Staff & Advisors


KGSP has an exceptional team of staff and advisors with a broad range of expertise in higher-education. Their role is to assist KGSP students both academically and personally throughout their time with the program.


Vice President for Saudi Affairs, Dr. Najah Ashry, KSA


Dr. Najah Ashry is Vice President of Saudi Initiatives organization at KAUST and was the founder of the organization.  She previously served as Assistant Provost for Student Affairs at KAUST and Dean of the female section at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.  Dr. Ashry has also served as Vice Dean of Admissions and Registration, deputy director of the Information Technology Center, and chairwoman of the Accounting Department. She participated in numerous strategic and executive committees and boards at the University and in Saudi Arabia.  Dr. Ashry earned a doctorate in Management Information Systems and a postgraduate Diploma in Research Methods from the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom. She obtained a bachelor‘s in Computer Science (magna cum laude) and a master‘s in Business Administration from Seattle University in the United States.


Director, KGSP and Undergraduate Initiatives, Saham Al-Husseini, KSA


Saham Al-Husseini is the Director of the KAUST Gifted Student Program. As director, he oversees all aspects of the program, from student selection, undergraduate placement, advising and student support, enrichment and development, student services, policy, and operations. Saham's role with KGSP follows other significant leadership positions at KAUST. His experience comes from holding positions in both academic and non-academic administration, mainly in the Registrar Office, Admissions and Enrollment, Advanced Placement, Strategic Relations, Project Management, and Operational Oversight.



Assistant Director, Sarah Smith, USA

Sarah Smith provides oversight for the monitoring, reporting, and programmatic development of the KAUST Gifted Student Program from the United States, and advises on KGSP policy and communication strategies overall. Ms. Smith joined KAUST in 2009, previously serving as Policy and Scholarships Lead for the Graduate Affairs department in Saudi Arabia. Prior to KAUST, Ms. Smith was a teacher and held various positions in the field of education policy. Ms. Smith earned a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and a Master’s of Public Policy degree from Georgetown University.


Head of Advising and Development, Mélanie Blanchard, KSA


Mélanie Blanchard is the Head of Advising and Development in Saudi Arabia. She oversees all advising and enrichment-related functions. Over the past four years, Mélanie was the Director of Internationalization at Escuela de Ingeniería de Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia, where she was responsible for coordinating international and intercultural initiatives. For 20 years, Mélanie has worked in international relations and international education fields in a variety of cultures (France, USA and Colombia) and brought her experience to include intercultural approaches and training in her functions. Melanie earned a bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Rennes University and a Master of Science in Organometallic Chemistry from Dartmouth College.


Deputy Head of Advising and Development, Nabila R. Hammouda, USA

Nabila works closely with the KGSP team on all programmatic areas and coordinates with the Saudi Cultural Mission. Prior to joining KAUST in 2008, Nabila worked on a number of student and professional exchange programs, including the State Department’s Fulbright and Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship programs, and served as a Business Development Manager at the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council. Nabila is a former Fulbright Scholar. She holds a master’s in Arab Studies with a Business Concentration and a Certificate in International Business Diplomacy from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She also has a master’s in English from Indiana University and a bachelor’s degree in ESL and Teacher Training from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Tunisia.


Academic Development Specialist, Saudi Affairs, Walid Abediseid, KSA 


Walid Abediseid works as an academic development specialist for Young Talent Development programs at Saudi Affairs. In 2014, he joined the Saudi Research Science Institute (SRSI) to help the team in managing all academic and non-academic aspects of the program. In October 2016, he joined the KAUST Gifted Student Program (KGSP) where he is responsible in monitoring and reviewing the academic performance of students, and managing the admission process. Walid completed his PhD in Electrical Engineering in 2011, from the University of Waterloo, Canada. He joined KAUST in 2011 as a postdoctoral fellow in Electrical Engineering, where he conducted intensive research in the field of Digital and Wireless Communications. He also worked as an instructor for Mathematical Engineering courses at both foundation and graduate levels. Walid earned a bachelor's and master's degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Ottawa, Canada.





All our advisors are highly qualified and experienced. Advisors assist students in their transition to the United States, provide academic advice, and serve as a general point of contact for the students throughout their KGSP experience.


Megan Wilmot – Assistant Director of Advising


Megan has been involved with international education over the past several years and has advised international students while working with KAUST, the ExxonMobil Libya Scholarship Program, and the Rice University Exchange Program. She has also conducted various intercultural communication trainings during her involvement in international education. Megan received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Policy Studies from Rice University and her Masters of Arts in Comparative Politics and Sociology from Jacobs University in Germany. During her studies, she has enjoyed learning languages and has gained some skills in German, Arabic, and Spanish. Megan has received multiple honor awards, including the Institute of International Education Award for Outstanding Service.


