Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA) was founded in 2008 by American business people who have extensive experience living overseas; as a result, they understood first‐hand the value of studying abroad and the need for more young Americans from diverse backgrounds to gain valuable, international experience.


With ambitious plans to unite and empower more deserving youth across the US, APSA’s Board of Directors are professionals from diverse fields who are passionate about our mission and are fully dedicated to the success of the organization. 



APSA Board of Directors

James Vena is an innovative thinker and global entrepreneur who has influenced key decision-makers around the globe in strategic development, growth, leadership, and investment. He is respected for his unique and global perspectives, big ideas, team building, partnerships and methodical execution of a strategic plan. James’ s career started as a China trader of commodities in the early 1980's for a large trading house. He left his job to start his own trading company SATCORP at 26, and over the next 20 years, he developed the company into an internationally recognized entity with offices in 15 countries, achieving sales over USD 1 Billion before it was sold. After taking a sabbatical in 2005 to care for his cancer-stricken wife and help raise his two children, James decided to re-enter the business world in 2010. James’s entrepreneurial mindset combined with a gift of articulation and unique style of communication enables him to turn ideas into easy to understand and marketable undertakings. Mr. Vena is an ethical culturist that practices benevolent capitalism and teaches socially conscious entrepreneurship. He attributes his successes to his mentors and practicing of intellectual humility. He also now mentors these core principals to groups, individual and aspiring entrepreneurs worldwide.

Langston received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania and graduated from CET's Mandarin language program in Harbin, China. He lived in Beijing for 5 years working in marketing and public relations. It was during this time that Langston began getting involved with APSA sharing his experiences working abroad with APSA Scholars as a Young Professional Speaker. Langston is now based in the San Francisco Bay area working as a software engineer. He continues to support APSA in marketing and branding strategies and officially joined the Board in 2015.

Ted Dean is a founder of APSA and has extensive international business experience, with over a decade of doing business in Asia. Ted was the President and Managing Director of BDA, a consulting firm based in Beijing, China, where he advised companies and investors on their businesses in Asia.  He is a former Chair of the American Chamber of Commerce in China and former board member of the 100,000 Strong Foundation. 


Ted received his BA from Yale College and his MBA from the University of Chicago. Born and raised in Washington, DC, he now resides in his home state.

Cynthia Ning is Associate Director of the University of Hawaii’s Center for Chinese Studies, US director of its Confucius Institute, and author of the innovative textbooks Encounters: Chinese Language & Culture Books 1-4 (Yale University Press, 2011 and forthcoming; co-published with the China International Publishing Group), Exploring in Chinese (Yale, 2008) and Communicating in Chinese (Yale, 1993), the first under the sponsorship of Yale University and the China International Publishing Group, and the latter two developed with multi-year grants from the US Department of Education. She teaches regular and experimental first- through fourth-year Chinese language courses, a Chinese film course, and an interdisciplinary course on China at the University of Hawai‘i. She has been president and executive director of the US-based Chinese Language Teachers Association (CLTA) and the local Chinese Language Education Association of Hawaii, as well as of the Hawaii Association of Language Teachers, and frequently presents or conducts workshops both nationally and internationally on task-based language education. She holds a PhD in Chinese literature from the U of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI.

Michael lived and worked in Beijing for nearly 15 years and is currently based in Rochester, New York. In Beijing, Mike practiced corporate law with international law firms where he represented both foreign and Chinese companies and individuals in M&A transactions, media and entertainment projects, and private equity and regulatory matters in China across many industry sectors. He advised clients on structuring complicated cross-border investments in regulated industries in China, including aviation, telecommunications, film and media, life sciences, publishing, mining, and real estate. He also represented clients involved in crisis situations that required coordinated cross-border government relations strategies in connection with government investigations, IP theft, employee scandals, accounting fraud allegations, and Chinese regulatory issues and potential public scandals.

