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External Advisory Board

The External Advisory Board is pleased to expand its membership in 2021. Please stay tuned for more details.

Gail Hearn

Chair of the Board

Headshot of GENTE External Advisory Board Chair Gail HearnGail Hearn, PhD was raised in State College, PA, and graduated from Bryn Mawr College (BA in biology) and Rockefeller University (PhD in molecular biology). Following a post-doctoral fellowship at the Penrose Laboratory at the Philadelphia Zoological Society, Dr. Hearn joined the faculty at Arcadia University. While at Arcadia she founded the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program, a partnership with Equatorial Guinea’s National University, that promotes the conservation of Bioko Island’s wildlife through self-sustaining programs in education, research and conservation. Since 2007, when she joined the Biology Department faculty at Drexel, this program has been based at Drexel. When she retired in Fall 2014 from Drexel, her lab merged with that of Dr. Mary Katherine (Katy) Gonder and Dr. Gonder continues the research and conservation efforts on Bioko Island. Dr. Hearn’s other interests include the teaching of writing in the sciences (co-author on 2 textbooks), scientific illustration, and community involvement (previously served on the board of trustees of Penn Medicine, Pennsylvania Hospital, Wistar Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences, Germantown Savings Bank and Williams College).

Mark Asquino

Headshot of GENTE External Advisory Board member Mark AsquinoAmbassador Mark L. Asquino is a career Foreign Service officer with the rank of Minister Counselor. He retired from the U.S. Department of State in November 2015. Ambassador Asquino’s three decades plus career included postings in Latin America, Europe, Central Asia and Africa. During 2012-2015, he served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. Upon completing his assignment there, the Government of Equatorial Guinea awarded him the country’s highest decoration, “The Grand Cross of the Order of Independence.” In the Spring of 2016, the U.S. Department of State asked that he return to government service from retirement to take a short-term assignment as Acting Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Port Louis, Mauritius. During his June-August 2016 tour there, he led the embassy on a range of challenging political, economic and environmental issues in both Mauritius and the Seychelles. Ambassador Asquino previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Sudan and in Kazakhstan. In Washington, he was Chief of Staff in the Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights at the U.S. Department of State. From 2010-2011 he had an academic year detail from the Department of State as the Senior Public Diplomacy Fellow at George Washington University. Earlier in his career, Ambassador Asquino was Deputy Coordinator in the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the Department of State. The Ambassador is fluent in Spanish and has a working knowledge of French, Russian and Romanian. Ambassador Asquino earned a Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brown University, where he also did his undergraduate studies. He is married to Jane S. Asquino.

Eric Benjaminson

Headshot of GENTE External Advisory Board member Eric Benjaminson Eric Benjaminson is the former U.S. Ambassador to Gabon and to São Tomé and Príncipe. He is presently Assistant Director of Study Abroad at the University of Chicago. Prior to this, he served as the first Executive Director of the Gabon-Oregon Transnational Research Center on the Environment and Development at the University of Oregon. Originally from Brownsville, Oregon, he is a University of Oregon alumnus, graduating from the UO’s Clark Honors College in 1981 with an honors degree in History. Ambassador Benjaminson recently retired from a 32-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service, having served in Brussels, Sweden, China, Canada, the International Monetary Fund and, in Africa, in Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Namibia, South Africa and Gabon. Much of his work, especially in Gabon and in Namibia, was related to conservation policy, international support for African conservation efforts, and joint educational projects like the Gabon- Oregon Center. His foreign languages are French and Russian, and he recently earned an M.A. degree in Modern Russian History from the University of Oregon. His other interests include flying his private plane, and he insists on letting everyone know that he was an “extra” in the archetypal film Animal House. He is married to Lara Korobova Benjaminson and has two adult daughters.

David Gray

Headshot of GENTE External Advisory Board member David GrayDavid Gray, PhD, was born in West Virginia and raised in Fulton, NY. Graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, (BA in Anthropology and PhD in International Relations). After joining the faculty of Drew University he created, in 1962, the first American study abroad program in London, U.K. Subsequently moving to Arcadia University (Beaver College) he established a similar London Semester program in 1965 which led to the establishment of the Center for Education Abroad. From 1968 to 1988 he served both as Vice President of the College and Director of International Education. In 1989 he co- founded the Institute for Study Abroad, affiliated with Butler University, from which he retired in 2006. He then assumed leadership of the Study Foundation which focuses on providing study abroad opportunities for Asia university students in English speaking universities. In acknowledgement of his efforts in advancing international education in the UK he received an Honorary Fellowship from Queen Mary College, University of London, and an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II. Throughout his career Dr. Gray has been involved on numerous cultural and international organizations including volunteer Executive Director of the Pa. Council for International Education and board officer of, among others, the Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the French Heritage Society.

Jim Seale

Headshot of GENTE External Advisory Board member Jim SealeJ. W. (Jim) Seale graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University. He was an employee of ExxonMobil for over 37 years, retiring in 2015. He held technical and leadership positions including the opportunity to live and work in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and Angola. While an Africa resident, he traveled to other countries in West, East, and South Africa and developed a greater interest in conservation. During his four years in Equatorial Guinea (EG), Jim served as President of the local ExxonMobil affiliate (MEGI) and was responsible for oil and gas operations including working with the government of EG. During this period MEGI selected and trained approximately 150 Equatoguinean citizens to work as operations technicians as well as developed local workers in administrative and professional positions. Jim helped establish an American Chamber of Commerce and served as its first acting President. After returning to Houston in 2010, Jim led the Global Upstream Safety, Security, Health and Environmental Organization. He was also Chairman of the Board for the Center for Offshore Safety. He has a strong professional interest in Leadership, Integrity Management Systems, and Risk Management. Jim is a registered Professional Engineer in Texas.

Jennifer Seale

Headshot of GENTE External Advisory Board member Jennifer SealeJennifer Seale grew up in Texas. She married her high school sweetheart and they became corporate nomads – 24 moves in 41 years of marriage (among 4 U.S. states and 4 foreign countries). While supporting her husband’s career, Jennifer was a stay-at-home Mom to a son and a daughter and “professional volunteer” – largely in activities related to her children’s interests, and church, parachurch and social justice organizations as a lay counselor. During 3 assignments and nine years in West Africa (Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Angola), Jennifer became involved in conservation organizations. Four of those years, she volunteered for the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program and served on the U.S. State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council for Equatorial Guinea. She has a unique perspective on the political, economic, and cultural dynamics contributing to the pressure on Bioko’s biodiversity. Since repatriation, Jennifer has volunteered in projects related to natural resource management as a certified Texas Master Naturalist. She has a special interest in issues related to water quality and conservation.

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