The faculty/staff team shown on this page is a sample of the individuals who may lead your specific program. Faculty and coordinators are subject to change to accommodate each program’s unique schedule and locations.
Chris Westcott, MA, Program Director
Chris is an educator and change-maker with extensive experience working with grassroots human rights NGOs and social change–oriented study abroad programs. Chris’s human rights work has focused predominately on the provision of economic, social, and cultural rights. Chris has worked on housing and workers’ rights campaigns with the Urban Justice Center and the Freelancers Union in New York City. Additionally, Chris was a founding staff member of ENGAGE, where he worked in Thailand and the San Francisco Bay area on trade justice campaigns affecting the economic rights of farmers and access to affordable medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS. Chris has worked as a traveling faculty member, then as a program manager with IHP since 2012. Earlier, Chris worked for two years on CIEE Thailand’s study abroad program focusing on globalization and development. Chris has a BA in environmental studies from Bates College and an MA in international educational development from Columbia University. Chris has conducted ethnographic research on the land reform process in post-apartheid South Africa and has done participatory action research on housing rights and educational equity in New York City. Chris currently serves on the solidarity board of Community Voices Heard, a social, economic, and racial justice organization based in New York.
Lucas Shapiro, Launch Coordinator
Lucas Shapiro comes to IHP after years of working as a community organizer for housing rights and racial justice in New York City. Most recently, Lucas served as senior organizer at Families United for Racial and Economy Equality (FUREE), based in downtown Brooklyn. At FUREE, Lucas worked with members to fight for living-wage jobs, affordable housing, access to healthy food, and a seat at the table in shaping local development. After earning a degree in studies in social change from Ithaca College, Lucas moved to New York City to become the national organizer for a progressive youth and student organization and later worked as an organizer with a tenants’ rights nonprofit. Lucas is dedicated to multi-issue movement-building and strengthening member-driven organizations, and he has a keen interest in political strategy, public policy, and popular education. He is currently working to launch Mayday Space in Bushwick — a dynamic center for social justice organizing, community empowerment, and creative expression. He lives in a cooperative house located in Fort Greene and enjoys reading articles, watching films, playing games, going on bike adventures, and visiting friends and family in Spain.
Anna Gail Caunca, MA, Program Manager
Anna Gail's previous work experience has focused on the areas of youth and young adult leadership development, community-building, residential life and student welfare, international education, and human rights education. Building on her graduate studies in social justice and international education, Anna Gail worked with World Learning’s Youth Leadership and Peacebuilding Programs, facilitating workshops with the Governor’s Institute of Vermont on current issues and youth activism and traveling with and supporting students through the LondonX and Iraqi Youth Leadership Program for two years. In 2013, she traveled as the IHP Trustees Fellow for the inaugural year of the Human Rights: Foundations, Challenges, and Advocacy program. After four adventurous years living in Wellington, New Zealand, she is excited for a new chapter as the IHP program manager in 2015.
Anna Gail earned her BS in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She graduated from SIT Graduate Institute with an MA in intercultural service, leadership, and management and received her educator’s licensure in secondary education: social studies, incorporating social justice in the classroom. She is a vegetarian, photographer-in-the-making, and running enthusiast with a hearty laugh.
Dema Al Oun, Country Coordinator, Jordan
Dema received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law from Jordan University. She has completed her required legal training and is expecting to take the Jordanian Bar exam shortly. She is qualified in many aspects of both civil and criminal law within Jordan and has completed over 35 training courses in legal issues. These courses dealt with civil and criminal law, and several pertained specifically to the rights of the child or the rights of women. Additionally, she is trained in international treaties and agreements pertaining to related human rights issues. Since 2004, she has volunteered at the National Center for Human Rights in Jordan, and is a member of Talal Abu-Ghazala, a famous law firm in Jordan which trains in civil and criminal law. Her past experience includes two and a half years in a law firm as a legal trainer. She has been the homestay coordinator at SIT since 2008, and was advisor for SIT students studying topics related to women, culture, and youth.
