John C. Bersia
Special Assistant to the President for Global Perspectives and Director
John C. Bersia, a Pulitzer Prize winner in 2000, is a global educator and commentator. He serves as Special Assistant to the President for Global Perspectives, as Director of the Global Perspectives Office and as a University Professor at the University of Central Florida. He is also the Executive Producer and host of the award-winning “Global Perspectives” on WUCF/PBS, and writes on foreign affairs. Bersia previously served as a Foreign-Affairs Columnist for McClatchy-Tribune Information Services and the Orlando Sentinel, as well as on the latter’s Editorial Board. He won the first Pulitzer Prize of the 21st century for the Sentinel, as well as for its parent organization, the Tribune Co. 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. Before his journalism experience, Bersia worked in the global political-risk analysis and publishing businesses, as well as for the U.S. government. He is also the author of World War 4: Confronting Terrorism (2003); serves as Editor of the Worldviews for the 21st Century monograph series; co-chairs The India Center, the Middle Eastern Studies Program, and the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Program for Strategic Research and Studies; chairs and directs UCF programs on human trafficking awareness, Islamic studies and small countries; and co-directs UCF programs on China-Taiwan issues, global peace and security, and Kurdish political studies. Further, he is the Chair (a voluntary position) of the Global Connections Foundation, a non-profit, non-ideological, non-political, regional, educational network that promotes international awareness and understanding. Bersia pursued undergraduate studies at Clark University and the University of Central Florida, receiving a B.A. in Political Science/International Relations and French from UCF; was awarded an M.A. in Government/Foreign Policy from Georgetown University’s Graduate School; completed an M.S.P.I.A. in Public Information Administration at The American University’s College of Business Administration; and received an M.Sc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London.
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.
Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Program Director
David Dumke serves as Director of the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Program for Strategic Research and Studies at the University of Central Florida. The program is a joint undertaking of the Global Perspectives Office and the College of Sciences, and stems from a partnership between UCF and Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, a Saudi university located in Al Khobar. An experienced Middle East specialist, Dumke writes regular columns for both Al Ahram Weekly and Saudi Gazette. He has worked on regional projects in a number of fields, including politics, business and academia. He also brings a background in entrepreneurship, having established numerous firms serving specific needs, whose clients, partners and collaborators include governments, NGOs, business organizations and private-sector entities. Dumke was a Regional Advisor for Goddard Global, an international strategic communications firm. In that capacity, he worked directly with Egypt’s political transition, including that country’s first democratic presidential election in 2012. He also served as a consultant on foreign policy, energy and trade for the The Livingston Group, one of Washington’s prominent, bipartisan government relations firms. His principal responsibility was working with the Egyptian Ministry of Defense. Dumke is a regular participant at regional political and business conferences and forums. He has written extensively on the American political process and foreign policy. He has also published several analytical pieces on congressional policy-making vis-à-vis the Middle East, including “Congress and the Arab Heavyweights: Questioning the Saudi and Egyptian Alliances” in Middle East Policy, and A View from the Inside: Congressional Decision-making and Arab-Israeli Policy (Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, 2006). Dumke previously served as an aide to House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Michigan), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan). He received a B.A. in History, Political Science and Russian Studies from Indiana University, where he was a teaching assistant on the U.S. Congress, and an M.A. in Muslim-Christian Understanding from Georgetown University.
P.N. "Vaidy" Vaidyanathan
The India Center Interim Director
P.N. “Vaidy” Vaidyanathan is the Interim Director of The India Center, a joint undertaking of the Global Perspectives Office and the College of Sciences. Working with the Center’s co-chairs, he is responsible for developing content, planning, shaping events and producing an annual report. Vaidyanathan was a key player on the team that brought the original India Program to UCF in 2007, as well as its successor, The India Center. He also serves as Assistant Vice President for Research at UCF. In that capacity, he assists in the development of inter- and multidisciplinary proposals across the university; brings industry contacts to faculty members; and assists faculty members in the preparation of research and educational proposals, with special emphasis on programs by the National Science Foundation. Previously, Vaidyanathan served as Associate Director of the Florida Institute for Sustainable Energy at the University of Florida; Director of Business Development at TransTech Systems Inc.; Director of Business Development at X-Ray Optical Systems; Assistant Director of MICROFABRITECH at the University of Florida; Member of Technical Staff at the Greenleaf Corporation; Senior Development Engineer at the Allied/Bendix Corporation; and Engineer for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida. Vaidyanathan has presented papers at the American Ceramic Society meetings, American Society of Metals meetings, and the International Meeting of Arts and Humanities. He is the recipient of the Government of India Fellowship for higher education and the ASM International Lectureship. Vaidyanathan holds a B.S. (Physics) degree from the University of Madras, India, a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) from the University of Madras, an M.S. in Production (Manufacturing) Engineering from the University of Madras, an MBA with a specialization in Finance from the University of Florida, and the post-master’s degree of Engineer from the University of Florida.
Senior Research Fellow in Terrorism Studies
Ted Reynolds is 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. He also 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 will be completing his Ph.D. in International Relations, researching “Terrorist Radicalization in Western Democracies” at the University of St. Andrews. 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.
Public Affairs Coordinator
Jessica Gagnon is the Public Affairs Coordinator 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. Gagnon 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 UCF TV/PBS as well as the Marketing Editor for the Worldviews for the 21st Centurymonograph series. Previously, Gagnon was the Project Specialist for the Office and other affiliated organizations, including the Global Connections Foundation. 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 B.A. in International Relations and Comparative Politics, and a minor in Marketing. Gagnon is currently pursuing an M.A. in International Studies at UCF. She formerly was a Graduate Assistant in the UCF Political Science Department and served as a Provost’s Fellow in 2007-2008. Gagnon’s research interests include East Asia and peace and security. Fluent in French and a student of Mandarin, she has traveled extensively in North America, and has visited China and Europe.
Jocelyn Figueroa 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. In addition, she helps to manage globally oriented projects and programs, and serves as the business liaison to key partners, such as the Global Connections Foundation, the Florida Network for Global Studies and the U.S. Department of State. She is also the Business Editor for the Worldviews for the 21st Century monograph series. Previously, Figueroa was an English Teacher for the Union de Cooperativas de Ensenanza de Trabajo Asociado de Madrid (an educational group) in Spain. She also worked in administrative roles for various U.S. private companies and universities. Figueroa graduated from the University of Alcala de Henares in Spain with a Master’s in Hispanic Education. She also received a B.A. in Communications, with minors in Marketing and Spanish, from Stetson University. She speaks Spanish, is studying American Sign Language and has traveled throughout Europe.