Global Citizens Network

Global Citizens Network Board of Directors

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It has become the most meaningful thing I've experienced in my life. It was more than a casual cultural exchange. I never felt like a tourist - I felt like I was coming home.

- Ted

Monica Vickman Ballard (Secretary)

Karen Brown 

David Ernst

Vicki Hooper

Elizabeth Kelly (Treasurer)

Mary Lynn Montgomery

José Schimming 

Jeffrey Sommers (Chair)

Patricia Thornton

Peter Wagner

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.

David Ernst started his career as a high school science teacher. He taught physics and chemistry for twelve years before moving to the University of Minnesota where he currently serves as the Chief Information Officer in the College of Education and Human Development. David holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of Minnesota, a M.S. in Education from Winona State University, and a B.S. in Physical Science Education from St. Cloud State University. David also serves as the Executive Director of the Open Textbook Initiative. This national/international program works to improve higher education access, affordability, and success for all students by promoting openly licensed, free textbooks for use in college classrooms. David has presented his work at many venues, including two TED Talks (Minneapolis and Kyoto, Japan).

David believes that experiencing other cultures can help us better understand others and ourselves. He has traveled internationally with each of his three sons. His recent travels have brought him to Nepal, Tanzania, Japan, China, Thailand, and Peru.

Vicki Hooperhas a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Kansas and a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School, and is a practicing architect at HGA Architects specializing in healthcare architecture. 

Vick has a true passion for travel, and has traveled extensively for pleasure, education and volunteering. Her first trip out of the US to visit friends who were serving in the Peace Corps in Honduras was life changing and since then she has traveled to numerous countries including Cuba, Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, India, Tanzania, Guatemala, Cambodia, Turkey, Japan, and throughout Europe. Vicki spent much of the last year in Thailand designing a Hospital in Bangkok.

Vicki is excited for the opportunity to serve on the GCN-ISE Board, as travel is such an important part of her life, providing a better understanding of the world and our own neighbors.

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.

Mary Lynn Montgomery earned a B.A. in Spanish and French education from St. Olaf Collage and an M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury College.  After teaching high school Spanish and French in the Twin Cities for ten years, she is currently pursuing a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction – Second Languages and Cultures, at the University of Minnesota, where she also supervises teacher candidates who are pursuing licenses in ESL and World Languages.  While teaching, Mary Lynn served as World Languages Department leader and traveled abroad with students many times to Spain, Costa Rica and Peru.

Mary Lynn grew up in Idaho, but has lived in Minnesota since graduating from college.  She fell in love with all things related to language and travel in high school, which led her to study and work abroad.  Because of her personal experiences and traveling with students, she strongly believes in the transformative power of travel and interactions with other cultures for people of all ages, and is very excited to have the opportunity to serve these two organizations.

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 United Health 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.

José Schimming graduated from Yale University with a major in Political Science and attended the University of Minnesota Law School.  José worked in the Early Intervention and Child Protection Division at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and subsequently was the Director of the Naturalization Project at Centro Legal, Inc., which provided legal services to Latino individuals in Minnesota.   José is Vice-President of Mortgage Insurance Relations at Wells Fargo.  His prior experience at Wells Fargo includes Corporate Finance and managing the Traditional Home Affordable Refinance Program.  José has served on the Board of Directors of La Escuelita and the Early Childhood Resource and Training Center.  He is currently also a member of the Greater Twin Cities’ United Way Community Impact Committee.

José grew up on a farm in rural Mexico and obtained his first exposure to international volunteerism when United States-based volunteers arrived in his village to build latrines.  José enjoys traveling and experiencing multiple cultures, having traveled to over two dozen countries.   The whole of these experiences have instilled a passion for community involvement and improvement of cross-cultural understanding

Patricia Thornton holds a B.A. degree summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota with a double major in Japanese and East Asian History and an M.A. from the University of St. Thomas in teaching. She has recently stepped down as director of Concordia Language Villages into a new part-time role as academic dean. As director, she was responsible for summer immersion programming in 15 languages overseeing a budget of 10 million dollars and a leadership staff of 24 Village deans and 1100 summer staff from around the world.

She has also served in the roles of curriculum developer and dean of Mori no Ike, the Japanese Language Village and as a director on the National Council of Japanese Language Teachers and on the executive board of the Association of Teachers of Japanese. She has worked with the College Board on National Board Assessments for Japanese language teachers and on the development of the Japanese AP exam. She has delivered workshops both nationally and internationally on the topics of language and culture education, immersion teaching techniques, and using simulations in the classroom. 

Patty has raised three daughters each of whom has studied, lived, and worked abroad in China, Japan, Chile, England, Ireland, Kuwait and Iraq.