Carmen Luz Morales, Country Coordinator, Chile
Carmen Luz (“Lula”) is the country coordinator for the IHP program in Chile and has co-constructed the program in Chile from its inception in 2013. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Santiago and has been working as a consultant at the Observatorio Ciudadano, a leading human rights organization based in Temuco that hosts the IHP Human Rights program, since 2005. With Observatario, Carmen has conducted historical research on Mapuche communities and has coordinated international seminars and workshops to promote the defense of human rights of indigenous communities in Chile. She also has worked at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, DC, as a consultant at the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression. Her investigative work as a historian has focused on oral history, focusing on the history of land dispossession and the vulnerability of fundamental rights afflicting the Mapuche people in Chile. Carmen also brings teaching experience to her role with IHP, having previously taught history courses in Chile and Spanish language and literature courses in France. She currently spends her time between Santiago and Valparaiso with her husband Matías and daughter Eloísa.
Yanik Shrestha, Country Coordinator, Nepal
Yanik is the director of Passage International, which facilitates experiential education and global understanding by creating opportunities for students to live and learn abroad. He has been working intermittently with study abroad programs since 2002. He has also assisted in guiding several treks in Nepal and India, for Passage as well as for other trek operators.
A man with eclectic tastes and passion, in 2002 Yanik participated in the No Education: No Freedom, No Opportunity seminar in Germany, organized by GTZ, on “whether education should be liberalized or not.” He was involved in an Antenna Foundation project — a dramatized TV series broadcast on the national TV channel that raised issues on women’s rights and attempted to break taboos through the program. He had the opportunity to work with two of Nepal's most acclaimed comedians Madan Krishna Shrestha and Hari Bansha Acharya during the project. He has been working in radio since 2005, first with Hits FM 91.2, a 24-hour commercial radio station. At present he is associated with Revolution Radio, an online radio station. He is also a part of a hip-hop/slam poetry group, Word Warriors. The group has played a big role in inspiring other young poets to use poetry and music as mediums of expression.
Clelia Rodriguez, Traveling Faculty (Spring 2015)
Clelia O. Rodríguez joined SIT after teaching at the University of Toronto; Washington College; and, most recently, the University of Ghana. She received her BA, with specialized honors, in Spanish literature from York University and earned her MA and PhD degrees from the University of Toronto, specializing in contemporary Spanish literature. She also completed the Graduate Collaborative Program in Women and Gender Studies at the Women & Gender Studies Institute, also at the University of Toronto.
In her doctoral dissertation, she conducted research in Equatorial Guinea in order to examine the narratives of four contemporary Equatorial Guinean writers whose texts are bound together by their attempt to question and re-write the history of their country through fictional discourse. Although her research focused on this Spanish-speaking African country, she possesses international expertise conducting interdisciplinary research and teaching drawing on cultural, gender, transoceanic, memory, trauma, and postcolonial studies (Spain, Mexico, Cuba, the United States, El Salvador, Ghana, and Canada).
The bulk of her teaching and professional development at the undergraduate and graduate levels has centered primarily on ethical questions of justice and human rights in regards to the personal and political agency of marginalized individuals and societies throughout the globe in fictional and non-fictional literary and cultural texts.
Jessica French Smith, Trustees Fellow (Spring 2015)
Jessica French Smith is an alumna of SIT Study Abroad. She graduated from Wesleyan University with a BA in anthropology and Latin American studies. She has worked in direct services with survivors of domestic violence and most recently in foreclosure prevention in New York City. She has also dedicated seven years to coordinating high school and college experiential learning trips in Nicaragua. She will be graduating from the New School for Public Engagement in December 2014 with an MA in international affairs, with a concentration in governance and rights. Her interests include housing rights, LGBTQ issues, right to the city, and growing things.