Meet the Team
WCIE's team is inspired by a common vision of serving international students, their families, and the educational institutions that serve those students. WCIE's founding team includes the following:
Elisa Zhai Autry
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Dr. Elisa Zhai Autry is WCIE's co-founder and executive director. She is passionate about international education and combines an Asia-focused academic background with expertise in non-profit organization management, as well as active engagement in the international education communities. Dr. Autry serves as an affiliate professor at the Center for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation at George Mason University. In addition to her teaching, Dr. Autry has held various roles at the US-China Education Trust (USCET). At USCET, Dr. Autry worked with students, educators, and administrators from over 75 Chinese universities. She led programs on American society and culture, facilitated international conferences, and managed relationships with partners and stakeholders. Prior to joining USCET, Dr. Autry served as a program officer at the Institute for Global Engagement, where she worked with government officials, academics, and civic communities to implement global religious freedom initiatives. Before coming to Washington, Dr. Autry was as an assistant professor of sociology at Miami University. In addition to her teaching and research, she helped the university launch its Asian and Asian American Studies program. She has published widely both in English and Chinese. Dr. Autry received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology from the University of Texas-Austin, and a B.A. in Sociology and Law from Peking University. She and her family reside in Alexandria, Virginia.
Co-Founder and Chair, Board of Governors
Mr. Paul Boesen is a WCIE co-founder and senior advisor. He also serves as managing director of an English language school in Bethesda, Maryland, English Now!, and as senior advisor to GreenPoint Group, a strategic advisory firm that connects people and resources in the United States and China. Mr. Boesen’s background in education includes experience in general management as well as international program development and administration. Prior to his work in education, Mr. Boesen worked in investment banking and private equity for the Goldman Sachs Group in New York, Frankfurt, and Singapore; and for the World Economic Forum in Geneva and Beijing. He also served as executive director of the US-China Education Trust; and he serves on the Steering Committee of the One Million Strong Initiative, a Presidential Initiative to promote Chinese language education in American K-12 schools. Mr. Boesen’s academic background is in economics, Asian studies, and law. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Harvard Law School and resides in Falls Church, Virginia, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children.
Co-Founder and Advisor
Ms. Emilie Kao is a WCIE co-founder and advisor. She was founder of the Kids World Foundation, the Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to building cross- cultural understanding through relationships that provides WCIE its institutional home. Ms. Kao was born in the U.S. and moved to China as a teenager. That experience led to a career in international law at Latham and Watkins, the United Nations in Geneva, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the the U.S. Department of State. She also taught international human rights law at George Mason University Law School. Ms. Kao has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. from Harvard College in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and speaks Mandarin and Arabic. She is based in Washington D.C.
Ms. Lucia Pierce received a B.S. and M.S. from New York University, in education and Asian studies education respectively, and an M.A. in East Asian Studies with a focus on Chinese history, from Yale University. Ms. Pierce was the founding director of the Chinese Studies Program at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. She also served as the founding Head of Education at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, which together form the museum of Asian art at the Smithsonian Institution. Ms. Pierce has extensive experience in higher education administration as well. She served as the Assistant Dean of Admissions for the inaugural class of NYU Shanghai and the Director of External and Academic Events for NYU Shanghai. After living nine years in China, Lucia retired from full-time work and returned to Washington, D.C., where she is an independent consultant.
Southeast Asia Program and Outreach Advisor
Ms. Hien Vu is Southeast Asia Outreach and Education Advisor at WCIE. Ms. Vu has more than twenty years’ experience working in multinational and multicultural settings and serves as a Program Manager at the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE). Her current work with IGE is a demonstration of her commitment and capability in international relations, peace building, community’s holistic development and global education. Prior to joining IGE, Hien worked in the Voluntary Repatriation Program at United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Hong Kong. She also worked on human resources and development with World Vision Vietnam. While pursuing higher education in Fresno, California Hien worked for a multi-cultural humanitarian organization, Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries to assist the Vietnamese community and other Southeast Asian refugee populations in the city. She graduated from Hanoi University with a Bachelor's degree in English, and from Fresno Pacific University with her Master's degree in Peacemaking and Conflict Studies.
Hannah Donner is a summer intern Volunteer Coordinator. She graduated this spring from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda and is rejoining our team for Summer 2020. Hannah has been learning Chinese for seven years and was a 2018 recipient of the U.S State Department’s National Student Language Initiative for Youth Scholarship, which enabled her to study and live abroad in Nanjing, China for six weeks in 2018. Hannah hopes to use her experience living abroad to help other students in the U.S. and around the world this summer. Hannah also volunteers at a Chinese Adult Day Care center in Gaithersburg, where she helps teach English to the adults and translates for them while shopping. In her free time, Hannah also enjoys diving and playing soccer. Hannah will be attending MIT in the fall.