Board of Directors


Daunis Auers, University of Latvia

The President is the chief executive officer of the Association, performing all duties required by the Constitution and Bylaws, or, if not specified, those approved by the Board of Directors. Following his or her term the President becomes the Director-at-Large.

Daunis Auers (PhD, University College London) is Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Latvia. He has been a Fulbright Scholar at the University of California-Berkeley (2005-2006) and a Baltic-American Freedom Foundation Scholar at Wayne State University in Detroit (2014). He has published widely on political parties, elections and referendums as well as populism and the radical right in Baltic and European politics. His most recent book – The Comparative Government and Politics of the Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the 21st Century – was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015. Much of his recent research has been more policy-oriented, focusing on the growth and economic impact of international students in Latvia, projections of Latvia’s demographic future and studies of the competitiveness of the city of Riga.


Dovilė Budrytė, Georgia Gwinnett College

The President-Elect aids the President in the carrying out of his duties in a coordinated effort to provide a continuity of Association’s administration. She automatically succeeds to the Presidency at the end of the two year term following her election to the office of the President-Elect.

Dovilė Budrytė (PhD, Old Dominion University) served as Vice President of Publications on the AABS board in 2016-2018 and 2018-2020. She is Professor of Political Science and Chair of Faculty (Political Science) at Georgia Gwinnett College. She has published articles and books on various topics related to minority rights and memory politics in Lithuania, including Memory and Trauma in International Relations: Theories, Cases and Debates (co-editor with Erica Resende, Routledge 2013), and Crisis and Change in Post-Cold War Global Politics: Ukraine in a Comparative Perspective (co-edited with Erica Resende and Didem Buhari, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). In 2014/15, she was the recipient of the University System of Georgia Excellence in Teaching Award.

Vice President for Professional Development

Ineta Dabašinskienė, Vytautas Magnus University

The Vice President for Professional Development coordinates and facilitates scholarly activities to develop Baltic Studies, especially in the Baltic states.

Ineta Dabašinskienė (PhD, Vytautas Magnus University) is Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Multilingualism Research Center at Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas. Her research interests are related to socio- and psycholinguistics, especially to first and second language acquisition, language use and variation, multilingualism and language policy. She has taught and carried out research at various universities in Europe and the USA. She has also led or coordinated several national and international research and educational projects.

Vice President for Conferences

Laura Dean, Millikin University

The Vice President for Conferences plans and organizes conferences for the exchange of research findings and professional views.

Laura Dean (PhD, University of Kansas) is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Millikin University and starting in August 2020 she will be an Associate Professor of Political Science. She is also a Regional Faculty Associate at the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In 2016, she was a Title VIII Summer Research Scholar at the Kennan Institute part of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She researches gender and politics issues focusing on public policy, migration, and gender based violence in the Baltic States and Eurasia. Her research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, American Association of University Women, Fulbright Program, Rotary Foundation, and published in a variety of journals including the Journal of Baltic Studies. Her forthcoming book Diffusing Human Trafficking Policy in Eurasia (Policy Press, University of Bristol, distributed by the University of Chicago Press, forthcoming May 2020) examines the adoption and implementation of human trafficking policy and the resulting institutions and networks.

Vice President for Publications

Ausra Park, Siena College

The Vice President for Publications plans and directs the Association’s publications program and oversees its awards and prizes programs.

Ausra Park (PhD, University of South Carolina) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Siena College in New York, USA. She has received her Ph.D. in International Studies from the University of South Carolina. She is a recipient of a Fulbright US Scholar award, International Education Exchange Board (IREX) grant, the German Marshall Fund of the United States Dissertation Research Fellowship, American Councils for International Education Advanced Research Fellowship, and other research grants. Her research interests are centered on small post-communist European states, top political leadership profiling, comparative foreign policy, social justice (specifically, human trafficking in Eastern European region), and international political economy. Her work has appeared in leading international journals such as Demokratizatsiya, Journal of Baltic Studies, East European Politics, Journal of Contemporary European Studies, European Security, East European Quarterly, and online publications though U.S. think tanks (i.e., Foreign Policy Research Institute and Presidential Power blog). Her current research focuses on the first female Eastern European presidents that recently came to power (case studies of Latvia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Croatia, Estonia, Slovakia, and Georgia) and the impact as well as legacies they have had on the presidential office; and on small state status-seeking (a case study of Lithuania).


Ieva Zake, Millersville University

The Secretary prepares comprehensive meeting minutes and assists the executive office with correspondence, records, and elections while serving on committees as necessary.

