Office of Global Strategies

Global Register

Our Staff

Solon Simmons, Vice President for Global Strategy

Dr. Solon Simmons is the Vice President for Global Strategy and Associate Professor of Conflict Analysis. A professional sociologist who specializes in American politics, Solon has taught a wide array of classes at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) including: conflict theory; global conflict; culture, identity and conflict; class inequality and conflict; and conflict in America. Solon teaches coequally in the undergraduate, Master’s and Ph.D levels and also teaches regularly in the new dual degree program at the University of Malta. He has served as the Director of Undergraduate Studies from July 2012 to July 2014 as well as Acting Dean for S-CAR from July to October 2013. Solon holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin and received his undergraduate degree in the History of Science from the University of Chicago. His publications include “The Eclipse of Equality: Arguing America” on Meet the Press and “Professors and their Politics”, co-authored with Neil Gross.




Gbemi Disu, Executive Director for Global Strategy

Gbemi Disu is the Executive Director for Global Strategy. Prior to this role, she has served as the Chief Operating Officer at George Mason University – Korea and as Special Assistant to the President where she managed strategic projects for the President.

Before joining George Mason in 2013, she worked at Thunderbird School of Global Management in a variety of roles in the President’s Office, Institutional Advancement, Career Services and Alumni Relations. Gbemi also worked as Assistant Vice President of Strategic Cost Management and Six Sigma Black Belt at HSBC Bank, Global Management Associate at Chevron Texaco and Appropriations Committee Staff at the Arizona State Legislature. She is also the founder and executive chef of Edibilities Events and Catering as well as the Lead Consultant and owner of Bella by Bames, an image and style consulting company.

A global enthusiast, she is multi-lingual and has lived, worked and traveled to over 70 countries. Her eclectic background has also included opportunities to organize events for notable global leaders such as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor, President Alvaro Uribe, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, President Mikhail Gorbachev, Ambassador Barbara Barrett, members of Congress and the World Economic Forum. A passionate supporter of global prosperity, she has participated in programs that support that such as Project Artemis, Goldman Sachs 10,000 women initiative and MBA Women International. She also founded the award winning program called ThunderCares and sits on the board of Think Global Institute, an organization providing business skills to women entrepreneurs globally. Gbemi holds an MBA in Global Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management, the world’s top-ranked school of international business, where she was commencement speaker and received the Barton Kyle Yount Outstanding Graduate Award. Gbemi earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and International Business from Arizona State University where she was awarded the Global Excellence Award from the Barrett Honors College.


Marie alice Arnold, General Manager, Mason Study Abroad


Marie alice Arnold is the Center for Global Education’s General Manager. She holds a Masters Degree in International Educational Development from Teachers College, Columbia University. Growing up in a Navy family, she moved often, developing a love of travel and an interest in cultural exchange. During her undergraduate years at Skidmore College, she spent a year at the Autonomous University of Madrid. In 1989, she began working in Study Abroad at the Council of International Educational Exchange (CIEE), where she worked with programs around the Globe.

Prior to joining CGE, she worked at Skidmore College as a Senior Program Manager in the Office of Off-Campus Study and Exchange. She is the proud mother of two wonderful boys. A graduate of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, she was excited to return to Virginia. Seeing students thrive in their adventures abroad fuels her passion for international education.


Desmond Dinan, Director, Center for Global Studies

Dr. Desmond Dinan is Director of the Center for Global Studies and the Jean Monnet Chair in European Public Policy at George Mason University. He has been an adviser to the European Commission in Brussels and a Visiting Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for International Relations, The Hague. He was a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe, Bruges campus (1998-2000) and the College of Europe, Natolin campus (2005-2008). His research interests include the historiography of European integration; the history of the European Union (EU); institutions and governance of the EU; enlargement of the EU; regional integration in the context of globalization; and prospects for global governance. His publications include Europe Recast: A History of European Union (2004), Origins and Evolution of the European Union (edited, 2006), and Ever Closer Union: An Introduction to European Integration, 4th edition (2010). Since 1999, has written the article on institutions and governance for the Journal of Common Market Studies‘ highly regarded annual review of developments in the EU.


