Global Citizens Network

Global Citizens Network Board of Directors

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The group experience was what made it so great. The team leaders were remarkable. They never passed judgment and treated my children like full members of the group, so they acted that way. The experience made them more confident and more excited about taking other travel adventures.

- Marcy G.

GCN-ISE seek new Board members (updated 12/6/13)

Are you passionate about connecting with people and cultures different than your own?  Do you believe everyone – especially young people – benefits when each of us commits to becoming more globally competent?  Do you want to help make meaningful experiences with other cultures more accessible to more people?  If you answered yes to these questions, then you should consider joining the board of directors of Global Citizens Network (GCN) and Intercultural Student Experiences (ISE).  We are currently accepting applications.  Please send your contact information, resume/CV and a letter of interest to

We also invite you to attend an open house for prospective board members on Wednesday, January 8 to learn more about this opportunity (click here for full description).

B.J. Anderson

Monica Vickman Ballard

Karen Brown 

Paul Ernst

Bruce Mielke (Secretary)

Elizabeth Kelly

James Schwinghammer

Jeffrey Sommers (Chair)

Peter Wagner (Treasurer)

Wayne Wilson


B.J. Anderson holds a B.A. in Education from the University of Minnesota-Morris, an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Thomas, and a Certificate in Holistic Therapies from the St. Catherine University.  BJ is a career educator who taught at the high school and college level; worked as Curriculum and Instructional Specialist for Osseo Area Schools for 15 years; worked at the MN Department of Education for 5 years, and then returned to Osseo Area Schools to lead the development of a large Magnet School.  Currently, BJ is retired from education and working as a consultant for improvement in our educational systems.

BJ brings to the board a deep knowledge and love of teaching and learning.  A personal life value she espouses is learning from experiences that open our world.  She is proud that our organization is committed to that value as well.

Monica Vickman Ballard earned a B.A. in Behavioral Science and Law at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a J.D. from William Mitchell College of Law.  She has practiced in the areas of securities and banking law, including both US and international, for approximately 14 years.  Throughout this time she has worked in house for various financial services companies including American Express, Allianz, and RBC.  She is currently employed at US Bank.  Much of Monica’s work experience has included serving as a legal advisor to various corporate boards of directors.

Monica grew up in a bi-cultural home and speaks Spanish fluently.  She enjoyed an immersion experience in Mexico City at the age of thirteen, and her family hosted numerous Mexican students throughout her childhood.  In addition, her parents met through their own immersion experiences, and her mother was involved in developing one of the first public, Spanish immersion programs in the Twin Cities.  Because cultural and language immersion has played such a significant role in her personal life, she is very pleased to have the opportunity to serve the organization as a board member.

Karen Brown holds a B.S. from Georgetown University in Chinese, an M.A. in East Asian Studies, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota. Karen is employed as Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change at the University of Minnesota.  Karen also co-directs the Master of International Development Practice degree program, teaches in the Development Studies and Social Change graduate minor program, and serves on the Human Rights Program Advisory Board at the University of Minnesota.  She has studied in Taiwan and conducted research in China and Europe.  Formerly, she was the Special Assistant for International Scholarship, Office of International Programs at the University of Minnesota.

Karen brings a long-term commitment to and passion for international and intercultural education, both through personal experiences and the international education programs with which she works.  She believes that international experiences can be transformative and are the best way to foster global citizenship.

Paul Ernst holds a B.S. in Computer Science and a B.A. in Mathematics from St. Cloud State University, an M.A. in Comparative & International Development Education and Educational Policy & Administration from the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development, a Mini-M.B.A. for Nonprofits from St. Thomas University, and has certification in the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).

Paul has over 20 years in the computer industry, mostly with Cray Research, Inc.  His work took him all over the world, and whenever possible he stayed longer to meet people and immerse himself in the local culture.  Paul currently does technology consulting for nonprofits, including foundations, community technology centers, new immigrant assistance organizations, public digital inclusion projects and MAP for Nonprofits.  In addition, Paul volunteers his time on information communication technology (ICT) projects with communities in economically developing countries in Africa, Asia and Central America.  Paul has traveled with several organizations on cross-cultural trips to many countries.  He has served on nonprofit boards since 1984.  He enjoys studying languages and has studied German, Japanese, French, Spanish, Swahili and Arabic.

