AAFSW is pleased to announce the Executive Board for 2018-2020 and the 2018 Committee Chairs. Biographies for the Executive Board members and the new 2018 Committee Chairs are below.
AAFSW Executive Board for 2018-2020
Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, PhD — AAFSW President
Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen was born in California and was raised in Athens, Greece, where she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Physics from the University of Greece (1987). As a NATO Fellow and a University of California President’s Fellow, she continued her studies in her native California where she earned her Master’s of Science in Geophysics (1989), her PhD in Geological Sciences (1993), and her Master’s in Environmental Science and Management (1999).
Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen has been awarded the Outstanding Teaching Award (UCSB, 1992). Further, she has organized a three-day conference on «Off shore Oil Platform Decommissioning» by inviting all the stakeholders involved to participate (UCSB, 1998). Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen has been funded by NSF and LLNL with various grants to complete and publish her research and she has been invited to attend and present her findings in many international scientific conferences. Recently, Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen participated in the 18th Conference of the National Council for Science and Environment (NCSE — Washington DC, January 2018), which brought together scientists and policy makers to discuss the integration of Science, Business, and Education of Sustainable Infrastructure. In March 2017, Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen was invited to participate in the “Our Task’s Earth 2100” Conference (Washington, DC), which focused on regenerative agriculture and ecosystem restoration solutions to address the future of soil and food.
Combining geophysics and mineralogy, Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen has also studied, and has given several invited lectures on, Gemology and Gemstone Grading as well as Jewelry Appraising and Designing, earning the Fellow of the Gemological Association Diploma (FGA, 1989) and her Gemological Institute of America Certificates (GIA, 1990-1997). Recently, Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen has completed graduate courses at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education to obtain her teaching credentials and Virginia Teaching Licensure.
Raised in Europe, Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen was educated in five languages (English, Greek, Spanish, French, Italian), a great attribute when she advises on development projects and she leads field trips domestically and abroad as a freelance consultant.
Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen has been associated with the Department of State since 2001, living in Argentina, Sri Lanka, and Venezuela. She has been the President of the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) since August 2016 and the AAFSW Fundraising Chair since December 2016. In January 2018, State Magazine published her article on the “SOSA 2017 Exceptional Volunteers,” in February 2018, Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen introduced the “AAFSW Twice Exceptional” category for the AAFSW annual scholarships, and in April 2018, AAFSW gained the status of a Department of State Employee Organization for which Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen strongly advocated. Her involvement with the Department of State helps Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen explore her interests in how education, population size, and geo-cultural-politics affect environmental international policy and strategies, development projects worldwide, and practices implemented around the world regarding energy resources, the climate, and waste management.
Melissa Hess – AAFSW 1st Vice President
Melissa Hess is Deputy Director in the Crisis Management Training division at FSI and has worked in that office since 2005. As a civil servant, she served 15 months in Iraq–as Political Officer for the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team and then TDY as the Public Diplomacy Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah. Prior to this, she was a member of GCLO, where she coordinated the Strategic Networking Assistance Program-a global employment program for Foreign Service spouses. A Foreign Service spouse for 22 years, she accompanied her husband on assignments to Nigeria, Russia, Algeria, Egypt, and Ukraine. Melissa and Patricia Linderman are co-authors of The Expert Expatriate: Your Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad and co-editors of Realities of Foreign Service Life, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. In 1998, she created Foreign Service Lifelines, the first website for Foreign Service family members, which included the discussion forum “Livelines.” The website was purchased by AAFSW in 1999. She holds a Master’s degree in Education and has taught English as a Second Language in Europe, Africa, and the U.S.
Anna Bysfield – AAFSW 2nd Vice President
Anna grew up in Northwestern China, and met and married her Foreign Service husband while they both worked in Beijing. When the Bysfields moved back to DC in 2003, they didn’t have any family or friends in the area. Luckily, they found the AAFSW Housing Office when they were looking for a place to rent. Not only did they find a great property through the Housing Office, they also joined an amazing Foreign Service community. Their two young kids joined the AAFSW playgroup. Anna made many friends at foreign-born spouse gatherings. Livelines has been a go-to place for them, for answers on FAM regulations, post information, or best property manager. Anna attended many great programs that Sheila Switzer has organized, including a White House Christmas tour, a Washington Monument visit, and the Albanian Ambassador’s talk on Orthodox icons at Sheila’s house. When Anna and her family were posted overseas, what she missed most about living in DC was Sheila’s programs. Thanks to Sheila and many other tireless volunteers, AAFSW has made the Bysfield family’s transition back to DC more enjoyable and less stressful. Now Anna hopes to be able to help others in the Foreign Affairs community as AAFSW has helped her and her family over the years. Anna currently works as an office manager in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at State.
