JETAANY is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization overseen by a Board of Directors.Â To learn more about the role and responsibilities of the Board, please refer to our Bylaws (PDF Download).Â Learn more about Board members by clicking on their names below.
Susan Hamaker is the founder of JapanCulture NYC, an English-language website that serves as a resource for all things Japanese in New York City, informing English-speaking Japanophiles of the multitude of New York-based Japanese events and organizations. Her daily life reflects her commitment to connecting people to the culture of Japan through networking and outreach. In addition to her website, she is involved in a number of organizations related to strengthening the relationship between Japan and the U.S., including serving as a Vice President on the Board of the Japanese American Association of New York; the Vice Chair of the New York region of the U.S.-Japan Council; and as the Executive Director of The Gohan Society, a non-profit dedicated to teaching non-Japanese chefs about Japanese rich culinary history.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina with a BA in Radio, Television, and Motion Pictures (Read: Communications), Susan writes newsletters for the aforementioned organizations and types graphics for live, televised sporting events such as the New York Yankees games broadcast on the YES Network. When sheâ€™s not pursuing all things Japanese in New York City, Susan enjoys reading, correcting everyone’s grammar, and watching cute cat videos on Instagram.
Zach was a CIR in Kochi-ken from 2001 to 2004. He lived in Umaji-mura, a small mountain village, for his first two years and moved to Kochi City to work at City Hall for his third. During his time on JET, Zach learned much about the local culture and dialect, raised money for scholarships with Genki Seinenkai (the Kochi JET musical theater group), and travelled as an interpreter with a delegation from Kochi City to their sister city, Fresno, CA.
Since returning from Japan, Zach has continued to work in education, initially as an ESL teacher at a nonprofit in Cambridge, MA, and later as the center director for a major language school in Manhattan. Currently, Zach is working at St. John’s University Law School and pursuing an MBA in Business Analytics. You’ll often see him at karaoke events and the yukata pub crawl.
Kia Cheleen is a native from Eugene, Oregon. She went to Japan on two separate high school exchanges, where she fell in love with the country and the challenge of learning the Japanese language. She went on JET to Aichi-ken as a CIR from 1996-1998, then switched to ALT for her last year on JET. She then went to work for the Council of Local Authorities of International Relations (CLAIR), where she managed all ALT-related matters and the Japanese language programs. Kia then went on to study international studies and diplomacy at graduate school in the U.K.. Upon completion of her dissertation on international human rights law, she worked as a full-time JET interviewer in London and New York, conducting over 500 JET interviews. She then returned to Japan to work for the United Nations University before moving to New York in 2006. During her career in NYC, Kia has worked for the Japan Foundation New York, Shiseido Cosmetics, and the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University. She attended professional translation an interpreting school in the U.K. and at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In her free time, she is cooking, traveling, playing with her friend’s children, or attempting to learn another language.
Kia spent over 12 years living abroad in Japan, the U.K., and Switzerland. She is currently a professional Japanese/English translator and interpreter based in the NYC area.
Christy Jones is the Director of Special Events at Japan Society, an American nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the people of Japan and the United States closer together through programs in arts & culture, business & policy, and education. Having joined Japan Society in 2001 as an assistant in the Lectures Program, Christy now plans the Society’s fundraising and cultivation events. While in college, Christy studied abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka and later spent three years living and working in Nagasaki Prefecture’s Shimabara City as an ALT in the JET Program. She graduated from Duke University with a BA in Cultural Anthropology and a certificate in Asian & African Languages & Literature. In her free time Christy enjoys reading, photography, amassing craft materials for future projects, talking about cats, and entertaining in her Brooklyn apartment. She has been organizing JETAANY’s Book Club since 2014.
Amber Liang was an ALT in Kochi Prefecture from 2006-2008. Immediately following JET, she sought a leadership role on JETAANY, initially as an event coordinator where she organized the very successful 2009 Author Showcase which featured prominent JET alumni writers, Roland Kelts, James Kennedy, and Robert Weston. She also produced the Sake with the Haiku Geisha Play Reading written by JET alumnus Randall David Cook. In addition to her current role on the Board of Directors, Amber was also the Secretary of JETAANY (2009-2010) and the Peer Mentorship Program Coordinator. Amber has presented at numerous conferences including the Predeparture Conference, the Career Forum, and the Returners’ Conference in Japan. As well, she has contributed to the selection of prospective JETs by interviewing candidates for the Consulate.Amber currently works at the Chazen Institute of International Business at Columbia Business School where she manages the international study tour program for MBA students. Prior to that, she was the Senior Programs Coordinator at International House New York, a non-profit residence and program center for over 700 international students from more than 100 countries across the world where she supervised a team of 50 graduate fellows to plan nearly 200 cultural, educational and social events annually.
