CBYXAA Board Members 2021

Blake Goodman

Blake Goodman, Chairman

Blake Goodman is a Lansing, Michigan-based political communications professional currently serving as CBYXAA’s inaugural Chairperson. A member of the 32nd (2015-16) CBYX for Young Professionals, Blake completed his B.A. in International Affairs at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs before moving from Washington, DC to Munich, where he worked for boutique public relations firm LoeschHundLiepold Kommunikation GmbH. Having moved into communications during his CBYX year, Blake completed his M.Sc. in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where his research focused on the representation of minority-group members in videogame narratives. Blake currently works as the Communications and Legislative Director for Michigan State Representative Mari Manoogian. Outside of work, Blake enjoys reading nonfiction, watching documentaries, catching up on his videogame backlog, and (in normal times) traveling – especially back to Bavaria.

Jon Yahirun

Jon Yahirun, Vice Chair

Jon Yahirun (29th CBYX, 2012-2013) is the Vice Chair for the CBYX Alumni Association. Since his return to the US, he has been very involved in the local Washington DC alumni community from interviewing prospective program participants, planning events to hosting PPP short-term home stays. While he has an educational background in the sciences, he found himself working in international business and project management as a direct result of his year in Germany, with past positions at Airbus and Messe Berlin. Right now, he works at a sign fabrication and installation company. Originally hailing from Maryland, he currently lives in Washington DC and enjoys cooking, hiking and karaoke.

Robert Barrett

Robert Barrett, Secretary

Jon Yahirun (29th CBYX, 2012-2013) is the Vice Chair for the CBYX Alumni Association. Since his return to the US, he has been very involved in the local Washington DC alumni community from interviewing prospective program participants, planning events to hosting PPP short-term home stays. While he has an educational background in the sciences, he found himself working in international business and project management as a direct result of his year in Germany, with past positions at Airbus and Messe Berlin. Right now, he works at a sign fabrication and installation company. Originally hailing from Maryland, he currently lives in Washington DC and enjoys cooking, hiking and karaoke.

Stefan Knoepfel

Stefan Knoepfel, Treasurer

After obtaining a BS in Global Business from Arizona State University, Stefan Knoepfel partook in the 2006-2007 CBYX for Young Professionals program where he lived in Dresden Germany.  His passion for travel led him to start a career in the aviation industry after returning to the US and encouraged him to get his MBA in International Business from Thunderbird School of Business.  Stefan currently lives in Hawaii on Oahu Island working in aviation finance, is married to a 2007-2008 CYBX alumni, and had the opportunity to host a German CBYX student for the 2017-2018 program year.  He still maintains close ties to his wonderful host family in Dresden, Germany and had the opportunity to host them for a couple of months in Hawaii last year.  In his free time Stefan likes surfing, kayaking, swimming, golfing, traveling, and being an active parent. Stefan is looking forward to the challenge of building out the CBYXAA in the role as Treasurer.

Myiah Smith

Myiah Smith, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Myiah Smith is a 2014-2015 CBYX high-school program alumna. During the program, she lived in a small Dorf near Leipzig, Germany. Smith attended a Gymnasium, regularly performed with the school choir; and especially loved the 2-week ski tour through the Alps! Following the program, Smith completed a B.S. in Foreign Service with a minor in German. During undergrad, she returned to live a year in Freiburg, Germany to study sustainable development; all while interning at a cooperative art gallery. As a recent 2020 graduate, Smith has shifted gears and entered into the education field. She has joined a movement towards educational equity and excellence to expand the frontier of student achievement. Aside from teaching ELL students the skills to communicate their narratives and experiences, Smith can be found cultivating creative and sustainable communities wherever she goes! Myiah has been appointed the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chairperson and is thrilled to cultivate a stronger community with the CBYXAA

Erik Spooner

Erik Spooner, Alumni Stories

Erik Spooner is a creative leader with two decades of experience in the media, entertainment and technology industries. His work has included digital start-ups, event design, photography, interactive design, broadcast, and traditional print design for major media outlets like Us Weekly, Discover, Rolling Stone and Ad Age. Currently leading the brand and editorial creative team at Ad Age, where he directed its 2017 rebranding effort to wide acclaim, Erik built an agile, high-performance creative services team. Spanning digital, video, brand, art direction, photo and design, this team is regarded for collaboration and communication by business teams and newsroom journalists alike, including a diverse roster of clients, from TikTok to Accenture, Publicis to WPP. He is also a CBYX for Young Professionals Alum and spent his year in both Cologne and Berlin in 2006-2007. Hailing from Nashville, he currently lives and works in New York City and studies in Berlin, Germany.

