Meet the Team

Office of Regional & World Locations Team

Pablo G. Ortiz is the Vice President for Regional and World Locations and the Vice Provost for the Biscayne Bay Campus at Florida International University (FIU). With more than 27 years of experience in education, Dr. Ortiz leads in identifying efficiencies and leveraging opportunities for maximizing returns for FIU’s regional and world locations, and informs goal setting for each location to address enrollment targets, financial efficiency, engagement, and research. In addition, as Vice Provost of the Biscayne Bay Campus, Dr. Ortiz oversees operations of the campus representing the Office of the Provost.

Dr. Ortiz began his career as a teacher in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and went on serve as an elementary, K-8, middle, and high school level school principal for 12 years. Dr. Ortiz has been honored as the school district’s only two-time Miami-Dade County Public Schools Principal of the Year in 2006 and 2012. He was also named recipient of the 2012-2013 Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership as the top principal in the State of Florida.

Prior to his role at FIU, Dr. Ortiz was Assistant Superintendent in 2012 and Associate Superintendent in 2013, where he spearheaded the expansion of the Education Transformation Office (ETO).

Dr. Ortiz earned his Associate in Arts degree at Miami-Dade College where he was recently inducted in the college’s Hall of Fame. He finished his Bachelor of Science degree at Florida International University and has been honored as a Torch Award recipient for outstanding contributions and service in education. He earned his master’s and doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

Birgitta “Gitta” Rausch-Montoto serves as Director of Faculty and Global Affairs. Her primary focus is on developing international and intercultural bridges between internal and external partners, implementing operational policies and procedures, and aligning the university’s strategic global efforts with institutional priorities. She serves on the International Travel Committee and administers the Global Business Travel Insurance coverage for employees. In her role as Fulbright Program Campus Liaison, she has supported dozens of faculty with successful award applications, boosting FIU’s overall participation in the program. Since 2014, she has been chairing the university-wide Textbook Affordability Task Force which implements initiatives to ensure college affordability and meet the State’s compliance requirements.

Gitta joined FIU in 2004 as Executive Assistant to the 4th President, Dr. Modesto Maidique. In 2006 she was appointed Chief of Staff in the Office of the Provost, leading the office staff, coordinating the Provost’s standing Deans and Chairs Advisory Councils and Operations Committee meetings, and managing Board of Trustees Academic Policy & Student Affairs committee agendas as well as senior level appointment searches. Between 2009-2015 she assumed the role of Chair of the Commencement Committee and successfully conducted over 80 grand graduation ceremonies.

FIU is Gitta’s two-time alma mater: she earned a Bachelor of Administration with a focus on International Business and a Master of Science in International and Intercultural Education. Before permanently moving to the United States, she was a banker (Bankkauffrau) by training in her native Germany. She is fluent in German, English and Spanish.

Michael Hearon serves as the Assistant Vice President for Regional & World Locations. Michael’s primary role is to lead and direct the operational, fiscal and human resources functions of the Biscayne Bay Campus. In addition, he oversees the Office of the Vice Provost, and is directly responsible for the execution of the campus’ strategic plan. He regularly works with BBC leadership to develop procedures to ensure operational efficiencies throughout the campus, as well as engages in various activities aimed at enhancing the campus’ connection to the surrounding community. Michael works closely with the Vice President of Regional & World Locations in managing and supporting the operational, fiscal, and safety matters to deliver the greatest impact across campuses and locations.

Michael possesses over 15 years of higher education, and more than two decades of organizational transformation and community leadership experience. He has led numerous efforts to redesign, develop, student service and support efforts at one of the nation’s largest universities. The results of this effort were strengthened brand perception and consideration, improved stakeholder retention, and superior operational efficiency.

Michael leverages an ability to engage people, realign processes, scale operations, and build high-performing teams to drive fast-paced growth in both existing and untapped markets. He is a collaborative and people focused leader, who is deeply committed to creating differentiating experiences, which promote meaningful engagement, resulting in increased interest, enrollment and commitment.

Michael is a lifetime member of the Delta Mu Delta International Business Honors Society. He holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Miami in Marine Science and Biology, and an MBA from the University of Phoenix.

Julissa Castellano serves as the Director of Regional Academic Locations at Florida International University (FIU) since 2017. Previous to this position Julissa has held several positions at FIU, including the Director of Operations in the Office of the Vice Provost at FIU’s Biscayne Bay. She also held the title of Director of FIU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Julissa has over 20 years experience in higher education including serving as the Associate Director of FIU’s Latin American and Caribbean Center and as a Regional Coordinator at Georgetown University, Washington D.C. Julissa earned her B.A. in International Relations from FIU. She also holds a M.A. in International Development from American University’s School of International Service, Washington D.C. and a M.A. in Sociology from FIU.

Lukas K. Danner is Postdoctoral Associate in the Office of Faculty and Global Affairs. His faculty-related tasks encompass supporting the Cuba Council, carrying out background research connected to university administration proposals, as well as assisting the administration bargaining team in FIU-UFF Collective Bargaining. Regarding global affairs, Lukas helps prepare international delegation visits, and does research related to international education metrics.