Bruce Mielke holds a B.S. in Industrial Technology from Bemidji State University and an A.S. in Computer Technology from Northwestern Electronics Institute in Minneapolis.  He currently works in the Global Business Services team at Best Buy corporate headquarters and provides employees access to human resources services through online web portals and a call center in India.  Bruce has an extensive background in human resources, information systems, learning and development, and project management.

Through his travels to the UK, Japan, Mexico and Canada, he has developed a deep respect of the cultures in each country.  This exposure helped him expand his view of the world and broadened his interest in global citizenship.  He is passionate about global issues, and enjoys working with people.  He believes that the success of our organization demonstrates that we can connect beyond cultural, social and geographical differences and come together to make real change in the world.

Elizabeth Kelly earned dual bachelor degrees (B.A. in German and B.S. in Finance and International Business) from the University of Minnesota.  She started her career with KPMG in the auditing and tax area.  She then took a position with ADC Telecommunications as a Senior Internal Auditor, where she enjoyed living and working in Berlin, Germany as a Finance Manager.  She is currently a Business Development Analyst for GN ReSound, a hearing aid manufacturer in Bloomington, Minnesota. 

Liz participated in her first international experience on a 3-week high school German class trip to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic.  As a result of this trip, she sought out an opportunity to study abroad in college, so she could be immersed in another culture for a longer period of time.  This led to a semester living and studying in Vienna during her sophomore year.  So, in addition to bringing her finance and accounting knowledge to the board, Liz is excited to share insights from her own cross-cultural living experiences as she learns more about how the organization creates cultural immersion opportunities for others.

James Schwinghammer received his B.B.A. from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a minor in East Asian Studies, and an Associate Degree in Networking Support from MN School of Business.  Most recently he completed a certificate program for TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) at Hamline University and is active as a volunteer teacher.  James is employed at Prime Therapeutics in Eagan, Minnesota as an IT Operations Manager.  He studied as an exchange student in Japan for a year and worked there for 3+ years with Starkey Laboratories operating a manufacturing facility.

James' international experience includes volunteer trips to Africa and South America, and he has a passion for intercultural exchange and understanding.  He comes to the board looking to contribute to and serve the global network community.

Jeffrey T. Sommers holds an A.S. in Computer Information Systems from Milwaukee Area Technical College, a Communication and Organizational Management from Concordia University, and an M.B.A from Augsburg College.  Jeffrey served one three-year term on the board of Kobe College Corporation-Japan Education Exchange and coordinated the internship program in the Twin Cities.  His family has hosted six Kobe College students over the past eight years.  Jeffrey is employed as an Application Development Specialist/Project Manager at Country Financial in Arden Hills.

Jeffrey brings a strong understanding of organizational management including change management, virtual teaming, and project management.  He has a great passion for promoting cross-cultural understanding around the globe and a personal desire to learn more about the various cultures and languages of the world.  Jeffrey indicates that cross-cultural understanding is crucial to the advancement and enlightenment of the human race.  Jeffrey believes in the old Chinese proverb that it is possible to move a mountain by carrying away small stones.  The small stones represent each personal human connection formed by the efforts of our programs.

Peter Wagner holds a B.A. in Accounting from Gustavus Adolphus College and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant.  He currently works in Regulatory Reporting and Financial Analysis for UnitedHealth Group and is pursuing an M.B.A. at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.  His prior work experience includes public accounting at McGladrey and Pullen.  Peter also enjoys competing in triathlons.

Peter spent a semester living in New Zealand as an undergraduate student learning about their culture and trekking through the bush.  This experience helped him to gain a world view and developed his interest in becoming a global citizen.  He is encouraged by and hopeful of the opportunities and challenges that face our organization.

Wayne Wilson is a retired Sales Manager from Honeywell International.  He has taught for over 15 years and continues to teach marketing and sales classes at Metropolitan State University.  Wayne sits on the board of Parenting with Purpose (PWP), a Christian Ministry that works to help restore families that have been impacted by incarceration.  In addition to his duties with PWP, he is also a board member for Compassionate Solutions for Africa's Development (COSAD) where they are working to increase economic development in Tanzania.

Wayne has led five cross-cultural expeditions and fully recognizes that retirement has afforded him the opportunities to contribute to organizations that truly make a difference.

"It never ceases to amaze me, as I meet more and more people of varied and different cultures, I continue to discover the difference that we have in common."