Our_Team

The Core Team 

Mary Gershwin

Founder and President

Mary Gershwin is the Founder and President of US-Brazil Connect, the leading non-profit organization linking Brazil and the US through educational exchange and economic development innovation. Founded in 2011, US-Brazil Connect has created a scalable and affordable model for global exchange and learning, raising more than $8 million in support to send 500 college students and young professionals to Brazil to learn and work with more than 5000 Brazilian technical students.
With over 30 years of national leadership in higher education, workforce development, and philanthropy, Gershwin first went to Brazil as a high school exchange student, when the country was under a dictatorship; a person born poor in Brazil was destined to die poor, and the flow of global trade was a trickle of what exists today. By 2011, Brazil was a democracy, and more than 32 million people in the country of 200 million had entered the middle class. Gershwin saw that this shift presented an untapped opportunity for the US and Brazil to join forces as partners to meet pressing educational demands. Like the US, Brazil now faced the challenge of educating an emerging workforce for challenging jobs in a global economy. Gershwin believed this demand for global skills could not be solved by working in isolation; both countries could be stronger by coming together to solve our skilled workforce challenges.

Committed to this vision, Gershwin formed US-Brazil Connect, convened a consortium of leading community colleges, and partnered with Brazil’s Confederation of Industry (CNI) to create Conexão Mundo. With the support of a strong US-Brazil Connect team, this unique program now operates in 32 cities in Brazil and engages US participants from 22 states. It is also supported by 18 Brazilian Industry associations, six US community colleges, the Brazil Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center, and a host of community organizations and corporations. In additional to the Conexão Mundo program, US-Brazil Connect has created innovative exchange for STEM education, executive exchange, urban planning, and faculty development.

Prior to founding US-Brazil Connect, Mary was recognized as a national expert in building public-private partnerships for a better-prepared workforce. With the support of the Ford Foundation, The Lumina Foundation, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Association of Community Colleges, she designed and led a national program to strengthen business engagement in community college solutions. In 2009-2010, she was tapped by the White House to spearhead a roll out of national and international initiatives focused on the intersection of workforce development, business engagement and economic competitiveness. She has also served as an international educational advisor and evaluator for the US Department of State and the US Embassy in Brazil. Gershwin has taught at the graduate level and holds a B.A. in Economics and a PhD in Communication Studies from the University of Denver. Fluent in Portuguese and conversational in Spanish and German, she serves on several international, workforce, and community-related boards. Gershwin has two grown children and lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Mary Gershwin

Mary Gershwin

Founder and President

Kerri-Ann Appleton

Director of Global Partnerships

Kerri-Ann joined the US-Brazil Connect team in 2013 as a Team Coordinator. She lead the first Global Leaders team to Joinville and supported the organization through development of the Global Leaders program. In December of 2013, she was Team Coordinator with a pilot project to Macapa. In 2014, Kerri-Ann officially came on board as the Program Manager of the Global Leaders program, managing 12 sites in Brazil and over 50 Fellows and 19 Leaders. She moved to the Global Partnership Director position, also taking on co-directorship of the Conexao Mundo Program, in 2015.

Currently, Kerri-Ann manages and supports several of US-Brazil Connect’s home-office initiatives including: contract negotiation, fundraising strategy and implementation, working closely with the President of the organization on strategy and direction, and is the direct liaison with our partners in Brazil. Kerri-Ann also is the lead on cultivating US-Brazil Connect’s relationship with the US Embassy in Brazil.

Kerri-Ann’s love for international relations grew after spending a year in Australia as an exchange student, and earning a degree from Alfred University in political science with a focus on international politics. She worked for the international organization Up with People for four years, as trainer, Promotion Representative and Tour Manager, and has led six medical teams to the Philippines to provide free surgeries for children born with cleft lip and cleft palate (through Uplift Internationale & Mending Faces). She owned and operated Kaz Productions, a company that helped non-profit organizations with development, fundraising, strategic planning, and other aspects of managing important non-profit outreach efforts.

Kerri-Ann has a strong love for Brazil, and is currently living in Rio de Janerio, working remotely and building connections. When she’s not working, Kerri-Ann is active in the community volunteering in a local favela, learning Portuguese and embracing the culture. Her favorite Brazilian phrase is “Que Legal!” (That’s Cool!) and she loves paçoca and açai.

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Kerri-Ann Appleton

Kerri-Ann Appleton

Director of Global Partnerships

Bri Erger

Director of Program

After serving US-Brazil Connect as the first leader of the OUTSpoken Program, Bri Erger’s passion for international grassroots development led to the position of Program Director.

Before joining US-Brazil Connect, she developed a love for service and working within the education system as an AmeriCorps volunteer in North Carolina, a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador and by working with 20KWatts—a nonprofit supporting development projects in Latin America.

These international experiences have helped to shape her professional goals. Bri recently completed her M.A. in International Development at the University of Denver. In addition to traveling for work and pleasure, she enjoys photography, practicing yoga, running, dancing and going to concerts.

