Contact Steve - email@example.com 612.436.8291
Steve's professional focus has always revolved around helping public and non-profit organizations deliver more value for those they serve, and he is excited to bring that passion and experience to his role as GCN's new executive director. He did this for 14 years as a partner in The Public Strategies Group - a consulting firm dedicated to helping government agencies reinvent themselves into customer-focused, results-driven enterprises. More recently, he helped guide Minnesota's AmeriCorps national service programs to become more outcome-driven through his work at ServeMinnesota, including serving as the founding executive director at Minnesota Education Corps - home of the Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps.
On a personal front, Steve and his family have embraced cross-cultural immersion. Both of his sons attended a Spanish-language immersion elementary school from Kindergarten to 5th grade. As part of that experience, Steve's family hosted full-year teaching interns from Spanish-speaking countries (Peru, Colombia, and Spain) for four years. They also hosted a high-school student from the United Arab Emirates for a month during the summer of 2010. Most significantly, Steve and his wife (a family practice doctor) took a year-long service sabbatical in Costa Rica in 2007-08, volunteering in a free pediatric clinic outside San Jose while their sons attended a local school.
Steve also volunteers his time in his own community including running the twice-a-year book fair at his son's school, doing spring clean-up in St. Paul city parks, and chairing the steering committee for the local Boy Scout troop.
All of these immersion and service experiences have not only produced great friendships and wonderful memories, they have also reinforced Steve's belief that we will reach better, more sustainable solutions to our global challenges if more of us spend time living among and learning from individuals and communities unlike ourselves.
Contact Linda - firstname.lastname@example.org 612.436.8271
Sensing that she was not complete, she started traveling at age 16 in search of something that might make her whole. What began as a senior class eco-tour to Dominica has turned into Linda's life work as an advocate for respectful cross-cultural encounters and responsible travel.
In 1996 Linda went to Nicaragua as an international observer of the presidential elections. She studied abroad in Ecuador on the University of MN's Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID) program for one year. Passionate about community development and motivated by GCN's mission, Linda led her first GCN team to Llanos de Morales, Guatemala in 1999.
In 2001, Linda and her husband put their six month old daughter in a front-pack and ventured off to Santiago, Chile. Linda studied at the University of Chile in the Masters of Arts in International Studies program. In conjunction with the UN's Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (CEPAL), she completed her thesis entitled, "La relacion entre el ecoturismo y sus impactos sociales: El caso de las poblaciones locales en Chile y Ecuador." Linda and her family (+ another one on the way) returned to the states after receiving her MA in 2003.
Most recently, Linda had been serving the Twin Cities immigrant community as an ESL instructor and curriculum writer at the Lincoln Adult Education Center in Minneapolis, MN.
Moreover, she has worked in management, development, administrative and research positions for the Institute for New Americans, Seward Community Co-op, Trece Lunas Arts Collective, Rethinking Tourism Project, World Bank Project SICA, Augsburg College's Center for Global Education, and the US Dept. of Justice.
She has taught Spanish for managers and workplace English at area restaurants. Linda volunteers her time as a Junior Girl Scout Troop Leader and is also the Lake Nokomis Service Unit Manager for Girl Scouts River Valleys. She also volunteers for her son's school carnival at Dowling Urban Environmental School and is the co-chair for her neighborhood's annual National Night Out Celebration. Linda holds a BA in International Relations and Spanish from Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN.
"I still imagine a million and one places I'd like to visit, but even more people I'd love to meet."
Melinda Czaia in the Incoming Director of Global Citizens Network
Melinda grew up in a large family in the heart of the city in Minneapolis. Her interest in other cultures and people began at age 16, when she traveled by herself to Mexico City for three months to live with a family – distant acquaintances of her sister-in-law. This was a life-changing experience, and one that has forevermore fostered her passion for learning about other cultures and people, and leading international development projects to help people achieve their potential. She has since traveled and/or worked in over 45 countries, on many different types of projects.
Melinda has worked for over 25 years in international programs and development. Her first international work was with the Pillsbury Company in international product sourcing. She realized that she enjoyed the international work, but rather than business, wanted to help disenfranchised people throughout the world. After she received her B.A. in International Relations and Spanish, with an emphasis on Latin America, she lived in Quintana Roo, Mexico, teaching English. She then obtained her master’s degree in International Development Management from the School for International Training in Vermont.
