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2020 FIGT Board Transitions: Fond Farewells and Warm Welcomes

21 Sep 2020 6:52 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

It's that time of year where we say farewell to some of our FIGT Board Directors. Thank you, Valérie Besanceney, Vivian Chiona, Linda Janssen, Dr Anne Lessle, and Ginny Philps, for your leadership.

Blog title

No matter what happens on its surface, our blue planet has made its journey around the sun once again and it’s time for the FIGT community to welcome new members to its Board and farewell those who are moving on.

We asked the five departing Board members to reflect on their experiences on the Board and briefly introduce those who will be taking their place for the next two-year term.

(The incoming Directors will be sharing more about themselves in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.)


Affiliates Director

Profile pic of Vivian ChionaVivian Chiona has served as Affiliates Director for the last two years, during which time FIGT’s Affiliate network has expanded considerably, including the new International Education Affiliate, and regional affiliates in Japan, Melbourne, and Germany.

She recalls several proud moments as Director over the course of her two years in office. One of the most memorable was when she met other Affiliate leaders at FIGT 2019 “with hugs and thankful words.” She could feel that bond with the people she had worked so hard with for a whole year. “You could see their eyes sparkle.”

She’s also proud to have achieved her goal to have 20 Affiliates. 

“There are currently 17 and three others are in the pipeline. So I am going to step down knowing that, although there are not officially 20 yet, we are almost there. Beyond [the] numbers, what matters is that they are active Affiliates with a structure [that] ensures their sustainability in the long- term.”

Vivian plans to continue being a part of the FIGT family and to contribute where she can. And she will continue to support expats through Expat Nest, the counselling service she founded some years ago that provides services in English, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Arabic...and more languages coming soon.

Profile pic of Emily RogersEmily Rogers will step up as Affiliates Director. She’s a human-resources professional passionate about capability development and supporting people to become the best version of themselves. Emily is the founder of Expat Parenting Abroad, which supports parents in transition and finding their way while living abroad.


Communications Co-Directors

Profile pic of Dr. Anne LessleProfile pic of Ginny PhilpsDr. Anne Lessle and Ginny Philps have been Communications Co-Directors for the last two years. Under their leadership, FIGT has expanded its communications activity to include its monthly Focus series, bringing the type of content and exchange of ideas found at an FIGT conference to a wider audience and throughout the year.

The most memorable moment for Anne during her tenure was when she travelled to London to “humbly receive the Think Relocate Award for FIGT in the category ‘best family support.’”

After stepping down from the FIGT Director role, she’ll be busy following her passion as an equestrian coach in Australia.

Ginny recalls her the most memorable/proudest moment as Director as helping to 

“deliver a great conference in Bangkok in 2019 and seeing the caliber of the presenters, attendees, and content—and knowing that we are part of an incredible organization that is groundbreaking, generous, honest, and determined to widen the tent, to invite more diversity, more voices to the table.

Recently having relocated to Rio de Janeiro, she’ll be working on building her profile and client base as a sustainability communications consultant while making the most of every minute living in the wonder of Rio!

Pic of Flor Breton-Garcia The new Communications Co-Directors are Flor Breton-Garcia and Petra Shellis.

Flor is an intercultural communication and language trainer who values working with different customs, standards, and social mores. She has experience as an expat, lawyer, educator, business director and entrepreneur. 

Pic of Petra ShellisPetra is passionate about different cultures, personal development, and professional development and has experience in finance, branding, promotion, networking, and developing marketing strategies. She has been awarded a Commemorative Gold Coin for improving the relationships between foreigners and Chinese living in China. 


Program Director

Profile pic of Valérie Besanceney Valérie Besanceney has served as Program Director for the past two years, which included the unprecedented conference cancellation this year. Valerie will be remaining as Program Co-Director as we plan our virtual 2021 conference, a testament to her passion for and commitment to the FIGT community.

Her proudest moment came as she observed the audience at FIGT2019 in Bangkok.

“The tears, the smiles of resonance, the nodding, the laughter were all constant reminders of people feeling validated in the stories being shared. [It] reminded me that we were all connected by common threads, even though each of our stories was so incredibly unique.

“When I first went to FIGT in 2015, I knew I had found my tribe. Today, I feel such a sense of pride in knowing that, together with an amazing group of Board members and other volunteers, I had the privilege of creating a conference that brought that experience of ‘feeling home’ to others.” 

She also feels proud of

“how resilient our Board proved to be when we had to cancel FIGT2020.... Not only did everybody help each other process this moment of loss, but I was also in awe of the creative, hands-on, and considerate responses from our community as we looked for alternative solutions.”

As for the future, Valérie is on the board of Safe Passage Across of Networks, another organization she holds close to her heart as an educator and an ATCK, and she is excited to see where it is going. She and her husband have just started a small business teaching after-school activities in English in the Swiss Alps, where they live with their two young daughters. 

Pic of Stephen TooleThe new Program Director is Stephen Toole, a career educator who has been teaching throughout the world for over 20 years. He first presented at FIGT in 2018 and has volunteered on the program committee for the past three years.

Sponsorship Director

Profile pic of Linda JanssenLinda Janssen served three years as the Sponsorship Director and was on the FIGT Board of Directors for five of the past six years. She is passionate about the work of the Board, which she calls “FIGT’s heart and soul.” 

“The Board—individually and collectively—juggles the enormous tasks of updating the organization's purpose and mission in an ever-changing world, ensuring its financial foundation and fiscal health, and fueling growth to better reach, reflect, and serve our ever-expanding, globally mobile, cross-cultural community.

“I've enjoyed the camaraderie and spirit of working with people who strive to improve the organization in every way. My primary focus has been enhancing sponsorship to seek partners who not only align with our mission, values, and service, but are also proud to invest in FIGT and grow in relationship with us. Beyond that, I'm probably most proud of pitching in and contributing whenever and wherever circumstances have required.

“What's next? I look forward to expanding my resilience-focused coaching and training and finishing my second novel. But I'll definitely continue supporting FIGT through membership, participating in conference and other community events, and volunteering.”

Pic of Dr. Sonja Lopez Arnak Dr. Sonja Lopez Arnak will be stepping up as the new Sponsorship Director. She teaches at a university in San Diego as well as Teach-Now in Washington, DC, and has worked as a teacher and administrator in schools in multiple countries. For the past ten years, Sonja has been working with online education, including course design, pedagogy and faculty training. 

Thank you once again, Vivian, Anne, Ginny, Valérie, and Linda, for all that you’ve given to the FIGT community. The organization would not be where it is without your time, enthusiasm, skills, and experiences. Best wishes for your next endeavors! And welcome on board to those of you who’ve committed to lead us for the next two years!

The new Directors will be sharing more about themselves in upcoming posts. Please join us on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter and sign up to our newsletter to get updates!

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