Our Team

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Patrick Arnold 2016

Patrick Arnold

Patrick has more than a decade of international education experience and manages VIA’s Global Community Fellowship and short-term programs for high school and university students in Asia. Over the past six years he’s sent more than 300 Americans to Asia and brought more than 100 partner community members to the U.S.

Prior to joining VIA, he taught in Hunan Province, China and has worked for the International Crisis Group, US Department of State, and the Peace Corps. Patrick received his BA and MA degrees in International Affairs from American University’s School of International Service and has lived in or visited over forty countries. Patrick is based in San Francisco.

Brian Byrdsong 2016

Brian Byrdsong

With more than 20 years of fundraising experience throughout Silicon Valley and San Francisco, Brian has a broad experience with individual donors, special events and grant writing. In past positions, he has set out clear plans and achieved ambitious goals. He enjoys working with board members to expand fundraising efforts, collaborating with staff to achieve mission and communicating with donors on the impact of the organization.

A California native who grew up in Los Angeles, Brian moved to the Bay Area to attend Santa Clara University where he received a BS in Psychology. He came to VIA most recently from the Arthritis Foundation, where he was the Vice President of Community Engagement. In the past, Brian has held leadership development positions at San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the San Francisco Food Bank. When not working, he enjoys spending time at the fitness center and trying new recipes with family and friends. Brian also enjoys traveling throughout Europe, Asia and Africa where he has visited at least 20 countries and counting.

Melissa Golden 2016

Melissa Golden

Melissa has never been a fan of comfort zones. Starting with her first international experience in Ireland, she realized the importance of pushing her own mental, cultural, and geographical boundaries to develop a better understanding of the world and herself. Melissa went on to participate in two undergraduate exchange programs in Europe through Linfield College and graduated with a BA in History. She then headed in the opposite direction to work in rural northern Japan for five years. After returning from Japan, She earned her MA in International Education Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Melissa is utilizing her international experience and expertise to further sustainable development and operations of VIA’s programs. She hopes her work will enable more students from the US and Asia to explore and grow beyond their comfort zones to gain a better understanding of themselves and connect with others in the world around them.

Kazutoh Ishida 2016

Kazutoh Ishida, PhD

Kazutoh started his VIA journey 25 years ago when he joined the American Language & Culture (ALC) program as a college student from Japan. Based on the eye-opening and transformative experience he had on this program, he started to envision a future career in which he would design and run impactful international education programs.

Kazutoh’s dream came true in 2005 when he had the opportunity to join the VIA team as senior director to manage the programs in Silicon Valley. For the past 10 years he has enjoyed directing and supporting the language & culture and healthcare programs as well as developing newer programs focused on social innovation and leadership.

As executive director, Kazutoh is very committed to working together with staff, board, alumni, and partners in the VIA community to realize the vision laid out in the VIA2020 strategic plan, which aims at building an ecosystem that will bring deeper impact to our participants and the communities they serve.

Kazutoh received his Phd degree in East Asian Languages & Literatures (Japanese pedagogy) from the University of Hawai’i. His personal interests include watching movies, hiking and traveling. In addition to his fondness of Asia, he loved traveling to Tanzania and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Joanna Kraut

Joanna holds an MBA with finance concentration from California State University Fresno and has over ten years of finance and accounting experience. While completing her MBA course work, Joanna partook in a study abroad program in Beijing, China and Hong Kong where she studied international economics and cross-cultural relations. The opportunity to explore the Asian market through immersion allowed for a deeper understanding and appreciation than any book had offered. This experience inspired a desire to find a career with an organization that encouraged and fostered this same type of learning. Joanna oversees all of VIA’s finance, administration, HR, and IT operations to insure cohesion and compliance.