Qing Gao, Director, Confucius Institutegao-qing

Mr. Gao teaches international arts and cultural management at Mason’s Arts Management program and is also the Director of the Confucius Institute at George Mason University where he oversees programming, finance, and operations to build bridges between Mason and China. Mr. Gao serves as Special Assistant to the Dean of College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) for China and Global Initiatives, developing collaborative relations between CVPA and leading Chinese arts institutions on philanthropy and arts management. He also facilitates business development initiatives to attract investment from East Asia to Virginia.

Before joining Mason in 2010, Mr. Gao worked at the US-China Policy Foundation, a think tank in Washington D.C. He conducted research on Sino-U.S. cultural and political relations, and managed the China Materials Service Center for four years. He received his Bachelors degree from the School of Management at Fudan University and his Masters degree from the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.


DenishaDenisha Hedgebeth, Office Assistant

Denisha is a student office assistant at the Global Office.  She is a senior at George Mason University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Global Affairs with a concentration in Global Governance and a minor in Non-Profit Studies. Her primary experiences lie in media/organizational communications and research. In addition, she has experience in oral and verbal communication, resource development, diversity and multiculturalism research/development, and office management. Upon graduation, Denisha’s goal is to obtain a career that allows her to hone her creativity in community and/or program management, and eventually do something cool enough to land her on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.




Jun Kim, Finance Specialist

Jun Kim serves as the Finance Specialist for the Office of Global Strategy and Mason Korea. He supports the Global Office regarding financial activities related to the management of Mason Korea and other international initiatives such as the China 1+2+1 dual degree program.  Prior to Mason, Jun has been involved in providing financial administrative support to international relief and development organizations and their projects in Australia, South East Asia, and parts of Africa in the areas of health, vulnerable children and women care, community development, and education.  Jun Kim holds a Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Languages and a Minor in Business Administration from George Mason University.




lisa-ohareLisa O’Hara, Manager, China Programs

Lisa O’Hara is the Manager of China Programs for the Global Office. She works on a variety of projects with her main focus on the China 1+2+1 Dual Degree Transfer Program. Before coming to George Mason, Lisa was a field engineer on offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, an electronics engineer with the Defense Department, a hospital administrator at UVA, an independent consultant, the business and technology manager for a start-up international law firm and the director of finance for a small business. Lisa has traveled extensively around the world, including independent study in China as an undergraduate student. She holds a BS in Geophysics from VA Tech, an MBA from George Mason University and an MA in Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.




Megan photoMegan Reiffenberger, Office Assistant

Megan Reiffenberger is a student office assistant at the Global Office. She is Junior at George Mason University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Marketing. She has previously worked as a Senate Intern on Capitol Hill for South Dakota Senator, John Thune, a water safety instructor and lifeguard, and currently stands as the Vice President of the George Mason Swim Club. Upon graduation, she would like to pursue a career in Marketing Research for a large company.




Porfile (3)Mona Yan, Office Assistant

Mona is an international student pursuing a Bachelors in Finance and a Bachelors in Accounting. She has extensive experience with helping international students and with event planning. Her interest is in promoting diversity, learning languages, and learning about other cultures. Upon graduation, she aspires to obtain a position in an international accounting firm.





Olivia Sun, China 1+2+1 Program Coordinator

Olivia Sun is the China 1+2+1 Program coordinator, supporting all aspects of this program and other major China activities at Mason.  Prior to joining Mason, Olivia has worked for several higher education institutions and providers in China and the US under different cultural contexts to develop China-related programs such as 2+2 dual degree, pathway program and study abroad. She was born and raised in Suzhou, China and holds a Master’s degree in Globalization and Educational Change from Lehigh University.




Richena Purnell-Sayle, Project Manager

Richena Purnell-Sayle is the Project Manager in the Office of Global Strategy. In her role in the Global Office, Richena manages short and long term web projects including websites and Mason’s global activities database, the Global Register. She also developed and coordinates Mason’s new Global Collaborative Classrooms program. Richena earned a Master’s degree in Global Affairs (see academic work) at George Mason in Fall 2014 and holds a BA in Music from Austin Peay State University in Tennessee.  She studied economic reforms in Cuba, studied Spanish in Costa Rica and was an exchange student in Northern Sweden.




