Ilir Zherka joined the Alliance for International Exchange as Executive Director in 2016. Ilir and staff are leading the effort to deepen the work of the Alliance by: creating coalitions and advocacy working groups; initiating local engagement efforts; organizing program impact reports; conducting media outreach; developing best practice workshops; and launching an annual conference.
Ilir is a life-long civil and human rights leader. He has served as the Executive Director of three other organizations, where he worked on a bipartisan basis to help end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, advance DC representation in Congress, and launch the Service Year Alliance. Ilir gained policy and political experience working with Congressman George Miller, serving as an advisor to four presidential campaigns, and as a political appointee in the Clinton Administration.
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.
Senior Director for Policy and External Relations
Sue Yang is Senior Director for Policy and External Relations. She joined the Alliance for International Exchange in 2018. She has experience in public affairs and public policy in the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as public and private sectors.
Her private sector experience includes advising on communications, policy, and public affairs strategies. Previously, she served as Director of External Relations for the International Republican Institute, overseeing legislative affairs. During her time there, she also represented the organization as an accredited election observer in Egypt and Georgia.
As a political appointee in President George W. Bush Administration, Sue served as Director for Senate Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, advising on legislative affairs strategy. Her executive branch experience includes serving as Special Assistant to the Director at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
In addition to experience in political campaigns, public affairs firm, and public policy research institution, Sue worked on Capitol Hill in various capacities, including as a policy aide for the Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Sue is originally from Taiwan and grew up in Pennsylvania. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley.
Associate Director for Public and Member Affairs
Laine Cavanaugh is our Associate Director for Public and Member 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.
External Relations Associate
Andrea Bodine joined the Alliance for International Exchange as External Relations Associate 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.
Selena joined the Alliance in September 2019. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2017 as a member of the History Distinguished Majors Program. Before joining the Alliance, Selena worked at the School of the New York Times and then as a publicist in New York City. She understands firsthand the necessity of cultural exchange through her experiences as an Au Pair in Paris, France and as an exchange student at University of Edinburgh.
Selena is originally from Charlottesville, Virginia.
Gabrielle Cascio joined the Alliance for International Exchange as a Program Fellow in September 2019. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree from The George Washington University in English and International Affairs with a focus on international education and contemporary cultures. Prior to joining the Alliance, Gabrielle worked as a Program Director for Learning Enterprises, managing a group of university students on an English language teaching exchange in northern Romania. During her time as an undergraduate, she has had the opportunity to study abroad in London and intern at several education-centered organizations across Washington, D.C.
Gabrielle is originally from Kingwood, New Jersey.