Leadership Roles

Executive Board Officers

Shannon McCarthy - President

Shannon has lived and worked abroad for over twenty years. She joined the AWAR in 2008 and has volunteered her time as an AWAR committee member for three Charity Gala Events and held AWAR Board positions of President (twice),  2nd Vice President (twice),  Parliamentarian, Constitution and Bylaws, the FAWCO Representative, and Chair of the 2015 Eternal Woman: Equality, Protection, Empowerment FAWCO Biennial Conference in Rome. Shannon is originally from Santa Clara, California.

Kate McElwee - First Vice President

Kate is Executive Director of the nonprofit advocacy organization Women’s Ordination Conference, where she has worked since 2011. She earned her B.A. in Religion and a Certificate in Buddhist Studies from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. in International Human Rights Law from SOAS in London. Kate and her husband, Joshua,  moved from Washington, D.C., to Rome in 2014. Kate loves to jog around Rome, travel everywhere she can, and seek out Italy’s best vegetable and accidentally vegan dishes. An AWAR member since 2014, Kate has served as Second Vice President twice. This is her second year as First Vice President, as well as webmaster. 

Jennifer Landini - Second Vice President

A native of Chicago, Jennifer, known as Jenn, is a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University with a Master of Business Administration from North Park University. She moved to Rome in 2015 and is self-employed as an operations management consultant and real estate manager. Over the past two years, Jennifer has worked to update the AWAR website, social media and database. She hopes to continue that work while incorporating the AWAR traditions and values that mean so much to the members. Jennifer previously served three terms as AWAR's president.

Megan Todd - Treasurer
Megan Todd, originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, first came to Rome in 1992 after her graduation from Harvard University and has lived on and off in Italy ever since. After several years in Asia and the Pacific (Cambodia, East Timor, Vietnam) on postings for her husband’s work, she returned to Rome in 2017 and joined AWAR. She is the Program Director for Context Travel and oversees operations in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Married to a Roman, she is also the mother of two teenage daughters, students at St Stephen’s School and the University of Cambridge (UK). Megan served as Vice President of the Hanoi International Women’s Club and was the Chair of the Community Aid Committee
Melissa Cicci - Secretary

A native of the East Coast, Melissa and her husband had been living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when they decided, in 2017, to move to Rome. Originally a one- year plan, three years later they are happily still in Rome. She has been an AWAR member since 2018, and is currently Deputy Editor of the Forum. Melissa earned a B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature and an M.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University. She worked for several years in the international trade field before spending time at home with her two children (now 25 and 28). For the past 10+ years, Melissa has been a travel advisor and tour director for both private clients and affinity organizations (museums, university alumni, cultural societies), with an emphasis on Western Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Persian Gulf. 

Committee Chairs

Mary B. Handley - Membership 
Mary B. Handley was born in Halifax, England. After graduating from college in Liverpool she spent 2 years on teaching assignments in Kingaroy, Brisbane and Sydney, Australia before settling in Rome 43 years ago. For more than 22 years she was the administrator of a Rome based American university where some of the facets of her multitasked role were recruitment and orientation. She then ran her own business adventure called “Marriage Italian Style”, assisting foreign couples to tie the knot in Rome and now is involved in the organization of the Rome Chamber Music Festival and also represents Untours in Rome. Mary still finds time to contribute in a volunteer capacity to activities in the expatriate community, she has served on the Commonwealth Club of Rome, AICR and American Community Roundtable committees, has been an AWAR member for many years covering diverse committee positions and is currently on the committee of the Association of British Ex-Pats in Italy of which she is a founding member.
Maureen Fant - Forum Editor

Maureen is a freelance editor, translator, and writer from New York who has lived in Rome since 1979. She holds degrees in Classics and Classical Archaeology from Manhattanville College and the University of Michigan. Her first job in Rome was as a volunteer on the Forum, but she subsequently joined the editorial staffs of two magazines in Rome, Ceres, at FAO, and Italy Italy. In the late 1980s she discovered a talent for explaining Italian food, which led to her becoming a food writer and teacher of Roman cooking.

Since 2014, Maureen has partnered with Elizabeth Bartman, an archaeologist, in Elifant Archaeo-Culinary Tours, one-week small-group tours to different parts of Italy that they plan and lead themselves.

Maureen’s many publications include numerous articles and translations on Italian food and food history, antiquity, and, culture. Among her books are the now-classic source book Women’s Life in Greece and Rome (with Mary Lefkowitz), Dictionary of Italian Cuisine (with Howard Isaacs), Foods of the World: Rome for Williams-Sonoma, and the award-winning Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way (with Oretta Zanini De Vita).

Hilde Niggemann-Purcella - General Meeting Chair

Hildegard Niggemann-Pucella holds degrees in Political Science with a specialization in economics from the University of Rome, La Sapienza, a doctorate obtained in 1978, and Certificate of Management, Business and Administration in July 1994 from the John Cabot University Institute in Rome.

She has recently retired after working for over thirty-six years at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO) Headquarters in Rome. Her main area of work was management responsibilities for the development and implementation of FAO's field emergency programs, including related fund-raising. Hilde speaks several languages including, German (mother tongue), Italian, English, French, and Spanish.

Hilde's interests include advocacy for gender equality, particularly for socially vulnerable groups in developing countries related to agricultural based livelihood. She was born in Frankfurt, Germany and is married to an Italian. Previously, Hilde served as FAWCO representative.  

Laura De Filippo - Community Service 

Laura has recently returned from London, where she was a Senior Digital Marketing Manager with more than eight years’ experience working with international brands across a wide range of industries. She graduated from Sapienza University, Rome, with a master’s degree in Economics followed by further studies in IT, web marketing, and interior design. Born and raised in Rome, she returned to the Eternal City to be closer to her family but still wants to continue to experience cultural diversity and be part of a community of women where you can learn something new from one another and create long-lasting relationships. Having found AWAR, she is thrilled to have this opportunity to help the organization and looks forward to connecting with all the wonderful women that are part of it.

FAWCO Representative - Giulia Di Ruscio

Giulia was born and raised in Rome and has dual Italian and American citizenship. She holds a degree in multilingual studies and international relations from the University of London at Royal Holloway in London. An AWAR member for many years, Giulia is looking forward to her role as the FAWCO representative and attended a 2013 FAWCO Region 8 conference in Genoa. Giulia is a primary school teacher at her high school alma mater, Marymount International School in Rome. Married and the proud mother of two small children, Giulia is also a passionate animal lover and film buff and loves to explore her Rome.

Annual Appointments

To be announced. 

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Honorary  Members

Lewis Eisenberg, Honorary President, U.S. Ambassador to Italy


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