Mike is the former Co-Chair of the American Chamber of Commerce Legal Committee and former Chair of the Media and Entertainment Forum. Earlier in his career, Mr. Dardzinski also founded the first annotated online Chinese legal research database, which he eventually sold to Thomson/Westlaw. He also co-founded Project Homeless Connect Rochester (PHCR) in his hometown Rochester, NY. PHCR has become the largest one-day comprehensive homeless service day in Rochester, NY for the homeless or those at-risk of homelessness.

Robert Roche serves as President of Roche Enterprises. For more than 30 years, Roche has lived and worked in Asia, founding companies, investing in start-ups, and representing the United States through his service in the American Chambers of Commerce in Japan and China, and as a member of the U.S. Trade Representative’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (2010-2014). Active in philanthropy, Roche has supported several non-profit enterprises dedicated to strengthening U.S.-Asia relations, including the US-China Strong Foundation, an initiative to increase the number of American students studying in China, the Center for New American Security, a foreign policy think tank, the U.S. National Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo (2010), and international studies programs at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan and the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law. more

AK Ikwuakor is an entrepreneur, educator, former All- American athlete, international speaker, and coach who has worked with thousands of students, athletes and corporate executives from around the world. Through his travels to over 30 countries, AK has used his background in sports, storytelling, and entrepreneurship to build stronger communities, help individuals share their stories, and provide opportunities for youth around the world to recognize their full potential.


AK was a former Division 1 two-sport athlete and four-time All-American athlete from the University of Oregon holding school records and top-ten world rankings in the 4x400 meter relay. In 2011, AK became the Nigerian National champion and the indoor record holder in the 400-meter hurdles and went on to represent his parents’ home country of Nigeria in the 2012 African Championships in the Benin Republic.

As an entrepreneur and business development consultant, he’s worked in the areas of sports diplomacy, fashion and apparel, international affairs, and youth empowerment.

Jean Adilifu is an executive educator with a professional background that includes experience as a district and school-based administrator, director, supervisor, department chairperson, classroom teacher and consultant to individual families, schools, school districts, the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and private agencies.   Dr. Adilifu is a frequent speaker on topics related to education and youth issues.  She has served as a lecturer on “Education and Life Transformations” at the East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai, China.  She is currently seeking to develop a sister school partnership with a secondary school in China.  She now serves as assistant principal for world languages at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in Brooklyn, New York.  She has been responsible for the creation and design of an acclaimed Chinese Language and Culture Program. The program was designated in 2010 as an inaugural member of the Hanban-Asia Society Confucius Classroom network.  The MECPS Chinese language and culture program started in 2004 with four classes for students in the sixth grade. Today more than 450 students study Chinese language/culture in classes that range from the sixth grade through the twelfth grade.  As a part of the APSA summer China scholars program MECPS students have had the opportunity to be immersed in Chinese language and culture in a six-week program in Beijing.  Dr. Adilifu has also developed study abroad programs for MECPS students in Spain and in the French-speaking Canadian province of Québec. 

Born to an immigrant family and graduate of the Chicago Public School system, Marco later received his B.A. in International Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since graduation, he made a career for himself in China, co-founding China’s first American “Camp Education” business in 2010. In 2016 he and his partners began financing and consulting on building US standard summer camp properties in China, later resulting in a multi-million dollar VC backing in 2017. Apart from his professional career, he serves as General Secretary of the International Camping Fellowship, Membership Chair of the Campus Alumni Advisory Board for Illinois, President of the Illinois Alumni Club of Beijing, Chair of the Big Ten Alumni Club of Beijing, and Club Manager for a local expat rugby team in Beijing.

