Passion for global education and a shared vision for greater cross-cultural understanding binds our team together, and we love what we do. We have dedicated ourselves to building cultural bridges.
Robert Fried, co-founder and executive director
Robert co-founded his first organization, the Chinese Language Institute (CLI), in 2009 while studying advanced Mandarin in Beijing. CLI has since hosted over 2,000 students in China from more than 45 countries and 200 universities.
Under Robert's leadership, in 2013 CLI began developing and leading short-term academic programs in Africa, Europe, South Asia, and Latin America. This effort incrementally evolved into what is today Solstice Education.
Robert graduated summa cum laude from Virginia Tech with a BA in Political Science and Communication. He holds an MBA/MA joint master’s degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and is fluent in Mandarin and proficient in Spanish.
Bradford Fried, co-founder and Academic director
With over twelve years living internationally and eleven working in higher education, Bradford’s depth of experience and passion for cross-cultural exchange are infused into every aspect of Solstice’s approach to experiential learning.
Bradford is the longest serving foreign professor at Guangxi Normal University (GXNU), one of Solstice’s partner universities, and co-founder of the Chinese Language Institute. In 2012, he was promoted to Director of International Staff for GXNU, making him one of a select few American university administrators in China.
Bradford holds a BA in Philosophy from Lewis and Clark College and an MA in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language from Guangxi Normal University. Bradford is fluent in Mandarin.
Nancy Fried, Director of Enrollment
Nancy knows what it’s like to prepare students to travel abroad. She first did so when her oldest son, Bradford, studied in China in 2001, and again when Bradford’s younger brother, Robert, ventured to China to visit him in 2007.
When the brothers went on to establish a school in China, she joined the team as Admissions Manager. In the decade since, Nancy has guided over 1,000 students through the many pre-departure steps required for a successful global journey. In 2013, she trained her replacement at CLI and now focuses full-time on overseeing enrollment for Solstice’s global programs.
Nancy’s passion for cultural exchange and dedication to each student’s positive experience form the foundation of the Solstice effort.
Lea Simmons, Program Manager
Lea is originally from Maryland and has since ventured to more than 12 countries. In 2011, she had the opportunity to study abroad with Solstice’s sister organization, CLI, and found inspiration in its welcoming community and Guilin’s idyllic landscape.
In addition to her experience in China, Lea studied for a semester in Granada, Spain and for eight weeks in Cairo, Egypt. The time she spent engaging with local residents and students in each country inspired her to enter the world of global education.
As a Program Manager based in Solstice’s Washington, DC office, Lea is committed to sharing study abroad opportunities with as many students as possible so that everyone has a chance to experience the transformative nature of global travel. Lea graduated summa cum laude from Howard University with a BA in Spanish Language and Literature.
Maria Rojas, Program Director
Maria is from Mexico City. She graduated with a BA in International Relations from El Colegio de Mexico, where she concentrated on subjects related to China’s rise as a global power and its relations with the developing world.
Maria took part in her first global education experience in 2008 when she received a grant to attend a semester at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. In 2012, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Yale University, where she earned an MA in Global Affairs with a concentration in Environmental Policy.
After studying at the Chinese Language Institute for six weeks in 2013, Maria joined the Solstice team as a Program Manager for Global Seminars. These seminars enable groups from around the world to explore a range of topics and understand Solstice's destination countries from virtually any academic perspective.
anias Stambolis-D’Agostino, program manager
Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Anias was first enticed by cross-cultural learning in high school when she began studying Mandarin for fun.
After a summer abroad in the northern coastal city of Qingdao, China, Anias vowed to return to the Middle Kingdom in order to improve her language skills and deepen her understanding of contemporary Chinese society.
She moved to Solstice’s China headquarters of Guilin in fall 2016 and joined the Solstice team as a Program Manager in summer 2017. Anias enjoys eating 麻辣烫 málàtàng, analyzing popular culture, and biking through the Guilin countryside. Anias graduated cum laude from Bard College with a BA in Asian Studies.
Echo Zhan, accountant
Echo grew up in a typical Chinese village, and although her hometown is near Beijing, its traditional essence has been preserved through many decades of change in China.
Echo earned her BA and MA in Chinese Literature at Guangxi Normal University, and later earned several accounting certifications as her role at Solstice expanded to include a range of administrative tasks. Echo joined the CLI/Solstice team in January 2010 and remains one the organization’s longest-tenured members.
For Echo, Solstice provides a window to the world beyond China’s borders. She knows Chinese culture well and considers herself to be very traditional in nature. At the same time, she is constantly seeking to learn about new cultures and ways of thinking through her interactions with CLI and Solstice students.