Amber graduated with honors from Cornell University with a BA in Pyschology and a minor in East Asian Studies. She is currently completing her Executive Masters in Public Administration at the School of Public and International Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia.
Originally from Southern California, Joe grew up halfway between Los Angeles and Orange County. He attended Chapman University, and spent his weekends and summers entertaining children and families as a performer at Disneyland. Joe spent three years on the JET Program in Saga Prefecture. After returning stateside, his solitary goal was to work for The Walt Disney Company. Joe’s involvement with JETAASC began as an instructor at the Pre-Departure conference for newly chosen JET participants. He then went on to become the Co-President of the chapter for two years, and joined their board of directors just prior to moving to New York. Since moving Joe has explored many of New York’s neighborhoods, attended multiple Broadway musicals, and grown to appreciate the strong connection of the JET community. As an employee of ABC News, Joe is introduced to New York in different ways on a daily basis. He continues to love his new home, and is always looking for a new place to eat, ride bikes, and get to know new people.
Brenda McKinney is a licensed attorney based in NYC and holds a Masters of Education (M.Ed.) from Boston College, a Master of Laws (LLM) from the University of Otago in New Zealand, and a Juris Doctor (JD) from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where she was also one of seven Civitas Childlaw Fellows. From 2006-2009, Brenda was a high school ALT in Hyogo-ken, near Kobe city, and served on the Hyogo AJET board and the National AJET Council. Passionate about strengthening communities, grassroots international relations and the mission of the JET Program, Brenda has been actively engaged in JETAA chapters in Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., New Zealand, and New York, most recently serving as JETAANY’s President. In addition to JETAA, Brenda is an alumna of the Fulbright program, AmeriCorps JD Program, Concordia Language Villages, and she has professionally served at the White House, United Nations, U.S. Department of State and USAID in Washington, D.C. Married to a New Zealand JET alumnus, Brenda enjoys spending her free time with her family and friends, spending as much time outdoors as possible, running long distances slowly, exploring museums and traveling (now in over 70 countries).
Originally from Malibu, California, Monica attended the University of Colorado and has a B.S. in Business Administration with a double emphasis in Marketing and Human Resource Management. After graduating, she decided to trade the Rocky Mountains for the Kanto Plain and participated in the JET Programme. While serving as a high school ALT in Iruma-shi, Saitama-ken from 2002-2004, Monica developed a greater appreciation for Japanese culture and her family heritage.
Now residing in New York City, Monica is the Research Director at Parade Media Group overseeing print and digital consumer insight.
Monica has been involved in a leadership role with JETAA for the past 14 years. Currently she is the Chairman of the Board of Directions for JETAA New York’s 501(c)3 non-profit organization with over 2,000 members in NY, PA, and NJ. She previously served as President (2010-2014), Vice President (2008-2010) and Social Chair (2005-2008). Monica currently is one of the JETAA USA Country Representatives, supporting all 19 U.S. alumni chapters with a total of 55,000+ alumni and representing JETAA on the international level. She also sits on the Board of Directors for USJETAA the national 501(c)3 non-profit supporting alumni across the country.
Lee-Sean Huang is the cofounder and creative director of Foossa, a community-centered design consultancy. As a designer, strategist, and storyteller, he collaborates with communities and organizations across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia to solve social innovation challenges. He also teaches design, social innovation, and futures thinking at the Parsons School of Design, New York University, and the School of Visual Arts.
Lee-Sean’s career in designing participation and building movements began when he was a student at Harvard, where he studied Government and engaged as a community organizer and human rights activist. He later honed his campaigning and organizing skills running online-centered campaigns for Avaaz and Human Rights Watch. Prior to co-founding Foossa, Lee-Sean was the founding member of the design team at Purpose, a public-benefit consultancy that builds movements and new power models to tackle the world’s biggest problems. He has written for publications including GOOD Magazine, Fast Company, and the Huffington Post.
Lee-Sean was born in Taiwan and grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. After graduating with a degree in Government from Harvard, Lee-Sean worked as an ALT in Nakatsu-shi, Oita-ken from 2003 to 2006. He has been based in New York City since JET, and has also completed a masters in Interactive Telecommunications from NYU. He has served as webmaster of of JETAANY since 2006, and joined the JETAANY non-profit board in 2018. He also serves as a board member of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation. In his spare time, Lee-Sean enjoys training capoeira, a Brazilian martial art disguised in dance, keeping up with his Nihongo, and playing the ukulele.