and interests so that they can choose the best educational program. Marianne lives in western Massachusetts. She loves Vermont, where she swims, hikes, skis, paints and visits her family.

Katherine Hanson

Digital Program Officer

Katherine Hanson joined World Learning in March of 2020 as the Digital Program Officer to implement The Experiment Digital, an 8-week virtual exchange program connecting thousands of youths across the US, Middle East and North Africa. Katherine specializes in the development and implementation of online distance learning programs: including technological training and program curricula design. Katherine Hanson currently serves on the board of the Virtual Exchange Coalition with the goal to grow the field and make international exchange opportunities more accessible across borders and boundaries.

Mackenzie Territo

Digital Program Coordinator

Mackenzie Territo joined The Experiment Digital as a Program Associate in 2019. Although she grew up in a family of educators, Mackenzie first discovered her own passion for global education and exchange while volunteering in Mexico City, Mexico while in high school. She received her B.A. in International Studies, specializing in Global Inequality and Development from American University in Washington, D.C. Mackenzie spent a semester of her time as an undergraduate studying abroad in Scotland.

Chelsea Johnson

People Operations Officer

An educator at heart, Chelsea has worked with The Experiment team since 2017 as admissions and program assistant, operations associate, and group leader to Nicaragua and Cuba. She also led several inbound World Learning Youth Programs with students from Brazil, the Caribbean, and Iraq. Chelsea has managed the hiring process for all seasonal staff since she completed her MA in international education from SIT Graduate Institute, focusing her capstone on equity, diversity and inclusion in leader hiring and training. Prior to joining the World Learning community, Chelsea spent several years working with U.S. youth in Nicaragua and Ecuador after completing her BA in Spanish and BS in marketing at Colorado State University, where she studied abroad in Spain and Chile. Her professional passions weave youth education with experiential learning, inclusivity, the Spanish language, and environmental sustainability.

Julia Knecht

People Operations Coordinator

Julia Knecht has been involved with The Experiment since 2015 as a Group Leader to Thailand, Operations Associate, and Application Reviewer. Prior to joining The Experiment team, she spent several years living in Vanuatu working at a non-governmental organization, and an international school. Julia received her BA in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies from Wells College. She first discovered her love of youth exchange during a year-long exchange program to India, and since then has lived in Belize, Thailand, Vanuatu, and the Netherlands.

Laura Paakh May

Budgets and Contracts Coordinator

Laura is a youth exchange program professional who focuses on contracts, programmatic funding, partner relationships since June 2021. She has over 12 years of experience specializing in diverse programming, focusing on garnering sustainability, stakeholder input, managing volunteers, and grant management. Before joining World Learning, she studied Psychology at California Lutheran University, worked for a substance abuse rehabilitation center for youth, studied for an M.A. in Alcohol and Drug Counseling and served in US Peace Corps Philippines. During her over two years with the Peace Corps, she enjoyed leading four volunteer teams to design and implement over 40 grant programs and using data from her main grant project to author scientific research approved for presentation in the International Research Conference on Science and Technology. After returning to the US, she taught music, served as a committee page for the Minnesota House of Representatives and coordinated legal education for an international law firm. Laura recently finished a 6-month, Data Science boot camp through the University of California San Diego.

Group Leaders

Our group leaders and digital facilitators are Experimenters’ number one resource.  We seek educators who represent our diverse student body and who are skilled in creating inclusive group environments for their participants.

Our group leaders are dedicated to youth development and are passionate about working directly with young people. The Experiment’s group leaders:

  • Are professional, flexible, resilient, resourceful, pro-active, caring, warm, friendly, and love to laugh
  • Genuinely enjoy spending time with high school students
  • Have strong organizational and logistical skills, and are able to manage a budget
  • Are willing to put their participants’ learning and development ahead of their own experience.
  • Are ready for an intense, challenging, and rewarding summer.
  • Demonstrate skills and experience in cross-cultural sensitivity and communication.
  • Bring a wide variety of backgrounds and social identities.
  • Are aware of and committed to addressing bias, systemic inequalities, power, privilege, and oppression.
  • Are, above all, educators and facilitators.

Programs Abroad—Ongoing Support from Start to Finish

Experiment groups abroad are accompanied by two carefully selected and trained adult leaders who work collaboratively with in-country partners and The Experiment’s offices in the United States. Throughout the program, leaders work with Experimenters to increase their knowledge of the country and culture, develop communication skills, and cultivate new attitudes and awareness.

Group leaders keep in close contact with Experimenters and their homestay families, conduct group excursions, and guide Experimenters through the learning process via discussions, activities, and reflections. At the end of the program, leaders help Experimenters evaluate their experiences and consider how they can integrate what they learned about themselves, their identities, and the world into their lives at home.

Leaders have extensive experience with youth education, travel logistics and management know-how, health, safety, and risk management and are ready to spend a month living and learning with their participants. They are responsible professionals who have local expertise in the country or region of their program, language abilities, and knowledge of their program theme. Experiment co-leaders and staff complement one another and provide comprehensive support to all members of their groups.

