The KGSP advising team is made up of highly-qualified professionals from across different fields such as student services, international and higher education, and scholarship management. Based in the United States, Advisors assist students in their transition to the Scholarship, provide academic and pre-professional support, coordinate specialized internships and developmental opportunities, and serve as a general point of contact for students throughout their KGSP experience.
Director, KAUST Gifted Student Program
Jeff Mervosh 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 in advising and academic development and led international student and internship programming at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. As Director for the US-based KGSP staff, Jeff coordinates scholarship administration, student professional and academic support, and special projects. Jeff previously served as an Advising Lead and greatly enjoys personally meeting and following the careers of as many KGSP students and alumni as he can. 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.
Shannon Gibson joined the KGSP 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.
Meghan Perry Powell
Undergraduate Advising, Team Lead
Meghan joined the 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 supervised international student workers in the international office, managed the university’s study abroad program, and coordinated international student orientation programs. In her undergraduate 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.
Undergraduate Advising, Team Lead
Stafford D. Oliver joined the KGSP in December 2015. He previously worked for KGSP Operations, where he supported data collection and tracking, and assisted with program reporting. Prior to KGSP, he was a Case Manager at Humanim for the Maryland Department of Human Resources. He has held roles in international education across Europe, North America, and Asia. Stafford studied at SOAS, University of London as a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Boston College and a Master of Science from the University of Edinburgh.
Foundation Year Advising, Team Lead
Lauren joined the San Francisco KGSP team in June 2017. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies with a concentration on Japan from Wellesley College, she joined the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program. She was an Assistant Language teacher in Japan for three years. After the JET Program, she was an online English Conversation teacher before attending the University of San Francisco (USF) to earn her Master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs. At USF, Lauren was the graduate assistant in the Learning Center, and worked closely with the Office of Student Conduct, Residential Life, Student Leadership and Engagement, and the International Student Scholar Services (ISSS) office.
Matthew Guckenberg joined the KGSP with over four years of experience working with international education and students from the Middle East and North Africa. Previously, Matthew worked with the Fulbright Foreign Student Program for the Middle East and North Africa. Matthew has spent time in many places in the Middle East and lived in Egypt while attending the American University in Cairo. Matthew earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from the University of Mary Washington and a Master of Arts in Middle East Studies from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University.
New Student Experience Lead
Kelly currently serves as the New Student Experience Lead for the KGSP Team. 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 2014, Kelly worked with the SAIBC Scholarship Program an the Honors College at Western Kentucky University. After receiving Bachelor's degrees in Biology and Health Services from University of Southern Indiana in 2008, Kelly completed her Master's degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education, with a certification in International Student Services, at WKU 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.
New Student Advisor
Chinni Ifejika joined the KGSP as the New Student Advisor in 2022. Before working with the program, he worked with the Fulbright Scholar team in Outreach and Recruitment. In his current role, he serves as the primary point of contact for incoming students. Chinni received his Bachelor’s degree in Public Health from UNC Greensboro and is a certified project manager with PMI. He previously spent time in Spain teaching vocational and high school English and is excited to present and connect our future scholars to educational opportunities.
Cynthia Cox joined the KGSP Team in October 2017. She began her career in international education by teaching in Kenya and France, and then took a role as an International Student Advisor at Oregon State University, where she worked for seven years. Cynthia received a Bachelor’s degree in German from California State University-Chico, and a Master’s degree in Linguistics from the University at Buffalo.
Josh Dubman joined KGSP in 2022 with almost ten years of experience in the world of international education. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Global Studies and Business at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and studied abroad in Spain, which kickstarted his passion for travel and cross-cultural exchange. After graduating he proceeded to work as a credential evaluator where he researched and assessed international education and determined the U.S. equivalent level of education for individuals coming to the United States from abroad. After his stint in credential evaluation in Chicago, he moved to Hong Kong and spent some time evaluating credentials for various U.S. institutions and making admissions decisions for international applicants on behalf of the schools. In 2020, he moved back to the United States to continue his work in international education evaluation and began managing a team of evaluators for two more years before joining the KGSP team. Outside of traveling and learning about different cultures, Josh enjoys music and bicycling and exploring the great outdoors.
