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The mission and vision of American Councils are achieved through the guidance, input, and expertise of the organization's executive management and Board of Trustees. All parties bring a wealth of global experience, knowledge, and an unwavering commitment to our shared success.

Lisa Choate, President and CEO Lisa Choate, President and CEO

Lisa Choate was appointed President and CEO of American Councils in February 2024. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Choate served as Executive Vice President of American Councils, a leadership role she has held since 2012. With 35 years’ experience managing and guiding the organization, Ms. Choate’s executive management and leadership responsibilities date back to 1987 when she opened the organization’s first office in Washington, DC. 

Throughout her career, Ms. Choate has been a driving force in leading American Councils successful efforts with funders to develop and expand a number of flagship initiatives including the U.S. Department of State’s Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs for secondary school students; the Congressional Office for International Leadership’s Open World program and other professional programs; as well as programs for Americans to study and teach critical languages such as the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) and Startalk programs. Under her direction, these programs, many of which started as pilot programs, have grown to become well-established, foundational programs that promote mutual understanding and support opportunities for promising individuals from diverse communities around the globe. Ms. Choate has also spearheaded efforts across the organization to develop and implement strategies, plans, and negotiations leading to the administration and evaluation of a wide range of international exchange programs. 

Ms. Choate is an American Councils alumna, having studied for an academic year at the Pushkin Institute in Moscow. She holds a Master’s degree in Education and Second Language Acquisition from Boston University and an A.B. from Bryn Mawr College in Russian Language and Literature.

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Michael Curtis, Executive Vice President

Michael Curtis, Executive Vice President, Strategic Development

Michael Curtis is entrusted with creating measurable and lasting impact to American Councils’ participants and stakeholders worldwide. As Executive Vice President of Strategic Development, Mr. Curtis pursues and secures new opportunities, promotes the organization’s achievements, and strengthens outreach to current and future strategic partners.

In the early 1990s, Mr. Curtis worked at one of the first western investment and consulting firms in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he advised US corporate clients and supported US exports to the Russian aviation industry. In 1999, Mr. Curtis joined American Councils to oversee its Uzbekistan office; soon after, his portfolio expanded to regional operations throughout Central Asia and Afghanistan.

In 2006, Mr. Curtis transitioned to American Councils’ headquarters in Washington, DC to lead its business development efforts and in 2015, he was named vice president of program and business development. As vice president, Mr. Curtis oversaw federal and non-federal development efforts and new market expansion in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. More recently, Mr. Curtis was the chief of international business development at the University of Southern California’s top-ranked school of pharmacy, where he was responsible for strategic growth internationally.

Mr. Curtis is a fluent speaker of Russian, lived overseas in Russia and Central Asia for more than 10 years, and maintains close ties to numerous overseas universities and ministries of education. He holds an MBA and master of international business from the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh, and graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a BA in European history.

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Dr. Brian GibsonDr. Brian Gibson, Vice President for Language Programs

Dr. Brian Gibson became part of American Councils in January 2024, taking on the role of overseeing a diverse range of programs including the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program, the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program, and American Councils Study Abroad programs. 

Dr. Gibson served as the Chief Global Officer at the University of Utah since 2021, where he oversaw the Office for Global Engagement, managing all aspects of study abroad programming, providing support for international students and scholars, and overseeing overseas campuses. Before his tenure at the University of Utah, Dr. Gibson dedicated almost 15 years to working in international operations at institutions such as George Mason University, Northeastern University, and Columbia University Law School. His professional background also includes serving as a program officer in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, teaching on the law faculty of the City University of Hong Kong and contributing to the Institute of International Education (IIE) in various capacities, including oversight of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. government-funded programs. 

Dr. Gibson holds a bachelor’s degree in International Economics and a J.D. in Comparative and International Law from Georgetown University. He furthered his education with a master’s degree in international conflict resolution and peacebuilding from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam, specializing in legal pluralism and international development. 

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Leslie RyanLeslie Ryan, Vice President for Professional Programs

Leslie Ryan leads a diverse range of programs, including the International Visitor Leadership ProgramOpen World, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Professional Fellows Program, and the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative Fellows Program.

Ms. Ryan joined American Councils in 2010, working as the manager of the Professional Fellows Program in Eurasia. Between 2010-2018, she expanded the department’s portfolio to include five new programs in 20+ countries. In 2018, she became the director of new business and helped American Councils win funding from the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, various U.S. Embassies, USAID, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the Millenium Challenge Corporation.

Prior to joining American Councils, Ms. Ryan worked as a project manager at Philadelphia Futures for four years, where she designed and managed special initiatives, including a new internship program for low-income, first-generation-to-college students attending Philadelphia’s lowest performing neighborhood high schools.

Ms. Ryan served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Dobrotvir, Ukraine from 2004-2006. She has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan and a J.D. in International Environmental Law from the University of Colorado.

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John HendersonJohn Henderson, Chief Financial Officer

John Henderson has worked in both public and private accounting for more than 25 years. Mr. Henderson oversees and directs all the financial and accounting activities at American Councils. He joined the organization in 2001.

Mr. Henderson has a strong background in taxation, budgets, financial controls, cash management, federal grants, purchasing, reporting, and administration. Earlier in his career, Mr. Henderson served as the director of finance at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, a $30M association in Alexandria, Virginia. He also held the post of controller and then vice president of finance and administration for the American Rehabilitation Association in Reston, Virginia.

Mr. Henderson holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business from George Mason University and is a certified public accountant (CPA). He is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

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Kasia HutoronKasia Hutoron, GPHR, PHR, Senior Human Resources Director

Kasia Hutoron has worked in human relations for more than 20 years. She joined American Councils in 2019. 

