Global Office Team

The Global Office is the global structure that works to enable the YFU membership worldwide to achieve its mission by providing leadership, critical services and opportunities to grow and thrive as sustainable and quality organizations. It is composed of the two operating & staffed supra-national legal structures of the YFU membership: Youth For Understanding International Educational Services (YFU IES) and European Educational Exchanges - Youth for Understanding (EEE-YFU), which are legally independent from each other.

Gregory Matheson

Secretary General

Gregory Matheson is the Secretary General of YFU's Global Office. Gregory is responsible for overseeing the work of the Global Staff and for implementing the Global Strategy of YFU. He holds a degree in Law and European history. Gregory has been involved with YFU since 2013, when he took over the management of YFU France. He has been involved with YFU as a Director, host father, volunteer and counselor and is fiercely committed to the values and projects of Youth For Understanding, recognising the power of its mission and its volunteer communities and the transformative value of it's work for individuals and for communities around the world.

KEA HOPPE

Deputy Secretary General & Global Programs Director

Kea Hoppe is the Deputy Secretary General of YFU’s Global Office and the Director of Programs, located in Brussels, Belgium. In her current role, she is responsible for managing and expanding program capacities and strengthening and enhancing existing and developing new programs, to meet the needs of our customers and enhance our impact globally. Kea holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Göttingen, Germany, the country she is originally from. Having been a YFU exchange student herself, she loves working with passionate colleagues from around the globe for a cause she truly believes in. She has been involved with YFU as a staff member since 2006, first working for YFU Germany in different management positions before moving to the international level of YFU in January 2017. Until January 2019, she was the Director of EEE-YFU, the umbrella organization of YFU in Europe, making her even more a believer in active global citizenship than before.

BENT RICHTER

IT Director

Bent leads the Global IT department in order to build strong IT backbone operations for YFU member organizations worldwide. Starting out as a YFU exchange student he has been involved with YFU ever since - as volunteer, host parent as well as co-founder and long time Director of YFU in Austria. He values working for YFU because it is a place where professional work can make a true difference to people’s lives. Among other degrees he holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration.

JOANNE HALBARDIER

Membership & Governance Manager

Joanne is the Membership & Governance Manager of Youth For Understanding’s (YFU) Global Office. She was born in New York, and raised and educated on the east coast of the US. Currently based in Washington, DC, she supports and coordinates YFU international governance functions, including International Board activities, the International Contingency and Development Fund and its grantee and trustee activities, international General Assembly functions, Member Organization processes and communications and Global Office operations.  Joanne has worked for YFU in a variety of capacities, including all aspects of program delivery for the YFU organization in the US. Previous to YFU, Joanne worked in the area of university programs - recruitment, promotion and administration. She volunteers her time to causes important to her – Alzheimer’s prevention, social justice and voting rights. Joanne is a global citizen who believes wholeheartedly in the mission of YFU and how it’s now more necessary than ever. She took part in a cultural exchange to the United Kingdom shortly after graduating from university. But it’s the people of YFU who keep her interest - she particularly loves working with a diversity of cultures and their different professional approaches. “There are not enough fingers on my hands to count the lifelong friends I’ve made because of and through YFU!”

HERMAN WIEDEMANN

Global Development & Compliance Director

Herman Wiedemann is the Global Development & Compliance Director of YFU’s Global Office. In his current role, he is responsible for monitoring member organizations’ performance and compliance, managing and implementing YFU’s QMS and all its components, conducting audits for recertifications, supporting together with Global Programs our members’ organizational development, assisting with YFU’s crisis and risk management and overseeing YFU’s Learning & Knowledge portfolio. Herman was a YFU exchange student to California, USA and as returnee became actively engaged first as a YFU volunteer, then as office staff for YFU Uruguay and later on intern for YFU Austria till he joined the former International Secretariat of YFU IES in Washington DC for 2 years. Before joining the Global Office in Brussels in 2019, he was the National Director for YFU Uruguay. In 2023 he relocated back to Uruguay with his family, now working from there. He holds a degree in Political Sciences and Economics from the University of the Republic of Uruguay. Herman has experienced living in 5 different countries and sees himself as a true citizen of the world!

MARZENA GAWENDA

Training & Knowledge Manager

Marzena is YFU's Training & Knowledge Manager. Her responsibilities include designing and implementing training courses and capacity-building projects for YFU volunteers and staff, obtaining funds and grant-writing for educational projects as well as managing the European Trainer Network. Originally from Poland, she has lived, worked and studied in Italy and Spain and is currently based in Belgium. Marzena is not only a trainer, coach and facilitator, but also an art therapist, deeply interested in body-mind-soul connection. She has extensive volunteer experience in NGOs, including AEGEE, SIETAR, First Light India, and Toastmasters.  Working with YFU makes it possible for her to be the witness of countless a-ha moments and transformations during training courses, international friendships being forged and exceptional ideas turning into sustainable projects. Marzena holds an MA in Ethnolinguistics and a post-master specialisation in Art Therapy, Forum Theatre and Vedic Art. She has over 15 years of practice in the Training Field and her work experience ranges from designing educational projects for NGOs to organising strategic retreats and teambuilding activities for businesses, to running transformative personal retreats for individuals.

