(in alphabetical order)
Adria Baker, Ed.D., Associate Vice Provost for International Education; Executive Director, OISS
Originally from Amarillo, Texas, Adria Baker got a doctorate in education focusing on sociolinguistic competence of international students, and completed part of her graduate work at the University of Costa Rica on a Rotary Fellow. Her passion is working with international visitors and her greatest joys are time spent with her husband, Ross, and son, Alec.
- Favorite song/music genre: Easy jazz and gospel
- Favorite part of job: Every minute of everyday - especially spending time with international students and scholars and the wonderful OISS staff
- Favorite color: Blue
- Favorite movie: Remember the Titans
- Lifelong dream: To play the trumpet like my dad
Sandra Bloem-Curtis, Director, International Compliance & Administration
Growing up in both Brazil and the U.S., Sandra developed a passion for culture and languages. She double majored in International Studies and French, giving her the opportunity to study her two favorite things. After college Sandra moved to California to work in Silicon Valley to gain more technical experience, and later decided to return to Texas to pursue a job in international education. She has been at Rice since 2002, and could not imagine working anywhere else.
- Favorite song/music genre: Brazilian music (samba, pagode, axe)
- Favorite part of job: The wonderful people - students, scholars, and co-workers
- Favorite color: Green
- Favorite movie: Too many to choose from - any movie that makes me laugh
- Lifelong dream: To write a book and travel the world
Jenny Brydon, Senior Manager, International Advising & Programs
Growing up all over the U.S. and abroad gave Jenny a love for all things international. She has worked in many different areas within the university setting but enjoys working with international students and scholars the most.
- Favorite song/music genre: Fan of all types of music.
- Favorite part of job: All of it!!!!
- Favorite color: Pink
- Favorite movie: Anything sappy or sports related
- Lifelong dream: To see a game at every baseball stadium in the U.S. and Canada
Maria Corcuera, International Advisor
Maria moved from Mexico to Houston in 1999 with her husband and their two daughters, for what she thought would be a 2 year period. Twenty years later, she is still here as a proud American. Maria loves ballet since she was a little girl, and danced for 35 years, later on obtaining her Teacher Certificate from the Royal Academy of Dance. She is fluent in English, Spanish and French and has a Law degree from UNAM, where she graduated with honors. Working with refugees at Catholic Charities, she experienced the joy of interacting with people from different countries and learning about their cultures. After 10 years at Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice, working with international students became her favorite part of the day, and today Maria is thrilled to work with Rice's international community at OISS.
- Favorite song/music genre: Brandenburg Concertos, classical music
- Favorite part of job: Learning new things and working with people from different parts of the world
- Favorite color: Blue
- Favorite movie: Intouchables (French movie with Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy)
- Lifelong dream: Walk el Camino de Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage in Spain
Marjorie Cerejo, International Delegate & Compliance Specialist
Marjorie was born and raised in Brazil. In 1998 she moved to Houston where she attended the University of Houston and got a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. After getting her diploma she worked for nine years at a local public relations firm. In 2011 Marjorie moved back to Brazil where she worked at the Embassy of Canada, the Embassy of Ireland and CONIF (National Council of the Federal Network of Vocational, Scientific and Technological Education). In 2018 she moved back to Houston to start working at OISS. She enjoys traveling, meeting people and making new friends.
- Favorite song/music genre: All types - from opera to samba!
- Favorite part of job: To be able to assist and meet people from all over the world
- Favorite color: Green and blue
- Favorite movie: Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
- Lifelong dream: To be able to live close to the ones she loves
Cynthia Evans, International Services Specialist
Cynthia was born and raised in Brazil. She moved to Massachusetts in the early 2000s, where she continued her studies in the field of Fashion Design. She moved to Houston in 2010 and joined the Brazilian consulate. The passion for her home country and the colorful international community in Houston sparkled in her a keen interest in different cultures around the world, leading her to OISS.
- Favorite song/music genre: All types. Mainly, whatever it is playing on her daughter's playlist.
- Favorite part of job: Making new friends!
- Favorite color: Yellow
- Favorite movie: Any movie but horror
- Lifelong dream: To see the wonders of the world.
Elmira Ganiyeva, Manager & Senior International Advisor
Elmira was born and raised in Kazakhstan. She thinks it is great to be an international student since she went to Undergraduate and Graduate Schools in Kazakhstan, Belgium and Spain. Before joining OISS she worked for the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Kazakhstan for 8 years. Traveling is her passion. She loves to meet and talk to local people wherever she travels. She thinks she's been lucky to have traveled to around 25 countries and to have learned about different cultures and traditions from the locals there. So, she thinks OISS is the best place for her to be since there is hardly any other place that is directly involved with people from so many countries!
- Favorite song/music genre: Ranges from classical (Andrea Bocelli) to salsa music (Marc Anthony)
- Favorite part of job: People who I work with and who I work for
- Favorite color: Tiffany blue (that little box!) :)
- Favorite movie: Life is Beautiful, Godfather, Beautiful Mind
- Lifelong dream: Travel to every spot of the world and to win a jackpot some day, so I can open a specialized school for children with brain injury
Jana Kelly, International Administrative Coordinator
Born and raised in Houston, TX, Jana is a true city girl! With her husband, Keegan, who is the bassist in the local Metal Band Sound Burier, and her two daughters Ksenia, 7 & Kasandra 2, she loves to explore and find amazing restaurants, museums, parks, and other hidden gems in and around the city.