Yulia Hanson joined the KGSP in 2020 and is based in Chicago. She has extensive experience working in international education programs in Turkey, Great Britain, and Russia. She started her career in the US by joining International Hospitality Group, Inc. in Washington DC. She joined IIE-Washington, DC office in 2004 and supported various educational programs such as IVLP and Fulbright. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. In addition, she also holds a Master’s degree in Finance and Taxation from the Moscow Institute of Finance & Economics. In her free time, she enjoys orienteering, X-country skiing, swimming in Lake Michigan, hiking in near-by woods, and spending time with her two daughters, dog and pet mouse.
Theodore initially joined the KGSP team in August 2016 after nearly three years of working on a diverse portfolio of international education programs. Originally from Southern Connecticut, he graduated from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and began his career in international education by teaching ESL in Ukraine and Russia for three years. After his return, he began working on the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program providing visa sponsorship and advising services to Brazilian students studying in the United States. Theodore currently works from the Denver office and enjoys a wide range of outdoor activities in his spare time.
Tiffany Hsiau joined the KGSP Team in 2021. She holds her Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics from Teachers College, Columbia University where she taught English to international students, refugees, and recent immigrants. Prior to joining KGSP, she worked with the Gilman Scholarship Program to support U.S. students to study abroad. She has also worked with international students on college campuses in the non-profit sector focused on leadership and community development, and she directed cultural exchange programs in China. As an educator, she wants all people to have transformational opportunities through cross-cultural experiences. Tiffany is also a proud Longhorn and has a Bachelor’s in Applied Learning and Development from The University of Texas at Austin – Hook’em Horns!
Leah Jeedas joined the KGSP team in July 2022, bringing over three years of experience working in higher education administration and student services. She holds a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. While completing her graduate coursework, Leah was a graduate assistant at M.I.T.’s Priscilla King Gray (PKG) Public Service Center. As a graduate assistant, Leah supported the coordination and facilitation of PKG’s community-based programs and advised students seeking community engagement opportunities. Prior to working in higher education, Leah volunteered with non-profit organizations that serve immigrant and refugee communities for nearly seven years. Leah is passionate about holistic student development, intercultural exchange, and creating and maintaining safe, inclusive spaces for historically underserved communities. In her spare time, Leah enjoys being outdoors, seeing live music, traveling as much as possible, and being overly competitive about rock paper scissors matches.
Garifallia Kasamias joined the KGSP Team in December 2021. She previously worked with the Fulbright Program for over two years, helping onboard students and scholars to their grants. Garifallia has worked at The Hunger Project as a global advocacy intern, a Greek content curator, and volunteers as a citizenship teacher. Garifallia has a Bachelor’s in Political Science: International Relations and Comparative Politics from Kent State University and a Master’s degree in Global Affairs: Global Conflict and Security from George Mason University. In her spare time, Garifallia loves to learn new things, experience different cultures, and travel as much as she can.
Sam Lebow joined KGSP in September 2019 and brings with him a background in experiential education. A native of Washington DC, Sam spent the previous four years working with undergraduate students as a Program Advisor at The Washington Center for Internships & Academic Seminars. As an undergraduate student, Sam studied abroad in Argentina, India and China, and spent two years after college teaching English in Beijing, China and Batumi, Georgia. These experiences inspired him to pursue a Master of Arts in International Education at the School for International Training Graduate Institute. He is passionate about helping students and young professionals explore new cultures and adapt to different settings in order to maximize their full potential. Sam has a passion for world geography, loves maps and takes pride in his knowledge of world capitals. In his free time, he enjoys exploring the DC restaurant scene and is active in a local competitive karaoke league.
Monica Matais joined KGSP in September 2019. She has a Bachelor’s degree in classical archaeology and art history from Florida State University. She also received a Master’s in Museum Studies in Florence, Italy where she worked at the Duomo as an archivist, tour guide, and a practicing Etruscan archaeologist. Upon graduation, she remained in Italy for 7 years where she taught English to business companies such as Ducati, all while entering the world of international education. She worked as a student advisor and guest lecturer for various Florentine universities. Upon her return to the US, Monica was recruited to open the North American office for King’s College London in Washington DC, where she worked as the Senior International Officer providing family and student counseling prior and during education experiences abroad in the UK. Monica loves sharing about her personal experiences living across the US and abroad in places as far as Japan and Italy.
