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Meet Our Current Graduate Students


Among the many things you’ll find exciting about the UMBC Intercultural Communication (INCC) Program are the wide range of career opportunities and the interesting people you’ll discover here. This diversity gives you the opportunity to meet and learn with students pursuing a variety of career goals, yet who share common interests and background in language and culture. INCC students come from diverse cultural, social, economic, and educational backgrounds. Each student enriches the program and larger campus culture with his or her varied life story and experiences, and the classroom serves as an intercultural laboratory to explore and learn with others. INCC provides a supportive educational environment where individual difference are valued, allowing all students to achieve and contribute to their full potential.

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            Accelerated BA/MA Students

 Michelle Coleman


Hola! My name is Michelle Coleman, and I was born and raised in Columbia, Maryland. Growing up between Baltimore and the nation’s capital, I’ve always had a love for language, culture, and diversity.

I graduated from Howard Community College (HCC) in 2012 with an Associate’s degree in Spanish Language, and will graduate from UMBC this December with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and a minor in Applied Linguistics. I worked with international students at HCC’s English Institute as a Teacher’s Assistant and Conversation Partner. Additionally, I co-founded and served as President of HCC’s International Club whose purpose was to embrace, explore, and celebrate the different cultures and countries of college students. I have also volunteered at UMBC’s English Language Institute for multiple semesters, and am currently working as a substitute teacher for local elementary schools.

I’m part of the Accelerated BA/MA program for Intercultural Communication (INCC), allowing me to take graduate level courses as an undergraduate student. I applied for the program early in my senior year (but you can apply during your junior year!) at UMBC, so my final upper-level language classes will count towards both my undergraduate and future graduate degrees. This saves both time and tuition costs, allowing me to reach my goals much faster than the traditional route. I’m also hoping to pursue the graduate certificate in TESOL.

Eventually, I hope to teach English as a Second Language in Latin America, especially in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands. I’m also interested in pursuing the fields of Bilingual Education, Translation, and Diversity Training. The Accelerated BA/MA Program will get me there sooner! Contact Info:

Mark von Heeringen 

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Saludos! My name is Mark von Heeringen. I was born in Honolulu, HI but have lived in Germantown, MD for most of my life. Growing up in the DMV, I have come to know and appreciate the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity that the region has to offer, ultimately fostering my passion for studying language and culture

I have just finished my junior year at UMBC and will graduate in Spring 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish Language. Over the years, I have held various positions at the school including tutoring at the LRC (Learning Resources Center), volunteering at the English Language Institute, and even serving as the president of the School’s Jujitsu Club, hi-ya!! As of late, my focus has shifted towards private tutoring due to time and financial constraints, though I am sure that is subject to change as I continue my studies and become more ingrained in the UMBC community.

I’m part of the Accelerated BA/MA program for Intercultural Communication (INCC), allowing me to take graduate level courses as an undergraduate student. Per the recommendation of my academic advisor, I applied for the program early in my junior year at UMBC and took my first graduate course this past Spring. My final upper-level language classes will count towards both my undergraduate and future graduate degrees. This saves both time and money, allowing me to obtain the diploma much faster than by traditional means.

Eventually, I hope to travel abroad and put my language skills to the test. I would like to teach Spanish as a second language and live somewhere outside of the U.S. to broaden my worldview. The idea of working in Conflict Resolution and International Product Marketing also greatly interests me. The insanity of pursuing a doctoral degree has also crossed my mind! Whatever I should choose, The Accelerated BA/MA Program will get me there sooner! Contact Info:



             MA Students

Kathryn Barrett


From an early age, I have been fascinated by language, culture, and travel. I graduated from Goucher College in 2007 with a double major in French and International Relations and was fortunate enough to spend a semester studying in Paris and traveling around France and the rest of Europe. Once I graduated, I worked for an international foreign exchange organization, but knew I needed to get back overseas. I participated in the IFE internship program in Paris in 2011 and upon its completion, obtained a job as a Programme Assistant at UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning, which allowed me to remain in Paris. Passionate about intercultural exchange and understanding, I returned to the U.S. to attend the INCC program at UMBC where I also teach entry-level French to undergraduate students. After I complete my degree, I would like to help others in intercultural situations recognize and understand cultural differences in order to avoid miscommunications that could hinder understanding and cooperation. Contact info:

Zachary Barnetzke

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Hello. My name is Zachary Barnetzke. I was born and (mostly) raised in beautiful Wisconsin, where I just recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse with an undergraduate degree in French in May 2015. I became enamored with language and culture at quite a young age and, since then, my interest for these subjects has only continued to grow and diversify.

