Speaker Biographies

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Speakers and Panelists Biographies

Below, please find the biographies for the Speakers and Panelists for the IGI Career Day.

Levi Armlovich (J.D. 2014, Law School) is an immigration attorney in San Francisco. Levi concurrently pursued a Master of Arts in European Union Studies (MAEUS) from the European Union Center and a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from the Law School at the University of Illinois, finishing both degrees in 2014. While at the University of Illinois, Levi was a FLAS fellow, studying Turkish and completing an immersion language study program with TÖMER in Izmir, Turkey.  He also interned at the State of Illinois’s European Trade Office in Brussels during his time in the MAEUS program. Levi’s thesis research involved analysis of the constitutional changes Turkey made as part of its E.U. accession process. Before coming to the University of Illinois, Levi received his bachelors degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in New Mexico.

Annie Contractor (M.A. 2015, Urban and Regional Planning), is the Executive Director of Africa’s Tomorrow, a 501c3 nonprofit supporting African women to get into the driver’s seat of social change, and Founder & CEO of Workplace Equity Partners, a consulting firm supporting social equity at work. Annie earned a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Illinois in 2015, along with a GRID minor. Her published research regarding environmental racism in the Milwaukee and Brazilian contexts seeded her work bringing an equity perspective to systems. Annie continues to call on a gender in global perspectives lens and an urban planning one, most recently using systems resilience to bear on global nonprofit work. Annie lives in the greater Denver area with her spouse, two children, and overly-affectionate cat.

Laura Fyfe (Ph.D. 2006, Interdisciplinary French Studies) is Language Training Supervisor for African, Baltic, Nordic and Greek Languages at FSI at the US State Department. Prior to joining the US Department of State in 2009, she was Term Assistant Professor of French at George Mason University from 2003 to 2009. While at GMU she led study abroad trips to Guadeloupe, Senegal, Monaco, Morocco, and Paris. At the University of Illinois, Fyfe studied French, Spanish, and Wolof, receiving FLAS fellowships to study Wolof, and earned a graduate minor from the Center for African Studies (CAS). Currently, Fyfe supervises the full-time instruction of African, Baltic, Greek and Nordic languages to Diplomats headed abroad and applies best practices and research-based findings of language instruction for adults. She has developed a comprehensive curriculum for the French program at FSI and oversaw the completion of the Swahili curriculum. Fyfe believes that it is “essential for students to get experience in whatever field they are planning to pursue. Get an internship. Conduct an informational interview of people holding positions you believe you would like to hold. See what they recommend for things to get under your belt before you pursue that career. This information will help motivate you in your studies so that you know what the end-game is and why you are studying what you are.”

Elana Jakel (Ph.D. 2014, History) is Program Manager of the Initiative for the Study of the Ukrainian Jewry at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014 with a dissertation entitled, “‘Ukraine without Jews’? Nationality and Belonging in Soviet Ukraine, 1943-1948.” She received a U.S. Student Fulbright Grant and the International Research and Exchanges Board’s (IREX) Individual Advanced Research Opportunities Program to conduct dissertation research in Ukraine and Russia, respectively. Among other fellowships, she received multiple FLAS awards for the study of both Russian and Yiddish, and also studied Ukrainian. While at the University of Illinois, Jakel was associated with the Program in Jewish Culture & Society as well as the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center; she worked as a Graduate Outreach Assistant at REEEC as well. Her research interests include Russian and Soviet history, European Jewish History, the Holocaust, and comparative genocide studies. She has presented widely at academic conferences and workshops. In her work at the USHMM, she has organized programs on the Holocaust in the Soviet Union for both undergraduate and graduate students, and now is overseeing a five-year project to produce a history of Ukrainian Jewry in the twentieth century as well as an accompanying digital tool for audiences in both Ukraine and North America.

Noriyasu Li (Ph.D. 2017, Linguistics) is the Program Manager for Alexa International at Amazon. Prior to his current position, he served as the Manager of Language Engineering for Alexa AI-Natural Understanding at Amazon and led the Japanese Alexa team in grammar writing, localization, and eliminating bugs by providing linguistic and language support and analyses. Dr. Li holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Pittsburgh, a M.A. in East Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, a B.A. in History and Japanese from the University of Alaska Anchorage. He also studied Japanese and Korean and studied abroad at the Hokkaido University of Education. His research addresses questions of formal language universals and whether such abstract universals remain available to L2 learners. His research have focused on the cross-disciplinary collaboration in linguistics and the links between theory and applied work. During his studies, he held the Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship, Japanese Room Committee Nationality Rooms Scholarship, FLAS Fellowship, Robert T. Henderson Endowment Fund Award, and Ralph Tyler Award (Best Japanese T.A.).

