Board of Directors

Amy 11 2020 (2).jpg
Amy 11 2020 (2).jpg
Amy 11 2020 (2).jpg

Amy Alice Chastain, Board President and Communications Chair

Associate Professor of Instruction, 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.”  

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Peter Gerlach, Vice President

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.”


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!"


Andrew Farley, Treasurer

Private Banking Operations Specialist, MidWestOne Bank

Board Member since 2020


Andrew has bounced back-and-forth from Iowa City and Asia since graduating from the University of Iowa. Altogether, he called the mountains of southwestern China home for 9 years, where he worked for non-profits teaching English, learning Chinese and helping with community development projects. Currently, he’s back in Iowa City with his family continuing his banking career with MidWestOne Bank.


Andrew enjoys serving and helping others and was drawn to CIVIC because it focuses on connecting people from around the globe and provides them opportunities to grow professionally.


“I remember sitting down with a man who looked very different than I, spoke a different language, and held different beliefs. We could’ve debated the source of the world’s problems for hours, but we connected over our desire to care for our families and give our kids a better future. In the end, it’s a joy to connect with someone so different than yourself and have fun together. CIVIC is an organization that can make this kind of experience a part of your story.”


Newman Abuissa

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.”


John Achrazoglou

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."