Peter Nguyen

Peter got his masters in higher education in 2011, afterwards he worked for 2 years at a liberal arts college in multicultural affairs and social justice education. In 2013, he decided to join VIA for a gap year between jobs to learn more about Vietnam as a fellow. 4 years later and he’s still based in Vietnam where after being a VIA fellow for two years, he started The Lab, a small English center with community center aspirations, with some friends (two of whom also happened to be VIA fellows) in Vung Tau, Vietnam. VIA has teamed up with The Lab and Peter to recruit, support, and develop the community of fellows.
His passions center around issues of justice, equity, access, and education. In his free time, he likes to try to learn new things. Most recently, he’s been teaching himself how to code and learning Spanish. Since being in Vietnam, he’s also found time to dabble in drawing, playing the ukulele, and photography/video editing.
Izzy Rhoads 2016

Izzy Rhoads

Izzy was a 2009-2010 VIA volunteer in Yangon, Myanmar, and has worked at VIA since 2011. Before joining VIA she was a Fulbright Fellow in Indonesia. Izzy is currently a PhD candidate in Law at King’s College London. She has a BA in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College and an MA from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Izzy focuses on VIA’s short term academic programs, working on designing and running innovative programs for local and foreign students from high school to PhD level. In her free time, she enjoys exploring Central Java’s temple complexes and a good karaoke session.

Yuki Ueda

As the Director of Language and Culture Programs, Yuki works with an incredible team of students to promote cross- cultural exchange and language learning. She is passionate about promoting diversity and inclusive practices in education, because she knows that diverse teams produce the strongest and most creative solutions to our communities’ most pressing challenges. She caught the travel bug in college after studying abroad in France and China, and ultimately graduated with her BA in Community Health and Chinese from Tufts University. After graduating, Yuki served as a schoolteacher – first in Shanghai, China and then in Escazu, Costa Rica. After several years at the head of the classroom, she decided to go back to school and complete her Masters in International Education from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. In her free time, Yuki enjoys hiking, cooking, and listening to podcasts (her current favorites are Two Dope Queens and The Moth).
Sani Widowati 2016

Sani Widowati

Sani started working with VIA from 2009 as a summer service learning program facilitator in Bali and has been a full-time staff member since 2012. Sani works primarily on local networking, raising VIA’s visibility and partnering with local NGOs and institutions in Indonesia. She enjoys her work meeting interesting NGOs and institutions that focus on different issues in Indonesia, but she is most interested in working with youth and cultural movements. Sani organizes a film festival in Tasikmalaya West Java and a cultural movement with the International Gamelan Festival in Jogja. She is also active in several community organizations and local and international NGOs working on issues including disaster relief in West Sumatra, maternal and child health, alternative education in Bali, and community organizing in Jogja. Sani has a degree in Psychology and is also skilled in classical Javanese and Balinese dance.

Lina Yamashita

As the Medical Programs Director at VIA, Lina designs learning experiences that aim to cultivate critical thinking, reflection, and cross-cultural empathy among future physicians, including medical school students from Japan, mainland China, and Taiwan. She leads VIA’s two major medical education programs: Medical Exchange and Discovery (MED) and Exploring Health Care (EHC). Prior to joining VIA, Lina spent over 5 years designing and implementing educational programs that invited students and teachers to engage with a variety of viewpoints or ideas they may not have previously considered. As an educator, she is committed to making visible diverse people, places, and perspectives that tend to be marginalized. Having lived in a bilingual English/Japanese household in Tokyo, Singapore, and Manila for 15 years and having visited more than 15 countries, Lina continues to be curious about and mesmerized by the complexity of the world we live in and seeks eye-opening, challenging experiences that sometimes make her uncomfortable (such as volunteering at a farm in Slovenia for two weeks feeding, herding, and milking dozens of goats and sheep). Lina has a bachelors in biology and environmental studies from Oberlin College, a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a doctorate in education from the University of California, Davis. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, discovering (or stumbling upon) great eateries and especially bakeries, taking long walks, and engaging in deep, one-on-one conversations with friends.

Yi Zhang 2016

Yi Zhang

As the Director for the Silicon Valley social innovation programs, Yi creates short-term exchange programs that foster effective global changemakers through experiential education and design-thinking. Yi’s interest in social innovation was sparked while volunteering in West Africa and solidified while organizing the MIT International Development Design Summit. After graduating from Wellesley College, Yi co-led “Design for Social Entrepreneurship” at the Rhode Island School of Design and worked with several internationally-focused social impact organizations. Yi is passionate about creating spaces for curiosity, connection and contribution and continues to do so through facilitating workshops with VIA and partner organizations, designing innovation notebooks and enjoying conversations across cultures [bonus points if at least 3 languages are used].