Being a huge language nerd, I would learn every language on this planet, if I had the time. Learning and reading about various languages are without any doubt my biggest hobbies. In addition to French, I can speak German, as well as some Russian. My next language goal is Finnish, because I find Finland’s history, culture, and, of course, language very interesting.

Having travelled around various parts of North America, I also spent one year abroad in Nancy, France, where I was a student at the Université de Lorraine. I greatly enjoyed my time abroad, as I had the opportunity to not only explore parts of France, but also other European countries. Mixed into my travels were many wonderful people from all over the world as well, who introduced me to new ways of perceiving the world we share.

All of this combined translates into the very reason for which I am so excited to pursue my Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication as a graduate teaching assistant at UMBC. Not only will this program allow me to continue to grow as an individual, but it will also allow me to share my passion for language learning and culture, as well as learn to help build understanding between people with different language and cultural backgrounds in a world that is becoming more connected. Contact info:

Kellie Bland


I graduated from Elon University in 2007 with a major in Broadcast Communications and a minor in Spanish. I was bitten by the culture and travel bug after studying abroad in Mexico and Spain while in college. In addition to being in the INCC program, I am a Shriver Peaceworker Fellow at UMBC. I spent two years (2010-2012) in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua. While there I taught English to high school students and I faced many difficult intercultural challenges. After returning to the U.S. I felt that the INCC program was a good fit for me and aligned with all the things that I learned and enjoyed while living in Nicaragua. I am currently working at The Friends of Patterson Park in Southeast Baltimore, assisting the Hispanic Liaison with various events and activities for the Spanish-speaking community. After I complete my degree I would like to help others through difficult intercultural situations and allow them to see the world through multiple lenses.  Contact info:

Alexandria Clay


Hi, I’m Alexandria. I have just completed my first year in the INCC program and I am getting ready to start my second year. This coming fall I will be a graduate assistant and will be teaching undergraduate Spanish. I love this program because not only have I learned about how and why different cultures view the world and interact with others in different ways but also how and why my own culture does the same. This understanding has enlightened me and I look forward to what I will learn in this coming year.  Contact info:

Christina Crise


I am a 2006 graduate of Washington College with a major in French Studies and minors in Anthropology and Creative Writing. I also obtained my Secondary Education certification. I had the opportunity to study abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France my junior year of college and was able to also visit many different countries in Europe while there. I currently teach French at a high school in Howard County, Maryland. I hope to instill in my students the same love for French that my teachers gave me. When it came time to choose a graduate program, I knew I wanted something that mixed languages and culture together. My research very quickly led me to the Intercultural Communications program at UMBC and from there the decision was easy. This degree has helped me open my mind even further to the varying cultures that make up our world and I will be able to bring the lessons that I learn here in to my own classroom for the benefit of my students. Contact info:

Patricia Davila


I graduated from UMBC in spring of 2011 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in photojournalism and social issues. During my undergraduate career, I had the opportunity to do my capstone research in Perú, where I did a photojournalistic study on Andean identity in Lima. This visual thesis drew many concepts from intercultural communication, and so I was intrigued when I learned of the INCC graduate program. After graduation, I went on to work in the field of health care, where I faced many challenges with collecting medical records for foreign patients, and trying to submit a translated version of these records to health advisers and doctors. It was through this process that I realized how difficult it can be for the immigrant community in the U.S. to access appropriate, interculturally competent health care, whether it is because of intimidation due to status, or discomfort with assimilation into the English language. I came to the conclusion that immediate and frequent urgent health care needs do not wait for linguistic adjustment or cultural assimilation, and any misunderstanding or misinterpretation between the patient and provider can lead to the wrong treatment, or even death in severe cases. It is because of this realization that I will be pursuing a concentration in policy, in an effort to make a difference in the health care industry when it comes to serving immigrant families with limited proficiency in English. In my spare time, I like to cook, take photos, and most of all, travel as often as possible. My most recent trip was to Morocco and I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon! Contact info:

