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Supporting both displaced communities and language-learners

We empower forcibly displaced people as paid online conversation partners for language learners around the world.


We provide a robust educational experience for students to improve their foreign language skills, engage in rich cross-cultural dialogue, and think critically about forced displacement.

Our Story

With increasing numbers of forcibly displaced people, daunting projections of future displacements, and heightened levels of societal resentment towards these displaced communities, Conversations Unbound was founded in 2015 to provide livelihood support for forcibly displaced people, while also meaningfully engaging language learners in this global issue.


For displaced people, Conversations Unbound provides the opportunity to increase their agency and economic opportunities. We work with individuals who are new to online language tutoring, providing them with the platform, training, and language learners to develop their skills as independent online conversation partners. Some members of the conversation partner team who began their online teaching career with Conversations Unbound have leveraged their talents and are now full-time online conversation partners for language learners around the world. Others used their experience with Conversations Unbound as a resume and skill builder for other career opportunities.


The organization also strives to reconfigure traditional power dynamics at play in humanitarian aid. Conversations Unbound centers displaced communities, who are traditionally seen as passive recipients of aid, as a conversation partner. They are the producer and provider of knowledge. By privileging the expertise of our conversation partners, we aim to balance these traditional power dynamics — tutors and students can learn from each other by engaging in meaningful dialogue.


Conversations Unbound also provides a robust educational experience for language learners to improve their foreign language skills, engage in rich, cross-cultural dialogue, and think critically about forced displacement. Not only do language learners have the opportunity to strengthen their foreign-language conversational skills, but Conversations Unbound also provides opportunities for language learners to meet people who have different lived experiences. These one-on-one conversations enable language learners and conversation partners to find commonalities while learning to appreciate and respect their differences. In a world where hateful rhetoric about “others” is increasingly prevalent, Conversations Unbound works to break down the deeply entrenched "us versus them" mentality perpetuated through xenophobic narratives surrounding immigration and displacement.

Meet the Team

Elise Shea

Founder & President

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Naomi Blank

Program Coordinator &

Spanish Partner Liaison

Christian Lyon

Program Assistant 

​Zoë Van Gyseghem

Program Manager

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Megan Martin

Program Coordinator & French Partner Liaison 

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Michael LaCivita

Program Advisor

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Max Gaegauf

Finance Manager

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Meredith Hillier

Program Coordinator &

Finance Assistant

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Grace Kim

Program Coordinator

Julia Segal

Program Coordinator & Human Resources Manager

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Aja Wisser

Program Coordinator &

Arabic Partner Liaison

Alexa Mejia de Jesus

Program Coordinator

We work towards a diverse and inclusive organizational culture

Most of those on our administrative team benefit from privileged statuses, whether due to our race, socio-economic status, citizenship, etc., and the intersections therein. And many do not have a forcibly displaced background. We work diligently to raise awareness and educate the team on issues of diversity, inclusion, and cultural sensitivity. 


Conversation partners at the core

Conversation partners advise on all strategic decisions and have played a major role in the initiation, development, and growth of the organization.

We turn to the conversation partners for feedback on each semester's programming; how to better empower displaced communities; how to create programs that provide meaningful financial support to displaced communities despite some people's limited access to financial institutions; how to respect cultural norms; and how to facilitate engaging cross-cultural dialogue.

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