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The New Virtual Student Experience: Education, Study Abroad and Internships - Speaker Bios

Bios of the speakers of the webinar "The New Virtual Student Experience: Education, Study Abroad and Internships".

The New Virtual Student Experience: Education, Study Abroad and Internships is part of the global webinar series Internationalization of Higher Education in the COVID-19 Era.

Learn more about the webinar.
Headshot of GianMario Besana
GianMario Besana - Speaker

GianMario Besana, Ph.D. is the Associate Provost for Global Engagement and Online Learning at DePaul University in Chicago, IL, USA. In collaboration with DePaul’s Center for Teaching and Learning and Information Services, GianMario established a university wide virtual exchange initiative at DePaul, called Global Learning experience (GLE), that has attracted national and international attention as a model for institutional support of virtual exchange. The GLE program was awarded the 2019 Innovation Award from the POD network and one of the 2020 Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Awards for Campus Internationalization for NAFSA. DePaul has offered over 150 courses with GLE projects, in collaboration with institutions in more than 30 different countries.

GianMario has facilitated workshops on institutional approaches to virtual exchange in different countries and has presented on the topic of virtual exchange at international conferences, including NAFSA, AIEA, and IVEC. GianMario earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Notre Dame, IN, after completing his bachelor degree, also in Mathematics, at the Universita’degli Studi di Milano, Italy. GianMario is an alumnus of the first edition of the Senior International Officers AIEA Academy, serves on the Executive Board of AIEA as a member at large, and chairs its Audit Committee.

Headshot of Wing-Kai To
Wing-Kai To - Speaker

Dr. Wing-kai To is the inaugural Assistant Provost for Global Engagement and Senior International Officer at Bridgewater State University. He previously served as their Director of Global Learning and Professor of History.

As the SIO, Dr. To is responsible for overseeing international operations such as partnership and exchange agreements, global academic programs, study abroad, international student and scholar services.  He has led numerous travel courses with students, managed study abroad and service learning programs, and implemented virtual exchange courses.  

Dr. To is a member of the Senior International Officer Academy and Peer Learning Circle Program at the Association for International Education Administrators (AIEA) as well as active in other international education associations.  He has participated in the American Council on Education (ACE) Internationalization Laboratory, COIL/Virtual Exchange Grants, and Community of Practice for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

He was a State Department Exchange Alumnus as a Fulbright Scholar to Hong Kong and Mandela Washington Exchange to Uganda and Cape Verde. He received other grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and Japan Foundation. He was also a consultant for the Chinese emigrant letters archives that were inscribed in the United Nations Memory of the World Register. 

Headshot of Matthew Lussenhop
Matthew Lussenhop - Opening Remarks

Matthew Lussenhop joined the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) in July 2019.  He is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, and has served his country as a Foreign Service Officer since 1990.

Prior to his arrival at ECA, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the Embassy of the United States to the Kingdom of Belgium, August 2016-June 2019, including 18 months as Chargé d’affaires.  From 2013-2016, he was the DCM at the U.S. Embassy to the Kingdom of Morocco, including ten months as the Chargé d’affaires.  Mr. Lussenhop previously served in ECA as a Senior Advisor for Policy from 2011-2013.

Mr. Lussenhop has served in the field of public diplomacy and strategic communications in numerous posts overseas, including Public Affairs Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2010-2011.  Other overseas assignments include positions at U.S. embassies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Kuwait; Muscat, Oman; Rabat, Morocco; Sofia, Bulgaria; and Manila, Philippines.

In Washington, DC, Mr. Lussenhop has served in the State Department’s Bureau of Near East and North African Affairs, and as Director of Public Diplomacy Training at the Foreign Service Institute.

Mr. Lussenhop is the recipient of multiple State Department Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.  He speaks Arabic and French, and is a native of Minnesota and a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Terhi Mölsä
Terhi Mölsä - Opening Remarks

Terhi Mölsä is CEO, since 2016, of the Fulbright Finland Foundation -- a Helsinki-based, private, not-for-profit organization that collaborates with a range of government, foundation, university and corporate partners on both sides of the Atlantic to design and manage study and research scholarships, leadership development programs and internationalization services. With a life-long passion for diplomacy through education, science, and the arts, she draws on 35 years of experience in higher education internationalization and exchanges. She began her career working at the Office of Academic and International Affairs at Tampere University, Finland, where she helped launch the university’s first European mobility programs, and worked on Ministry of Education funded national initiatives. Preceding her current position she served most recently as the Executive Director of the Finland-U.S. Educational Exchange Commission.

Terhi Mölsä has worked internationally as a consultant, trainer, and curriculum developer on strategic leadership in international education, and as an author, most recently contributing to the SAGE Encyclopedia of Higher Education (2020). She has served in professional leadership positions, among others in NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and is currently Member of the Advisory Council of the John Morton Center for North American Studies, and Board Member of ISEP. She holds an M.Soc.Sc. in International Relations and a B.A. in Russian from Tampere University, and certificates from, among others, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government Executive Education.

Leasa Weimer
Leasa Weimer - Moderator

Leasa Weimer is the Assistant Director of Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives for the Fulbright Finland Foundation in Helsinki. In addition, she’s a Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä and a member of the Finnish national team conducting an international comparative study with IIEP-UNESCO on flexible learning pathways.

Weimer has over 20 years of experience as a scholar/practitioner in international higher education, previously she served as Knowledge Development Adviser for the European Association in International Education and president of the global Erasmus Mundus Student and Alumni Association. Bridging research with practice, she has edited several international volumes, authored journal articles, book chapters, and commissioned policy papers considering the intersection of the political economy, policies, and the implementation of international higher education.

Weimer holds a PhD in higher education from the University of Georgia, U.S. and an Erasmus Mundus joint master’s degree in European higher education from the University of Oslo, Norway; University of Tampere, Finland; and University of Aveiro, Portugal and a Bachelor's double degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder, U.S.