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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!

April Diaz, Program Coordinator

While April has served with a wide variety of nonprofits, she has a particular passion for international issues and opportunities to promote intercultural understanding. Her academic focus was largely on international development, human rights, and peace studies. Her experience in these fields include working with Peace Action, mentoring refugee families, and coordinating programming at a refugee center. April has Master’s degrees in both Macro Social Work and African Studies, and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. Additionally, she holds certificates in Nonprofit Management, Fundraising Management, Nonprofit Board Education, and Mediation. Outside of work, she is passionate about reading and learning, foster parenting, and playing more musical instruments than her brain really has the capacity to handle.

Summer 2019 Interns

Garrett Booth, Digital Resources Intern

Garrett Booth, a native of Wathena, Kansas, is an undergrad at the University of Saint Mary studying History and Political Science. His main area of interest is international relations, and in particular learning from and speaking to people from other cultures. His academic study helped cultivate this interest, such has his work with Project WE, an initiative wherein students from the University of Saint Mary would conduct an online correspondence with undergrads from a Russian university, with the goal of learning culturally and personally from one another. Upon graduation, Garrett looks forward to pursuing a career in the U.S. Government, working within the field of international relations through either the Foreign Service or the Department of State.

Engoma Fataki, Events Intern

Engoma Fataki is a junior studying Political Science and International Studies with a minor in Peace and Conflict Resolution at Missouri Western State University, where he was elected as Student Body President for 2019-2020. He is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He and his family lived in refugee camps in Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. They came to the United States in October 2014, and he quickly embraced the opportunities that the Kansas City community offered, becoming involved at his high school, church, Jewish Vocational Services (JVS), local Rotary Clubs, and other organizations. Engoma was nominated by the International Relations Council and named as one of 25 student scholars by the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA) and invited to attend the WACA National Conference in Washington, D.C., in November 2018. He has previously served as Ethnic Young Adult Intern in Washington, D.C., and participated in the 2016 Global Youth Consultation hosted by the Women’s Refugee Commission and UN High Commissioner for Refugees. His ultimate goal is to work with an international organization such as the UN or a nonprofit organization.

Peter Gaar, Community Intern

Peter Gaar is currently a student at the University of Kansas pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Global and International Studies. He also minors in Political Science and German, a language he has developed conversational proficiency in since early 2017. Peter has spent a fair amount of time abroad, specifically in Western Europe and Germany and looks to focus on this region while finishing his undergraduate studies. He is from the Kansas City area and has worked a variety of different jobs, but he is very excited to work for an organization with such an international focus! Peter's hobbies include playing with his dogs, hanging out at the lake, and spending time with friends and family. He hopes one day to work within the U.S. State Department as a foreign service officer and represent the American people abroad.

Kate Higgins, Community Intern

Kate is an undergraduate at the University of St Andrews pursuing a double major in International Relations and Social Anthropology. While at St Andrews, she has been active in many philanthropic and social groups including Women in Work, Mary’s Meals, Polo Committee and currently serves as the special events and catering coordinator for the Fine Food and Dining Society. A native of Kansas City, Kate has volunteered at the non-profits Uplift and Wayside Waifs. While attending Shawnee Mission East High School, she served on the executive committee for SHARE, which is one of the largest public-school, student-run philanthropy in the United States. Kate chose to go to Scotland for university because she loves being immersed in different cultures and expanding her knowledge of the world and the diversity it possesses.  Her travels have taken her to Thailand, Cuba, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland and The Netherlands.  Kate hopes to pursue a career internationally either with the United Nations or a non-governmental organization. Through this internship Kate hopes to broaden her knowledge of the international connections within the Kansas City metro area and build relationships with international and local personnel.

Sydney Logan, Global Education Intern

Sydney Logan just graduated from KU with her Bachelors in East Asian Languages and Cultures with a focus on Korean language and culture studies. An avid traveler, Sydney has studied abroad in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and South Korea and loves to experience new cultures. During her last semester at KU, Sydney volunteered at St. John’s Catholic School teaching Korean to ambitious middle schoolers. With goals to spread awareness of other countries and peoples, Sydney hopes to share her knowledge of the world with others and promote world travel and international relations.

Abigail Phillips, Events Intern

Abigail graduated Concordia University in Austin, Texas, in May 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and then moved to Lawrence for graduate school. She is currently a Global and International Studies master’s student at the University of Kansas, where she specializes in the Middle East and the Arabic language. Her ongoing projects include her master’s thesis as well as her work as a graduate assistant and adviser to international students. Abigail’s research focuses on knowledge and power and how American politicians are able to use their power to produce inaccurate interpretations regarding Muslims and Arabs. Going forward, Abigail hopes to play a part in breaking down the stereotypes, stigmas, and misrepresentations revolving around Muslim and Arab communities. When Abigail is not buried in her research, she spends her spare time riding horses, taking ballet classes, and playing the organ.

Grace Price, Global Education Intern

Grace Price is a junior at the University of Kansas studying Chinese and Global and International Studies. Last year, she interned at Nonviolence International in Washington, D.C., where she collaborated with the National Youth Advocacy Program to send a group of board of directors to the Mexican border to raise awareness about the migrant crisis. In summer 2017, Grace traveled to Taiwan to participate in a Chinese language intensive program to further her language skills. In Lawrence, she volunteers at the Lawrence public library, and this semester she started volunteering for Family Promise, an organization that helps find and maintain permanent housing for homeless families in the community. She enjoys reading, writing, and learning new languages.