Nellie Manis (M.A. 2013, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies) is the Program Manager for the Critical Language Scholarship Program at American Councils for International Education. She earned an M.A. in REEES with a minor in EU studies for her thesis, “Educational Opportunities for Physically Handicapped Students in Post-Soviet Russia: The Role of the Judicial System.” She studied French, Russian, and Ukrainian. Manis studied abroad in Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, and St. Petersburg and earned numerous awards for language study, including a Critical Language Scholarship, a Fulbright, the Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace at Middlebury College, and FLAS fellowships for Russian and Ukrainian. At Illinois, Manis worked as a REEES T.A. and at the library as an indexer for the American Bibliography for Slavic and European Studies (ABSEES). At American Councils, she worked as the Program Officer for the National Language Initiative for Youth, the Program Officer and then Senior Program Officer for Russian and Persian for CLS before being the CLS Program Manager. She is happy to talk with graduate students about interviewing skills, entering the nonprofit job market, resume and cover letter writing, networking, mentorship, negotiating job offers, work/life balance, academic study versus entering the job market, the CLS program, avenues for pursuing Russian language study abroad, and other topics.

Aida Orgocka (Ph.D. 2003, Human and Community Development) As the Gender and Development Specialist for Education Cannot Wait, Orgocka provides strategic advice and technical support on gender equality in education programming and policy. She supports the development, implementation and monitoring of ECW gender investments delivered through First Emergency Response, Multi-Year Resilience Programs, and Acceleration Facility in various crisis-affected settings including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Palestine, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda. Orgocka works with colleagues in various entities including United Nations Girls Education Initiative to strengthen collaboration and coordination in delivering gender responsive impacts on education in emergencies. She earned a GRID minor in 2002 and a Ph.D. in Human and Community Development in 2003.

Matt Rosenstein (Ph.D. 2002, Slavic Languages & Literatures) is Director of Global Education and Training (GET) at the University of Illinois, where he oversees GET, the Shanghai Office, and the Intensive English Institute. With nearly 20 years of professional experience in international education, his work has featured a diverse set of activities including leadership on institutional grants, international collaborations, faculty development, research cooperation, strategic curriculum development, academic advising, teaching, facilitating outbound and inbound student mobility, public outreach programming, and more. Rosenstein earned a Ph.D. in Russian literature with a minor in comparative literature with a dissertation on the late/post-Soviet author, Ludmila Petrushevskaia. He has also published on topics in EU studies, transatlantic relations, international security. During his studies he held FLAS fellowships through REEEC, studied abroad in Russia, and worked as a REEEC outreach graduate assistant. Rosenstein then went on to serve as Associate Director of ACDIS and then Senior Associate Director of the EUC before becoming Director of GET. His recent areas of focus include internationalization in higher education promoting international exchanges, partnerships, and interdisciplinary collaboration in research, teaching, public engagement; leadership on institutional grants, sponsored projects and self-supporting global training programs. “Students in area studies and foreign languages develop academic and intercultural proficiencies and skills that are sought after by employers, and therefore marketable, in a variety of professional sectors.”

Antonio Sotomayor (Ph.D. 2012, History) is an Associate Professor of the University Library and the Librarian of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies collection.  Antonio earned is M.A. from the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Illinois in 2006 and his research focus on the relationship between sport and politics, culture and national identity in Latin American and the Caribbean. While pursuing his degree, Antonio studied Portuguese with the support of FLAS fellowships and also received support through the Latin Americanists Research Resources Project and the Dan C. Hazen Fellowship program. As the Latin American and Caribbean Studies librarian, Antonio plans the acquisitions of new materials, creates and curates research guides and is involved in multiple digital humanities projects aimed at making library materials more available to a broader audience. He strongly recommends that students focus on networking the help build their careers.

Donna C. Tonini is Associate Director at the Center for Global Studies and also is an Instructor in the Global Studies Graduate Minor Program. Previously, she was a Lead Postdoctoral Researcher in Leadership & Cultural Studies for the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics, and a Research Specialist in the Office of Community College Research and Leadership, conducting research with postsecondary institutions in Singapore and in the U.S. She holds an Ed.D. in International Educational Development with a specialization in Finance & Planning from Teachers College, Columbia University, and was a FLAS Fellow studying Swahili language and culture. Her research in Tanzania identified the most significant barriers of entry to secondary school that Tanzanian families faced in enrolling their children, including both financial and non-financial variables that affected access, as well as evaluated how current educational policy in Tanzania addressed those barriers and impacted enrollment growth. She also utilized financial analysis to determine the most cost-effective program choices for policies and their constituents. In addition to her research project in Tanzania, she has worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on development programs in Uganda and the Caribbean, leading projects in business planning, information technology and finance. She also has multiple years of risk analysis and training experience that spans several industries. Her previous graduate education also includes an M.B.A. in International Business from the Bentley Graduate School of Business.

Angela Williams is the Associate Director at the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she has worked on educational programs related to the Middle East and South Asia for campus and community audiences since 2008. A triple Illini, she earned her Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies and M.A. and B.A. in Linguistics at Illinois, and studied Arabic at the Arabic Language Institute at the American University in Cairo. She researches and teaches on applied, Educational Policy Studies and International Education, particularly as it relates to women, art, race and representation. Her book Hip Hop Harem (forthcoming any day now) explores the work of seven female rap artists from the Middle East and North Africa and the impact their music has on the experiences of women from the region.