Ieva Zaķe (PhD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst) currently serves as Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Millersville University. She was previously Vice Provost at The College of New Jersey, and professor of sociology and Associate Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Rowan University. She is an author of American Latvians: Politics of a Refugee Community and Anti-Communist Minorities in the US: Political Activism of Ethnic Refugees as well as numerous articles dealing with issues of nationalism in Latvia during the inter-war period, intellectuals in politics, post-communist politics, tourism to the USSR during the cold war era and post-World War II Eastern European immigrants in the US.


Ugis Sprūdžs, CFA

The Treasurer prepares the annual budget, makes authorized investments, supervises collections and disbursements of funds, and maintains proper accounting records. He prepares and presents the financial reports of the Association.

Uģis Sprūdžs, CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) was recently Senior Manager at Allstate. He has over thirty years’ experience working as a manager and data analyst. He earned his BA, MAT, and MBA (1984) at the University of Chicago, where he studied Finance, Econometrics, Education, and German. Sprūdžs is also an active member of the American Latvian community; he served as president, investment adviser, and auditor of the Latvian Foundation (1997-2003) and is a discussion leader of the Chicago Latvian Literary Club. Sprūdžs is the author of “Ziedonis, Pauls: ‘Holy Eves’: A Poem and Its Metamorphosis in Song,” in Imants Ziedonis. Search for Belonging, Practice of Freedom, edited by Ausma Cimdiņa. Rīga: Zinātne, 2014

Student Representative

Kristo Nurmis, Stanford University

The Student Representative advocates the undergraduate and graduate student interests in the association, promotes grants and awards, and organizes student workshops at conferences.

Kristo Nurmis is a PhD candidate at Stanford University in Russian and Eastern European history. He obtained his BA and MA degrees at the history department of University of Tartu, has studied at Freie Universität in Berlin, and spent a year as a Fulbright visiting researcher at Harvard University. He has published articles on German propaganda in Estonia during the Second World War and is working on a dissertation project that examines the entangled history of Soviet and German rule in the Baltic States in World War II. In recent years, he has developed a growing interest in the history of Soviet republican cinemas, in particular the Soviet-era national cinemas of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.


Andres Kasekamp, University of Toronto

The Director-at-Large serves as the Chairperson of the Nominating Committee and performs other duties as specifically requested by the Board of Directors.

Andres Kasekamp (PhD, University College London) is the Chair of Estonian Studies and Professor of History at the University of Toronto. Previously, he was the Professor of Baltic Politics at the University of Tartu and Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute. He has served as the Editor of the Journal of Baltic Studies and the President of AABS. He is the author of numerous publications. His most recent book A History of the Baltic States, 2nd updated edition (Palgrave, 2018), has been translated into nine languages and received several awards, including the Baltic Assembly’s Science Prize.

Past Boards

The list of previous AABS Board of Directors can be found by clicking on the button below. A thorough overview of the election process is listed in the organization’s bylaws.


Administrative Executive Director

Liisi Esse, Stanford University

The Administrative Executive Director reports to the Board of Directors and has programmatic and operational responsibility for the Association. The Administrative Executive Director works closely with the Board of Directors to ensure the organization’s consistent achievement of its mission, program, and financial objectives.

Liisi Esse (PhD, University of Tartu) serves as AABS AED while she continues her role as Associate Curator for Estonian and Baltic Studies at Stanford University Libraries where she has worked since 2013. As Curator, her main responsibility is to develop Stanford’s collection of Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Finnish material in all formats, including books, periodicals, manuscripts, and electronic resources. Liisi also runs various Baltic projects, including digitization projects, and organizes Baltic events and exhibits at Stanford.
Liisi served as AABS’ Vice President for Conferences from 2016–2018 and organized the 2018 AABS Conference at Stanford University. She currently serves as Reviews Editor for the Journal of Baltic Studies. Liisi is a member of the ASEEES Committee on Libraries and Information Resources and the Baltic Heritage Network.

Executive Officer-at-Large

Guntis Šmidchens, University of Washington

The Executive Officer-at-Large is liaison between AABS and the University of Washington, and between AABS and the Baltic Studies Summer Institute.