Becca Mercer joined the KGSP team in October of 2021. After graduating from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science and Minor in Women Studies, she joined the Peace Corps in Morocco as a Youth Development Specialist. Following completion of service, she then joined the Peace Corps Response team as a Gender Equity Program Coordinator in Liberia. Upon her return to the U.S. and prior to joining the KGSP advising team, Becca had worked with the Fulbright Program advising international graduate students from over 49 different countries. Becca is a native of Indiana but is now based in Chicago where she spends her time exploring the Midwest in search of the best spots for Kayaking!
Chidera Ogbonna joined the KGSP in September 2018. Chidera began his career at the Institute of International Education (IIE) in August 2016. While at IIE, Chidera has worked on the Gilman International Scholarship Program, ExxonMobil Iraqi Training Program, and the Foreign Fulbright Student Program. Prior to joining IIE, Chidera worked as a Graduate Assistant for international and study abroad students at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. While at the university, he earned his Master’s in Public Administration and studied abroad in South Korea. Chidera holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health Administration from Central Michigan University.
Kristen joined the KGSP team in 2020 after working in outreach and recruitment for the Fulbright Scholars and the Khalifa University International Graduate Scholarship Programs at IIE, where she developed marketing campaigns and recruited students for a new international master’s program. Prior to joining the Institute of International Education in Washington, DC, Kristen worked for three years as an admissions coordinator at the Washington Center for Internships & Academic Seminars. As an undergraduate student at Elon University, Kristen studied international relations and spent a semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland, where she also interned at an international language school. This led to her passion for international and higher education, and she received her Master’s degree in educational policy at King’s College London in 2018.
Huzaifa joined the KGSP team in April 2018 with over three years of experience in education administration. Originally from Mumbai, India, he graduated as an international student from the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in Business Management. During college, Huzaifa worked with the TRiO Upward Bound Student Services advising and tutoring first-generation college students across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. After a brief role in finance, Huzaifa moved back to India where he spent three years mentoring students who were applying to universities in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Singapore. Huzaifa is based in KGSP’s Houston office and is eager to share the experiences he had as an international student with the KGSP students.
Susanna joined the KGSP in 2018, bringing over three years of experience working with undergraduate students and international visitors to the U.S. She is a KGSP advisor based in Denver, Colorado. Susanna grew up overseas, living and traveling in Germany, Japan, and England, before moving back to the U.S. to earn an undergraduate degree from Colorado State University. While at Colorado State University, she worked for two years as a Resident Advisor to first-year college students, sparking her passion to work with university students. She most recently worked on the International Visitor Leadership Program, a U.S. Department of a State-sponsored professional exchange program with international visitors from across the world. During her free time, Susanna enjoys reading, knitting, and playing with her pets.
Rawan is excited to be part of the KGSP team as an Advisor and to work with its students. Before joining KGSP as an Advisor, she was a Student Success Coordinator and Title IX coordinator at Texas Chiropractic College in Pasadena. She has almost 10 years of experience working in study abroad and international education. She was based in the Middle East where she recruited students from the MENA region to study abroad in Europe and the US. She has also held positions as a student recruitment manager and business developer in education. Rawan received her bachelor’s degree in Arabic and English Translation from the Applied Science University in Amman, Jordan. Fun fact about me, is that I have been to 25 countries.
Dani Walter joined KGSP in January 2020 with nearly four years of experience working with international students from all over the world. Her passion for international education was founded after studying abroad in Austria while attending the University of Utah where she later received a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Promotion and Education. Dani then went on to receive her Master of Arts in International Education from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at The George Washington University. While studying at GWU, she completed a study abroad in Cuba and held positions in both the International Services Office and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions where she specifically worked with international students. Dani then worked as an International Student Advisor for graduate students at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (otherwise known as Virginia Tech) in the Washington, D.C. metro area. A Virginia native based in the Washington, D.C. office, she enjoys traveling to visit her family that is now spread across the U.S. as well as experience new places, cultures, and foods here and abroad.
Nicholas Willon joined the KGSP team in July of 2019 after gaining over five years of experience working with students around the world. After graduating from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, he joined the Peace Corps in the Republic of Georgia as an English teacher and an Education and Development Specialist. He was then awarded a Fulbright fellowship to South Korea where he lived for one-year teaching in a public high school in Cheongju. Before joining the KGSP advising team, Nick had worked with the Fulbright Program and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. Nick is a native of Oregon but is now based in Washington D.C. where he spends his time exploring national parks, visiting museums, and pursuing his hobby of film photography.