Group leaders go through a rigorous selection process. In 2019, The Experiment accepted only 27% of group leader applicants. The process includes a comprehensive application review, several stages of interviews with the People Operations Team, and thorough screening and background check.  Many of our leaders are teachers and professionals with bachelor’s and often a master’s degree, former Peace Corps volunteers, and distinguished scholars (Fulbright, Rhodes, Truman, etc.).

Group Leader Training

At The Experiment, we value our group leaders as professionals in their fields. We utilize the skills they bring while making sure to provide development and support in the areas needed to be successful leaders of our programs.

Before our programs, group leaders attend intensive, in-person training on the School for International Training (SIT) campus in Vermont. Leaders get in-depth, interactive training on a range of topics relating to the broad areas of youth, education, logistics, and health and safety. Sessions cover issues including adolescent psychology, mental and physical health, youth development, diversity and inclusion, behavior management, curriculum development and delivery, and experiential education techniques. Learn more about becoming a group leader.

“Not only do I come away feeling prepared, supported, and nourished as a facilitator, but I feel like I want to bring ANYONE in a leadership position (corporate, nonprofit, or even people planning to become parents) to this training. Too often, ‘leader’ is a title that reflects salary but not equity or ability. The Experiment training provides the tools to excel in every aspect of leadership.”

– Jen Fowler, Leader to the United Kingdom, Argentina, and Japan

Featured Group Leaders

Tracy Stein Hinson

Group Leader

A native of Connecticut, Tracy began traveling while in high school. After participating in a community service program in Botswana, Tracy was eager to return to Africa. She spent a semester in Kenya with SIT Study Abroad and then a summer at the U.S. Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, as a graduate intern. Tracy holds a BA in Africana studies from Vassar College and an MA in African studies from Yale University. A strong believer in experiential learning and cross-cultural exchange, Tracy has led high school and college students on service learning and academic study abroad programs over the past 20 years in South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, including working as an academic director for the SIT Kenya Coastal Studies program. For over a decade, Tracy also worked on international health programs for Save the Children, most recently as director of operations for the organization’s campaign to reduce child mortality. Tracy currently lives in Westport, Connecticut, with her husband and three children, with whom she loves sharing the excitement and adventure of travel. Tracy has led five programs with the Experiment in South Africa, Tanzania, and Botswana.

Calvin Walds

Group Leader

Calvin Walds is a writer, educator, and image-maker originally from Detroit, Michigan. His writing has been published in No, Dear, African-American Review, Hyperallergic, Callaloo Journal, the Poetry Project Newsletter, Ctrl-V Journal, DIAGRAM, and the Black Warrior Review. He was the winner of the 2020 Split/Lip Press Hybrid/Nonfiction chapbook prize for Flee which was published in April 2021. He was a finalist for the Emerge Surface Be fellowship with the Poetry Project and the Black Warrior Review Poetry Contest. As an educator, he has taught throughout the United States, from Sunflower County in Mississippi to New York City and abroad, in Durban, South Africa; Hargeisa, Somaliland; and Ramallah in the Occupied West Bank. Calvin has designed and taught classes on critical contemporary issues such as environmentalism, mass incarceration, the Global South, and the art of protest. He works to teach from a restorative and socially engaged pedagogy, partially by connecting students with activists, artists, and community members. He comes from an interdisciplinary academic background and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of California San Diego in cross-genre writing, focusing on poetics. He holds graduate degrees in both Pan-African studies and general and special education, and a BA in political science and tthnic studies, with a minor in history. Calvin is a huge music fan, playing in both marching band and symphony during high school, undergraduate, and graduate school, and enjoys live concerts, taking photographs, hiking, camping, and swimming, as well as learning about the history and politics of the countries that he visits.

Fiorella Morales

Group Leader

Originally from San Jose, Costa Rica, Fiorella was raised and still lives in Southern California. As a Gates Millennium Scholar, she completed her BA in behavioral neuroscience at the University of San Diego (USD), an MA in post-secondary educational leadership with a specialization in student affairs from San Diego State University, and is working toward her PhD in leadership studies at USD with a focus on international education. As an undergraduate student, Fiorella studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, with IAU College, which sparked her interest in international education as a career. Fiorella is tri-lingual in English, Spanish, and French.

Cassidy Beckford Moore

Group Leader

A native of Northern New Jersey, Cassidy earned her bachelor’s in communications and political science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2014, with a concentration in history and linguistics. During her time as an undergraduate, Cassidy spent a summer term in South Africa as a Vira I. Heinz scholar, participating in a program focused on community building in schools. She later went overseas to teach and coach in Shenzhen, China, where she became a certified TEFL instructor. In 2017, Cassidy earned her master’s in international education with a focus in social justice education and youth development at SIT Graduate Institute before transitioning into a position working with students with special needs. Currently, she works as a social studies instructor at a charter school focused on environmental sciences and preservation. Cassidy was a group leader for The Experiment in 2018 and 2019.