Guntis Šmidchens (Phd, Indiana University) served as AABS Student Representative (1993-94), Vice President-Conferences (1997-98) and President (2008-2010). He is Associate Professor and Kazickas Family Endowed Professor in Baltic Studies at the Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington, Seattle. He is author of articles about Baltic national heroes, Baltic Song Celebrations, and folklorism (folklore revival). His book, The Power of Song: Nonviolent National Culture in the Baltic Singing Revolution (University of Washington Press, 2014; Latvian translation Mansards 2017) received the AABS Book Award (2016). He is a founder of the University of Washington Baltic Studies Program (est. 1994) and the Baltic Studies Summer Institute (1994).
Šmidchens was awarded the Order of Cross of Terra Mariana, Fourth Class (Estonia, 2012), Cross of Recognition, Fourth Class (Latvia, 2014), and Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania, Fifth Class (2020). Recipient of the World Federation of Free Latvians 2014 National Award.

Academic Executive Director

Olavi Arens, Georgia Southern University

The Academic Executive Director develops contacts and cooperates with other learned societies like the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study and the German Studies Association.

Olavi Arens (PhD, Columbia University) is Professor of History at the Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern University. He is a native of Estonia. Prof. Arens did his undergraduate work at Harvard University and his graduate studies at Columbia University where he earned a Ph.D. in Modern East European History and a Russian Institute Certificate. He has served as the president of the Southern Conference of Slavic Studies and as the AABS representative on the Council of Executive Officers of the American Council of Learned Societies and is currently the Academic Executive Director of the AABS. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on, among other topics, American relations with the Baltic States, the Brest-Litovsk treaty, and the Russian Revolution in Estonia. He has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Tallinn University in Estonia.

Assistant Director of Outreach and Engagement

Ben Gardner-Gill

The Assistant Director of Outreach and Engagement oversees AABS’ donor relations and fundraising efforts, maintains AABS’ presence on social media, advertises AABS’ grants and awards, assists the AABS Administrative Executive Director in maintaining and updating AABS’ website and publishing annual print newsletters and quarterly e-newsletters, and develops and proposes new strategies and initiatives for fostering outreach and community engagement.

Ben Gardner-Gill earned his BA in History from Stanford University, with a concentration in Modern Europe and a focus on historical memory. He studied abroad through Stanford’s center in Berlin, and conducted field research in Central Europe. He has completed internships in Estonia, Belgium, and Germany, and worked on political campaigns in the US before joining AABS.

Newsletter Editor

Indra Ekmanis, Public Radio Exchange

The Newsletter Editor and Podcast Host works with the Administrative Executive Director in soliticing content for, editing, and designing the AABS annual print newsletter and hosting the AABS podcast, Baltic Ways.

Indra Ekmanis (PhD, University of Washington) is a Baltic Sea Fellow and Editor of the Baltic Bulletin at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. She earned her PhD in International Studies from the University of Washington in 2017. Her research focuses on social integration, minority rights, nationalism, civil society and democratic transition in Latvia and the broader Baltic region.
She was previously a Kennan Institute Title VIII Research Scholar at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and a Fulbright research award recipient. She also covered international news and analysis as an editor for public radio’s The World through the ACLS/Mellon Public Fellows Program.

Advisor to the Board

Joseph M. Ellis, Wingate University

The Advisor to the Board provides advice to the Board of Directors on matters related to conferences and meetings.

Joseph M. Ellis grew up in East Tennessee and received his undergraduate degree in Political Science from Winthrop University, and his doctoral degree from Temple University, also in Political Science. He is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Dept. of History and Political Science at Wingate University in Wingate, NC. His research interests include public policy, ideology, comparative politics and post-communist political and economic transitions. His regional expertise includes the former Soviet Union, particularly the Baltic States. He travels frequently to Estonia for research, and takes students to the Baltic States for study abroad experiences. In his spare time he enjoys Neil Young’s music, Tennessee Vols athletics, and Phillies baseball. His wife, Joanna, is a school counselor, and he is the father of three children: Lena, Beau, and Dean.

President of the Australian Chapter

Delaney Skerrett, Centre for Human Potential

The President of the Australasian Chapter of AABS organizes, with the help of the other committee members, the biannual AABS Australasian conference. He also maintains a Facebook page for the Chapter promoting Baltic studies in Australasia and beyond.

Delaney Skerrett has a PhD from The University of Queensland in which he critically analyzed Estonia’s progress in normalizing the interethnic use of Estonian in the post-1991 independence era. He also researched Estonian language policy for his Masters, which he did at the University of Tartu. Delaney spent over 7 years living in Estonia studying and teaching. Today, Delaney is a registered psychologist in Brisbane, Australia, having done a Master of Professional Psychology at the Australian Catholic University. He is also the Honorary Consul for Estonia in Brisbane.


The AABS Administration and Board of Directors can be reached at [email protected] or by filling in the contact form on our website.