A native of Muskegon, Michigan, Veronica has extensive experience in higher education, having worked for three different institutions since 1978. A member of the Georgia State University team since 1990, she has worked for the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services in the College of Education and in the Associate Provost’s Office. She is a member of the Alpha Lambda Chapter of Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars. Her international travel experiences include Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, and South Africa. Ms. Thomas manages the business affairs and human resources for the office.
Michelle Robinson, Administrative Assistant
Michelle Robinson has worked in the Office of International Initiatives since 2010. In her role, she provides administrative support to the Associate Provost for International Initiatives and the Business Manager, as well as strategic support for special projects and events for the various units in the office. Currently, Michelle is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Managerial Sciences in the J. Mack Robinson College of Business. Michelle has a deep appreciation for diversity and cultures. She is grateful for the international opportunities afforded to her as a Georgia State student. Michelle plans to travel internationally for the first time as a study abroad student in Spring 2017.
Communications and Marketing
Homma Rafi, Director of Communications
Homma oversees the communication, public relations and marketing portfolios for the Office of International Initiatives. She has over thirteen years of experience in writing for the media and academia, with a strong passion for international awareness and education. Before graduating with a B.A. in Journalism and Political Science from Emory University, she spent a summer abroad in South Africa with the University’s Journalism Program, where she worked as a writer for Cape Town’s daily newspaper, the Cape Argus. While earning her M.A. in Communication from Barry University in Miami, Florida, Homma served their Division of Student Affairs in a marketing research role for four years, in addition to providing support to the office of International and Multicultural Programs and the Honor’s Program’s China Study Abroad experience. Homma is excited to share her strengths and provide enthusiastic support towards the office’s and Georgia State University’s strategic plan.
International Partnerships and Agreements
Kike joined the Office of International Initiatives in 2003 as the Project Coordinator for the Ghana Tourism Capacity Development Initiative and simultaneously as Study Abroad Programs Advisor from 2004-2005. Kike manages the university’s international partnership agreements, internationalization grants such as the international strategic initiatives (ISI) seed grants, and more recently, the Faculty International Partnership Engagement (FIPE) grant, and special initiatives including the international Faculty Mentoring Program and the Global Gateway project. Kike also oversees partnership evaluation efforts including the coordination of multiple databases that capture international program data.
Prior to her employment at Georgia State, Kike served as the Institute Liaison and Team Lead for both the Institute of Gender and Health, and the Rural and Northern Health Strategic Programs, at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Ottawa, Canada. Kike holds Bachelors degrees from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria and Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Canada and a Masters degree in International Development Studies from St. Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada.
Kathleen coordinates the internal review and management of the university’s international agreements as well as the Faculty Mentoring Program. She also works closely with the Faculty International Partnership Engagement (FIPE) grant, Brazil and China Task Forces, and international delegations/visitors. She lived abroad for almost six years before joining the Office of International Initiatives, primarily in France with a brief stint in Brazil. During this time abroad, Kathleen was able to travel to 26 countries (Greece, Poland, and Tunisia among her favorites). After teaching English for three years in Saint-Etienne, France, she served as an Incoming Business Student Advisor and graduate assistant at UW-Madison and an Outgoing Student Officer at ESCP Paris. Her Bachelors degree is in French and Religion from the University of Georgia and she earned her Masters degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison in French with a concentration in International Education.
Danielle serves as the unit’s Data Steward. She manages the agreement database and generates reports that capture international partnerships. Danielle leads IPA’s transition to the unit’s new international relations management system by developing and managing training and referral documentation, establishing data integrity, and improving reporting procedures. From 2002-2013, Danielle worked for the United States Air Force as a Logistics Management Specialist at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio where she managed documentation and classification review for over 2,000 positions in the areas of training, career development and personnel management. She also provided administrative support to senior level Generals during Weapon System Reviews and Joint Logistics Boards. Danielle holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
Ahu Kostak-Bulat is the Strategic Partnerships Manager. Ahu has strategic and operational responsibility for coordinating and supporting programs and projects related to Turkey. She also serves as the Executive Director of the American Turkish Friendship Council and the Turkish Honorary Consulate General for Georgia to actively implement and coordinate educational, cultural, humanitarian, and business programs to improve relations between Turkey and the United States. In her previous positions she worked as the Consumer Rights and E-Business Relations Executive at Vestel Company and as Marketing and Sales Executive at Edpa USA and Altinyildiz Textile Company. Ahu is highly committed to implementing educational programs and working with organizations to provide equal access to proper education.