Amina Didich


My name is Amina Didich, from Morocco. I graduated in 2014 from Kenitra, Morocco. I am a Master degree holder in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL). I have been teaching Arabic, French and English for eight years. This coming fall I will start graduate assistantship with UMBC. I will be teaching undergraduate Arabic. My interest in pursuing graduate studies in Intercultural communication emanates from several factors which have affected me. First, I am a multilingual student, fluent in Arabic, French, Tamazight (local indigenous Moroccan language) and English. I have been exposed to intercultural experiences in France, Germany and United Arab Emirates where I lived for one year. While traveling here and there, I have experienced many intercultural conflicts especially in the European countries I visited. Fascinated by languages and cultural exchange, I believe that the MA program in Intercultural communication will enhance the western intercultural competency through my exposure to the American culture. Contact info:

Carolina Felipes Porco


I grew up in a bilingual Quechua-Spanish community, which had two prevailing social norms: one based on nature and community and another in which social status and physical appearance were crucial. I often asked myself if this was the case in other cultures, so I pursued a degree in Linguistics in my hometown, Cochabamba, Bolivia. During and after my studies, I taught Spanish, Quechua and English. I also assisted customers from different countries in a telecommunications company and interpreted for health educators from the US. While learning English I spent 18 months in the US to gain a good insight of its culture. I have also lived in Ireland and travelled in Europe. Living abroad and learning languages have given me a deep understanding of complex multicultural environments. In this sense, the MA program in Intercultural Communication perfectly fits my interests: teaching, languages, different cultures, interpreting and travelling. I feel I would be a perfect candidate for teaching linguistic matters at university level and a researcher at organizations, such as PROEIB Andes, that support bilingual education, conservation and revitalization of minority languages. Contact info:

José Gomez


I graduated from Universitat Autónoma of Barcelona in 2013 with a degree in Translation and Interpreting. I have worked as an English and Spanish teacher for non-native speakers in Spain for more than four years and I have also helped in the translation of the international website of a Spanish publishing house.

I am passionate about languages, and since I was born in a town close to Barcelona, I grew up with both Spanish and Catalan, as these two languages are spoken in the Spanish region of Catalonia. Later on, I started studying English and French, and my next goal is German.

I chose Translation because I find it fascinating to be able to convey a particular culture to another one by means of words, which is no easy task in most cases. In the future I would like to devote my career to translation, proofreading and teaching, although I also feel drawn to the fields of international relations and cultural diffusion.

For me, pursuing a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication at UMBC will mean experiencing most of what I will learn in my own skin, since I will be a foreign student surrounded by another culture: it will no doubt be a fully real-life experience. I believe this Master’s degree will provide me with the skills and knowledge with which I will best be able to contribute to our increasingly globalized world. Contact info:

Yu Hao


Hi, my name is Yu Hao and I am currently a graduate student of INCC. The reason I chose INCC program is that I experienced many intercultural conflicts or stereotypes while communicating with my friends from other countries. Moreover, I found out that there were even intercultural conflicts between Chinese people from different areas. Apart from my graduate study at UMBC, I am also a teaching assistant teaching undergraduate Chinese for the MLL Department and the Chinese mentor of the ILE program. I am doing the Intercultural Training Track in INCC program as well as the TESOL certificate. After graduation, I would like to help people gain a better understanding of others, especially communication with Chinese people. More important, people should realize that intercultural communication cannot be ignored anymore and people should be much more open-minded to different cultures. Contact info:

Beatriz Hernández Moreno

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Hi! I am from Granada (Spain). I have an undergraduate degree in Translation and Interpreting, a Master in Legal Translation, and a Master in Teaching of Spanish as a Foreign Language. My long-life ambition is to pursue a Ph.D. in Linguistics and Language Teaching and I believe the INCC program at UMBC will help me prepare for this future challenge. I have been fascinated by languages and cultural exchanges since I started studying my first foreign language (English) at the age of six. Since then, other than Spanish, my mother tongue, I have studied five modern foreign languages, plus Latin and Ancient Greek. My thirst for knowledge was the doorway to my specialization in language acquisition, and after having studied at language summer schools abroad since I was thirteen and having lived and worked abroad in five different countries, it was inevitable that I would fall in love with language teaching and firmly decide to make it my career. Having worked as a teacher of modern languages for many years now, I like to think of language teachers as everyday ambassadors that willing and unselfishly bridge countries and societies. I have come to appreciate that language learning processes always go hand in hand with cultural and social learning, and having the opportunity to pass on my knowledge and enthusiasm is a task that I can happily undertake for the rest of my days. For me, there is no greater achievement than awaking in students the desire to keep learning, to be curious and to always value knowledge not only as a means to develop their professional skills but also as a source of personal happiness. I can’t wait to guide students through their own discoveries of what other languages and cultures have to offer and be part of the academic community that devotes itself to make this a reality every day. Contact info:

Karen Legion


Nine years ago, I found myself taking a huge leap of faith by spending a year in the United States under the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (KL-YES). As a 15-year-old sent to a completely foreign environment and taken out of my comfort zone in almost all ways imaginable, I knew I was in for an adventure that will forever change my life.

