Girl in cloud forest

The Xperitas board is an engaged, active governing body. Board members ensure we remain true to our mission of transforming lives through shared global experience and intercultural learning. Our board members are also personally committed to a vision of all people connected in one global community. 

Meet our Board of Directors

Supporting Nonprofit Language & Cultural Immersion

Jane Ditewig
Jane joined the Xperitas Board in 2021 but has been a beloved part of the Xperitas family for more than 25 years. Prior to her recent retirement, Jane taught high school and college level French in Longview, Washington for 45 years and during that time led students from R.A. Long High School on 19 programs to France with Xperitas. Jane had great undergraduate and graduate school classroom experiences but believes her most impactful education has been during her global immersion opportunities. From her study in Avignon during college to a year as a Fulbright teacher in Bethune and all the immersion experiences with her students, she gained an understanding of language immersion travel. She has seen firsthand how the Xperitas mission of Transforming lives through shared global experience and intercultural learning has enriched the lives of her students, people at her school and in their homestay community in France. When Jane looks back at her travel experiences and thinks of times that felt like cultural challenges in the moment, they now bring on smiles. She recalls her first dinner with her host family during her college study abroad when they were offering more food and she responded, “Non, merci. Je suis pleine” which literally means “full” but is colloquial for pregnant.
Kevin Dostal Dauer
Board Secretary
Kevin joined the Xperitas board in 2022 and currently works at the University of Minnesota as the Director of International Health, Safety, and Compliance. He discovered his passion for international travel and education only after overcoming an intense fear of flying from childhood. He has worked with inbound international students and outbound education abroad students in higher education for the past 20+ years. One highlight of his experience was spending a semester on an educational voyage that circumnavigated the globe, visiting fifteen ports in thirteen countries over four months. His career took a turn toward international health and safety not long after watching a ground crew at an airport in Vietnam “fix” the plane he was about to board by putting duct tape on the propeller. Dostal Dauer received his undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Minnesota, a Master’s Degree in Student Counseling and Personnel Services from Kansas State University, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Minnesota.
Lauren Eimers
Lauren joined the Xperitas Board in 2021. She currently serves on the leadership board for the WILD Network, a social enterprise providing leadership and professional development programming for women in the global development sector and has also served on the volunteer leadership team for the Minnesota International NGO Network. Lauren received a bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas and is a huge advocate for language education and cultural immersion.
Amy Fairchild
Board Treasurer
Amy is a native of the United Kingdom where she studied Marketing at Lancaster University and then went on to qualify as a Chartered Accountant (FCA). Since moving to the U.S., she has also qualified as a CPA and currently works in an innovation focused role designing and implementing auditing technology solutions in the Twin Cities. Amy specializes in international work and so has had the pleasure of working with people from all over the world every day.
One of Amy’s most formative travel experiences was backpacking through Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore for a few months when she was 18. It was her first experience travelling outside of Europe and she learned a lot of patience and respect for those different from herself. She also lived in the Caribbean before moving to the US, so appreciates the amazing experience of being able to immerse yourself in another cultures. Amy still travels extensively and though she has tried and is still trying, she does not speak any other languages with any fluency. She is passionate about the benefits of global experiences and learning and believes it is incredibly important for our children’s future as global citizens.
Carrie Ryan Gallia
Carrie Ryan Gallia is Senior Associate General Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel at the University of Minnesota, where she practices in student affairs and litigation. Prior to joining OGC, Carrie was an attorney at Lindquist & Vennum and, before that, at Fish & Richardson, both in Minneapolis. She graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a degree in English Literature and earned an M.F.A. in dramaturgy from the Columbia University School of the Arts. In 2008, Carrie received her J.D. summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School, where she served as a Managing Editor of the Minnesota Law Review, was a member of the Order of the Coif, and won the William B. Lockhart Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Leadership, and Service. After law school, Carrie served as a law clerk to Judge Carlos T. Bea on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to becoming an attorney, Carrie worked as a literary manager and dramaturg at theaters including The Wilma Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, and the Long Wharf Theatre. This is Carrie’s first board, non-profit or for profit, and she’s eager to be of service. She believes that in our increasingly global society, it is essential to develop authentic intercultural competence, and that the Xperitas approach to immersion does just that. She is excited by the opportunity to support Xperitas and its work of giving young people an opportunity to move beyond classroom learning to the experience of another culture through living with a local family and really using the language they've begun to learn in school.
Pam Harens
Pam joined the Xperitas Board in 2019 and is currently a high school Spanish teacher at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, MN. Her first trip to Spain was with Xperitas (then ISE) when she was a sophomore in high school and the friendships made on that trip continue to this day. Pam went on to St. Olaf College where she graduated with a BA in English and also received a BS in Spanish and Education and an MA in Education from the University of Minnesota. She has traveled to Mexico, Colombia, and various European countries, including Spain, where she lived and studied after graduating from college. She learned that immersing herself in Spain’s culture helped her understand that people basically are the same no matter what language they speak or where they live. Immersion has transformed her view of the world. As a Spanish teacher, Pam has taken her students to Spain and Mexico with Xperitas. Pam told us that, “Being able to serve as a board member seemed like one small way that I could pay back this organization that has enriched my life in such meaningful ways.”
Mike Hirschberg
Mike joined the Xperitas Board in 2018 and currently works as a Director for Northborne Partners, advising clients on mergers and acquisitions. Mike has served on the nonprofit Board of Directors for the Association of Corporate Growth’s Minnesota Chapter and recently joined the Citizen Diplomacy Research Group (CDRG). Mike received his Bachelor of Science from Indiana University in Bloomington and an MBA in Finance from American University’s Kogod School of Business. During his MBA program Mike was able to study and travel in Brazil, which was a great experience. He found that meeting people of various backgrounds and from various areas in Brazil helped awaken him to the vast cultural diversity within countries. Mike fell in love with the culture of Rio De Janeiro; it is his favorite city the in world.
Ben Ikeda
Ben graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Gustavus Adolphus College with a B.A. in Economics and Japanese Studies and received an M.B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He has worked as a private equity investor and investment banker working with founder and family-owned small businesses for more than 11 years.

