Portia Williams is the Executive Director of International Affairs (OIA) and an Assistant Professor (Coterminous) in the Department of International and Transcultural Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her current work explores internationalization practices within higher education and transnational cooperation. With more than 20 years of experience in education and development, Dr. Williams has directed, advised, or collaborated on policy and program initiatives in East and Southern Africa, Eastern Europe, East and Southern Asia, the Middle East, and the United States. Dr. Williams holds a doctorate in International Educational Development and Policy Studies and an Ed.M in International Family and Community Education from Teachers College Columbia University. She also holds an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Dr. Williams is a former Spencer Research Fellow and David L. Boren Fellow. Her research investigates the politics of foreign aid and its impact on educational policy and teacher shortage.
Blessing is the ProgramManager for OIA. Prior to joining OIA, she served as the Program Secretary for TC’s Education Leadership Program, where she tracked expenses for subprograms and supported a range of faculty and student activities. Blessing has a BS in Clinical Psychology and Japanese from Tufts University, a Post Baccalaureate in Pre-medical Sciences from Columbia University, and is currently pursuing her MA in Clinical Psychology at Teachers College. Blessing’s research interests focus on the cultural and cognitive influences on suicidality and suicidal behavior. She is also an avid reader and filmgoer.
Doctoral Research Fellow
Heidi Liu Banerjee is the Doctoral Research Fellow for the Office of International Affairs, and an Ed.D. candidate in the Applied Linguistics & TESOL program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has had over 10 years of EFL/ESL teaching experiences in Taiwan and the U.S., and has worked with Oxford University Press and Second Language Testing Inc. on test development projects. She worked at Pearson as a test development intern in the summers of 2013 and 2014, and at ETS as a research and development (R&D) intern in the summer of 2015 and the academic year of 2016-2017. Her doctoral research, which focuses on investigating the role of topical knowledge in second language assessment using a scenario-based assessment approach, won the 2016 British Council Assessment Research Award and the 2017 TIRF (The International Research Foundation for English Language Education) Doctoral Dissertation Grant. Outside of academia, Heidi is a martial arts enthusiast.
Rachel is a student in the International Education Development Masters program at Teachers College and a research assistant for OIA. After graduating with a BA in Political Science and French at Virginia Tech, she taught French for three years in New Orleans, Louisiana. Afterward, she taught at the teacher training university in Rabat, Morocco through Fulbright where she also began studying Arabic. Prior to coming to TC, she also spent time in Granada, Spain studying Spanish and Arabic. She has recently started a non-profit, WGEI, that does social-justice oriented study abroad programming in Morocco for high school girls from Atlanta, Louisville, and New Orleans and is interested in global citizenship education, as well as language policy, particularly in promoting non-dominant languages.
Grants & Funding Researcher
Erika Kessler is a master's student in the International Educational Development program. She received her BSIBL and BA in International Business and Chinese Studies from the University of Tulsa. Her current interests are the educational policy process of international large-scale assessments, civic and citizenship education, and social network analysis.
Tanwaporn Watanaporn Ohl
Communications & Technology Assistant
Tanwaporn Watanaporn Ohl is the Communications and Technology Assistant for the Office of International Affairs. After spending all of her life in Minnesota, Tanwaporn ventured to the east coast after graduating from Carleton College with a degree in Cinema and Media Studies. After a few years of being out of school, she was drawn back to academia and is currently a second-year master’s student in the Sociology and Education program. Her academic interests are primarily focused on indigenous language preservation and revitalization education efforts.
Katerina De Vito
Administrative Fellow and Fulbright Coordinator
Katerina M. De Vito is the Fulbright Program Coordinator for Teachers College. She provides information and guidance to students interested in the program, and manages the application review process. She is also a doctoral student in Health Education, in the Department of Health and Behavior Studies. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a Master of Science in Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health.