From being a 10th grader at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, volunteering with members and officers of the Peace Corps Alumni Foundation for Philippine Development, promoting my Filipino heritage with fellow exchange students, to learning the American way of life through my host family and newfound friends, I’d say that taking the risk paid off.

After completing the exchange program, I went back to my homeland and earned my bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication at the Univers­­ity of the Philippines.

It did not take long before I accepted a job offer from GMA Network, Incorporated. I started as a program researcher for the investigative arm of different news programs and eventually got promoted as a segment producer for a primetime evening newscast. In my two years with the broadcasting company, I was exposed to several issues haunting our country, like poverty, corruption, natural disasters, and abuse of human rights. My desire to explore my country’s culture heightened when I not only immersed myself into the daily rigors of TV production (interviewing, scripting, editing) but also had near-death experiences during my field work encounters with indigenous tribes and masterminds of dubious non-government organizations.

As an incoming graduate student in Intercultural Communication this fall semester, I’m looking forward to share about Tagalog, my mother tongue, while studying about other languages. To be surrounded with and learning from people who are just as passionate in bridging cultural understanding would be an opportunity of a lifetime.  Contact info:

Molly Lemoine


My name is Molly Lemoine, and I come to UMBC from the beautiful Hudson Valley region of New York State as a Peaceworker Fellow at the Shriver Center. Following undergraduate study in Political Science and French at Syracuse University, I joined the Peace Corps and spent the next two years serving as a university English teacher in the republics of Guinea and Mali, West Africa. After completing my Peace Corps service, I worked for a USAID economic development project in Bamako, Mali. Passionate about intercultural collaboration and understanding, I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication at UMBC. I am also the graduate coordinator for cultural programs in Student Life’s Mosaic Center for Cultural and Spiritual Diversity, focusing on student outreach and programming. I am excited to make connections on campus and in the Baltimore community to promote cultural awareness, as well as facilitate an environment that celebrates learning and sharing among students of all backgrounds. After completing my studies at UMBC, I hope to start a career in international development, preferably focusing on education development in West Africa. Contact info:

Ogonna Owu

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I’m Igbo-American. Growing up in a large multilingual, multicultural family and having various overseas opportunities to volunteer, study, work, travel and visit relatives provided the foundation for my love of learning various languages and cultures to flourish. I graduated from the University of California, Davis in 2008 with a major in Psychology and a double minor in Education and English. During the last quarter of my senior year, I was able to study abroad through a Spanish language and Argentine culture immersion program in Mendoza, Argentina. I loved the experience! After graduation, I later had another chance to live overseas for a year to work in Namyangju, South Korea as a foreign English teacher. Residing in Korea really helped to solidify my career interests in the international and/or cross-cultural field. I initially was interested in international education masters programs. However, I later discovered that unlike the other schools’ programs, UMBC’s INCC program requires students to take courses offered in a foreign language; which sealed the deal for me. Having those graduate classes in Spanish will not only keep my foreign language skills relevant; but, show potential employers that I have a great command of the language to be able to work in multi-lingual environments. After I complete my masters degree, I aim to work in either of the following areas: as an advisor in a university’s office for international student services, study abroad or international admissions; a government agency such as the State Department domestically or overseas; or an international/cross-cultural consulting firm. Contact info: or

Maria Mueller


Since I was a child, I have enjoyed traveling, getting to know new languages and cultures. I was born and raised in Germany so I first got to know the European countries. After finishing high school I took my first trip to the US. I was an Au Pair here in Maryland and that was when I first fell in love with the multicultural society that constantly grows and changes here on the East coast of the United States. I was just amazed how many people of diverse cultural backgrounds you can meet in one place. Ever since that time I kept on coming back to the US East Coast even though I did my undergraduate degree in education in Germany. After I got my bachelor’s degree in education I worked for one year at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia as a Language Instructor for the German program. There I got a true experience of how it is to work with colleagues from all around the world. I had a wonderful learning experience by teaching my own culture and language to American students next to faculty from Italy, France, Spain, China, Saudi Arabia and other countries. During this time I realized that I wanted to continue my education in this intercultural field and therefore the INCC program was the perfect program. The classes have given me a deeper understanding for intercultural communication and I have acquired intercultural competency especially through the training track. After I complete my degree I would like to work as an intercultural trainer to help others communicate efficiently across diverse cultural backgrounds. Contact info:

