Ilir Zherka joined the Alliance for International Exchange as Executive Director in 2016. Ilir and staff are leading the effort to promote exchange programs by creating coalitions and advocacy working groups; initiating local engagement efforts; organizing program impact reports; conducting media outreach; and expanding the Alliance’s an annual conference.
Ilir has dedicated his career to serving the public interest. He has been the Executive Director of three other nonprofit organizations, where he worked on initiatives including advocacy and international issues. Ilir gained policy and political experience working on Capitol Hill, serving as an advisor to five presidential campaigns, and as a political appointee in the Executive Branch.
Ilir is the author of Winning the Inside Game: The Handbook of Advocacy Strategies. He has testified before Congress and has appeared on a wide-range of television and radio news programs. As a recognized community leader, Ilir has received numerous awards including the Whitney M. Young Jr. Leadership Award and the Exponent Award.
Ilir has personal experience with exchange programs. He was an IREX fellow in Albania and helped to create the Hope Fellowship program. Ilir is a graduate of Cornell University and the University of Virginia School of Law.
Ilir is Albanian-American. He immigrated as a child with his family to the United States, speaks Albanian, and grew up in New York City.
Director of External Affairs
Laine Cavanaugh is our Director of External Affairs. She joined in June 2016 after graduating from American University with a M.A. in International Communication and a concentration in Transnational Education. During her time in graduate school, Laine completed internships at IREX and World Learning. She also traveled to Kenya to conduct original fieldwork in non-formal schools surrounding Nairobi. Prior to graduate school, Laine participated in City Year, an AmeriCorps program, where she was a mentor for underserved youth in West Philadelphia. As an undergraduate at Ursinus College, Laine had the opportunity to study abroad in Wollongong, Australia while pursuing her B.A. degree in Media & Communication Studies.
Laine is originally from Reedsville, Pennsylvania, and has achieved research proficiency in Arabic.
Senior Manager for Policy and Government Relations
Andrea Bodine joined the Alliance for International Exchange in early 2018. Prior to joining the Alliance, she was a transatlantic community analyst intern at The Streit Council for a Union of Democracies, a small international affairs think tank. She holds a Master’s degree in European Studies from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium with a focus on European foreign policy and globalization. Andrea had previously studied abroad at KU Leuven while pursuing her B.A. in Global Studies and Economics at Loyola University Maryland, where she was a Presidential Scholar.
Andrea is originally from Hagerstown, Maryland.
Senior Associate, External Affairs
Gabrielle Cascio originally joined the Alliance as a Program Fellow and then Program Assistant in 2019. Prior to her return to the organization, Gabrielle was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Sliven, Bulgaria and an Internship Placement Specialist at 2U. She completed her B.A. in English and International Affairs at The George Washington University, where she participated in and helped facilitate cultural exchange programs.
Gabrielle is originally from Frenchtown, New Jersey.