2019 Board Officers
Jeffrey Bell, President – Polsinelli, PC
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, 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, Secretary – Black & Veatch
Carrie Sherer serves as a member of the Government Affairs team at Black & Veatch. Working collaboratively with industry stakeholders, association partners, she builds relationship 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.
Nancy C. 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.
Andrea Allison-Putman – 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.
Kimberly Connelly, Chair, Program Committee – 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."
Chelan David – Youth Volunteer Corps
Chelan graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and currently serves as the director of development for Youth Volunteer Corps. Prior to YVC, he worked at Univision where he launched D’Latinos, a local community program that gives leaders a platform to address important issues impacting the Hispanic community in Kansas City. Chelan plays an active role in the Latino community serving on the board of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
For Chelan, the IRC matters because it provides a global perspective in the community. Through business partnerships and education the IRC helps solidify and strengthen the framework for global affairs in the Kansas City region.
Kirk H. Doan – Stinson Leonard Street LLP
Kirk is a business lawyer specializing in the health care industry with Stinson Leonard Street LLP. Kirk has visited over 30 foreign countries and hosted a Chinese exchange student. He is active in a Great Decisions group, many community organizations, and served on the staff of the World Scout Jamborees in England in 2008 and Sweden in 2011. He avidly collects postage stamps of all countries of the world.
For Kirk, the IRC matters because it is a ticket to a buffet dinner of the cultures of the world, and a chance to see how others address the issues of life we all face.
Anné Erickson – JLL, Office Broker
Anné is a Kansas City native who has returned home after living overseas for six years in Egypt, Thailand, South Africa, India, and the Philippines where she worked analyzing emerging economies and real estate trends. Today Anné brings that unique international perspective to her work as an office tenant representation broker in commercial real estate in Kansas City. She is passionate about global economics, foreign policy, real estate, negotiating, traveling, and learning Spanish. She resides in Brookside with her husband Jim and daughter Theron.
For Anné, the IRC matters because of the role it plays in bringing international understanding and awareness of people, events, and countries that are near and far from Kansas City. Through a better understanding of global affairs, communities can better understand the world around them as well as those within their own community.
Narbeli Galindo – Economic Development Corporation of KCMO
As the EDC director of International Affairs, Narbeli provides resources and assists Kansas City, Missouri, companies and businesses regarding Export & Import opportunities. She acquires and attracts foreign direct investment (FDI) initiatives into Kansas City, Missouri, to increase capital investment and job creation and manages and welcomes the visits of international dignitaries to Kansas City, Missouri, to increase cultural and trade ties.
For Narbeli, the IRC matters because it keeps our local community informed of global policy issues.
Merleen Leonce – City of Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department
Merleen's passion for international relations began as an employee of the Government of Saint Lucia Ministry of Agriculture. Her understanding of international relations became enhanced at the University of Missouri-Columbia and as Charge d ’Affairs to The Commonwealth Secretariat Permanent Missions to the United Nations where the team promoted democracy, rule of law, human rights, good governance and social and economic development for the 53 countries represented by The Commonwealth.
For Merleen, the IRC matters because it engages the Greater Kansas City community to offer citizens with diverse perspectives opportunities to collaborate and gain a better understanding of interconnected people and cultures.
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 – Terracon Consultants, Inc.
Aaron is the senior attorney with Terracon Consultants, 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 30 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.
Kelli Meilink, Chair, Membership Development Committee – Husch Blackwell
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.
Bob Rebori, 2016 Board President – Bio-Microbics
Bob Rebori is president of Bio-Microbics in Shawnee, Kansas, with subsidiaries Scienco/FAST in Sunset Hills, Missouri, and SeptiTech in Lewiston, Maine. All three companies are Original Equipment Manufacturers of water, waste water, and storm water treatment systems, land and sea, with significant international business. Bio-Microbics is the recipient of the 2011 Kansas Governor's Exporter of the Year Award, and the 2012 and 2016 President's "E Star" Awards, the highest recognition for export excellence. All this is accomplished through excellent international relations also exemplified by the International Relations Council of Kansas City.
For Bob, the IRC matters because it is a great way to network and expand a company's knowledge of international relations, current events, and future international opportunities.
Lawrence Rouse – Red Bear Investors
Larry is graduate of the University of Kansas School of Engineering and Georgetown University School of Law. He was a litigation partner at the Stinson, Mag & Fizzell law firm and later was a founder of the law firm of Rouse Hendricks German May. He is married and has three children and three grandchildren. Larry is active in organizations and programs that serve persons with Developmental Disabilities.
For Lawrence, the IRC matters because our personal and professional decisions are influenced and, at times, largely determined by the perspectives through which they are made. There is no better and more enjoyable way to add breadth and depth to those perspectives than through the programs and relationships offered by the IRC.
Gino Serra – 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.
Cyprienne Simchowitz – Honorary Consul of the French Republic
Cyprienne was a lawyer both in France and the U.S. for many years and is at this time on inactive status. As French Honorary Consul for Kansas and Missouri, Cyprienne is active in developing and strengthening relationships between the Kansas City region and France in the economic and cultural areas.
For Cyprienne, the IRC matters because it creates and offers a forum for individuals and organizations to learn and discuss international issues that matter to our lives.
Stephen Steigman – 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.
Samantha Vidal – 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.
Mike Wood – Retired from UMKC
Following many years in the health care field, Mike taught on the health administration faculty of the Bloch School of Management at UMKC. Earlier in his career, he served as a volunteer and senior staffer in the Peace Corps, including six years in Southeast Asia and two years in Africa. He has consulted widely in the U.S. and abroad on health policy and organization.
For Mike, the IRC matters because international understanding and foreign policy education are of critical importance as the world becomes smaller. A public that is misinformed or uninformed on these matters can be a threat to the economic and political survival of the country. The IRC can be an antidote to this affliction.
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.