CLS Staff


CLS Staff at American Councils

Jeanette Owen
Project Director, Critical Language Scholarship Program

Jeanette Owen is the CLS Program Project 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 Project Director, Critical Language Scholarship Program

Andrew McCullough is the Assistant Project 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
Senior Program Officer, Chinese Programs

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
Senior Program Officer, Russian and Persian Programs

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.


Natasha Bashir Din
Program Officer for Data and Reporting

Natasha Bashir Din is the Program Officer for Data and Reporting, assisting all sites in administering the CLS program. Prior to joining American Councils, she interned at the nonprofit Global Fund for Children supporting grants management. Natasha also taught English to primary students in South Korea through Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK) and has lived in Pakistan and Singapore.

Natasha holds a Master of Public Policy from Georgetown University with a concentration in International Development and a B.S. in Psychology from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is conversational in Urdu and French and has recently started learning German


Janice Feng
Program Officer, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean Programs

Janice Feng works on the CLS institutes in the East Asia-Pacific region, specifically for the Indonesian, Japanese, and Korean languages. She first joined the CLS team in 2014 as the Program Officer for Alumni Affairs. At that time she managed programming for alumni across all CLS sites and started what is known as the CLS Alumni Support Network.

Prior to joining the CLS team at American Councils for International Education, Janice worked at the T. Howard Foundation, a nonprofit focused on increasing diversity in the Media and Entertainment Industry by connecting minority college students with career advancement opportunities.

After graduating from Marist College with B.A. degrees in Psychology and Fine Arts, Janice moved to Malaysia to teach English as part of the U.S. Department of State's Fulbright program. She has remained involved with the Fulbright Program since returning to the U.S. through her roles as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador and Board Director of the Fulbright Association’s National Capital Area Chapter.


Kirsten Hagen
Program Officer, Arabic Programs

Kirsten Hagen works on the CLS Arabic institutes in Jordan, Oman, and Morocco. Kirsten is originally from Blacksburg, Virginia. She studied Middle Eastern Studies at Florida State University and has a Master’s degree in International Training and Education from American University.

Kirsten has a background in service learning and outdoor education. Before joining the CLS team, she taught middle school English and math in Rockville, Maryland where she focused on incorporating global perspectives into her curriculum. She studied abroad in in Cairo, Egypt in 2009 and continues using Arabic whenever she can


Syejeong Kim
Program Officer, Alumni Affairs

Syejeong Kim is the Alumni Affairs Officer for CLS at American Councils for International Education. She facilitates alumni events and activities to support the vibrant CLS alumni community. 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.

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.


Natalie Spencer
Program Officer, Recruitment and Selection

Natalie Spencer joined the CLS team in 2016 as the Program Officer for Alumni Affairs, working to design and implement programing for a vibrant community of over 5,000 CLS alumni. Natalie now serves as the CLS Program’s Recruitment 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.


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.


Rhea Vance-Cheng
Program Officer, Indic Language Programs

Rhea Vance-Cheng works on the Bangla, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu CLS institutes in India.

Prior to joining American Councils, Rhea was the Associate Director of Civic & Global Engagement at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, where she supervised the colleges study abroad and international student programs.

Rhea holds a B.A. from Mary Baldwin College in Theatre, and a M.A. in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University. Her M.A. thesis was a discourse analysis of the Kashmir conflict. She completed a CLS for Hindi in 2011.

In her free time she enjoys cooking and gardening at her family’s farm in Virginia.


Claudia Anderson
Program Assistant

As a Program Assistant with the CLS Program, Claudia Anderson helps to support all of the program sites across all languages. Prior to joining American Councils, Claudia was a Staff Assistant for The George Washington University Office for Study Abroad, where she helped process application and transfer credit materials and advised on over 300 programs for all undergraduate study abroad students.

Claudia earned a B.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. with a concentration on international development and economics. During her junior year she studied abroad in Pune, India through the Alliance for Global Education.


Exequiel Caceres
Program Assistant

As a CLS Program Assistant, Zeke provides support to all of the program sites across all languages. Prior to joining American Councils, Zeke worked as an English Teaching Assistant with the Fulbright Program in Agadir, Morocco and interned at the Middle East Institute, AMIDEAST and National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He is a proud alumnus of the 2015 CLS program in Madaba, Jordan.

Zeke earned a B.A. in Middle East Studies from Middlebury College in Vermont. As an undergrad, he studied abroad in Jordan and volunteered as an English teacher in Morocco.

A native Spanish speaker and Francophile turned Arabic aficionado with an interest in Hebrew, Zeke enjoys studying foreign languages and sees it as a window to understanding cultures more intimately.