Ahu has a B.S. degree in International Relations, Ankara Siyasal, Turkey and an M.A. degree in European Studies from Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey. She has also completed coursework toward Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and has earned North Carolina teacher certification.
International Programs and Projects
Amanda joined the Office of International Initiatives in 2010 first as a Study Abroad Advisor and then as the Executive Assistant to the Associate Provost. Amanda manages many of the various international programs and projects that originate in OII, including student mobility programs, such as the Summer Institute; on-campus and community programming, such as International Education Week; and strategic projects in collaboration with on-campus and international partners. She earned her M.A. in Intercultural Relations from Lesley University and her B.A. in History and Global Studies from Middle Tennessee State University. She studied abroad in Germany and China and taught English in the Czech Republic. She has been a member of NAFSA: Association of International Educators since 2005, and she is the past Chair of the Financing Education Abroad Sub-Committee for NAFSA and the past Secretary-Treasurer and past Chair of the Advocacy Sub-committee for Georgia Association of International Educators (GAIE). She is also a graduate of NAFSA’s Academy Class 9.
Lingxi Gao, Graduate Research Assistant
Lingxi Gao, originally from China, serves as the Graduate Research Assistant for International Programs and Projects. She works closely with the partner universities in China on various international programs and projects. She coordinates the Summer Institute and China task force. In addition, Lingxi serves as the point of contact for students who are interested in partner programs between Georgia State University and universities in China. Pursuing her M.A. in Intercultural Communication at University of Maryland, Baltimore County provided her with various opportunities and skills to connect with people from different cultural background and prepared her to communicate effectively in both Chinese and U.S. cultures. Lingxi loves to take pictures of fun cultural facts and murals.
Dr. Mary Helen O’Connor, Senior Faculty Associate for Perimeter College
Dr. Mary Helen O’Connor serves as the Senior Faculty Associate for Perimeter College in the Office of International Initiatives. In this role, she is responsible for managing the international initiatives portfolio, including global experiences for Perimeter College students, at all five campuses. The University’s strategic plan seeks international distinction in globalizing Georgia State University. This position will provide Perimeter College faculty, staff, and students further access to the programs, partnerships, events, and activities supported by the Office of International Initiatives. In this role, Mary Helen has dual reporting to the dean and vice provost of Perimeter College and the associate provost for International Initiatives.
Since 2010 Mary Helen has served as an Assistant Professor with Perimeter College’s Department of English, mainly on its Clarkston campus. She holds a Ph.D in Rhetoric and Composition from Georgia State University and the topic of her dissertation was on the refugee experience, specifically with Somali women. Mary Helen has a passion for international education. She has long been involved with international programs at Perimeter College and has integrated that into her teaching.
Study Abroad Programs
Stephen Murray, Senior Study Abroad Advisor, Interim Director
In addition to advising students, Stephen Murray works on events like the Broadening Horizons panel and Passport Day, as well as behind-the-scenes processes like health clearance and study abroad insurance.
Stephen is a graduate of Georgia State University, with Master’s degrees in Anthropology and Applied Linguistics. He participated in Georgia State’s Tsinghua University Exchange in addition to having studied abroad in Erlangen, Germany as an undergraduate German major at Georgia Southern University. In addition to his academic experience he has worked in customer service and operations fields and the travel industry. Over the years he has travelled to the United Kingdom, Norway, Italy, Switzerland, France, Mexico, Ireland, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Thailand, Belize, the Czech Republic, and China.
Emily Caskey, Study Abroad Advisor
Emily Caskey completed her Master’s degree in German Literature at the University of Georgia. As an undergraduate German and History major she studied abroad in Rostock, Germany through a UGA exchange program. In addition to her academic year abroad, she interned in Berlin at the U.S. Embassy. In her role as a Study Abroad Advisor at Georgia State she hopes to encourage curiosity and prepare students to benefit personally, academically, and professionally from study abroad.
Bryan Johnson, Study Abroad Advisor
Bryan Johnson is a graduate of Georgia State University, where he received his B.A. in English, with a concentration in British and American Studies. During his time at Georgia State, Bryan was a part of the joint studies exchange program with the University of Northumbria in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he studied for an academic year. As well as being a study abroad alum, Bryan has also worked as a student assistant and intern in the office prior to assuming his current role as a Study Abroad Advisor. He hopes to help students find their own path and encourages every student to consider studying abroad during their time as a Panther. When not working with Study Abroad Programs, he enjoys traveling, spending time with his friends and family, and exploring nature.