Faculty & Staff

The English Learning Institute has assembled a knowledgeable team of educators dedicated to each student’s success. The team is committed to sharing and imparting their considerable knowledge of every subject taught through ELI. Each team member possesses extensive academic training, professional experience and education know-how to provide every student with the highest quality outcome.

Academic Dean

Dr. Vander Zwaag began teaching English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Poland. He lived abroad for nine years and completed degrees in English Philology and Cultural Studies. Since returning to the United States, he has been the English Department Chair at Delbarton School (NJ) and an adjunct professor at Westchester Community College (NY). In addition, he has presented papers on Cultural Studies at conferences and published several articles. Dr. Vander Zwaag has taught English to hundreds of students pursuing the goal of completing their higher education in the United States.

AEP Instructor

Claudia Kirshner has a B.A. from Harvard University, a J.D. from Cardozo School of Law and a Post. Baccalaureate certificate in Classics from UNC Chapel Hill.

She has taught ESL to international students online or in classroom, specializing in explaining English grammer as well as phonetics, correct pronunciation and vocabulary enrichment via learning prefixes, roots and suffixes. She has tutored international graduate students and professionals in speaking educated English with clear pronunciation enriched with vocabularies tied to their respective professions.

AEP Instructor

Dana Salmon is a trained educator with a degree in Linguistics and Speech & Hearing Sciences from UNC Chapel Hill. She has experience teaching ESL to adults in a variety of settings, including a course offered to visiting scholars through the UNC Writing Center. Dana has studied education in the US, Denmark, and Turkey. She has training in educating diverse populations, as well as pupils with a wide array of learning needs. Her passions comes through in her engaging and creative classroom practices.

Senior Advisor

David Jacobson’s work with higher education stems from his time as an entrepreneur in the USA and Asia. He teaches global collaboration, topics related to innovation and works closely with the UNCP School of Management in their work building the entrepreneurial community in Robeson County, NC. Robeson County is one of the most impoverished counties in the USA. David has worked with high performing high school teachers and principals from Shanghai. His work with them relates to innovation in the classroom for setting new standards for student / teacher performance.

He is on the faculty of the School of Business, University of North Carolina Pembroke, NC. He is also on the faculty of UNC Kenan Flagler Business School and Tsinghua University School of Management. He recently became affiliated with the graduate faculty at the Harvard University Extension School.

David’s passion is helping underperforming communities create opportunities through innovation, education and entrepreneurship.


Rose Gao obtained a BA in British and American Literature. She has many years of ESL teaching and management experiences in the international education area. She is responsible for student registration and record keeping. Rose is fluent in both Chinese and English language with Chinese as her native language. She also supports ELI faculty to ensure quality teaching with great resources.

IT Support

Ryan Ji, graduated from Michigan State University last year with computer engineering major. Ryan has extensive website design and programming knowledge and is in charge of website design and updates. Ryan also collaborates with other colleagues to provide assistance to students with their academic studies.

Director of International Relations

HanFu Shi, Director of International Relations, has been a dedicated staff member at ELI since 2014. He obtained both a BA in Communication Studies and a BA in Journalism from  Eastern Washington University; he also holds an MS in Public Health in Leadership from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As Director of International Relations, he is dedicated to ensuring his job responsibilities which include promoting programs overseas, communicating with partners abroad, and designing promotional materials for the Institute, are completed in a timely and professional manner. His experience and education are an essential component to his success.