Meet Our Team

With various experiences living in other countries and a desire to build international communities among international students in Houston, our team loves to help connect the nations through friendship. We would love to welcome you to Houston!

James Bartlett

Team Leader (Rice)

James is from Seattle but has lived in Houston since 2006. He has enjoyed being a part of the Rice University community as a student, alum, associate, volunteer and Bridges staff! When he isn’t shopping around Chinatown with students, he is playing pretend games with his wife and two kids.

Email me: james.bartlett@bridgesinternational.com

Cyndi Badal

Team Leader (UH)

Cyndi was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She went to Texas A&M University and after graduating lived in China for 5 years. Cyndi moved back to Houston to marry her awesome husband Scott. She loves hanging out with her puppy and family, being outside, and learning about different cultures. 

Email me: cyndi.badal@bridgesinternational.com

Daka & Heather Dyussekov

Houston Campus Staff (UH)

Daka is originally from Kazakhstan; Heather is American and lived in Saudi Arabia and Russia. Their first date was to an international cultural festival. They like making friends from all over the world, and helping students feel at home while they are here in the US. They especially love when students have their own children that are friends with David and Anne. 

Email me: ddyussekov@bridgesinternational.com, heather.ddyussekov@bridgesinternational.com

Blake & Emily Ackerson

Houston Campus Staff (UH, HCC)

Blake moved to Houston in 2008 after living in Russia for one year. He graduated from Texas Tech in Biology, where he made a lot of international friends and discovered his love for cross-cultural friendship which ultimately led him to join Bridges. Emily, with a love for cross-cultural friendship, enjoys welcoming students in our home. She moved to Houston in 2015 from Tennessee shortly after they were married. They love to explore Houston’s diverse food scene.

Email me: backerson@bridgesinternational.com, emily.ackerson@bridgesinternational.com

Alex Cardenas

Houston Campus Staff (UH)

Alex is from San Salvador, El Salvador. In the fall of 2008, he moved up to Houston, TX as an international student. He graduated from the University of Houston in spring 2016 with a master’s degree in Management Information Systems. Alex enjoys playing board games, cooking with friends, traveling and exploring new places, watching Bollywood movies, and loves serving students from around the world at the University of Houston. Go Coogs!

Email me: alex.cardenas@bridgesinternational.com

Nate Pennings

Houston Campus Staff (HCC, HBU, NAU)

Nate is from East Lansing, Michigan and he has lived in 3 different countries and 4 different US states since leaving home for the University.  He loves traveling and exploring new places with his wife, Wendy, and their 4 children.  He also loves learning about other cultures, languages, and traditions- that’s one thing that makes him so excited about meeting new international students!

Email me: nate.pennings@bridgesinternational.com

Wendy Pennings

Houston Campus Staff (HCC, HBU, NAU)

Wendy is from Cleveland, Ohio and has lived here in Houston with her husband, Nate, and their four children since 2016.  Before that, they had many adventures together while living for 8 years in Central Asia.  She spends a lot of time at home with her family- helping them with life and education and she loves spending time with her friends while enjoying coffee and deep conversation.  

Email me: wendy.pennings@bridgesinternational.com

Julie Ghormley

Houston Campus Staff (UH)

Julie grew up in Houston, TX and graduated from Texas A&M in 2014 with a degree in Biomedical Science. She’s gotten the privilege to travel through North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. She loves exploring coffee shops, eating all kinds of foods, and hanging out with friends from all over the world! 

Email me: julie.ghormley@bridgesinternational.com


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