Rachel Kornfeld is the Executive Director of Education Services at Lutheran Social Services of New York. As a certified school administrator and licensed clinical social worker, Rachel has been providing mental health and education services in New York City for the past 17 years. Rachel began her social work career in foster care in New York City. Rachel went on to work in both inpatient and outpatient mental health settings before her most recent endeavor with The New LIFE School, part of Lutheran Social Services of New York. Rachel received her Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts. She was hired as a school social worker in 2006 to assist with the start up the newly formed The New LIFE School. She continued her education while working at The New LIFE School and earned a second Master’s degree in School Building Leadership from Mercy College. Rachel has functioned as the Director of Clinical Services, Principal, and for the past six years as the Executive Director for Education Services. She is extremely passionate about providing a safe and nurturing environment for young people to grow, as individuals, in their academic and social-emotional functioning. Rachel coined the term,” The New LIFE School makes the school fit the student, not the student to the school.” This is her longstanding commitment to ensuring a quality individualized education for all students at TNLS.

Mike Cottell is an expert in global sourcing and manufacturing in the fashion industry with over thirty years international travel experience, much of it within Asia. Currently an independent consultant, Mike spent 35 years at Ralph Lauren after beginning his career at Bloomingdales’. Always an advocate for empowering individuals by sharing his knowledge and experiences, he would mentor the teams worldwide and was a champion of the executive trainee and intern programs. The positive impact on Mike from meeting so many wonderful individuals all around the globe inspired him to become a chairperson for the RL Manufacturing And Sourcing Diversity Council. Currently, Mike is a mentor and advisor to our active military and veterans with career guidance and counseling through American Corporate Partners, a nonprofit, as well as a member of their Citizens Committee.

Kenneth Jarrett is President of The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. Previously Mr. Jarrett was Chairman for Greater China of APCO Worldwide, a Washington-based public affairs consultancy, from October 2008 – July 2013. Before APCO, Mr. Jarrett was a U.S. diplomat for 26 years, from 1982-2008. His assignments included U.S. Consul General in Shanghai, Deputy Consul General in Hong Kong, and Director of Asian Affairs in the National Security Council. He also served in Singapore, Manila, Beijing, Chengdu and in Washington, DC. Mr. Jarrett has degrees from Cornell University, Yale University and the National War College. He is a member of the National Committee of US-China Relations.

For over ten years, Bradley A. Feuling has been engaged in early-stage ventures having worked with more than 50 start-up companies, including the founders of LendingTree.com, Hat World Inc. (known as Lids) and JAND Inc. (known as Warby Parker). At the age of 25, Feuling moved to China to officially begin his own entrepreneurial pursuit co-founding Kong and Allan Consulting, which was twice named the Best Supply Chain Partner in Asia. His expertise specifically is in strategic network development combining the four critical sectors of society, public, private, education and non-profit. This includes co-founding The Asia Institute, a leading host partner for educational institutions with over 80 educational institution partners in multiple countries, and previous direct association with nonprofit organizations impacting over 287 million people. In 2011, Feuling was a Keynote Speaker at the Journal of Business and Leadership Annual Conference and in 2013 a Keynote Speaker at the University of Akron’s China Week. In 2008, Feuling was featured on CCTV International’s Up Close and in 2013, on CCTV News’ Crossover. Feuling is currently the CEO of the Kong and Allan Group and Chairman and CEO of the Asia Institute.

Elizabeth Haenle

Elizabeth Haenle is Co-founder and President of Sage Worldwide, an event and speaker consulting company based in Beijing, China. She is also the Founder of Elizabeth Haenle Weddings, Lifestyle and Events. Prior to starting two companies in China, Ms. Haenle worked at the White House as the Social Secretary and Residence Manager to the Vice President of the United States. Her main responsibilities included planning events globally for the U.S. President and Vice President. As Residence Manager, Ms. Haenle was responsible for the management of the official residence of the Vice President. Earlier in her career, Ms. Haenle served as an aide to former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Barbara Hackman Franklin, with a focus on U.S.-China trade relations. She is also a committee member of the Royal Asiatic Society Beijing Society, whose mission is to bring China and the world together. Elizabeth also serves on the board of the 100K Strong Foundation.

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