2020 Board Officers
Jeffrey Bell, President
Jeffrey Bell is an innovative and creative problem solver. In the ever-changing world of immigration law, clients appreciate his ability to see the big picture as he crafts practical strategies to handle complex immigration issues. With almost 25 years of experience, Jeff maintains not only a thorough understanding of immigration law and practice, but also of how immigration and global issues can impact clients’ businesses.
For Jeffrey, the IRC matters because global awareness is becoming increasingly more important to our region as the world in which we live shrinks through technology and communication. The IRC helps provide an understanding of why governments, businesses, and people take certain actions, and how these actions impact us economically and politically.
Holly Nielsen, First Vice President
Baring Vostok Capital Partners
During her 35-year international legal career, Ms Nielsen has been a pioneer in the emerging commercial market in Russia. She established the Moscow office for a major U.S. law firm in 1992 and was managing partner of the Moscow offices of two Wall Street law firms from 1997-2006. Ms Nielsen advised the first Russian securities regulator while working for Harvard’s Institute for International Development during 1995-1997. Most recently, she was a partner and general counsel, and is now the senior counsel, for a premier private equity firm sponsoring funds for international institutions to invest in businesses located in Russia and other post-Soviet countries.
For Holly, the IRC matters because in order to be informed citizens, all Americans should educate themselves about international matters.
Carrie Sherer, Second Vice President
Black & Veatch
Carrie Sherer serves as a member of the Government Affairs team at Black & Veatch. Working collaboratively with industry stakeholders and association partners, she builds relationships with government leaders at a global, national, and local level to monitor policies that affect Black & Veatch.
For Carrie, the IRC matters because it helps companies like ours connect to the diplomatic community around the world.
Kimberly Connelly, Secretary
University of Kansas Medical Center
A lifelong professional in the field of International Education, Kimberly Connelly currently leads the Office of International Programs as the Senior International Officer at the University of Kansas Medical Center, managing both the inbound and outbound arms of international education. As an ardent advocate of international education, Ms. Connelly's mission is to connect people to each other through international educational, research, and cultural experiences. As Senator Fulbright said, "Educational exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of communication can to the humanizing of international relations."
For Kimberly, the IRC matters because conversations about the impact of international to local and vice versa are important. Connecting people, sharing ideas, experiencing culture, having dialogue make all of the issues "out there" more relevant and more personal. As Senator Fulbright explains, "Perhaps the greatest power of such intellectual exchange is to convert nations into peoples and to translate ideologies into human aspiration… The essence of intercultural education is the acquisition of empathy – the ability to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see, or may see it more accurately."
Nancy Messer, CFA, Treasurer and Chair, Finance Committee
National Association of Insurance Commissioners
Nancy has enjoyed a substantial career in the financial investment industry, first as an equity analyst in the brokerage business and later as a corporate credit analyst with a global credit ratings agency. She is currently a Senior Credit Analyst with NAIC which is headquartered in Kansas City. Nancy has a long standing interest in global economic, business, cultural, and political affairs. She joined the IRC shortly after moving to Kansas City from the East Coast in July 2016.
For Nancy, the IRC matters because it creates a forum where intelligent discussion of world events and ideas can inspire thoughtful action.
YMCA of Greater Kansas City
Andrea Allison-Putman has served as the Chief People Officer for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City since January 2011. She provides leadership in the areas of associate and volunteer engagement and experience; associate relations; diversity, inclusion, and global; leadership development; compensation; benefits; payroll; and recruitment. Andrea holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Development from Friends University and a Bachelor's of Science in Business Administration from the University of Missouri. In 2011, Andrea was recognized with the Equalizer Award by the Urban League for her individual achievements in support of diversity and inclusion.
For Andrea, the IRC matters because it brings a global perspective to our community by providing education, connections, and support for collaboration.
Christina is a lawyer who helps businesses manage risk by advising on insurance policies and contractual requirements, advocating to maximize recovery in the event of a loss, and suing when insurers refuse to pay. Christina has received national recognition as a top insurance coverage lawyer under the age of 40. Christina also serves as Chair of the Board for the Jackson County Children's Emergency Fund, which provides assistance to impoverished youth under the supervision of the Jackson County Family Court, and is actively involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives at Stinson.
For Christina, the IRC matters because our Kansas City youth are growing up in an increasingly global world, and need the skill set to engage in a global marketplace. The IRC helps provide our youth (and the young at heart) with a solid foundational knowledge of different cultures as well as international events that shape our world and how we interact in it.
David B. Au, CPA, CITP, CRISC, CGMA
Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
David has more than 35 years of experience in public accounting, banking, and financial institutions. He received a BA degree in Accounting and an MBA degree in Finance. David's specialty is in enterprise-wide information system risks and controls. David is also active in participating in various nonprofit organizations, including the Ethnic Enrichment Commission of Kansas City.
For David, the IRC matters because it provides diverse programs and activities for the Kansas City community, such as educational, economic, and global events. More importantly, the IRC brings international understanding and awareness to the public.