Alexandra Cain

Alexandra (Ali) Cain, Events & Programming

Ali Cain is a 2016-2017 CBYX alumna who spent her time in Hamburg, Germany volunteering with refugees, working at an NGO for migrant women and conducting research on European Holocaust remembrance culture at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial. Currently in New York City, Ali works as the Program Coordinator for the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights, a think tank that promotes atrocity prevention. She is also pursuing her MA in European History, Politics and Society at Columbia University and will graduate in May 2021. Her MA research focuses on the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and their anti-migrant rhetoric and policies during COVID-19. Ali graduated from Binghamton University in 2016 with a dual degree in political science and history and credits her CBYX experience for her current professional and academic pursuits.

Michelle Hayward

Michelle Hayward, At-Large

As a CBYX (CBIII) alum, Michelle Hayward found her way back to the organization that launched her into the world in 1986 as a high school exchange student. Today, Hayward is the CEO of Bluedog, a certified B Corporation consulting with multi-national companies to develop business and brand strategy that lands in market growth. Her business insight is fueled by being in constant conversation with business leaders in high-growth companies around the globe. A graduate of The Kellogg School of Management’s Chief Marketing Officer Program, Hayward serves on the boards of Tony award-winning Lookingglass Theatre Company as well as The Everwood Farmstead Foundation.

Jennifer Huffman

Jennifer Huffman, At-Large

Jennifer Huffman is a 2011-2012 CBYX for Young Professionals alumna. During the program, she lived in Cologne for language school and moved to Berlin for the work-study phase, where she studied at Humboldt University and interned in the Bundestag. After her CBYX year, she remained close to the German-American community. She interned at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington DC and the US Consulate in Frankfurt before beginning her Masters in German and European Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. During her studies, she worked in BMW’s Government Affairs office in Munich and the Albright Stonebridge Group. Upon graduation, she returned to Frankfurt, where she continues to work as a strategic communications consultant with Brunswick Group. Jennifer has random hobbies that she prefers to enjoy in non-COVID times, such as musical theater, tap dancing, biking around Frankfurt, and travelling the world when not simply relaxing with friends. Jennifer desires to use her time as a Board Member-at-Large to strengthen ties with CBYXAA Alumni living in Germany, our sister organizations PPP e.V. and APPPs e.V. and with local partners such as Cultural Vistas and the German Bundestag.

Elizabeth Khumbari

Elizabeth Khumbari, At-Large

Elizabeth joined Cultural Vistas in May 2015 and serves as the General Counsel and Vice President of Professional Exchange Programs. In this role, she oversees the organization’s Train USA J-1 Intern and Trainee exchanges, as well as the business development and administration of programs. As Legal Counsel for the organization, Elizabeth is responsible for reviewing internal and external operational policies as well as any contractual agreements. Prior to this position, Elizabeth served as the Director of International Admissions at Long Island University where she oversaw immigration, recruitment, and admissions for LIU Post, LIU Brooklyn, and the university’s Global College program. Elizabeth is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Leadership and Learning in Organizations degree at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. She holds a J.D. from Northern Kentucky University and a bachelor’s degree in International Studies from Capital University. Elizabeth was a CBYX high school exchange student, and later participated in an internship and educational exchange to Austria. Elizabeth is very active with NAFSA and serves as the Chair of the Embassy Dialogue and on the Membership Engagement Committees—having completed a term as the national Travel Subcommittee Chair.

