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Matthew Hughes, Executive Director

Matthew Hughes has been executive director of the International Relations Council since July 2016.

Hughes’ professional experience bridges the education and nonprofit sectors. A K-12 teacher for six years and fluent in Spanish, Hughes has worked with students ranging from age 4 through adult learners. He has developed curricula for schools and nonprofits, is a dynamic trainer and presenter, and has served on the board of several organizations, including the United Nations Association of Greater Kansas City and the Kansas City Sister Cities Association. Matthew relishes the chance to travel and has experience living internationally, including in South America and on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Prior to the IRC, Hughes managed Global Education Programs for People to People International. In this role, he developed a Global Student Fair – attended in its first year by more than 600 elementary students, 350 high-schoolers, and 70 local organizations – to show students just how global Kansas City is. He admires the initiatives, diversity, and enthusiasm of the many international organizations and communities in Kansas City and values opportunities for collaboration.

Hughes holds a Master of Education degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Arts degree in Global & International Studies from the University of Kansas. His thesis discusses “Opportunities for Global-Competence Education in Secondary Extracurricular Programs.” He has also completed a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management & Innovation from the University of Missouri–Kansas City.

Please do reach out with your questions, feedback, or ideas!


Evan Verploegh, Program Coordinator

Evan Verploegh is a recent transplant to the Kansas City area after spending much of his life in Wisconsin. Most recently, he served as event and program coordinator for the Rhinelander, Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, where he oversaw the successful Project North Music, Art, and Environmental Festival. Evan is a 2015 graduate of Edgewood College (Madison, Wisc.), where he earned his degree in Journalism. During his time in college, he embarked on an extensive study abroad period in Morocco where he produced a long-form piece on the Transahara Music Festival in the Sahara Desert. In his free time, Evan is part of the Kansas City jazz scene as a drummer and enjoys other activities such as playing golf, cooking, and exploring the Kansas City coffee shops and record stores.

Jonathan Hartnett
, Membership Assistant

Jon Hartnett is a Class of 2019 graduate from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, focusing on Middle Eastern Policy, in addition to a Bachelor of Arts in History. He was involved across campus with HWSVotes, Day of Service, and the club soccer team. Jon has spent time studying abroad in Athens, Greece, where he took part in an archeological survey and geo-mapping project, and Galway, Ireland, where he studied the growing concern for the environment and how it impacted Irish politics. A native of Upstate New York, Jon is looking forward to experiencing life in Kansas City.

Spring 2020 Interns

Michael Bené, Project Management Intern

Michael Bené is currently a Law student and a Master’s student in Economics at the University of Kansas. His primary areas of interest are international trade law and agricultural regulation. His past work experience includes working with foreign governments and individuals in the aviation industry. He has also held legal internship positions for Kansas City-based attorneys. Michael is a member of the Hispanic American Law Student Association at the University of Kansas and previously served as vice president of the organization. He is also currently the vice president of the KU Flying Club and a pilot. In his free time, Michael enjoys flying, traveling, and baking.


Mikayla Elia, Community Intern

Mikayla Elia is currently a junior double-majoring in International Studies and Anthropology at the University of Central Missouri, with an interest in the Middle East. She has been involved and held positions in a variety of programs on campus, including Mule Team, Spotlight, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Mikayla has studied abroad two times: in the Middle East and Alcalá de Henares, Spain. She enjoys traveling, reading, and wakeboarding. She is looking forward to studying abroad in the Middle East again this summer to work on a research project focusing on socially-conscious tourism. 


Natalie Friend, Global Education Intern

Natalie Friend is a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas, where she triple-majored in International Studies, French, and Political Science. Her primary areas of interest are diplomacy and international conflict negotiation. Her regional interest in Northern Africa was inspired by eight years of classroom French and a summer studying abroad in France alongside a year and a half of Modern Standard Arabic and a regional specialization in the Middle East. While at the university, she was heavily involved in residential student leadership initiatives, the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honorary Society, and international student mentorship and outreach programs like the International Culture Team. Natalie has previously interned in Washington D.C. for the Association of Diplomatic Studies & Training, an oral histories nonprofit that works directly with former State Department employees. In her free time this spring, Natalie is looking forward to spending time with her family, exploring her newfound passion for yoga, and studying for the Foreign Service Exam.


Kevin Guo, Events Intern

Kevin Guo is a junior at the University of Kansas. He is a double major in Global and International Studies and Economics. His passions include international relations, focusing on economics and trade. Kevin has extensive international experience, serving as a student ambassador and peer advisor to KU’s international program, the Academic Accelerator. Kevin has further served KU as an orientation leader, welcoming international students to campus. He is thrilled to pursue his degree in the United States and spends his free time traveling the country, developing a deeper understanding of U.S. customs and culture. Fluent in Mandarin and English, Kevin continues to be amazed by languages’ subtle nuances.


Kate Schroeder, Fund Development Intern

Kate Schroeder is a senior at the University of Kansas majoring in History with a minor in Environmental Studies. Her professional and academic interests include historic preservation, public lands, environmental history, and community cultural engagement. She has previously interned for the National Register of Historic Places and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as working at KU’s Watson Library. Kate recently spent a semester at University College Cork studying Irish history, geography, folklore, and music. While at KU, she has been involved in university band, residence hall government, and Omega Phi Alpha national service sorority. In her free time, she can be found hiking, practicing yoga, and hanging out with her cat, Eva.