Shannon Gibson – Senior Advisor


Shannon joined the KAUST Gifted Student Program in 2014. Her passion for working with international students and diverse populations developed after studying abroad as an undergraduate student at Union College. After graduating with a B.A. in Sociology, Shannon moved to Portland, Oregon and spent nearly four years working for AFS Intercultural Programs; a high school study abroad program. While there, Shannon served as a program advisor for interested students and their families. Shannon later moved to San Francisco and received a Master’s Degree in International and Multicultural Education from the University of San Francisco. Before joining KGSP, Shannon managed the student services department at Kaplan International English. She served as the Designated School Official and oversaw initiatives, such as a student activity program and the college pathways program. Shannon has also volunteered in numerous countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Philippines.


Jeffrey Mervosh – Senior Advisor


Jeff has been part of the KGSP team since 2014. He brought over seven years of higher education and student development experience to KGSP, having most recently worked as an Academic Advisor at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs where he chaired a campus-wide committee on international student services, coordinated curriculum design, and supported over 900 students in academic and professional development.  Jeff most enjoys meeting and working with KGSP students to better understand their goals and empower students to achieve them. Jeff earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and International Studies from Denison University and a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs from the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University.


Kelly Almousily – Student Advisor


Kelly has worked alongside Middle Eastern students since 2007, bringing her background in the language, culture, and religion. Prior to joining the KGSP team in June 2014, Kelly worked with the SABIC Scholarship Program and the Honors College at WKU. After receiving bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Health Services from University of Southern Indiana in 2008, Kelly completed her Masters in Student Affairs in Higher Education, with a certification in International Student Services, at Western Kentucky University in 2012. Kelly has studied the Arabic, Chinese and French languages, including receiving the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship for Arabic, and studied abroad in Egypt, Jordan, Scandinavia, and Italy. Kelly is excited to be a member of the KGSP team, as she is a passionate advocate for high-achieving students on their academic journey and in working with them to become citizen leaders of a global society.


Ryan Brevard – Student Advisor


Ryan Brevard joined KGSP in June 2015 after working as an advisor and teacher in international education for the previous five years. Prior to joining KGSP, Ryan spent two years living and working in Saudi Arabia as the Academic Program Director and ESL Professor for the Jeddah College of Excellence. Ryan also spent a year living and teaching ESL in the Palestinian refugee camp of Bourj Al Barajneh in Beirut, Lebanon. After graduating from Western Michigan University with a B.S. in Education Ryan worked for 2 years in the AmeriCorps program serving the American Red Cross where he taught CPR and first-aid courses as well as responding to national disasters throughout the United States. Ryan has a passion for education and enjoys traveling whenever he gets the opportunity.


Katie Courvoisier – Student Advisor


Katie joined the KGSP team in May 2013 and brings over a decade of experience working in the field of International Education. Katie has worked in many different educational settings in the United States, abroad, and online. Her professional background includes experience as a Lead ESL Instructor, Academic Coordinator, and International Student Advisor (PDSO/DSO). Katie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Saint Louis University, a Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate, and a Master of Arts degree in International and Multicultural Education from the University of San Francisco. She speaks Spanish, some Portuguese, and since joining KGSP has a strong desire to learn Arabic!


David DeGroot - Student Advisor


Beginning in 2007, David recruited some of the first students to attend KAUST as part of the Discovery Scholarship program. He also led the operations team that managed the application and review process, and he worked on the university’s campus for a month upon the opening of the admissions office at KAUST. Between 2010 and 2015 David worked on various scholarship programs funded by a large oil and gas company and has advised students from many corners of the world including Iraq, Morocco, Angola and Romania to name a few. David earned a Master’s in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin and has lived in Costa Rica and Japan. David enjoys exploring little known places and trying little known foods. He is excited to rejoin the KAUST team and help KGSP participants fulfill their goals.


Johann Ducharme – Student Advisor


Johann joined KGSP with seven years of extensive managerial experience advising, teaching, and mentoring student scholars in the academic, professional and social formation of their collegiate outlook. In previous positions Johann served as an Academic Advisor and First-Year Seminar Instructor to undergraduate students at the University of Maryland, College Park, a contracted researcher for the U.S. Department of Education, and an AmeriCorps member. Johann has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Gordon College and a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Emily Hagemeister – Student Advisor


Emily joined KGSP in 2012 with over seven years of experience in educational administration.  Emily worked as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at the Abdul Hamid Sharaf School in Amman, Jordan.  After her Fulbright, she also served as Resident Advisor for the Critical Language Scholarship Program Arabic institute in Amman.  Before joining KGSP, Emily worked with the University of Missouri International Center as an Exchange Student and Study Abroad Advisor and the Critical Language Scholarship Program as the Program Officer for the Arabic language institutes, advising both international and U.S. students. She received both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Sciences degrees in Anthropology, along with a certificate in College Teaching, from North Dakota State University.