- Favorite song/music genre: Alternative rock and progressive metal
- Favorite part of job: My coworkers and being able to help the best and brightest from all over the world
- Favorite color: PINK
- Favorite movie: I love all types of movies! I tend to like Directors more than Actors: Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, Cohen Brothers
- Lifelong dream: To set foot on every continent
Irene Mendez, International Services Specialist
Irene was born in Costa Rica and moved to Houston when she was 8 years old. She speaks both English and Spanish fluently. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Theatre Arts and Religion from Mount Holyoke College. Prior to starting at Rice, she worked at a law firm where she met all sorts of people from different cultures and backgrounds and gained a lot of skills that are applicable to her work at OISS. She is excited for this new opportunity to be joining the OISS team. In her free time, Irene enjoys spending time with her dogs, Miles and Lupe, as well as participating in trivia nights with her friends.
- Favorite song/music genre: Is Beyoncé a genre?
- Favorite part of job: Interacting with people from different cultures
- Favorite color: Yellow and purple
- Favorite movie: Pitch Perfect (only the first one)
- Lifelong dream: Travel all over the world
Andy Meretoja, Senior International Program Administrator
Originally from Finland, Andy moved to Houston in the Spring of 2009 with her husband. She majored in English Philology (a fancy way of saying language and culture) and wrote her Master's thesis about Neil Gaiman's graphic novel series, The Sandman. As a Rice international, Andy received a lot of help and support from OISS, and is excited to get to help other internationals herself.
- Favorite song/music genre: My all-time number one favorite is Red Hot Chili Peppers!
- Favorite part of job: The fact that every morning I really love coming to work!
- Favorite color: Black and purple
- Favorite movie: Snakes on a Plane
- Lifelong dream: To travel to as many places as possible (and to see the Houston Texans win a Super Bowl!)
Rex Miller, International Department Coordinator
Rex was born and raised in small-town Marion, IL. He worked and traveled abroad as a linguist in the Marine Corps, before moving on to attend college. After graduating from the University of Illinois with Bachelor's degrees in Global Studies and Spanish, he started working in university administration at his alma mater where he discovered the joys of helping students achieve lifelong goals. He has traveled/lived in Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, and Panama with plans to add India and China to the list in the next couple of years. In his off time, you can find him playing with his dog and two cats (Rocky, Salem, Quijote), training MMA with his wife, and improving his photography.
- Favorite song/music genre: Rap, EDM, Bachata, Dancehall, Melodic Death Metal
- Favorite part of job: Meeting new people every day from all over the globe!
- Favorite color: Emerald Green
- Favorite movie: Dumb and Dumber, The Raid 2, Ace Ventura, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, John Wick
- Lifelong dream: To continue to enjoy each and every day, and to bring happiness to others through laughter and giving
Scott Pett, PhD, Senior International Advisor
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Scott came to Rice in 2013 to earn his PhD in 19-20C American literature. He lived in Poland for two years during college. He’s a proud dad of two kids, and loves teaching first-year writing.
- Favorite song: "Feeling Good," by Nina Simone
- Favorite part of job: Working with undergraduates
- Favorite color: Blue ("accommodates contradiction," Hannah Gadsby)
- Favorite movie: The Sting
- Lifelong dream: Save the Polar Bears
Larissa Romero Valenzuela, International Services Specialist
Larissa was born in Mexico, where she got her Bachelors in International Relations. She came to the U.S. in 2001 to work for the Mexican Consulate in Tucson, Arizona holding a diplomatic visa, she married and became a U.S. Citizen. From 2008, Larissa has spent her summers in Houston to join her husband who is the Spanish Broadcaster for the Astros, while she was working in Arizona as International Business Consultant with clients on both sides of the borders; she finally moved full time to Houston in 2021. She loves the city, the diversity and the opportunity to be in one of the largest cities in the country.
- Favorite song/music genre: I love music, many genres and songs, I can listen to almost everything, but I would say soft music, like jazz, I love Michael Bublé, Luis Miguel, and so many
- Favorite part of job: To be at University campus, work with people with different backgrounds and learn
- Favorite color: White & Black (I really like all of them)
- Favorite movie: La vita é bella
- Lifelong dream: To be able to admire live an aurora borealis
Agnes Vajtai, Manager, Visa & Compliance Administration
Born and raised in Hungary, Agnes came to the U.S. in 2000 and lived in upstate NY for 8 years before moving to Houston. She received her Master's in Communication with a concentration in Organizational Communication from SUNY Albany, and has worked with international students and scholars at RPI. Because of them, she came to learn, appreciate, and fall in love with this exciting field.
- Favorite song/music genre: Almost all genres including classical, pop/rock and Hungarian Folk music
- Favorite part of job: Interacting with internationals, and getting to know different cultures from all over the world
- Favorite color: All the colors of the rainbow
- Favorite movie: Good ones that feature interesting characters such as: Sommersby, The Crucible, V for Vendetta, Forrest Gump, Dead Poets Society, The Godfather…
- Lifelong dream: To live close to my loved ones, and to learn how to play the piano