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, Naomi 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.
Leah Jadeke, Registrar & Office Coordinator
(with L&F since 2022) Leah’s language journey began in middle school French class in Eau Claire, and has continued ever since. While earning degrees in both Environmental Studies and French from Concordia College, Leah studied abroad in Bangalore, India and Tours, France– where she lived with a host family. Having two very different study abroad experiences during her time at Concordia was instrumental in creating a deeper understanding of subjects addressed in her Environmental Science courses. To continue her French proficiency, Leah enjoys watching French séries, playing French music for her friends, cooking French food, and dreaming about when she can travel again to la francophonie.
Hannah Borgh, Program Assistant
(with L&F since 2023) Hannah started learning French in middle school and loved it so much she wanted to continue learning throughout high school and college. Hannah was a student on a L&F trip in high school, where she participated in a family stay in Nantes, France, and her family has also hosted two students through L&F. She earned a double major in English and French from Gustavus Adolphus College. During her time there, she also participated in a language immersion study abroad program in Nantes, wanting to return there after having made great memories and friendships during her L&F trip – eager to make new ones! Most recently, she returned to France for a year as an English language assistant in Évry-Courcouronnes. Hannah enjoys playing tennis, listening to music, going to concerts, watching new films and TV shows, and traveling to new places!
Barbara Keenan, Coordinator of Information & Technology and Operations Manager
(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!