Rita Rowand, Global Relations and Protocol Manager

As the Program Manager for Global Relations & Protocol, Rita ascertains the goals and interests of  international visitors from global universities and governmental organizations to Mason and is responsible for setting appropriate meetings and other engagements which lead to new opportunities for Mason students, faculty and staff. She creates protocol guidance and tracks annual visit statistics.  Rita is also a Fulbright Campus Representative and the Coordinator for the Phi Beta Delta Epsilon Delta Chapter of this international honor society. She has created and maintains a Global Professional Staff Exchange program for the university. At Mason since 2006, Rita has traveled throughout the Middle East Gulf region, Russia, Germany and Switzerland on behalf of the university. She holds a Masters degree from Old Dominion University in Occupational and Technical Education and speaks fluent German.



Sage Janulis, China 1+2+1 Project Coordinator

Sage Janulis is the China 1+2+1 Project Coordinator in the Office of Global Strategy. She creates engaging social and educational programs for the current China 1+2+1 students and works to involve other global offices and domestic university students with the programming. Sage earned her bachelor’s degree from George Mason in Government and International Politics and Conflict Analysis and Resolution in 2015. Sage enjoys running, travelling to new places and learning about new cultures.


Setarra prof picSetarra Kennedy, Executive Assistant

Setarra Kennedy is the Executive Assistant for the Office of Global Strategy. Holding a BFA in Dance, Setarra has performed and taught dance throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area. She loves trying new foods and exploring different places in her downtime and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Arts Management at George Mason University.





Mason Study Abroad

Achim Loch, Internet Marketing and Outreach Coordinator

Achim Loch is the Internet Marketing and Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Global Education. A German citizen, Achim worked as an EFL teacher for numerous companies and educational institutions, as a technical director for an English language drama group, and as an organist for several Lutheran churches. He received his M.A. (Magister Artium) in American Studies from Saarland University in Saarbruecken, Germany and studied abroad on a bilateral exchange in the United States at Hillsdale College in Michigan.

Some of his favorite field trips include traveling to London, England on multiple occasions, serving as a translator on a trip to Ireland, visiting Iceland, and driving a van to Tbilisi, Georgia via Switzerland, Italy, Greece, and Turkey


Daria Stepanova, Program Officer

Daria Stepanova is a bilateral exchanges Program Officer at the Center for Global Education. A Russian national, she came to George Mason University in 2006 as an international student seeking her B.S. in Marketing. Through CGE, she spent a semester in Madrid, Spain, studying Spanish in class and doing and internship at Avon. After completing her undergraduate degree, she came back to Moscow to work at Yamaha. She could not stay away from Mason long, so in 2012 she returned to work for the English department pursuing a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL).

Daria is bilingual in Russian and English and also fluent in Spanish. She is excited to work in a team of global education advocates who make life-changing international experience smooth and accessible.


denise-elles-mdahuarDenise Elles-Mdahuar, Senior Program Officer

Denise Elles-Mdahuar is a Senior Program Officer at the Center for Global Education. Denise is an American citizen with Lebanese and Italian heritage, who has travelled to England, Ireland, Wales, Spain, Canada and lived in Mexico for many years. Denise is fluent in Spanish and while in Mexico, Denise attended the University of Mexico for Foreigners studying Spanish and Mexican Culture and worked as an ESL teacher with both children and adults.




Heidi Bloom, Program Officer

Heidi Bloom is a Program Officer at the Center for Global Education. She received her undergraduate degree at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL. While at Lewis, she studied Spanish for a summer in Costa Rica and political science for a semester at the Universidad de Belgrano in Argentina. After graduation, she lived in Israel working with a small grassroots organization, the African Refugee Development Center. During this time she fell in love with international education and moved to South Korea to teach for two years.

Recently, she earned her graduate degree in International Training and Education at American University. As a graduate student, she did a short-term study abroad program in Northern Ireland, led an Alternative Break trip to Israel, and was a graduate fellow in Myanmar. Her international experiences have been an inspiring part of her life, and she now looks forward to assisting Mason students in finding their own adventures abroad!


Joanne Cabe, Accounts Administrator

Joanne Cabe is the Accounts Administrator at the Center for Global Education and has been part of the Center for Global Education Mason Abroad team since 1995. Joanne is responsible for the daily financial management of the Center for Global Education. She has accompanied a Mason Spring group to Egypt and is the proud mother of three children, Jordan, Ariel and Leslie.