ANDREEA MADAR

Projects & Advocacy Coordinator

Andreea comes from Romania and she was an exchange student with YFU in Germany in 2011/2012. She speaks 5 languages and has many hobbies: skiing, graphic design and tennis to name the most important. She holds a Bachelor diploma in European Studies and International Relations from the Babes-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca and a Masters in Political Strategy and Communication at the University of Kent. During her studies in Brussels, she has been working with EEE-YFU supporting Educational Activities, and has also been involved in Advocacy and developing promotional materials.

She is currently in charge of YFU's advocacy campaigns and of coordinating the biggest event in YFU, the Youth Empowerment Seminar, which brings together 500 YFU students and volunteers every year.

LENKA KOVÁČOVÁ

Programs & Administrative Assistant

Lenka is the Programs and Administrative Assistant at the Global Office. In this role she supports member organizations with programs related tasks and questions, such as health insurance, system support and mediation between partners. She also supports the Global Office in administrative tasks such as finance and daily office management. Lenka comes from Czechia, has lived and studied in Germany and France and is currently based in Belgium. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Geography of Central Europe, EU and regional studies from UJEP, Czechia. Lenka has a long-time experience with Erasmus+ program as an exchange student, volunteer and finally an ESC volunteer which led her to join YFU at her current position. Lenka's hobbies include baking, rafting and all things sci-fi.


HEATHER DORSEY

Global Travel Manager

Heather is the Travel Manager for the Global Office. Based in Washington, DC, she is responsible for arranging and managing the safe international travel of several hundred exchange students around the world every year. She also oversees the Airport Assistance Service, supervising a team of 30+ remote workers who meet students in airports across the USA, assisting students with making their flight connections, rebooking cancelled flights, and chaperoning overnight stays. Heather started with YFU USA as a volunteer, then Admissions Counselor in 1999, and was soon recruited to join its new Travel Department in 2001. She was Travel Director of YFU USA from 2015 before transferring to the Global Office in 2020. A native of the Washington, DC area, Heather has 20+ years of hospitality and customer service experience and is a frequent traveler herself. Her time as a host sister and exchange student in France, as well as her work and friendships made over the years with YFU, inspire her to continue sharing the mission and goals of cultural exchange with others.

NICK CIESLA

Junior Developer

Nick is a Software Developer that works as a part of Youth For Understanding’s Global IT department. Nick was born and raised in Michigan and is currently works from YFU USA’s regional office in Saginaw. Nick Joined the YFU team in 2023 and will be working on several projects that will shape the technological future of YFU. Nick holds a bachelor’s in computer science from Southern New Hampshire University. Nick has never been an exchange student himself. However, his high school hosted several exchange students every year. Interacting with these international students and forging lifelong friendships helped him to understand the value of the work that YFU does and inspired him to contribute to the effort.

ALINE NICOLAI

Membership & Quality Assistant

Aline joined the Global Office in 2023, her tasks as Membership and Quality Assistant include insurance and program management, member organization support and operational and personnel procedure development. She is French-Indian and has studied in Germany, Italy and China in addition to her two countries of origin. She holds a Bachelors in Human Resources and Environmental Studies and a Masters in International Business Management. Aline is a strong believer in the power of international and intercultural exchanges and joined the YFU office to contribute to making such experiences available for as many people as possible.

FRANCESCA D'AGOSTINO

Communication & Advocacy Assistant

Francesca joined the YFU global office as the Communication and Advocacy Assistant in 2023. Her tasks include supporting YFU’s internal and external communication, support advocacy and fundraising activities and support the implementation of the Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES). She has been an exchange student in Australia. She values working at YFU because she believes that intercultural learning leads to the development of a set of attitudes and skills that help young people to understand themselves and others to be able to act for social transformation. She previously worked as a journalist and as a communication support. She has a keen interest in self-development, psychology and physics.

TARU GRANHOLM

Communications & Advocacy Specialist

Taru has first joined the Global Office as an Advocacy & Communications Assistant in 2022, and rejoined the team as Specialist in late 2023. Her tasks include increasing the visibility of YFU globally and influencing policy relevant to its mission. She comes from Finland and is currently finishing her Master's degree in International Business. With many experiences abroad, starting from an exchange year to Germany with YFU in 2014 and later studying abroad in France, Taru is a firm believer in the power of learning mobility to make the world a better place for us all.

YASİN BULAT

Educational Events Assistant

Yasin first started working for YFU Türkiye as an Outbound Program Coordinator and transitioned into a Support Role in the organization. He then joined the YFU Global Office in 2023 as the Educational Events Assistant. He is tasked with supporting the capacity building efforts for the continuous development of the YFU network and the implementation of the Youth Empowerment Seminar.He has a Bachelors of Education and has been involved NGOs in local, national and international level as a facilitator, learning designer and a youth coach. He is a firm believer of the Conscientiziaçao philosophy with a special interest in intercultural dialogue and participation.