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Switzerland Program - Staff and Faculty


Ezra Plank

Ezra Plank, Ph.D. (American)


Ezra Plank has served as the Director of the Switzerland Program and Professor of Religion since 2014.  His completed his undergraduate work at Pepperdine University, during which he studied abroad at the program in Heidelberg, Germany. After graduation, he served as a Resident Director and member of the Emergency Response Team at Pepperdine. Later he completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Religious Studies at The University of Iowa, with his research focusing on the impact of religious ideas on family relations, domestic routines, and the use of the home for devotional activities.  He has published book chapters and presented papers at the American Historical Association conference and the Sixteenth Century Society conference.  His interest in the impact of study abroad on university students was fueled by his voyage around the world with Semester at Sea, and he feels very fortunate to be serving in the current role with his alma mater. He is a father, avid outdoorsman and mountaineer, and enthusiast of live music.

Sophie Peeters

Sophie Peeters (French/American)

Executive Assistant

Sophie originally hails from Williamsburg, Virginia, but has lived abroad for seven years. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2016, Sophie moved to Rome, Italy, and began working as a Communications Officer for the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, where she helped coordinate Embassy programs and initiatives. She later joined the Vatican’s communications section, where she assisted in developing global messaging for the Holy See. Sophie also speaks French, Italian, and little bit of German, and loves learning about new cultures and experiences. She is thrilled to be part of the Pepperdine Switzerland team and can’t wait to meet everyone!




Anaïs Perez

Anaïs Perez (Swiss/Spanish)

Coordinator of Student Life

Anaïs was born in Switzerland and grew up in a Swiss-Hispanic family. The cultural diversity in her upbringing shaped her open-mindedness and curiosity about the world around her. Her professional journey led her to explore her passion for languages and education. She worked in the language immersion industry, where she contributed to facilitating transformative journeys for many students seeking intercultural learning. Following this experience, she joined EHL Hospitality Business School, where she handled international admissions and managed a team of 150 to 180 students for over 4 years. 

Anaïs is excited to share her passion for travel and her in-depth knowledge of the region with students at Pepperdine University. Her experiences in both the language immersion industry and her time at EHL Hospitality Business School have equipped her with a unique skill set and a deep appreciation for the transformative power of education and intercultural experiences. She looks forward to inspiring and guiding Pepperdine students on their own journeys of discovery and personal growth.

Rafael Zulian

Rafael Zulian (Brazilian)

Program Assistant

With over 15 years of experience in hospitality management, Rafael made a transformative shift from a successful 5-year tenure as a guest services manager to discovering a newfound passion for education in Switzerland. Armed with a master's degree in hospitality management and a postgraduate qualification in higher education, Rafael is thrilled to channel his extensive expertise into his role as a Program Assistant at Pepperdine.

Rooted in a commitment to creating a meaningful impact on students' lives, Rafael brings a distinctive blend of hands-on knowledge and academic insight to the Pepperdine community. His dedication to fostering holistic growth aims to guide students toward success.

As a Program Assistant at Pepperdine Switzerland, Rafael eagerly anticipates inspiring positive change and facilitating transformative learning experiences.



Faculty in Residence 2023-2024


Darlene Rivas

Darlene S. Rivas

Professor of History
Humanities/Teacher Education Division, Seaver College

Office Location: CAC 207

Darlene Rivas is a Professor of History and Latin American studies and received her PhD at Vanderbilt University. Her work focuses on U.S. foreign relations and transnational social and political movements in the context of Twentieth Century political culture.  Fascinated by life stories, she often integrates biographical approaches and role-playing simulations in her courses, and she is currently working on a game on the French Resistance. She and her husband Mike have participated in the Lausanne and Heidelberg programs and greatly enjoy living and learning with Pepperdine students abroad. They are eager to explore Pepperdine’s new surroundings in Vevey, build fresh traditions with the first Hauteville class, engage with Swiss culture, and taste their share of cheese and chocolate!


Faculty in Residence 2024-2025

Fall 2024

Donna Nofziger Plank Headshot

Donna Nofziger

Professor of Biology, Natural Science Division

Office: RAC 126

Donna Nofziger is professor of biology at Seaver College and teaches classes in cellular, molecular, and developmental biology. She is a Los Angeles native who earned her undergraduate degree in biology at Baylor University and her PhD from UCLA as part of the Molecular Biology Institute. She has loved every moment of her 25 years teaching at Pepperdine and in particular enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for learning about the natural world with her students. She has served International Programs on multiple occasions in Buenos Aires, Kenya, and Fiji. One of her daughters spent a year in Switzerland as part of Pepperdine’s International Program, and after visiting her there, Dr. Nofziger knew that she had to return as visiting faculty. She believes very strongly in the mission of Pepperdine’s international programs and has seen first hand how transformative this experience can be for her students (and herself). She is excited for cheese and chocolate-induced food comas - AND for creating memories exploring the beauty of Switzerland with the students.


Spring 2025

Ame Civendes

Ame Cividanes

Visiting Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies, International Studies and Languages Division

Office: PLC 197

Dr. Ame Cividanes is a Professor of Teaching of Hispanic Studies. She received her PhD in Contemporary Spanish Literature from Florida State University and has a secondary specialization in Curriculum Development and Second Language Acquisition. Professor Cividanes returned to Pepperdine in 2021 (she taught Spanish at Pepperdine from 1997-2000 and directed our Buenos Aires summer program). Prior to her return to Pepperdine, Dr. Cividanes was the Director of the Spanish and Portuguese Language Program at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut and has taught all levels of Spanish language, literature, and culture. Dr. Cividanes’ commitment to fomenting interculturality at the university level has been a personal and professional passion, and she has over 20 years of experience leading intensive language and culture programs in both Latin America and Europe. Dr. Cividanes lives in Calabasas with her husband and son who is a student at UChicago. Her family enjoys traveling and winter sports such as skiing. She is looking forward to meeting all of the Vevey students and experiencing the joys of learning about a new culture with them.



Updated:  11.2.23