Shannon Pierre-Jerome


My undergraduate years were spent locally at Towson University where I received my Bachelors of Arts in Foreign Languages. After graduating in 2009, I then served in Peace Corps Macedonia for 2 years as a Primary English Teacher. Needless to say, my time abroad was extremely rewarding and among all things, it led me to the Intercultural Communication Program at UMBC. I’m thrilled to be a part of this program as well as the Shiver’s Peaceworker Fellowship. In addition to my graduate studies, I will serve as the graduate reading and writing tutor at the English Language Institute on campus. And besides being an ambitious learner, I am also a part-time world traveler, full -time day dreamer, aspiring soccer star and a proud sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. With that said, I look forward to establishing great relationships at UMBC and within the Baltimore community as I continue to map out and develop my future. Contact info:

Saulio Saleta-González 


Following a long journey that went through my birth country Venezuela, and my father’s Dominican Republic, I came to the US to continue my professional education. After having completed a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech and having worked for twelve years for a general contractor in Maryland and surrounding states, I was craving to work in more direct connection solving social problem, studying and teaching issues such as cultural, ethnic and class difference. I decided to become a more humanistic professional by exploring the fields of intercultural communication and foreign language education.  Having lived and worked for sixteen years in the USA, as a Latin-American immigrant and as a professional in the multicultural construction industry, has given me the opportunity to interact with people of nationalities as diverse as Americans, Dominicans, Egyptians, Eritreans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, Filipinos and Salvadorians, among others. I have been able to observe mine and others’ experiences to grasp how relations between fellows of multiple backgrounds are affected by their interaction in a world, more than ever before, characterized by language, culture, ethnic, and gender differentiation dominated by power structures. I thought that a master program combining language education with the comprehensive study of intercultural communication would make the perfect fit for me. Currently, I am also a Spanish educator for the MLL Department. My plans after graduation include integrating my research in multicultural and language education with my teaching of Spanish, critical thinking and intercultural communication. Contact info:

Maria Smith


I came to love French as a result of the passion of my French instructors throughout high school and my undergraduate career, where I was fortunate to be in a program that focused on all francophone cultures. I graduated from Hood College in 2012 with degrees in French and Political Science, along with a certification in Secondary Education. During my time at Hood I studied abroad in Toulouse, France. My undergraduate research dealt with integration and identity of second generation immigrants from the Maghreb in France.

After completing my undergraduate studies, I taught French in Frederick, Maryland. This experience made me realize that I wanted to delve deeper in to French and francophone cultures in order to create a more authentic educational experience for my French studies. I spent two months living outside of Cap Haïtien, Haiti, where I taught English and learned Haitian Creole. This was followed by a year of teaching English in Avignon, France, with the Teaching Assistant Program in France. I returned to Maryland in the fall of 2014 to teach French at an all-girls independent school outside of Baltimore, a position I will continue to hold as I complete this program. I am very excited to be part of the INCC program and to have the opportunity to combine my passions education, social justice, and francophone studies.  Contact info:

Paula Villanueva


I was born in Madrid (Spain) but by the time I was 12 I had spent half of my life living in Lisbon (Portugal) and I spoke fluently Spanish, Portuguese and English since I studied for three years in an American school. Even though I had been a Science student in High School, back in Spain I decided to set my “creative beast” free and graduated with honors from Istituto Europeo di Design in 2008 with a major in Digital Design. I then moved to Marseille (France) where I lived for 8 months working as a freelance photographer and a Spanish teacher and where I learned and improved my French. I guess that after my experiences living abroad, and all the things I discovered traveling around the world, multiculturalism finally burst forth: I decided to register as a full-time Translation and Interpreting student in Universidad Autónoma de Madrid where I graduated from in 2013 with a major in Literary Translation and a minor in Arabic. During my undergraduate studies, I received a grant to study for a semester in São Paulo (Brazil) where I explored Arabic language and philosophy. I was later offered an internship working in the Spanish Department of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, evaluating and translating documentation on international conflict resolution and development projects. For these last two years I have grown personally and professionally as a freelance translator and a volunteer translator for several publications on sociocultural issues especially in North Africa. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to join the INCC program and to hopefully manage to “contaminate” others with the intercultural bug that once bit me! Contact info: