CAORC LEADERSHIP and STAFF
Leonardo A. Villalón
Chair of the Board of Directors
Leonardo A. Villalón currently serves as the Chair of the Board of CAORC. He is Dean of the International Center and Professor of Political Science and African Studies at the University of Florida. From 2002-2011 he served as Director of UF’s Center for African Studies, a Title VI comprehensive National Resource Center.
As a Fulbright Senior Scholar he taught from 1998-1999 at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal. From 2001-05 Villalón served as president of the West African Research Association (WARA), the only sub-Saharan African member institution of CAORC. In 2007 he was named a Carnegie Scholar by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. He is co-director of the “Trans-Saharan Elections Project,”, providing information on electoral issues in the Sahel. He coordinates the University of Florida’s Sahel Research Group, and is also co-editor of the Journal of Modern African Studies.
Villalón has a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin (1992), as well as degrees from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris (1985), the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University (1983), and Louisiana State University (1979). His current research focuses comparatively on religion and the debates on democracy in Senegal, Mali and Niger, as well as religion and educational reform in those countries. He is also interested in social change and electoral dynamics across the Francophone Sahel.
Heidi Wiederkehr has worked with CAORC since 1997 and was appointed Executive Director in 2023. She is responsible for the overall operation of CAORC and its programs. She oversees CAORC's administrative, programmatic, and financial management, including: managing day-to-day operations of CAORC; providing strategic direction and operational and fiscal guidance to the Overseas Research Centers; managing staff; and overseeing all grants and sub-grants.
Heidi also works to expand research opportunities for American and host-country scholars, develop collaborative programming among institutions, and establish centers in areas of the world where infrastructure to support research exchange is lacking. She has worked with American and host-country scholars and officials to establish new overseas research centers in Sri Lanka, Mexico, Cambodia, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Indonesia, Nepal, the South Caucasus, and Myanmar (Burma).
Heidi came to CAORC from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, with a focus on Non-Western history and diplomacy, and eight years of experience in non-profit grants management.
Katie Jost joined CAORC in 2016. As Program Director, she oversees and administers CAORC programs including the Multi-Country Research Fellowship, the CAORC-NEH Research Fellowship, and oversees the West African Acquisitions Project.
Katie also works with CAORC’s network of Overseas Research Centers on a variety of initiatives and collaborative programs. She offers guidance on fellowship activities and reporting to funders for the centers. She also manages the fellowship alumni initiative and manages CAORC’s social media.
Prior to CAORC, Katie worked at the British Academy where she managed fellowship programs and worked with the Academy’s network of international research institutes. She also worked at the Institute of International Education in Washington D.C. Katie received an M.Sc. in European Political Economy from the London School of Economics and a B.A. in International Studies and Spanish from Oglethorpe University.
Jeff Badger joined CAORC as a Program Manager in 2022. Before joining the CAORC team, he held the rank of Professor and Department Chair of Fine Arts at Southern Maine Community College where he worked since 2008. At SMCC he launched the Global Studies Center, leading on-campus internationalization efforts and building the Global Classroom study abroad program for students and faculty. He has also taught as adjunct faculty in graduate programs at Maine College of Art, Massachusetts College of Art & Design, and Lesley University. Outside of academics, Jeff served as President of Friends of Aomori, the nonprofit that supports the sister state relationship between Maine, USA and Aomori, Japan. As a curator, he has organized art exhibitions in the US, Japan, Spain, and Greece.
At CAORC, Jeff manages the Overseas Faculty Development Seminars, assisting faculty of community colleges and Minority Serving Institutions in gaining first-hand experience to develop and improve international curricula at their home institutions.
Jeff received his bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and English from Skidmore College, and his M.F.A. from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University.
Senior Cultural Heritage Advisor
Zaydoon Zaid has assisted with CAORC’s cultural heritage work for several years, and joined CAORC officially in 2023 as Senior Cultural Heritage Advisor. He oversees all of CAORC’s cultural heritage programs, including the current small grants program “Preservation of At-Risk Cultural Heritage in Yemen” co-funded by the J.M Kaplan Fund and the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH). In addition to his work with CAORC, Zaydoon is the Director and president of the American Foundation for Cultural Research, a non-profit organization that began work in Oman and Yemen in 1952 as the American Foundation for the Study of Man (AFSM).
Since 1987 Zaydoon has conducted archaeological work in Jordan, Syria, and Yemen. His main focus of research has been the ancient kingdom of the Sabaeans and their capital city of Marib, where he has worked on the excavation of the Awam Temple complex (Mahram Bilqis) since 2004.
Zaydoon received a PhD in History of Architecture from the Technical University of Aachen, Germany, and a BSc/MA in both Architecture and Classical Archaeology.
Jullienne Kay joined CAORC in 2021. As Program Assistant, she provides programmatic support to the Multi-Country Research Fellowship, the CAORC-NEH Research Fellowship, the Faculty Development Seminars, and numerous other CAORC programs and initiatives. She manages the CAORC/ORC online grants administration portal, CAORC’s Instagram, and assists with preparing program reports.
Additionally, Jullienne manages the administration of several activities for one of CAORC's Overseas Research Centers, the American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS), including the AIYS US Scholars Research Fellowship and the AIYS Twitter and Instagram.
Prior to joining CAORC, Jullienne received a B.A. in Political Science from McDaniel College, specializing in International Studies and Comparative Governments, with a minor in Arabic. Previously she worked for McDaniel College and the law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, and came to CAORC with over four years of office experience.
Arcelia Jackson came to CAORC in 2014 with over eighteen years of experience in administrative and financial management. As the CAORC Administrator she is responsible for a wide range of duties including office management, finance and program support, fellowship program assistance, event planning, and everything between. Before coming to CAORC, Arcelia worked in the public school systems in the District of Columbia and Montgomery County, MD.