Amina Khan – Student Advisor


Amina recently joined KGSP with over 4 years of experience in the field of international education. After an internship with the U.S. Embassy of Iraq, Amina joined IIE and worked on the Fulbright Scholar Program for the Middle East and North Africa at IIE. Continuing on at IIE, Amina transitioned to a program that provides critical language and culture training for ROTC students. She graduated from The George Washington University and does freelance Urdu interpreting in her free time.


Linda Miles – Student Advisor


Linda is thrilled to be working with the KGSP team in San Francisco. Having grown up in a multicultural household herself, Linda appreciates the stresses of life as an international student and very much enjoys working with everyone in the KAUST community. Prior to working with KGSP, Linda has experience working in international higher education both in the United States and Europe. She is a lover of the mountains and everything ‘outdoorsy’ in the Bay Area. Linda holds her Bachelor’s degree in International Studies at Virginia Polytechnic and State University and her Master’s degree in International Education at The George Washington University. 


Mohammad Arif Mujaddedi - Student Advisor


Mohammad Arif Mujaddedi joined KGSP in September 2015 and brings over 8 years of experience in student advising and educational exchange programs management. In his last work, he has served as an International Student Advisor and DSO at the Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, VA. During his time with the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan for seven years, Mohammad has held roles as the EducationUSA Advisor, and Fulbright Program Manager, where he managed all the U.S. government sponsored educational exchange programs including the Fulbright Foreign Student Scholarships, the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, FLTA and other short term exchange programs. Mohammad graduated from Kabul University, Afghanistan in 2005 with a B.A. in English Language and Literature. After graduation, he was awarded the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant scholarship at Indiana University, Bloomington where he studied for the academic year 2006-2007and served as a language teaching assistant for his native languages at the Center for Language of Central Asian Region (CeLCAR).


Kelly Nelson- Student Advisor


Kelly recently joined the KGSP team after over six years of experience working in international education at the University of Michigan. There she worked closely with students who pursued study, intern, and research opportunities around the world. In addition, she worked to support international students at the University of Michigan during the annual international student orientation program. Kelly spent two years abroad in Germany – the first year studying at the University of Freiburg in Freiburg, Germany, and the second year teaching English and American Studies through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Kelly holds a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and German from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. She is excited to be a new member of the KGSP advising team.


Mischa Noll – Student Advisor


Mischa joined the KAUST Gifted Student Program as an advisor in April, 2016. He received his Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from Colby College. Prior to joining KGSP, Mischa worked as a student advisor for graduate students from Pakistan and the Palestinian Territories in the US, and for undergraduate American students living in India. Mischa is originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and enjoys learning new languages; he speaks some Spanish and Tamil.


Shannon Plath – Student Advisor


Shannon has worked in international education since 2006 with programs at UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute. She is a proven leader in the field of international education, with ongoing professional involvement with NAFSA, the Forum on Education Abroad, the Northern California Education Abroad Association, and the Bay Area International Educators Association. Shannon received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota in 1999 and her Master of Arts degree in International Education from SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont in 2006.


Meghan Perry Powell – Student Advisor


Meghan joined KGSP in the fall of 2016 with eight years in higher educational administration experience, three of which were focused in international education. In prior positions she supervisted international student workers in the international office, managed the university's study abroad program, and coordinated internaitonal student orientation programs. In her undergraduated program, Meghan studied abroad in South Africa. Meghan holds a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration from Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Allegheny College.


Corissa Wandmacher – Student Advisor


Corissa joined KGSP in June 2015 after serving as the KAUST Foundation Year Coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin for two years. Corissa brings a decade of experience in the field of international education having lived and worked abroad four of these years. She spent two years in South Korea managing International Relations and recruiting students for an international business school and two years in Chile teaching English and later developing a national English language initiative and leading teacher training for the Ministry of Education, English Opens Door Program. Corissa earned her Master's in Higher Education Administration from the University of Texas at Austin and her Bachelors' in Early Childhood Education from Texas A&M University. Corissa is excited to continue to work with KGSP students and hopes to have the opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia in the near future!


Emily Yates – Student Advisor


Emily joined KGSP in 2014 with over seven years of experience in International Education in the United States and abroad. Her prior experience includes work as an International Student Advisor (DSO/ARO) at Texas A&M University, and as a Student Development Specialist at Texas A&M University’s branch campus in Doha, Qatar where she managed leadership development programs. Emily holds a Master of Education degree in Higher Education from the University of Florida, and a Bachelor of Science degree from Radford University in Virginia.