CEO & Co-Founder
Steven, an energetic, slightly over-caffeinated American who moved to Cape Town in 2002 with his South African wife and Russian cat, launched Connect-123 in South Africa after ten years of starting and running various businesses in Moscow, London and San Francisco.
While working in finance and venture capital in Cape Town, Steven realized that thousands of local organizations could use the help of skilled, international students and that thousands of students and professionals could benefit from real, hands-on, international work experience. Together with Lea, he developed Connect-123’s experiential learning programs to help students build their international work experience while simultaneously earning university credit. Steven, who now lives in Barcelona, holds a BA in Political Science from Cornell University and an MBA from London Business School.
Program Director & Co-founder
Lea, who studied Fine Arts at the University of Stellenbosch, started her career as a game lodge manager in the Sabi Sands. After being offered an internship in Moscow with a top PR and communications consulting firm, she packed her winter coat and ended up working in Russia for three years with top international FMCG brands. During this time of newfound capitalism and opportunity, she also discovered her skills as a networker! However, her love for South Africa led her home, where she worked in marketing, advertising, and trend forecasting, prior to co-founding Connect-123. Lea, who has a natural ability to understand and match organizations’ needs with applicants’ skills, is based in Barcelona.
Director of Student Development
Brett N. Steenbarger, Ph.D. is Teaching Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, where he teaches brief therapies and multicultural counseling to doctoral interns in psychology and residents in psychiatry. Dr. Steenbarger graduated from Duke University and received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas in 1981. After working in Student Counseling at Cornell University, he joined the SUNY Upstate faculty in 1985 as a full-time faculty member and also as Director of Student Counseling and Associate Dean of Student Affairs. In his faculty role, Dr. Steenbarger has published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and co-authored several standard reference works in psychiatry on the topic of brief therapies. He also taught in an adjunct faculty role at Syracuse University in their Department of Counseling, offering courses in human development, multicultural counseling, and mental health counseling. In 2003, he moved to a part-time faculty role to begin working in finance with traders and portfolio managers, applying short-term psychological methods to the coaching of professional money managers. Since then, he has worked with dozens of financial firms and authored five books and hundreds of articles on topics related to trading psychology and human performance.
Carla graduated with a Diploma in Events Management. She has always loved putting a smile on people’s faces and making a positive difference in their lives. She previously worked for Woolworths Educational Programmes, where she helped educate learners at schools and residents of multiple communities on healthy living and the environment. She hopes to further make a difference at Connect-123, where she assists in helping others pursue their passions. She hasn’t yet traveled, but aims to visit Thailand soon!
Program Coordinator & Preceptor
Chris is a board certified Recreation Therapist and Child Life Specialist. She spent her formative years in England, Brazil, and South Africa, and returned to the US to attend Ithaca College where she graduated with a degree in Recreation Therapy. She then moved to Boston for 10 years where she worked with populations such as stroke/TBI, pediatric behavioral psych, special education, and pediatric burn care. Chris credits her upbringing as a “third culture kid” with giving her a culturally sensitive perspective that encourages creativity, patience, empathy, and connection – characteristics she is excited to help students evolve as part of their international experiences. She is passionate about program development and loves mentoring students in her role as preceptor for Connect-123’s Child Life Practicum program in Cape Town.
Program Development & Preceptor
Meghan Kelly, MSEd, CCLS, received a BS in Early Childhood Education/Special Education from Boston College ’84 and was special educator for 15 years teaching children of various ages with severe emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities. She earned MSEd in Special Education with a concentration in Child Life from NYC’s Bank Street College of Education ’97 and became a Certified Child Life Specialist in 1999.
She has been working at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) in the Bronx, NY since 1999 with patients of varying ages and diagnoses. Meghan became the Director of the Child Life Program in 2004, and subsequently the Creative Arts and Patient and Family Programs. Mentorship programs created under her direction have successfully launched over 125 young adult students into careers, many in healthcare. Her areas of expertise include mentorship, patient experience and program development.
Sophie is originally from beautiful Cornwall in the southwest of England, though on finishing her studies left to see the world and spent several years travelling and working in east Africa, southeast Asia and Australia. After finally settling back in London to complete a degree in International Development, she spent time working in peacebuilding organizations, particularly on the subjects of gender and the climate crisis and how these are related to conflict. During this time, she was lucky enough to meet and learn from inspiring people from all over the world, develop progressive programs and learn how to work with sensitivity, empathy and dignity. Now settled in Barcelona, Sophie brings her love of travel and connecting with people to her role as Program Coordinator.
Kailin loves traveling and exploring Asia’s diverse cultures. While studying at the College of the Holy Cross, she spent a year living in Beijing, Shanghai and Kunming, where she became fluent in Mandarin Chinese, worked in migrant schools, and participated in self-designed immersion trips to China’s ethnic minority communities. After graduating with a degree in international relations and Chinese studies, she returned to China to participate in a research program in Harbin aimed at the relationship between ethical tourism, culture preservation, and China’s ethnic minorities. She later earned her graduate certificate from the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American studies in Nanjing, China and worked in a rural Bai ethnic minority village near Dali, Yunnan. Going on her fourth year in China, Kailin continues to explore China’s provinces and neighboring Asian countries and is actively involved in Shanghai and Nanjing’s communities through participating in numerous running groups, co-organizing a women’s group in Nanjing, writing for a domestic violence aid program, and fostering rescued animals. Through Connect-123, she’s excited to help students experience unique opportunities in China that she was able to experience as a student herself.
Macarena (Maca) realized the impact of international experience on professional development after attending an English language training program in New York City. Being able to follow her chosen career path, while getting an opportunity to meet new people from different cultures at the same time, is what motivated her the most during her time abroad.
After developing an interest in international organizations, gender studies, culture, and economic development, Macarena won a scholarship to study abroad in Europe, where she chose the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in Spain. In the old continent, she discovered her passion for art history and is currently obsessed with avant-garde art movements.
She is in her final year at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, where she is about to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Sciences with orientation in Communication Planning and Policies.
Maca was born and raised in Buenos Aires, and having been a foreign student herself, she is more than happy to help Connect-123 interns with their own experience working abroad in Argentina.