Brian Whalen, Ph.D.
Director and Advisory Partner
Brian J. Whalen is among the most well-known and influential international education leaders currently working in the field. He served for more than a decade (2006-2018) as the President and CEO of The Forum on Education Abroad, the first Standards Development Organization (SDO) worldwide focused on international education. During that time, he oversaw the Forum’s growth into a leading international organization, and formidable quality assurance organization in the field of education abroad. He is also an experienced senior international academic officer, having served in that role at Dickinson College and Marist College. A widely published scholar, Brian was founding editor and publisher of Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad. During his long career, Brian has developed or overseen education abroad programs in more than 50 countries, has delivered dozens of presentations and trainings in the US and many other countries, has collaborated to secure nearly $4 million in grants in support of international education initiatives, and has participated in high level meetings as a discussant at the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Education, and the White House. Brian has an interdisciplinary doctorate from the University of Dallas in Psychology and Literature.
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Ron Cushing, M.A.
Ron Cushing is regarded as one of the most experienced international office directors in the United States today. He has served as Director of International Services at the University of Cincinnati for more than two decades, managing a large staff with responsibility for an international population of over 5,000 students, scholars and dependants. He has audited numerous existing international offices at many types of educational institutions, and assists with implementing internal systems for new institutions and system-overhaul for institutions in distress. Renowned as a trainer, Ron Cushing has minted numerous Principal Designated School Officials (PDSOs) and Responsible Officers (ROs) and trained hundreds of staff nationwide in managing SEVIS programs. He has extensive experience filing employment-based immigration petitions (H-1B, TN, O) and immigrant petitions (green cards) with the federal government. In addition, he is knowledgeable on other issues relevant to non-resident aliens including taxation, withholding and I-9 completion. In addition, he has extensive experience developing international recruitment plans and managing global recruitment agency networks within a robust quality assurance framework.
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Lydia Lazar, Ph.D.
Over the course of a diverse career, Lydia Lazar has advised and represented senior leadership at environmental nonprofits, NYC’s municipal government, a global corporation and both a law school and a public policy graduate program. She is a former associate dean for recruitment and career services at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and served previously as dean of international law and policy overseeing international student admissions (LLM) at Chicago-Kent College of Law. She was trained as an urban hydrologist and as an attorney, and holds an AB degree in government/international relations from Dartmouth College, a master’s degree in geography from Columbia University and a JD from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Ms. Lazar is active/admitted to practice law in the State of Illinois. Early in her career, Ms. Lazar worked as an executive reporting to the President of Waste Management International, and as chief of staff to the CEO of the Division of Public Services in the Department of General Services of the City of New York. Lydia has recently authored Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People, which is available both in an English and Chinese edition.
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Alfredo Varela, Ph.D.
With over 25 years of experience Alfredo Varela has worked extensively in all sectors of international education. Early in his career, he served an ESL instructor, study abroad program leader, and international recruitment specialist where he developed an intimate understanding of all aspects of the field. He successfully implemented strategic recruitment plans at St. Mary’s University as Executive Director for the Center of International Programs, started the first semester-long study abroad opportunity in the kingdom nation of Bhutan as Dean for the Center of Global Education, and has successfully built ESL programs semester and summer programs at both institutions. Dr. Varela has also designed and managed innovate international partnerships with universities across Asia. He has served as PDSO and RO for over 10 years and collaborated with SEVP representatives in the implementation of SEVIS while working at one of the test schools in the early 2000’s. He is currently advising the cabinet-level Commission of Higher Education in the Philippines as they are sent to internationalize public and private higher education across the nation. Trained as a development anthropologist Dr. Varela has spent his career in-the-field “doing the work” amassing a wealth of information, contacts, and perspective.
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Karen A. Holbrook, Ph.D.
Advisory Board Chair and Advisory Partner
Dr. Holbrook is presently Regional Chancellor for the University of South Florida – Sarasota-Manatee.
Previously, she served as Interim President of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and President of The Ohio State University from 2002-2007. Before that, she was Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Georgia, Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Florida, and Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Biological Structure and Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. More recently, Dr. Holbrook served as Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation and as Senior Vice President for Global Affairs and International Research at the University of South Florida.
She has served on the boards of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the American Council of Education (ACE), the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (now APLU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), among others.
Dr. Holbrook has also participated on advisory panels and councils for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and was a member of the Advisory Committee to the immediate past Director of the NIH (Elias Zerhouni). She currently serves on the boards of the Institute of International Education (IIE), CRDF Global, Bio-Techne, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), and is the past board chair for Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). She is on the Board of Trustees for KAUST and was a member of the Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees for 10 years.
A renowned expert on international education, Dr. Holbrook serves on the Board of the Institute of International Education in New York City.