Ben is passionate about the mission of Xperitas having experienced the value of language and cultural immersion firsthand when he studied abroad in Osaka, Japan during college. During his time studying in Japan, he was amazed by the country’s mix of modern and ancient cultures, which co-exist harmoniously. “In a city full of skyscrapers, you can find sites with cultural significance, like Shinto temples, that are hundreds of years old”. Additionally, when he was in middle school, his family hosted two youth soccer players from Mexico that were in the United States for a tournament. These experiences were critical to developing Ben’s strong sense of empathy, which he believes is a much needed and often underappreciated value in today’s growingly connected and diverse world. Ben believes that more people should have access to this type of learning experience and is excited to support an organization that shares that belief.
Kelly McGee
Kelly earned a dual BA in Russian and Slavic & East European Studies from West Virginia University; an MA in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from the University of Michigan; and a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of Pittsburgh. She is Director of the Center for Global Programs at Denison University, where she manages the day-to-day operations of Off-Campus Study, International Student Support, and Multilingual Learning.

Kelly wanted to join the board because she values Xperitas’ work in centering language acquisition as the foundation for cultural immersion, making language study and travel a reality for as many students as possible and, perhaps most importantly, viewing students’ global citizenship journeys as a responsibility and privilege to facilitate.

Kelly has had numerous educational, professional, and recreational language and cultural immersion experiences abroad, but believes that her time studying Russian as an undergraduate student at West Virginia University was the catalyst for every globally focused opportunity she has ever had. Her close relationship to her professor (now friend and colleague), Lisa Di Bartolomeo, was crucial to launching her journey as a global citizen because the language learning experience she enjoyed there was the lynchpin for a high-quality liberal arts education within the structure of a large state institution. She knows that Xperitas programs have been, and continue to be, life-altering for many participants—students and teachers—and feels empowered to be a part of providing this experience.
Tracy Rucker
Tracy Rucker is a native of Royston, Georgia, but was raised in Atlanta. He studied French at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee and it was there that he passionately learned to manipulate conditional sentences and nuanced subjunctive forms, honing his craft by embracing cultural anecdotes from the Francophone world. He graduated with a B.A. in French and later matriculated at Middlebury College where he also participated in theater and specialized in studies of the Francophone world. Mr. Rucker currently teaches all levels of French at Louisville Collegiate School in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to being an award-winning World Language teacher he has served as chair of the World Language department, president of AATF-KY and teacher representative for the Société Honoraire de Français. He is also a member of the National AATF Executive Council where he serves as Vice President for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. Mr. Rucker has led student trips to France and Quebec, organized French Exchange programs, and organized multicultural celebrations to recognize the vivacity of cultures in school communities. He believes that when learners are immersed in languages and cultures, they grow exponentially and often form lasting connections that endear them perpetually.
José Schimming
Board Chair Emeritas
José joined the Xperitas Board in 2014 and is currently a Vice-President of Mortgage Insurance Relations at Wells Fargo where he helps enable the dream of home ownership. José has been involved with various community organizations, including United Way, Centro Legal, La Escuelita and Early Resource and Training Center. José grew up in Mexico and was exposed to global volunteers who came to his community to volunteer for community projects. That experience created a passion for improving cross-cultural learning and understanding. Jose got his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School. He is passionate about traveling, improving cross-cultural understanding and community involvement.