Since then, she has undertaken many international development, training, and humanitarian programs. These include working on USAID international participant training programs in Washington, DC, which brought individuals and groups from all over the world to the U.S. to study short-term; three years as deputy director for the Peace Corps training program in Honduras; and seven years as the first director of training services and international programs for the Center for Victims of Torture, where she established and oversaw all of its training and capacity-building programs locally, nationally and internationally in all regions of the world. She opened up CVT’s original training and treatment centers in refugee camps in Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Most recently she has worked as a consultant for Management Systems International, providing training and technical assistance to USAID-sponsored NGOs in Central America and Mexico in the areas of assessment, monitoring and evaluation, project design and management, experiential training, board management, and strategic planning. She is also on the board of Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN), and the board of Partners for Women’s Equality.
She speaks fluent Spanish, and brought her two pre-school aged children to Costa Rica in 2008 to live with local families and learn Spanish as well She is excited to be working with GCN and knows the power of personal connection across cultures, and the positive, lasting and wide impact it can have on relations, respect and understanding.
Contact Laura - email@example.com 612.436.8274
She comes to GCN excited to support the organization's mission, continue to learn more about indigenous cultures and participate in international community service. Laura holds a dual B.A. degree in International Relations and Spanish/Latin American studies and a M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University in Washington, D.C.
Laura grew up speaking Spanish and loving Latin America, thanks to her summers spent at Concordia Language Villages as a student and later a total of 10 years as a counselor. In 2006 she traveled to Peru with the Fulbright Program to study the impact of political decentralization policies on marginalized rural indigenous communities in the southern department Puno. Her research focused on the areas of health, education, and development needs in Aymara communities of extreme poverty living over 14,000 above sea level. Laura also worked on a project with rural farmers to promote organic quinoa production and access to the local restaurant market. She volunteered with a local tour agency to develop a youth literacy volunteer curriculum on the island communities of Lake Titicaca. Later, she spent time in Lima, expanding her knowledge of travel resources and non-profit organizations in other regions of Peru and nearby countries as the assistant manager of South American Explorers Clubhouse.
Contact Jenn - firstname.lastname@example.org 612.436.8280
Jenn has worked for five years in fundraising, building grassroots support, and the general administrative functions with the Fund For Public Interest Research. She helped build a groundswell of community grassroots support on behalf various non- profits that focus environmental advocacy, consumer protection, and human rights (Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Human Rights Campaign, Amnesty International, the state PIRGs, and USPIRG.) Most recently, she gained three years of experience working in the field of wind power development as a GIS specialist and administrative assistant.
Jenn is so excited to be on GCN’s team because of the mission. She strongly believes in the building of cross-cultural partnerships that create a global community, and feels it is a great fit for both her talents and passion.
Jenn rides bikes as transportation and occasionally for sport, but it also just helps keep a big, goofy grin on her face. She went car-free over ten years ago and never looked back. She loves riding, no matter the weather. In fact, riding year-round is what has helped her to truly appreciate the beauty of winter in Minnesota.
Contact Molly - email@example.com 612.436.8273
Molly graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a bachelor's degree in Sociology, Women's Studies and Spanish. She had her first international living experience in Costa Rica during her Junior year of college, where she completed an internship through the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS). Her work focused on AIDS/HIV education and prevention within the Nicaraguan border communities. Living with a host family that welcomed her with open arms changed Molly's life and ignited her commitment to the field of international education. After graduation, Molly joined a professor and Fulbright recipient on an adventure in Venezuela. There, she studied the feminist movement alongside a VENUSA student from Minnesota and joined a movement to get guns off the streets. Molly also brought her A game to the country and worked as an assistant basketball coach for elementary aged children.
Her experiences living abroad, led her to seek a master's degree in International Education through the School for International Training Graduate Institute, which she completed in May 2013. She loves working on the GCN/ISE team because it aligns with her values and personal mission to promote international education and change lives through building relationships with people around world.