Baker University and Global Expansion Consulting LLC
As the William Everett and Mary Ellen Mealman Endowed Business Leadership and Innovation Chair for Baker University, in the Department of Business & Economics, Narbeli actively engages with the Greater Kansas City business community in meaningful ways to promote the interests of students, the department, and the university. She also teaches International Trade and Introduction to International Business and leads the Entrepreneurship Department that demonstrates the importance of business leadership and innovation. Additionally, she coordinates with the University’s Development Office on an annual event that celebrates business leadership and innovation with awards given to leaders in the business community and students and develops relationships with potential donors that advances the department’s (and indeed the university’s) mission and academic reputation. Baker University, founded in 1858, is the oldest university in Kansas.
Narbeli also owns a global expansion investment trade consulting firm, assisting companies to export worldwide, attracting foreign direct investors to the KC metro area, and coordinating and processing EB-5 investment programs.
For Narbeli, the IRC matters because it keeps our local community informed of global policy issues.
Daniel R. Mahanty
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
Dan Mahanty leads CIVIC's efforts to promote the adoption of U.S. government policies that improve the protection of civilians in war. Prior to joining CIVIC, Dan spent 16 years at the U.S. Department of State, including tours in Morocco, Burundi, and Sweden, along with assignments focused on counterterrorism, rule of law, and human rights. Dan holds a Master's degree from Georgetown, and a Bachelor's degree from George Mason University. His writings have appeared in the National Interest, USA Today, Defense One, and other publications. He lives in Leawood, Kansas, with his wife Kristen, their two children, and a dog named Harper.
For Daniel, the IRC matters because Kansas City – which is fundamentally connected to the world by commerce and people – benefits immensely from an organization that can make sure that the entire community can participate actively in the global conversations that affect them.
Dr. Michael Makara, Chair, Education Committee
University of Central Missouri
Dr. Michael Makara is an assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Central Missouri. His research focuses on politics in authoritarian regimes and civil-military relations, with a regional focus on the Middle East. Dr. Makara worked in Jordan for over two years as a research fellow with both Fulbright and the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR). During that time he traveled throughout the Middle East, including in Morocco, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, and Yemen.
For Michael, the IRC matters because, more than ever before, what happens around the world has a direct impact on our lives here in the United States. By promoting conversation and debate in Kansas City about the key global issues of the day, the IRC helps its members understand the significance of international developments, as well as their own impact on the world.
Aaron J. Mann, Chair, Program Committee
Terracon Consultants, Inc.
Aaron is a Principal with Terracon Consultants and is their Senior Attorney, overseeing all litigation and claims for one of the largest engineering and design firms in the country. Prior to joining Terracon, Aaron represented international clients in U.S.-based disputes and transactions and served as the head of EMEA services for an AmLaw 100 law firm. Aaron worked in London for four years and, after returning to Kansas City, continued to serve as the liaison between the firm and affiliated law firms around the world. He has traveled for work and pleasure to more than 35 countries.
For Aaron, the IRC matters because it is the only organization in Kansas City where my family and I can regularly have the kind of perspective-broadening interactions that we valued while living overseas. Those interactions – both personal and professional – are the key to having a better understanding of the larger world around us and our place in it.
Buttonwood Financial Group, LLC
During his 30 year career, Jon has been involved in impactful financial strategy. Today, in his primary role as President of Buttonwood Financial, his team is focused on the financial success of hundreds of families. Serving in the role of Family CFO, Buttonwood proactively coordinates and implements strategy for tax, insurance, investments, cash flow, business, education, estate and more. Though other entities such as Buttonwood Art Space, 31w31: Non-Profit Village, and The Buttonwood Foundation, Jon enjoys his ability to positively impact the arts and local nonprofit community.
For Jon, the IRC matters because the more we know about each another as human beings, rather than as governments or through the lens of politics, the better we can empathize and assist one another to succeed.
Kelli Meilink, Chair, Membership Development Committee
Kelli is an attorney with a passion for international politics. Kelli focuses her practice on immigration law, working with local and international businesses, colleges and universities, and health care organizations to assist them in hiring and maintaining foreign national employees in the U.S. and maintain compliance with U.S. immigration laws. She also counsels foreign national investors and entrepreneurs seeking immigration status in the U.S. to run their businesses. As part of her pro bono practice, Kelli regularly works on behalf of immigrant children.
For Kelli, the IRC matters because it offers a place for businesses, non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, and individuals to grow and develop as participants in the global community. What I love about the IRC is that it offers something for everyone, whether you are part of a business looking to expand in global markets, a student working to build a career in an international field, or an individual seeking to network and learn more about international events and opportunities.
Shahid S. Qadri
Retired from Black & Veatch
Shahid brings to the IRC board of directors global experience and relationships built over 46 years in providing engineering, consulting, management and advisory services for planning, development, construction and operation of energy projects in over 35 countries in five continents. He is passionate to bring America and Americans and all the people of the world closer through mutual understanding, respect, and mutually beneficial pursuits and programs.
For Shahid, the IRC matters because it fills a very important role in promoting knowledge and mutual understanding between Americans in the Midwest and international community and leaders vital to the future of our current and future generations in pursuit of cultural, social, human rights, economic, political harmony, and leadership.
