John C. Bersia
Special Assistant to the President for Global Perspectives and Director
John C. Bersia, the University of Central Florida’s Pulitzer Laureate, is the Special Assistant to the President for Global Perspectives. He also directs the Global Perspectives Office, serves as a University Professor and is the Executive Producer and host of the award-winning “Global Perspectives” show on WUCF-TV/PBS. Bersia previously served as a Foreign-Affairs Columnist for McClatchy-Tribune Information Services and the Orlando Sentinel. He won the first Pulitzer Prize of the 21st century (2000) for Tribune news media. Additionally, he is the recipient of the Walker Stone Award of the Scripps Howard Foundation, the first-place “Green Eyeshade” editorials award of the Society of Professional Journalists, the annual Media Award for Editorial Excellence of The National Association of Consumer Advocates and other national awards. Previously, Bersia worked in the global political-risk analysis and publishing businesses, as well as for the U.S. government. He is the author of World War 4: Confronting Terrorism (2003); serves as Editor of the Worldviews for the 21st Century monograph series; chairs, co-chairs or directs various UCF programs with emphases on the Middle East, human trafficking, Islamic studies, small countries, China-Taiwan, global peace and security, India and Kurdish political studies; and serves on several national boards. Further, he is the Chair (a voluntary position) of the Global Connections Foundation, a non-profit, non-ideological, non-political, regional, educational network that partners with UCF and other institutions to encourage international awareness and understanding. He also chairs the World Affairs Council of Central Florida, serves on the board of Civil Lawyers Against World Sex-Slavery and is a board-member elect of Global Ties U.S. Bersia has degrees from UCF (B.A., Political Science/International Relations and French), Georgetown University (M.A., Government/Foreign Policy), The American University (M.S.P.I.A., Public Information Administration) and the London School of Economics (M.Sc., International Relations).
Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas
Diplomacy Program Director
Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas directs a rapidly growing global initiative at the University of Central Florida, the Diplomacy Program, which features education and training for undergraduate students. From 2003-2005, she served as Diplomat in Residence at UCF under the auspices of a national U.S. Department of State program. In that capacity, she was the U.S. Department of State’s official liaison in Central Florida, conducting workshops, providing information on careers, connecting students to internship and scholarship opportunities, and speaking on policy matters. Until the fall of 2005, she was a Senior Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Career Minister. Previously she served as U.S. Ambassador to Senegal from 1999-2003; Chief of Mission to Guinea-Bissau; Acting Director of USIA; Cultural Attaché at the American Embassy in Athens; Country Affairs Officer for Greece, Turkey and Cyprus; Director of the American Press and Cultural Center, American Consulate, Istanbul, Turkey; and in other positions at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the President’s Appointments Office at the White House and the Foreign Service Personnel Office. Amb. Elam-Thomas’ additional posts abroad were in France, Mali and the Ivory Coast. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the U.S. Government’s Superior Honor Award, the Lois Roth Award for Excellence in Informational and Cultural Diplomacy, and a Group Superior and Meritorious Honor Award for her work in connection with the first Persian Gulf War. In 2007, she received the Director General’s Cup of the U.S. Department of State. She holds a B.S. in International Business from Simmons College and an M.A. in Public Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She speaks Turkish, Greek and French. Amb. Elam-Thomas is partly sponsored by the Global Connections Foundation.
Dr. Ted Reynolds
Senior Research Fellow in Terrorism Studies
Dr. Ted Reynolds is the Senior Research Fellow in Terrorism Studies for the Global Perspectives Office. His work focuses on using both qualitative and quantitative methods of research to understand terrorist radicalization. Reynolds is a graduate of Rollins College with a B.A. in International Affairs and a UCF graduate with an M.A. in Political Science. Additionally, he has a graduate certificate in Terrorism Studies from the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK, and completed the Summer Workshop on Teaching About Terrorism at Oklahoma University. Reynolds also received his Ph.D. in International Relations from St. Andrews, where he researched “Terrorist Radicalization in Western Democracies.” His current research is focused on understanding how extremists/terrorists use social media and other computer mediated communication to radicalize, recruit, and mobilize their members. He also serves as an adjunct professor teaching classes on terrorism studies and the intelligence community. Reynolds is partly sponsored by the Global Connections Foundation.
Jessica Squires is the Assistant Director for the Global Perspectives Office. She is responsible for the coordination and promotion of events, ranging from distinguished speakers to panels to symposia to conferences. Squires also plays a key role in developing and expanding partnerships at the regional, state, national and international levels. She is the Assistant Producer for the “Global Perspectives Show” on WUCF TV/PBS as well as the Marketing Editor for the Worldviews for the 21st Century monograph series. Squires has served the office in various capacities, including Project Specialist and, most recently, Public Affairs Coordinator. She was also the inaugural China-Taiwan Fellow in Spring 2010, under the auspices of the C.T. and Jean Hsu Fund of the Global Connections Foundation. She graduated with honors from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in International Relations and Comparative Politics, and a minor in Marketing. She also received M.A. degrees in Communication and International Studies at UCF. Squires was formerly a Graduate Assistant in the UCF Political Science Department and served as a Provost’s Fellow in 2007-2008.
Julie Johnson is the Program Coordinator for the Global Perspectives Office, the Diplomacy Program, the Terrorism Studies Program and other affiliated offices. She is responsible for managing budgets, assisting with the supervision of support staff and facilitating public events. Previously, Johnson was the Office Manager for the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence housed in UCF’s Political Science Department, where she coordinated all programming and administrative functions. Johnson graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in International and Global Studies, and a minor in Organizational and Interpersonal Communication. She is currently working on her Master’s in Mass Communication and a Graduate Certificate in Corporate Communication at UCF. She is studying Swedish and Spanish and has traveled throughout Europe.
Senior Program Assistant
Shannon Payne is the Senior Program Assistant for the Global Perspectives Office and The India Center. She provides support in all aspects of programming, public functions, publications and research for the office, the center and affiliated organizations. She is also the Editorial Assistant for the Worldviews for the 21st Century monograph series. A recent graduate of UCF, she received a B.A. in Anthropology with a minor in Diplomacy. In the summer of 2014, Payne served as a Department of State intern in the Cultural Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. She is also a member of the Order of Pegasus, Class of 2015.
Global Connections Scholar
Jamie Ruchser is the Summer 2017 Global Connections Scholar for the Global Perspectives Office. She is a senior at the University of Central Florida pursuing an undergraduate degree in International and Global Studies with minors in Spanish and French. She is a member of the Geospatial Information Society at UCF and a Planned Parenthood Volunteer. Her research interests include the Middle East, Asia and European Affairs. Upon graduation, she plans on pursuing employment with the U.S. Department of State. A student of Spanish and French, Ruchser has traveled in the Caribbean and Europe.