Scott Vargo
Board Vice Chair
Scott came to Minnesota as a undergraduate at Macalester College where he studied Urban Geography. He also earned a Master of Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and will receive an MBA from the Carlson School of Management in May 2024. He currently works at the University of Minnesota in the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, where he leads the Hennepin-University Partnership (HUP). Scott is returning to the Xperitas Board after previously serving as a board member and officer from 2017-2020 and everyone is thrilled to welcome him back! Scott has traveled extensively and always independently. Charting paths in languages he does not know, learning from locals and forming new friendships, and making many mistakes along the way have helped him grow as an independent and self-assured individual. These types of global experiences - outside the perimeters of a resort or packaged tour - are, he believes, an effective way to encourage positive personal growth and cross-cultural communication in youth and adults. One of his life experiences that he considers most formative happened when he was 19 and traveled to Essaouira, a whitewashed seaside town in the French-speaking region of Morocco. He had just completed his 5th year of French language and was eager to practice. His hostel lost power one evening, and he spent that night playing card games by candlelight with the hostel manager – a French-speaking Moroccan. They talked late into the night – in French! He still feels so proud of that first full conversation with a native speaker in their own language.
Nick Vournakis
Board Chair
Nick joined the Xperitas Board in 2021 and has worked in the travel and tourism industry for CWT (formerly Carlson Wagonlit Travel) for 20 years. CWT focuses on B2B business travel and is one of the largest global management travel companies, serving many of the worlds Fortune 500 companies. Nick is responsible for CWT’s top 350 client relationships, a portfolio of over $1B in annual revenue. Through his work at CWT, Nick has been able to travel internationally quite extensively and has gained a deep appreciation for the value of cultural diversity. Nick is also a dedicated community volunteer and focuses 100% of his efforts on K-12 education. He currently sits on the Career and College Readiness Advisory Board for St. Louis Park High School. Nick sees Xperitas’ work as sitting at the crossroads of his personal passion and professional experience, offering him the opportunity to contribute to the development of local youth and help provide rich, life changing experiences. Nick graduated Summa Cum Laude from Miami University in Ohio with degrees in both Economics and Management Information Sciences.
Patrick Wallace
Patrick joined the Xperitas Board in 2021 and currently works as the Program Specialist for World Languages and Global Workforce Initiatives with the Georgia Department of Education. Prior to working for the Department of Education, Patrick was a German Language teacher in Georgia where he was twice named Teacher of the Year! As a student at Georgia Southern University, Patrick was the recipient of the first Fulbright Scholarship for a World Language student and was able to live and study in Vienna, Austria for a year. During that year he also volunteered as an English instructor at a local elementary school. The experience he had while in Austria was transformative for him. Patrick is a long-time advocate for making sure that international travel experiences are accessible to all students and is excited to bring his knowledge, experience, and perspective to the Xperitas Board.
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Xperitas is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting global citizenship through authentic language and cultural immersion experiences. We offer programs that inspire personal connections within a global community and provide transformational experiences for our participants.