Board of Directors
Jane Eckhardt McMullen, Board President
Board Member since 2014
Jane is a City High grad and an Iowa alumna, earning her BA, Masters and Ph.D. degrees in French. She taught French to UI undergrads, West Point cadets, and adults in Northern Virginia. Jane taught English in Poitiers, France and Rangoon, Burma and currently teaches in the International Women’s Club. Jane, husband Ron and their two sons had Foreign Service posts in the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, Gabon, South Africa, Fiji, Burma and Eritrea.
Thirty years as a Foreign Service spouse prepared Jane to engage in citizen diplomacy in her hometown through CIVIC and thus maintain cross-cultural interactions in this chapter of her life.
"Getting involved with CIVIC rewards the volunteer with incredible opportunities to meet, engage, listen to, and learn from people from all over the world without ever leaving the 623 square miles of Johnson County! People-to-people exchanges can open our eyes and hearts and lay the groundwork for trust and understanding at a time when such notions are at a premium. What’s more, anyone of us can be a citizen diplomat provided we express respect, curiosity and openness."
Newman Abuissa, Vice President
Resident Construction Engineer, Iowa Department of Transportation
Board Member since 2004
Newman was born in Damascus, Syria and immigrated to the United States 35 years ago. He received his BS and MS from South Dakota State University. Newman is also a board member of the UICHR and board chair for PEACE Iowa. He is one of the founders and Parish Council President at St. Raphael Orthodox Church. He is active in the Iowa Democratic Party and current chair of the International Affairs Subcommittee of the IDP Platform Committee. He was a national delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 and a candidate for Iowa’s 2nd congressional district. Newman appears regularly via Skype on BBC Arabic radio and TV out of Cairo and London.
If you can’t travel the world, CIVIC will bring the world to you.
“In the process of introducing Iowa to our esteemed guests, I have learned more about what our state can offer in many different professions, from agricultural businesses to academics to media and political and administrative structures. I focus more on visitors from the Middle East and North Africa, but I also enjoy meeting visitors from other countries.”
Board Member since 2007
As a native Iowan, I attended UNI at several periods, where I received a degree in Political Science and Russian. I then attended the University of Iowa College of Law. My wife teaches English as a Second Language. I have an autistic adopted Korean son.
I served as a college student on the first Secretariat of the Iowa High School Model United Nations in 1965 and continued with the IHMUN until 1967. I was Secretary General of the Midwest Model UN in St. Louis in 1968 and 1969. In 1970, I joined the US military where I served for 22 years as a Soviet Analyst. I joined CIVIC in 1985.
I began as an interlocutor in law and prosecution for CIVIC and stayed to become more involved with our visitors.
"If you have an interest in foreign relations, CIVIC is the place to be. Improving international relations begins with personal contact. Many US citizens visit abroad, but that provides foreigners a limited view of who we are. Likewise, news and motion pictures give a distorted, one-sided view of life in the US. By greeting people and welcoming them into our homes, work, and communities, we improve our relationships and show them the better side of our people and culture. At the same time, we learn much about them—one handshake at a time."
Amy Chastain, Communications Chair
Faculty, Outreach Coordinator
ESL Programs, University of Iowa
Board Member since 2017
Amy Alice Chastain’s own teaching and learning ranges from France to China to the Middle East and covers the dominant cultures and languages in each as well with varying degrees of proficiency. Now an Administrative Faculty member and Outreach Coordinator in the University of Iowa’s ESL Programs, she is proud to bring her diverse experience from her most recent six academic years abroad, home again, though Iowa is quite far from her native Georgia.
Upon discovering CIVIC, Amy knew she had found her people—her community—and could continue to maintain an international connection while living and working in Iowa City.
“I cannot think of any other organization that affords the opportunity for any interested, willing community member to engage and interact with individuals from every corner of our world with the sole purpose of building relationships and sharing knowledge and insight. I have sat at a table hearing profound personal stories and experiences and thought, ‘Who am I to be sitting here?’ The answer is simple, a CIVIC member volunteer.”
Liz Bergeron, Board Secretary and Membership Chair
Board Member since 2018
Liz is a graduate of Carleton College (BA Philosophy) and University of Colorado (MA Linguistics). Although now retired, her career included a wide range of positions. She taught ESL in Slovakia, Finland, and colleges in the U.S., and managed a global network for a local translation services group. Most recently, she directed a large-scale exchange program for non-elite students to attend U.S. community colleges and assisted community colleges in building capacity for campus-wide internationalization.
