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.
Michelle Schermer, Coordinator of France, Quebec & Martinique Programs
(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 Spain, Costa Rica & Argentina Programs
(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!
Yana Ingraham, Registrar
(with L&F since 2018) Yana was born in Ukraine and has two native languages (Russian and Ukrainian). Her passion for foreign languages started at the age of 10, when she organized an English club in her school and started teaching English to elementary school students. She studied English and German at the University in her home country and later worked as an English teacher in Ukraine before moving to the U.S. Yana loves spending time in nature with her husband and they both enjoy cooking. She plays guitar and is interested in psychology and anthropology.
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!
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.