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Bri Erger

Bri Erger

Director of Program

Julia Munson

Healthy Teams Consultant

Julia Munson, LCSW, is a Leadership and Transformation Coach with over 30 years of experience. She provides training and consultation to organizations and non-profits. Her expertise is in creating conscious relationship skills and building conscious communities.  Working with over 500 US-Brazil Connect Fellows and Leaders, Julia has helped to turn the the US-Brazil Connect Fellowship into a journey of conscious leadership formation.  Julia helps ensure our teams stay in a zone of collaborating and connecting with each other as team members move out of their comfort zone and take on life-changing, maturing experiences.  Her special blend of straight talk, humor and warmth make her a key asset to the development of our program.  To learn more about Julia and her work, go to http://www.juliamunson.com/ or contact her at juliasmunson@gmail.com
Julia’s formal training includes: Master’s Degree in Social Work – University of Kansas, 1982; Marriage & Family Therapy Certification – Menninger Foundation, 1985; Somatic Experiencing Certification for Trauma Resolution - 1996; Conscious Relationship & Body/Mind Vibrance Coach – Hendricks Institute, 2009; Transformation Leader Graduate – Hendricks Institute, 2010.

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Julia Munson

Julia Munson

Healthy Teams Consultant

Linnea Chruscielski

Office Administrator

Before going to Brazil as a team coordinator in 2015, Linnea was a program coordinator for the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association. She worked with pigs, chickens, llamas, and all kinds of animals! After returning from Brazil, she started working with the Denver refugee community and volunteering in an ESL classroom. Now she is happy to be back working with US-Brazil Connect. Hailing from northern Minnesota, she is an avid hockey fan and has played since she was 4 years old. In her free time she loves skiing, swimming, and Spikeball (if you don't know what that is, YouTube it!)

 

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Linnea Chruscielski

Linnea Chruscielski

Office Administrator

Rachel Lyons

Director of Nonprofit Management

Rachel Lyons joined the US-Brazil Connect team full-time in March 2014 as the Director of Community Partnerships. Currently, she works as the Director of Nonprofit Operations. She became interested in Brazil after spending time in Salvador in 2013 as a Team Leader with the organization.

Previously, Rachel had over ten years of professional experience working in refugee resettlement, ESL/adult education, service learning and international education. Rachel has a B.A. in International & Comparative Politics from Kent State University and a M.A. in Nonprofit Management from Regis University. Rachel is also certified by TESOL to teach English to speakers of other languages.

Rachel has traveled to over twenty countries in order to complete research and teaching assignments as well as participate in professional exchanges. She is passionate about travel, culture, community engagement, and empowering students through high-quality, transformative educational experiences.

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Rachel Lyons

Rachel Lyons

Director of Nonprofit Management

Tracy Simpson

Director of Community Partnerships

Tracy first started working with US-Brazil Connect in 2014, traveling to Petrolina as a Fellow. She joined the US-Brazil Connect team to coordinate the 2015 Brazilian Student Visit to the US, managing the 107 students’ two-week visit by coordinating host families, creating curriculum, organizing schools, and establishing relationships with local schools, universities and businesses.

Recently Tracy has taken on the additional role of managing communications and assisting in organizing events.

Tracy thrives on the work, and understands the impact that the US visit has on the Brazilian students, and also on the US host families. She especially enjoys watching lifelong relationships being formed, as these students experience adventures beyond their wildest dreams.

Originally from Colorado, Tracy has spent the past eleven years chasing her passion around the world, helping others and experiencing the adventure and wonder of foreign locales and cultures. She received her B.A. from California State University-Long Beach and paralegal certificate from University of San Diego.

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Tracy Simpson

Tracy Simpson

Director of Community Partnerships

Brenton Weyi

Development Consultant
brentonweyi@gmail.com

Brenton Weyi is first and foremost a lover of people. He believes that the basis of all learning and meaningful change starts with human connection. He originally started with US-Brazil Connect as an Education Facilitation Specialist in Belo Horizonte. With a background as a writer, thinker and movement champion, he became the Chief Development Officer of the organization.

Brenton has traveled to over 50 countries and has always set his heart on work that has deep global impact: from his time as a writer for an International school of Asian philosophy and martial arts in Thailand to serving as the Campaign Architect for an unprecedented presidential campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With a deep belief in the power of words and ideas, he has been featured in the LA Times, Fox News, and a number of journals and popular websites.

He believes that the only way to transform the complexion of our world is through education and international engagement. He has been deeply moved by the passion and dedication that all of the students and leaders in the US and Brazil have displayed toward the organization, and truly believes that this connection will spark a new generation of never-before-seen global leaders.
He can often be found dancing through the streets of Denver, Rio, or wherever his feet may be located.

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Brenton Weyi

Brenton Weyi

Development Consultant