Language & Friendship, Inc. has a staff with more than 100 years of combined experience in intercultural and educational programs. The benefits of this expertise are reflected in the high-quality service provided.
Naomi Thomsen, Founder
Educational travel abroad was a passion for Naomi, who created Language & Friendship, Inc. The daughter of missionaries, she grew up in Madagascar. She earned her teaching degree and her master’s degree in French. She worked at Concordia Language Villages, led for the Experiment in International Living, and taught in St. Paul. After 16 years of directing French programs for other organizations, she created L&F in 1988. In May 2004, the French government awarded Naomi the prestigious honor of Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes Académiques in recognition of her work. Naomi passed away in 2004 after a long, courageous battle with cancer. Her spirit of optimism and determination will always be the inspiration behind Language & Friendship.
Liane Mattson, Co-Director
(with L&F since 1998) After her program abroad through Concordia College, she knew she wanted to share the excitement of experiencing another language and culture. She has a double major in French and Biology, worked at Concordia Language Villages, and, during her years of teaching, led students abroad several times. She was the National Director of Nacel Cultural Exchanges, organizing programs with France, Germany, and Spain. She is passionate about language education and about promoting opportunities for people to learn about other cultures. She and her husband love travel, theatre, and music, and enjoy spending time with their grandchildren.
Jennifer Beattie-Cramer, Co-Director
(with L&F since 2017) Jennifer’s love of languages began in her high school French class with a trip to France followed by hosting a French teenager in the summer. Along with French, she studied Spanish in high school and in college. She earned a double major in International Relations and EconomicTheory from American University in Washington, DC. She spent 2 years working for an NGO in Madrid, where she mastered the Spanish language through daily immersion. She has spent the past 15 years managing and leading student programs abroad to Spanish, French, German, and Chinese speaking countries as well as coordinating hosting programs in the U.S. Along with her husband, she is raising bilingual children through Spanish immersion schooling, travel abroad, and hosting.
Rachel Aldrich, Coordinator of Special Projects
(with L&F since 2004) Rachel had her first experience with Spanish as an AFS student in Argentina. She fell in love with the language and majored in Spanish. At the University of St. Thomas, she spent her junior year abroad in Granada, Spain. She taught high school Spanish for several years and led students on programs to Costa Rica, Spain, Mexico, and also on mission trips. She coordinated L&F’s Spanish programs for 12 years before becoming Special Projects Coordinator. Rachel loves to explore new places both locally and abroad and immerses herself with locals and their food! Rachel, her husband, Stacy, and their son (’13), like to camp, ski, and, of course, travel and host!
Barbara Keenan, Coordinator of Information & Technology
(with L&F since 2006)Barbara’s love of languages started in junior high with a German class which she continued throughout high school and into college. She studied Spanish at the University of St. Thomas and spent her junior year in Granada, Spain. After teaching Spanish and leading student groups to Mexico, she moved to Japan to teach English. Barbara has hosted leaders and loves creating international friendships. She coordinated L&F’s hosting program for 10 years before becoming IT coordinator. She spends her time off with her many family members and enjoys running, tennis, and, of course, traveling!
Laurence Gallarato, Coordinator of Programs to France & Martinique
(with L&F since 2008) A French native, Laurence grew up in Paris where she lived for 19 years. She now loves to go back “home” and visit family in the beautiful regions of Bearn and Bordeaux. After earning a double major in History/Arts/Geography and Tourism in Bordeaux, she worked as a tour guide in Europe before moving to the U.S. in the 1980s. She loves to travel and some of her favorite destinations (besides France, of course!) include the East Coast, Greece, Ireland, Italy, and Mexico. Her hobbies are spending time with friends and family, playing volleyball, dancing, reading, and going to movies.
Michelle Roemmich, Coordinator of Hosting Program
(with L&F since 2016) Michelle
began learning French in middle and high school in the Twin Cities and never stopped. She attended the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire and earned a double major in Elementary Education and French Education. While at UWEC, she studied abroad and lived with a host family in Montpellier, France. After graduation, she returned to France as an English language assistant in Niort. She then spent the next several years teaching high school French in Eau
Claire, where she organized a student program to France with L&F and helped find numerous local host families before joining the L&F team because she so believed in their mission! Michelle enjoys traveling, discovering new French films, seeing theatrical performances, and being with friends and family.
Elizabeth Honorio-Arroyo, Coordinator of Programs to Spain, Costa Rica and Argentina
(with L&F since 2017) Elizabeth has always had a love for languages. She majored in Spanish and French at the University of Iowa, and spent time in Lima, Peru for a Spanish-immersion and host-family experience. The international friendships made during this experience were a life- changer! She went on to teach English in Madrid, Spain, and then returned to Peru to work as a travel advisor and English teacher. Upon return to the U.S., she worked with teachers and students as a Cultural Liaison at South St. Paul H.S., providing translation and interpretation services to connect Spanish-speaking families to the school system. She led students on an L&F program to Costa Rica and loved seeing how the experience impacted both students and host families. She enjoys photography, brushing up on her French, Crossfit, reading, and traveling when possible!
Julie Dunlop, Coordinator of Québec Programs, Immersion School Programs & Hosting
(with L&F since 2003) Having moved around while growing up, throughout the United States and abroad, Julie appreciates the importance of understanding other languages and cultures. She has studied French, Latin, German and Russian. Julie has a major in French and Education with a concentration in business from St. Catherine University and holds a master’s degree in Education from St. Mary’s University. She studied in Paris during her junior year and lived with a French family. She has taught at Concordia Language Villages and has led groups to France. Julie is married and has two daughters. Her family has hosted many times and her daughters have participated in abroad programs to France. Julie and her husband enjoy travel and biking.
Manon Houillère, Associate Coordinator of Programs to France
(with L&F since 2018) Growing up in Strasbourg, a European capital, Manon has always been fascinated by languages and cultures. As part of her Bachelor Degree in Modern Languages, she studied for one year at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette where she met professionals working in French immersion schools, and this confirmed her desire to work in intercultural programs. Manon graduated with a master’s degree in teaching French as a foreign language from the University Paul-Valéry of Montpellier, France. She enjoyed teaching French and sharing her culture in South Africa and in Poland before moving to Minneapolis in 2016. She loves to travel to other countries as well as taking her husband on adventures through the French countryside.
Liz Horstman, Accountant
(with L&F since 1997) First introduced to L&F by her friend and neighbor Naomi Thomsen, Liz worked as a CPA before joining L&F. While growing up, Liz’s family lived at times in Oxford, England, where her father was a visiting professor. While there her family traveled through Europe, particularly enjoying the Loire Valley. She is still trying to master the French language! Liz and her husband have three children. Their oldest son spent a semester in Spain. Their daughter taught at Concordia Language Villages and majored in Spanish and International Relations. Liz’s family has enjoyed hosting students from Spain and France.