Prior to joining OFGA, Dr. Danner was Dissertation Year Fellow with FIU’s University Graduate School, Thomas J. Smith Non-Resident Fellow at the Institute for Humane Studies, Washington, D.C., and Teaching Assistant and Adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations at FIU. Lukas also completed a student assistantship at Siemens Corporation, internships at the German Embassy Seoul, Republic of Korea, and the U.S. Consulate General Munich, Germany, as well as a year studying abroad at Beijing Foreign Studies University, China. Dr. Danner holds an M.A. in Sinology, American Cultural History, and International Law from the University of Munich, an M.A. in International Studies with a Graduate Certificate in Asian Studies from FIU, and a Ph.D. in International Relations from FIU. His dissertation focused on China’s grand strategy in a comparative case study of its diplomacy, economic policy, and military strategy. His research interests include China’s foreign policy, Arctic Affairs, EU-China, US-China, Sino-South Asian relations, and Security Studies more broadly.

Stephanie Aponte is the Executive Assistant for the Office of Regional and World Locations at Florida International University. She serves as the point of contact for all meetings and interactions within her department. In addition to supporting the regional and world locations, she also manages the logistics and preparations for ComPASS. Stephanie has over ten years’ experience in higher education administration.

Prior to joining the FIU family, she was previously at Larkin University College of Pharmacy, where she helped to create the experiential education department for the first inaugural class. She found her passion for higher education with her start in financial aid at with small colleges in San Antonio, Texas and Layton, Utah as Director of Financial Services. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources and Organizational Development from the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.

Tani Snyder serves as the Graduate Assistant for the Office of Regional and World Locations at Florida International University. Her tasks are largely in correlation with FIU Global, assisting in international affairs such as managing the international delegation visits to the FIU campuses and the Fulbright Program.

Tani holds a BA in International Development from Portland State University and a MS in International and Intercultural Education from FIU. She is currently enrolled in the Curriculum and Instruction PhD program and intends on focusing on Refugee Education. 

Originally from France, Tani has a great taste for travelling around the world, which she did for two years after her graduating from PSU. She is heavily involved in nonprofit work, especially with UNICEF, where she presided the FIU campus initiative which was awarded Best Campus Initiative in the US in 2019. 


Direct Report to the Office of Regional & World Locations

Alejandra ParraAlejandra Parra is the Senior Director of the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). In her role, she oversees the operations of the ISSS at the Modesto Maidique and Biscayne Bay campuses; and she is an integral member of the FIU team that promotes and supports the university’s continuous efforts for comprehensive internationalization. Dr. Parra has been in the field of international education for over thirty years. Prior to joining the FIU ISSS, she held leadership positions at Nova Southeastern University (NSU), first as Assistant Director of the International Career Development Center at the Fischler College of Education, Associate Dean for International Affairs, and Associate Director for the Office of International Affairs.

Dr. Parra earned a B.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language and also in Translation and Interpretation from the Córdoba National University in Córdoba, Argentina; an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second or Other Language (TESOL) from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, CA; and an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology and Distance Education from Nova Southeastern University with dissertation work that focused on international cooperation in higher education. As an active member of international organizations, Dr. Parra has served as NAFSA Academy Coach, and she currently holds the position of Chair for the Florida Association of International Educators. Her hands-on experience with inbound and outbound mobility and direct participation in academic programs, program development and international education initiatives give Dr. Parra critical leadership skills needed as we broaden and deepen our campus internationalization efforts.

Nancy HernandezNancy Hernandez serves as the ISSS BBC Director. She has been in the field of international education for over 20 years. She advises international students and the university community on immigration issues and oversees the overall management of all programs and services for ISSS at the Biscayne Bay Campus. Prior to ISSS, Nancy worked at FIU’s Office of Admissions as Assistant Director of International Admissions. She was Assistant Director of International Admissions at Barry University prior to working at FIU. Nancy holds a Master of Education degree in Counseling and Personnel Service and a B.A. in Psychology and Spanish Literature from Fordham University. A member of NAFSA: Association of International Educators since 1987, she has presented multiple sessions at state, regional, and national conferences and workshops.


Laura Lamour serves as the Director of the English Language Institute at Florida International University. She holds a M.S  in Curriculum and Instruction of Modern Languages (with a TESOL tract). She is originally from the Caribbean Islands, more specifically Guadeloupe, France. At the age of 5, her family moved to Canada, where they lived in Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa, Ontario. After 8 years of the harsh Canadian winter, her family decided to move to Miami, Florida, where the sun is always shining. She has resided here ever since.
She graduated from Florida International University with a bachelor’s and master’s degree. She began her education career as a French teacher at George Washington Carver Middle school and realized then that her passion in life was teaching and engaging young minds to think outside of the box. She then transitioned to the English Language Institute as a graduate student. She has been teaching there since September 2009 and absolutely loves every minute of it. She has helped developed several online programs, one of them being Reading Plus for all the reading levels. ELI students have had great success developing their reading skills as a result.
She is fluent in English and French.