Contact Brendan- firstname.lastname@example.org 612.436.8275
Brendan's journey to GCN is an immersion experience in itself. He was born to Banso parents in Ndzeru, an obscure, nearly inaccessible village located in the Savannah grass field of Cameroon. He spoke the Nso language with his parents at home and studied in mostly English at School. As a little boy, he enjoyed trapping rodents and tapping palm wine after school as well as helping at home to fetch firewood and carry water from nearby streams.
Since there were no secondary schools in his village the surrounding villages, he left home with his suitcase on his head after elementary school and only returned for holidays. It was the beginning of a journey that would eventually bring him to the University of Buea where a favorite professor sparked in him the idea of a universe in which humanity is one. Brendan was taught that what a universe education should produce at the level of the Bachelors of Arts, were students who saw themselves as children of the universe, (the root word of university) and scholars who thought of a BA as a chance to "Begin Again!" This was revolutionary and life-changing for him.
He, therefore, set out on a teaching path after his graduation with a firm belief that his country that has been in the grips of a dictator since 1982 would only be saved by a philosophical revolution - a sort of shift in the mindset from complacency to action; in essence, a rejection of the status quo by young students who were brought up to think for themselves, to ask the right questions and to see themselves as change agents. He therefore taught in Secondary and High Schools in Cameroon and in 2006, received a graduate assistantship for a Master's program in English at Bemidji State University.
Brendan's journey to Minnesota is as riveting as the culture shock that ensured. (You can read more of this in his blog). He had the opportunity to teach college writing as part of his program and to experience the worldview and lives of Native Americans from the writings of his Native American students. He mentored some of them and visited the surrounding reservations. At some point, he considered a career at the Leech Lake Tribal College so that he could get to know the people better but eventually decided to move down to the Twin Cities after his graduation.
He has since completed an MBA at the Hamline School of Business and a Certificate in International Business Negotiation at the Hamline School of Law. He comes to GCN with a background of rural life and a rich leadership experience in nonprofit work at Bui Family Union where he led/leads fundraising campaigns, manages their social media platforms and coordinates projects with home-based organizations and villages in Cameroon.
As someone who has firsthand experience in how erroneous most of our assumptions are about cultures that we have little or no experience with, Brendan strongly believes in the mission of GCN and the endless learning possibilities that the organization brings to its trip participants. "An immersion experience is a MUST for everyone interested in forging a truly global village."
Contact Erica- email@example.com 612.436.8279
Erica Ledesma joined Global Citizen's Network in January of 2014. Her interest in international education and languages began as an undergraduate, when she spent several summers learning Spanish in Guatemala at language schools in Antigua and Quetzaltenango. These experiences led to a year of service as an Americorps Volunteer where she served as the Spanish-speaking Family Liaison at Jefferson School in Minneapolis. From there, Erica worked in the Minneapolis Public School District as a Bilingual Associate Educator for several years before dedicating herself to completing a Masters degree from the University of Minnesota in Comparative and International Development Education. In addition to Guatemala, Erica has traveled to Cuba, Jordan, and Israel as a student, and completed an internship in La Plata, Argentina, for her graduate degree. Erica has also held positions in the non-profit sector with organizations like Project for Pride in Living, NE/SE Soccer, and Compatible Technology International.
Most recently, Erica worked as the Education Abroad Program Specialist in Macalester College's study abroad office. In this role, Erica advised students planning to study abroad, managed budgets, supervised office administrative functions, supported faculty-led courses abroad, and developed programming to support returnees in their efforts to integrate off-campus learning into their undergraduate and career goals. She is very excited to draw upon these experiences in support of GCN's mission.
Sue Punch is the Consultant
Contact Sue- firstname.lastname@example.org 612.436.8293
Currently Sue contributes her knowledge, experience and skills in the areas of team and leadership development with GCN. Sue has been involved with GCN for 20 years as a team leader, board member and consultant. Having led cross cultural immersion groups and/or lived in 9 different countries/communities including Uganda, Kenya, Nepal, Peru, Mexico, Belize, The Yucatan, and several Native American communities. The GCN core mission, values and practices continue to inform Sue as a way of living and learning in her daily life.
Sue holds a BA from the University of Minnesota in Human Resource Development and an MS in Organization Development from American University, Washington D.C.
Sue is Principal and consultant for Sue Punch In Partnership a consulting practice that focuses on leadership, team and organizational development in for profit and nonprofit arenas.