Previously, Ms. Hutoron worked as the human resources director for Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit which specializes in global health and demography research. She has also held various senior human resource positions with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Warsaw, Prague, and McLean, VA and FINCA International in Washington, DC.

She holds a certificate in global professional in human resources and in professional human resources, as well as a law degree from the University of Warsaw. Ms. Hutoron also has a certificate in American law studies from the University of Florida, and certificates in English law and the law of the European Union.

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Dr Dan Davidson

Dr. Dan E. Davidson, Director of American Councils Research Center (ARC) and Senior Academic Advisor

Dan E. Davidson, PhD, is the co-founder and president emeritus of American Councils for International Education and emeritus professor of Russian and second language acquisition, Myra T. Cooley Lectureship, at Bryn Mawr College. He has been the director of American Councils Research Center (ARC) since 2017.

He is the author/editor of 24 books and 65 scholarly articles in the fields of language, culture, and educational development, including a major 20-year longitudinal analysis of adult second language acquisition during study abroad.

Dr. Davidson was named in 2015 to the Commission on Languages, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is an elected foreign member of the Russian Academy of Education, the Ukrainian Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, vice president of the International Association of Teachers of Russian (MAPRIAL), and past chair of the College Board World Languages Advisory Committee, the Joint National Committee for Languages, and the Alliance for International Education Exchange.

His most recent related study, “Transformative Language Learning in the Overseas Immersion Context: Exploring Affordances of Intercultural Development,” appears in Transformative Language Learning and Teaching, a volume he co-edited with Betty Leaver and Christine Campbell for Cambridge University Press (2021).

Dr. Davidson completed his PhD in Slavic languages at Harvard University.

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Ann Domorad

Ann Domorad, Senior Managing Director of Field Operations and Programs

Ann Domorad oversees education services, development, public diplomacy and community resource programs at American Councils. She supports the operational capacity of staff and programs across Southeast Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia, as well as expanding infrastructure and partnerships in new geographies. 

Ms. Domorad officially joined American Councils in 1993 as part of the first team to work on the Future Leaders Exchange program. In 1999, she was named the first program manager of what is now the Open World Program.

In addition to her work with exchange programs, Ms. Domorad has worked on regional projects to develop capacity in education administration, reduce corruption in education, and increase academic integrity in higher and secondary education. She has helped US and Eurasian institutions of higher education to establish long-term, mutually satisfying partnerships, many related to innovation, entrepreneurship, and research commercialization.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in Russian language and literature from Swarthmore College and graduate degrees from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs (MPA) and Jackson School of International Studies (MAIS).  She lived and worked in Russia from 1992 to 2006 and is a fluent speaker of Russian.

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Benjamin GaylordBenjamin Gaylord, Director

Benjamin Gaylord leads a range of programs for international young professionals and secondary school students from dozens of countries, focusing on program design and management, as well as participant support. Since 2013, he has supported American Councils’ strategic planning process and organizational development.

Mr. Gaylord joined American Councils in 1995, serving in both the overseas field offices as well as the headquarters office in Washington, DC. He has worked on program design, participant support, recruitment, event planning, and training. Since 2004, he has led the inbound secondary school and professional programs departments, overseeing significant growth and new partnerships for these programs. He also served as American Councils ombudsman from 2008-19.

Mr. Gaylord has a bachelor’s degree in Russian language and literature from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a master’s degree in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University. He has significant experience living and traveling extensively in Eurasia, Europe, and Latin America and is fluent in Russian, Spanish, and Dutch.

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Carter JohnsonCarter Johnson, Regional Director for Russia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania 

Carter Johnson is a Regional Director at American Councils, overseeing Russia, Poland, Romania, Moldova, and Mongolia; he also supports the organization’s development though its strategic planning process. Mr. Johnson was previously the American Councils Country Director in Russia (2011-2014) and Country Director in Turkmenistan (2011-2014). 

He holds an MSc from the London School of Economics and a PhD from the University of Maryland, College Park. His academic research has been published in the Washington Post as well as tier-1 academic journals, including World Politics and International Security. In 2021 his book, Partition and Peace in Civil Wars, was published by Routledge; the book came out as paperback in 2023. Prior to American Councils, Carter served as a research analyst at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London (1999-2000), a Visiting Faculty Fellow at the National University of Uzbekistan (2000-2001), and Academic Coordinator for the Open Society-funded Civic Education Project covering Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova (2001-2003). 

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Lauren Makaleev HeadshotLauren Makaleev, Director of Alumni Programs 

Lauren Makaleev leads alumni programming for American Councils’ secondary programming and consults with other programs on their alumni engagement efforts.  She also oversees the Media Literacy team and supports virtual enhancement programming.   

Mrs. Makaleev joined American Councils in 2006, first working in an overseas field office and later moving to the headquarters office in Washington, DC in 2012.   

Lauren has a bachelor’s degree in Russian-area Studies and in History from Washington and Jefferson College and a master’s degree in Linguistics and Teaching Foreign Languages from International University in Moscow.   

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Catharine Wilson HeadshotCatharine Wilson, Managing Director of Teaching and Learning Programs 

Catharine Wilson oversees secondary school programs including Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX), Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) and the UUTI programs at American Councils.  

Catharine began her association with American Councils as a participant on the Russian Language and Area Studies Program (RLASP).  While in graduate school she served as a RLASP resident director for six summers in Moscow. In 1994, Catharine joined the team that implemented the FLEX program. While in Moscow her portfolio grew to include teacher programs. In 2002, Catharine relocated to Washington, DC to continue her work with secondary school and teacher exchange programs.  

Catharine has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon in Russian Language and Literature and a master’s degree from The Ohio State University in Slavic Linguistics. 

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