Vosa Cavu-Litman

Group Leader

Originally from Redwood City, California, Vosa has just returned to the United States to help start an exciting new school that combines education, health service partnerships, and family services to holistically impact children's lives. Prior to that, he was living in Seoul, South Korea, for over six years where he worked in international education and school expansion. Vosa started his professional career in education in Los Angeles teaching for two years with Teach for America. He holds a BA in behavioral sciences and sociology from San Jose State University, and an MA in early childhood education from Loyola Marymount University. He has extensively traveled throughout Oceania, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, and plans on seeing even more of the world. He is a six-time leader for The Experiment having taken participants to Spain, Chile, Peru, and Ireland.

Jen Fowler

Group Leader

Jen Fowler is an enginist (engineer + artist) committed to raising the volume on global voices through writing and broadcasting. A graduate of The New School and a proud New Yorker, Jen began her career working with adolescents as an ESL teacher in Buenos Aires, where she tutored elementary and high school students. Following her time in Argentina, Jen served in AmeriCorps in Woodbridge, Virginia, teaching U.S. citizenship classes and financial education to high school and adult students. Through her time working with youth, she became passionate about improving mental health services for adolescents, and the greater population, and is currently completing her master's in clinical mental health counseling. Jen cannot wait to return as a group leader for The Experiment, having previously led programs to Japan in 2019, the United Kingdom in 2018, and Argentina in 2017. When not traveling, Jen spends her time backstage in Broadway and regional theaters, taking her small dog Murphy for ``Smellebrations``, and eating frosting out of the can.

Kelsey Cloonan

Group Leader

While attending high school in McDonald, Pennsylvania, Kelsey was awarded a scholarship from the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh to travel with The Experiment to Turkey in 2009. This trip transformed her life and made her realize that she was meant to be out there engaging with as many cultures, people, and places as she possibly could. She left for Philadelphia to study Cultural Anthropology and Music at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 2014. Her time in college provided her with more opportunities to travel—exploring the Jordanian deserts, living in South Africa and Argentina, and even returning to visit her Experiment host family in Turkey. After graduating, she worked for a few years as a Teaching Assistant at the University of Pennsylvania in the Music department teaching classes on music, language, and culture. Currently, she is working and living in Granada, Spain as a language teacher. Later on she plans to pursue graduate studies in Ethnomusicology and International Education.

Megan Babb

Group Leader

For as long as she can remember, Megan has always been an avid lover of travel, languages, learning, and adventure. Hailing from Frederick, Maryland, Megan graduated from Urbana High School in 2008 and continued her higher education studies at the University of Pittsburgh where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics with a certificate in Arabic Language and Linguistics and minors in French and Religious Studies in 2012. During her time at Pitt, Megan played the clarinet in the Varsity Marching Band and was an active member of the Tau Beta Sigma National Band Service Sorority. During the summer of her junior year, she studied in Morocco with SIT Study Abroad and fell in love with Africa. She has traveled extensively through North Africa, the Middle East, South Africa, and Europe. Megan received her Master of Arts in Teaching from Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland in 2015, and is currently teaching French at an international school in the United Arab Emirates. Megan has led Experiment groups to France, Morocco, and Jordan.

The Experiment Digital—Fostering Connection Across Borders

Throughout the virtual exchange, students will be directly supervised by professional facilitators, including some alumni and former peer mentors, who have experience with cultural exchange and undergo an intensive month-long training on online facilitation. Although The Experiment Digital boasts a huge number of participants, it fosters an intimate feel for learning, which allows small group conversation and meaningful engagement. Participants attend interactive webinars featuring guest speakers, with small breakout sessions led by facilitators or peer mentors. In dialogue groups, there’s one facilitator for every five to eight students, with a safe space to share their hopes and fears and discuss often challenging topics such as gender norms and stereotypes. Facilitators initiate icebreakers, jumpstart conversation, ask debrief questions, and mediate conflict. Facilitators also help guide participants through the process of developing a community service project.

Digital facilitators:

  • Create and maintain a positive and inclusive digital learning community.
  • Coach participants on behavioral challenges within the program community and mediate disagreements and conflicts.
  • Assist participants in troubleshooting technology issues to ensure program engagement.
  • Provide encouragement and support to keep participants engaged in the program activities.
  • Support participants with plans for their project implementation.

Our digital facilitators monitor all interactions on the online platform. If anything of concern arises, they follow a strict risk management protocol through the proper channels to inform full-time staff at The Experiment Digital, who are reachable 24/7. Learn more about becoming a digital facilitator.

“This whole summer has been an amazing opportunity to get to know teens from all over the world. I feel really inspired by their spirit, and I feel like my mind has been opened by their perspectives and worldviews. I really can’t think of a better way to have spent this summer than meeting and working with these fantastic participants.”

– Caroline, 2020 Digital Facilitator