CIVIC has provided Liz a wonderful opportunity to continue her passion for global engagement, share Iowa culture, and learn more about the world from our visitors.
"We are so fortunate to have CIVIC in our community. Where else could we have such unique and easy opportunities to personally connect with the world? Our visitors offer new perspectives, expertise, and cultures that we might never know without CIVIC. CIVIC activities, whether they include visitors, fellow members, or both, always inspire. Anyone who believes in promoting cross cultural understanding and mutual respect can feel the joy of being a citizen diplomat. Please join us!"
Tracy Sargeant, Fundraising Chair
Chief Technology Officer, Retino Technology Solutions
Board Member since 2019
Tracy Jon has been a technology professional and enthusiast for 25 years which has created opportunities to work with international businesses in dozens of countries. As an avid supporter of STEM and an advocate for bridging the digital divide, Tracy Jon has worked with local communities and foreign governments to help improve access to technology regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or gender. He is currently working with community leaders in Barbados to establish a maker space for continued education programs focused on STEM.
Tracy Jon’s father is from Barbados and he has seen firsthand how international exchange can help foreign relations. He believes that organizations like CIVIC are critical to this effort and without it we miss opportunities to learn from other cultures and share our own.
“My father benefited from international exchange as a young man growing up in Barbados. Family members traveled to the US and England for people-to-people exchanges and returned home to implement or improve programs that would help agriculture and education. Without this type of program, it is very likely that my father would not have migrated to the US, and I may not be here today. It doesn’t get any more personal than that.”
Clinical Associate Professor; Chief Technology Officer
University of Iowa
Board Member since 2020
Dr. John Achrazoglou is a Clinical Associate Professor and Chief Technology Officer at The University of Iowa College of Education. Areas of interest include online teaching and learning, assistive technologies for learners with disabilities and universal design for learning. John has been recognized for his service to diversity and volunteer work helping at-risk underrepresented and underprivileged youth. Recently John is working with teachers and students in Pakistan towards advancing disadvantaged students’ English and technology skills.
Hosting CIVIC international visitors has always been a fantastic experience and I welcome the opportunity to get more involved.
"I have always had a personal and professional commitment connecting myself and my students with international peers and learners. Working with CIVIC staff and our international visitors has been a wonderful experience. When trading ideas and practices we learn from our international friends as much as they learn (we hope) from us. Sharing each other’s stories not only fosters mutual understandings but we often find we are more alike than different."
Summer Institute Coordinator, International Writing Program
Adjunct Assistant Professor, International Studies Program
University of Iowa
Board Member since 2020
Peter was born and raised in Appleton, WI. He received his BA and MA degrees in English from Ripon College and the University of Northern Colorado, respectively. After serving in the US Peace Corps in Mongolia, he earned a PhD in Cultural Foundations of Education from Syracuse University. His passion is teaching university students and, since 2004, he has provoked critical thinking through composition and literature, TEFL, qualitative research, and international education.
CIVIC is an opportunity for me to welcome amazing people from around the world to the place I live, returning in some small measure the hospitality shown to me in Ulaanbaatar, Islamabad, Manama, Bonn, and so many others.
"Many Iowans desire to travel and they dream of places on a world map they would love to visit, or even live. But most are not privileged with the money, time, or ability to be globally mobile. CIVIC makes it possible for so many Iowans to meet people from around the world right here! Together, we can learn from, with, and about each other—our differences, commonalities, and what makes our respective homes special.”
Global Studies Instrtuctor
Board Member since 2020
Alisa is a graduate of the University of Iowa where she earned a degree in Global Studies. She launched her career in Washington DC where she with the White House Federal Environmental Executive, and ultimately worked on US EPA grants and contracts. Alisa volunteered at United Nations conferences worldwide, and with national and local environmental NGOs.
Alisa’s service as an Environmental Education Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, West Africa, inspired her to teach 7th grade Global Studies when she returned to Iowa in 1999.
Alisa speaks Spanish, French and Wolof and volunteers with UI Friends of International Students. She also served on the JC United Nations Board.
CIVIC enables Alisa to pay forward countless diplomatic gifts accrued overseas from global citizens who generously shared their corner of the world with her (and made her fall in love with citizen-diplomacy over and over again.)
"Iowa is insulated in a huge nation buffered by oceans. CIVIC provides easy access to passionate people from every corner of the globe, and growth around an expansive variety of issues, topics and trades. You might even enjoy learning something about your own community and meeting dynamic neighbors as well!
But most importantly, CIVIC brings world peace through sweet global connections, allowing us to see each other in our full humanity."