Dr. Usha Saha
India Association of Kansas City
Usha Saha represents the India Association of Kansas City. She brings to the IRC board of directors a diversity and relationships with the Indian and Asian community. She is the Ethnic Commissioner representing IAKC and has been associated with the Commission for more than 10 years. She is determined to bring different cultures together and close the gap. Her professional life has no limits in mentoring and educating high school students and preparing them as respected global citizens.
For Usha, the IRC matters because it fills a very important role in opening opportunities in the international community to students and preparing students as dynamic leaders.
Dave’s 24-year Hallmark career has spanned a variety of functions, which have included Hallmark’s local manufacturing operations, as well as a considerable focus within the Asia-Pacific region. Dave and his family lived in Hong Kong for four years, where he directly supported the procurement of products for Hallmark’s global subsidiaries around the world. In his current role as Managing Director of Hallmark’s global procurement and Asia buying office, Dave travels frequently to Hong Kong, and throughout China, Vietnam, and other parts of Southeast Asia, with a key focus on leading and adapting Hallmark’s supply chain to meet today’s competitive marketplace and supply chain needs, including the latest in global trade policy developments.
For Dave, the IRC matters because it strengthens our Kansas City community by connecting local students, residents, and business leaders with important world leaders and key global experts.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Gino is a corporate attorney who focuses on for-profit and nonprofit clients in the life sciences industry. In addition, he assists clients in cross-border transactions with Italy, having worked and lived in Italy. He speaks fluent Italian and is the Honorary Vice Consul of Italy in Kansas City.
For Gino, the IRC matters because awareness and understanding of global affairs is critical to the economic, intellectual, and cultural success and growth of the Greater Kansas City Region.
KCUR 89.3 Kansas City Public Media
Stephen Steigman is chief of broadcast and program operations for KCUR 89.3. Previously he served as the founding producer of the award-winning public-affairs program, Up to Date with Steve Kraske. Before entering public radio, Stephen worked for a number of arts organizations across the country. Stephen holds a BA in arts administration from Skidmore College and an MPA degree from the Bloch School of Management at UMKC. When he’s not working, Stephen enjoys traveling to destinations near and far with his wife and University of Kansas professor Tamara Falicov and their three children.
For Stephen, the IRC matters because the world is getting smaller and Kansas City's role in it is growing. Knowing more about those around the globe makes us better neighbors and benefits us all.
Burns & McDonnell
Samantha is an international business specialist at Burns & McDonnell, where she is involved in business development and marketing efforts throughout multiple international markets as the company expands its global presence. Samantha has worked in international business spanning several industries for more than 13 years. She has a passion for adventure, having traveled to 44 countries and lived abroad in both Paraguay and Qatar. Samantha attained her MBA in International Business from UMKC and is fluent in Spanish.
For Samantha, the IRC matters because of the need to create global awareness in our community, learn from other people and cultures, experience that which is beyond the borders of our nation, and connect local businesses with leaders from around the world…all of which the IRC brings to Kansas City!
Dr. Sidne Ward
University of Missouri–Kansas City
Sidne Ward is director of global initiatives at the Bloch School of Management at UMKC, where she also serves as chair of the Management Department and associate professor. Sidne holds a BA in Russian, an MBA from the University of Oklahoma, and a PhD in management from UCLA. As a Fulbright Senior Scholar and visiting professor, she lived in Nepal while teaching at the Kathmandu University School of Management. In addition to teaching and guest lecturing in Asia and Europe, she has traveled for work and pleasure to more than 40 countries.
For Sidne, the IRC matters because promoting increased understanding of and appreciation for global affairs throughout the greater Kansas City region informs our society, increasing economic, social, and cultural opportunities for all.
Dr. Brian Wright
Johnson County Community College
Professor of Political Science at Johnson County Community College, director of the JCCC food pantry, and faculty adviser to the JCCC Model United Nations, Brian has prepared award-receiving teams for competitions at major college-level Model United Nations conferences. He earned his Ph.D. from Kent State University and MA from Duquesne University with publications in Politics and Policy, the Journal of Human Rights, and Environmental Politics. He is a current board member and past president of the United Nations Association of Greater Kansas City.
For Brian, the IRC matters because the international is inextricably intertwined with the mission of the organization and the future of the Kansas City Metro region.
Dr. Karenbeth Zacharias
University of St. Mary
Dr. Karenbeth Zacharias is the director of the Lawrence D. Starr Center for Peace and Justice and an assistant professor of History at the University of Saint Mary. Her passion for human rights began when she lived in Turkey as an American Field Service student after high-school graduation. Expanding her understanding of international laws around protections of vulnerable populations, Karenbeth teaches courses on the History of Genocide, Women in World History, and Modern Africa. Karenbeth has a J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law and a Ph.D. in History from KU. She is on the National Council for UNA-USA and serves as a board member and treasurer for UNA of Greater Kansas City.
For Karenbeth, the IRC matters because civic engagement and education at the local level help us better understand the world and its complex political, social, and cultural ecosystems at the global level.
2020 Advisory Directors
Former Honorary Consul of the French Republic
Retired from UMKC