Chris O'Neill

Chris O’Neill, Membership

Chris O’Neill was a CBYX student in 1989-90 in Gronau in Westfalen. He finished high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and earned a bachelor’s degree in history and German from Duke University. After college, Chris spent one year as a teaching fellow at the Landheim Schondorf boarding school in Bavaria, Germany. He is currently a Senior Director of Regional Engagement for the Duke Alumni Association (DAA). In this role he develops, promotes, and coordinates the engagement of alumni in educational, cultural, service, networking, social, and affinity-focused programs. His area of responsibility includes the mid-western and southeastern United States, Europe, and Asia. In addition to the duties of his job, Chris serves the university through volunteer roles as a disciplinary adviser for students navigating the university conduct process and as an Assistant University Marshal. Outside of the university, Chris is active with social justice and LGBTQ+ programs at my church. He served as a team leader for the Youth for Understanding (YFU) Virtual National Pre-departure Orientation in 2020. He also enjoys running, reading, and cooking.

Sarah-Jean Vallon

Sarah-Jean Vallon, Communications

Sarah-Jean Vallon is a 2014-2015 CBYX for Young Professionals alumna. During her exchange, Sarah lived in Köln & Hamburg, studying at Universität Hamburg and interning at The DO School and Klassik Radio. After the program, Sarah took time to travel, living in Mozambique for 1 year, and consulted small businesses with their community outreach and social media strategies. She returned to Germany and dived into the world of crypto/blockchain with a pioneering company in the industry, Berlin-based BigchainDB GmbH – the team behind Ocean Protocol. As a founding team member of Ocean, Sarah has spent the last 3 years working to empower people in the emerging data economy. Initially focusing on social media and community engagement, she shifted her efforts to PR, communications and most recently, leading the creative development of the Ocean brand. In her free time, she spends time playing with her adopted dog Charlie, cooking while listening to podcasts, and teaching herself to code. 

Margaret Wallace

Margaret Wallace, At-Large

Margaret Wallace is an award-winning entrepreneur and creator of digital and real-world games, products and other interactive experiences that span a variety of industry sectors: entertainment, healthcare, education, art, and neurogaming. Wallace was named one of Forbes “12 Women in Gaming to Watch” and was previously highlighted by Fortune as one of “10 Powerful Women in Video Games.“ She co-founded NYC-based game development studio Playmatics, a company dedicated to innovative games and design thinking. In 2020, Wallace joined mobile games publisher Tilting Point to help lead business development efforts. She was a part of the first cohort for the prestigious Congress-Bundestag exchange program, a life-changing experience.

Cassidy Whittle

Cassidy Chreene Whittle, External Relations

Raised in the state of peaches and peanuts with a slight detour to the land of beer and bratwurst, Cassidy Chreene Whittle is a visual story-teller and non-profit administrator eager to make a difference on an individual and global scale. Experiencing the German language and culture firsthand through the CBYX High School Program 2011-2012, Cassidy fell so deeply in love with both that she hasn’t stopped being an ambassador for German-American relations. She paired her passion for German with her drive for journalism at university and graduated with a dual-major in April 2016 from the University of West Georgia, completed an internship with the DAAD in New York, participated in the Fulbright Berlin Capital Program for Young Journalists, and worked in the Bundestag as a fellow with the International Parliamentary Stipend. In 2020, she became the first graduate of the M.S. Global Media and Cultures – German program at Georgia Institute of Technology. Alongside her responsibilities on the CBYXAA Board of Directors as the External German Partners Coordinator, Cassidy serves as the Communications and Program Director at the Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta, a non-profit organization in Atlanta, Georgia, dedicated to promoting the Germanic language and culture. When she’s not immersed in all things Germanic, Cassidy enjoys photography, cooking, gardening, and spending time with her animals.

M Danielle Young

M Danielle Young, Fundraising & Development

M Danielle Young is a 1985-1986 CBYX alumna originally from Colorado. During her year in Germany, she lived in Radegast, a small village on the Elbe River, and in Lüneburg. Her professional career has been in higher education (Penn State and Oberlin College) and nonprofit advancement, with experience in events, volunteer management, alumni relations, and fundraising. She is currently an advancement director for the Sierra Club, with a focus on major gifts and foundations. She continues to be an advocate for cultural exchange and currently serves as a trustee for Oberlin Shansi, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building mutual understanding between people in Asia and the Oberlin community. Danielle is married to fellow 1985-1986 CBYX alumnus (WI) Patrick M. Kocovsky and they enjoy the outdoors, travel, and time with their dogs. Danielle is eager to support the CBYXAA and reconnect with other alumni.