Team Leaders

Team Leaders

Meet our talented team of partners

Xperitas Community Immersion Programs are led by experienced and trained leaders who guide the group throughout the program. Team Leaders are trained in cross-cultural collaboration, group facilitation, and manage all trip logistics. They also serve as the liaison between the partner community and the group. Meet our talented Team Leaders below!

Interested in becoming a Team Leader? 

Learn more about Team Leader Training here.

Meet The Team
Tyrel Nelson

While attending the University of Minnesota, Tyrel Nelson lived abroad twice—a semester in Venezuela followed by a newspaper internship in Spain. After graduating with a B.A. in Journalism and Spanish Studies in 2003, he spent a couple of years working with Habitat for Humanity. He subsequently moved to Ecuador to teach English for twelve months. Regarding volunteer travel, Tyrel has overseen Habitat builds in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala twice. His history with Xperitas includes leading Community Partnership Programs in Guatemala as well as the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota multiple times. His first experience with the organization, however, was in October 2013, when he went to Cuetzalan, Mexico, as a participant. He has led many Xperitas trips to this community since then.

Rita Johnson

Rita Johnson has been an advocate for Community Partnership Programs since 1993, when she participated in one of the first programs developed - in Charuru, Kenya. Since then, she has visited 14 sites and served as a Team Leader on over 20 trips. From India to Mexico to Minnesota to Kenya, Nepal, Thailand, New Mexico, and the Olympic Peninsula, she found these experiences  humbling, mind-expanding, and generously sprinkled with jaw-dropping 'ah-ha' and 'laugh-out-loud' moments. Immersion into others' culture and daily lives is very different than looking out the bus window, as it requires courage and care from both the Xperitas team and the local community members. Facilitating these experiences through Global Citizens' Network and Xperitas has been one of her life's greatest joys.

Her professional life includes stints as a parole agent, a manager at Ford Motor Company's Twin Cities Assembly Plant, and a professor of Management at Metro State University and Hamline University. She is retired and lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Kelsey Schultz

Kelsey has always had a passion for exploring the world, in a constant pursuit of being surprised by people and places. She and her partner are learning all about being new parents, but she used to spend her free time outdoors, reading, running her dog and dreaming about her next adventure.

Christina Jennings

Christina Jennings lived and traveled extensively in Latin America and is fluent in Spanish. She has worked in microfinance / community development finance in the US and internationally for almost 20 years. She lives in Minneapolis and is executive director of Share Capital Cooperative, a national loan fund for cooperatives.

Eden Rock

Eden has worked with numerous nonprofit organizations concerned with international and community development issues, starting her career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal. She has a Master of Public Administration (SFSU) and a BA in Psychology (U.C. Berkeley). When not working, you can find her hiking and running trails.

Leonor Urbain

Leonor was born in Cali, Colombia, and moved to the US in 1972, where she attended the University of Minnesota. She was one of the co-founders of GCN, one of the two organizations who joined to form Xperitas in 2016. Leonor resides in San Carlos, CA, and works for Stanford University.

Theresa Heath

Theresa believes strongly in experiential-based intercultural educational programming as opportunities for participants to expand their worldview, develop empathy and encounter different ways of knowing. Theresa lived and worked in development and education in Guatemala and Mexico and is currently a PhD student in Comparative and International Development Education.

Jan Smith

Jan has led 15 teams over 23 years. She opened the Nepal and LaPush sites. Besides travel, Jan loves water sports, dancing, hiking and her husband Jim. She has a BA in Anthropology and and MA in organization behavior. She consulted with teams and leadership about strategy and culture change.

Lori Craig

Lori is passionate about travel and learning and she puts those two things together as often as she can - she calls herself a 'journey junkie'. She has experienced more than 45 countries as a result.  Lori has led many trips since she came as a participant to (GCN) Xperitas in 2004 and became a volunteer leader in 2006. Lori works with Indigenous communities across Canada facilitating capacity building and organizational effectiveness.

Steve Kerrigan

Steve loves to travel, especially when he can get to know people from the region. He works as an engineer and speaks Spanish and some French. Steve enjoys nature, biking, dancing, kids of all ages and a variety of volunteer involvement.

Kate Zwicky

Kate started leading teams for Global Citizens Network in 1996 and has led 11 teams to eight different sites, including Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, Kenya, and two sites in the U.S. Kate spent two years in the Peace Corps in Honduras working on sanitation projects, and a year working on construction projects in Brazil. After those life-changing experiences, Community Partnership Programs have become a way to help people take a deeper dive into a community where they might not be able to travel on their own. Kate is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. She works as a mechanical engineer in Minneapolis, where she lives with her partner and two teenage boys.

Ashley Utz

Ashley’s first experience living in another culture was during a semester abroad in Valladolid, Spain. She studied Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and worked with the Spanish-speaking community in the Twin Cities for five years. Before joining the Xperitas team, she traveled to Guatemala to implement the service component of a grant with her Rotary Club. So far, Community Partnership Programs have brought Ashley to Mexico and Peru. These experiences have been life changing, and Ashley cannot wait to continue to lead these programs as she also begins her career as a Social Worker in the Twin Cities.

Paul Ernst

Paul spent 18 years traveling internationally for supercomputer company Cray Research before shifting to intercultural work. He has assisted primarily nonprofit organizations here and abroad in the areas of diversity and inclusion, intercultural leadership, nonprofit management, and technology planning. He also has BS degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics, an MA in International Development Education, and a mini-MBA in Nonprofit Management. Paul is a former Global Citizens Network board member and has been a Team Leader for two decades, guiding many teams and developing one new site. He is an avid volunteer and enjoys studying languages, cooking, gardening, backpacking, and learning anything new. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with his wife Laura.