Troella Tyznik – AAFSW Assistant Treasurer
Troella Tyznik has the desire as well as the qualifications to help AAFSW as Assistant Treasurer. In Tokyo, she served for two years as Foreign Exchange Head Cashier. She also worked for two years in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as a Head Cashier at the Navy Exchange, handling hundreds of thousands of dollars each day for U.S. personnel and foreign nationals. She was also responsible for millions of dollars of Federal funds as a proofreader for the People’s Bank of the Tri States, Alabama, Florida and Georgia, for four and a half years. She reports that numbers and math are her motto!
New AAFSW Committee Chairs for 2018
Anireves “Ani” Falcao Torres — Foreign-Born Spouses Group Chair
Anireves Falcao Torres was born and raised in Brazil. Because of her father’s work as a Brazilian federal employee, her family moved from state to state every two or three years. In addition, her family traveled frequently out of love for adventure and new cultural knowledge. Ani studied business administration, workplace safety and chromotherepy (color therapy). She loves, art, sports and nature.
After marrying her husband, a Foreign Service employee who worked in communications and consular services, Ani accompanied him on his foreign assignments, which took her to new discoveries and experiences and fulfilled her love for adventure and travel. Her family lived in Colombia, Miami, Germany, Mexico and Brazil. Today Ani speaks Portuguese, English and Spanish. She and her husband are now retired and living in Virginia.
Ani comes from a family with a history of volunteering and charity, bringing to her life many social activities. She has worked as a volunteer in Colombia, Germany and Mexico (Guadalajara). She has been back in the US since 2013 and has been enjoying AAFSW since 2014.
Celine Castel-Erickson — AAFSW Spouses in Transition Chair
Celine Castel-Erickson was born in France. As a Foreign Service Spouse, she lived in Algeria, the Republic of Seychelles, Panama, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Belgium, Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico. She began her career as the executive director of a small African nation’s national park system where she administered a significant World Bank grant with considerable sustainability and impact compliance requirements. She worked for Credit Suisse in Geneva on corporate and client development, and conducted market research for the U.S. Commercial Service in Colombia. She then developed multinational and multi-stakeholder corporate citizenship, regulatory compliance and corporate governance strategies for American multinationals such as Medtronic or Plantronics in emerging markets and the U.S. Fluent in Spanish, French, and English, she has volunteered for organizations in Africa and Latin America to prevent human rights abuses of vulnerable populations. She pursued her undergraduate studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. She has a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) from the Eiffel School of Management (IAE Gustave Eiffel) – Paris 12 in business administration and sustainability management and a Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS), Business and Human Rights from the Faculty of Economic and Social Science (HEC) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Sinikka Cele Clarkson — AAFSW Diplomacy Through the Arts Chair
Sinikka Cele Clarkson is a multi-talented artist, born in Finland, always searching new horizons and methods of creativity in every moment.
Her lifetime working experience as an artist started early. Since age of five she has been totally involved with music, performing arts and visual arts. Her high school studies were combined with a performing arts training in a professional theater and a youth theater.
Her university level studies were done in Umbria, at the Italian State University in the city of Perugia, where she was studying Art and Music history. In Italy, Sinikka Cele found the world of Melodrama/Opera and Ballet. With this acquired knowledge in Finland in 2005, she had an opportunity to create the set and costumes for W.A Mozart’s opera La Clemenza di Tito, in cooperation with the graduating opera singers of the Sibelius Academy and with the National Opera of Finland.
As an individual artist Sinikka Cele invented, based on her art history studies, metal textiles, a new fiber art form, woven on a hand loom with ancient weaving methods. Those works she has been doing with her wonderful Cranbrook weaving loom, designed by the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen. Creating a piece of textile art it is necessary to first make a design, color and texture plan. In this preliminary part of the work process she paints the same sized piece as the coming textile art piece.
This working method led her to study drawing and oil painting. The perfect place for studying these skills at the highest level she found in the Russian Academy of Arts, where she has been residing since 2017. The Russian Academy of Arts was founded 1757 first known as The Imperial Academy of Arts. Later it became known as The Saint Petersburg Academic Institute of Fine Arts, Sculpture and Architecture. It also is called The Repin Institute of Art, named after the famous Russian realistic painter, artist Ilya Repin.
Sinikka Cele Clarkson speaks several languages, including Arabic, and now she is studying Russian language and culture.
She has been interviewed in several newspapers and TV programs about her art and creations. As an artist she has been invited to many international art events worldwide, representing her multicultural background and education as major developer of her art creations. She also does her solo exhibitions.
Sinikka Cele has been a public speaker in several seminars and conferences regarding art and culture and business development at the national and international level. Throughout her artistic career she has always promoted art and creativity and their importance in expressing global peace and diplomacy and understanding in every society.