Laura Scobey, Program Officer

Laura Scobey is a program officer at the Center for Global Education and a DC area transplant from Charlotte, NC. She received her undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Tennessee. While at UT, she spent a year in Spain, studying Spanish Language and Culture at the Universidad de Granada and the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain. In addition to taking classes all in Spanish, she traveled around the country and visited Belgium, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Wales. After graduation, she boarded a plane to Cairo, Egypt for six months and began studying Arabic.

When she wasn’t in class, she tagged along with her aunt, a former US diplomat, who was stationed at the Embassy. Some of her favorite experiences include meeting Jehan Sadat and going for a camel ride in front of the Pyramids at Giza. In 2009, she moved to the DC area to pursue a master in International Affairs at American University. She experienced Mason Study Abroad firsthand when she attended CGE’s Israel-Palestine program.


Mary Getsy Bernier, Program Officer

Mary Getsey Bernier is the Program Officer of International Internship Study Abroad programs for the Center for Global Education. Mary B received her undergraduate degree in French with a minor in Political Science from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. She worked at the Center for Global Education from 1995 to 1997, while earning her graduate degree in International Transactions, at George Mason University. With personal experience as a student living abroad in West Africa, England, and France, Mary B connects well with students, and understands the importance of the study abroad experience. Mary B worked for more than 20 years providing administrative and operations management in the fields of international development, environmental education, and also provided program development for profit and non-profit organizations. Mary B returned to Mason in January 2015, to follow her passion working in the field of international education.

When not working, Mary B is an equestrian events photojournalist and blogger, a horseback rider in the sport of Eventing, and she spends as much time as possible involved in outdoor adventures with her husband, and two children. Ms. Bernier has lived, traveled and worked in over 13 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America, and speaks French, and conversational Wolof.


Sarah Moran, Program Officer

Sarah is a Program Officer at the Center for Global Education. She is originally from Raleigh, NC but moved to Virginia when attending college at the University of Mary Washington (UMW). At UMW she earned her BS in Business Administration and then continued her time there as a Graduate Assistant while earning her MBA. She has two years of prior experience with Mason, working for the University Information department.

Her first international experience came when she was just 4 years old, living in a small English village and since then she has been bitten by the travel bug, taking advantage of any opportunity. Sarah spent a semester in Cork, Ireland at the University College Cork and has also visited France, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and a few Caribbean Islands. Let her know how she can help you explore!


Shanaz Tihal, Office Manager

Shanaz Tihal is the Office Manager at the Center for Global Education. She joined the Center for Global Education team in Spring 2004. Shanaz is the first point of contact at CGE. Her bright smile and sunny disposition puts everyone at ease!

Originally from Guyana, Shanaz spent more of her life in Toronto, Canada where she worked at Centennial College in the Registrars Office for 19 years. Shanaz moved to the Washington, D.C. area along with her family in 2003. She is the proud mother of 3 beautiful children.



Confucius Institute

Lucia Claster, Deputy Directorlucia-castler

Lucia Sedwick Claster is Deputy Director of the Confucius Institute at Mason with responsibility for project development, program management and community outreach, joining the institute after it opened in 2009. Ms. Claster speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese, having studied, lived and worked in the Asia-Pacific region for over ten years. She has spent her career promoting U.S.-China exchange in a variety of capacities – coordinating the U.S.-China Scientific and Exchange Protocol for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, facilitating business and community relations for the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, coordinating educational study tours around China, and providing China curriculum and enrichment lectures to Arlington Public Schools. Ms. Claster was a Rotary Foundation Scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and received her Bachelor’s in Asian Studies from Bowdoin College and Masters in Education from George Mason University.

Mohammed Rahman, Administrative Assistantmuhammed-rahman

Mohammed Rahman is the Program Coordinator of the Confucius Institute at Mason. He originally came on board as an Administrative Assistant in 2012. He received his bachelor’s degree from Mason, double majoring in Anthropology and Religious Studies. Currently he is a graduate student, pursuing an anthropology master with a focus on education. He is originally from Bangladesh, but now lives in Northern Virginia. In his off time, he volunteers with Mason’s Early Identification Program, helping to tutor and mentor first generation college bound high school students in Northern Virginian Schools. And if he isn’t doing that, he can be found either with friends or family playing a board game.