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Foreign Affairs Columnist, The Washington Post

Washington Post foreign affairs columnist and bestselling novelist David Ignatius is a globetrotting journalist reporting on politics, economics, and the Middle East. He has covered nearly every Washington beat, including the Pentagon, the CIA, Capitol Hill, and Cyber Command. An NBC analyst and regular guest on Morning Joe, Ignatius has appeared on CBS This Morning, Face the Nation, and Meet the Press.

Drawing from more than 40 years of on-the-ground reporting, Ignatius brings to the stage his insights and expertise on the threats to national security, cyber security, and the spread of information. With his ability to explain and edify the most complex issues, Ignatius addresses the forces at play in an increasingly disrupted world and analyzes the implications of growing uncertainty and risk.

For more than 15 years, Ignatius has published his twice-weekly column for The Washington Post. Appearing in scores of newspapers around the world, his column has won the Overseas Press Club Award, the Gerald Loeb Award for Commentary, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center for Journalists. In 2019, Ignatius won a special George Polk award for his coverage, nine articles in all, of the killing of Post columnist and his colleague Jamal Khashoggi. 

Turning his experiences with the CIA into 10 spy novels, Ignatius has been praised for his “unparalleled understanding of the intelligence world.” His latest high-tech spy thriller, The Quantum Spy, is about the covert race to build the world’s first supercomputer. According to former CIA Director Leon Panetta, “David Ignatius may call it a novel, but for those of us who know the work of the intelligence community, this book is nothing less than a real-life insight into the ongoing battle for dominance in the digital world.”


Agents of Innocence, his first novel, is a classic of espionage fiction, drawing on his experiences covering the CIA’s early-80s campaigns in the Middle East. The CIA recommends the book to young recruits and wrote on its website, “Though a novel, senior officers say this book is not fiction.”


His other bestsellers include The Director and Body of Lies, which Director Ridley Scott adapted into a feature film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe.  

A graduate of Harvard and Cambridge, Ignatius was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and the executive editor of the International Herald Tribune. He has published articles in Foreign Affairs, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and The New Republic. 

His first opera libretto, The New Prince, was an adaptation of Machiavelli’s The Prince and premiered at the Dutch National Opera in 2017.


Elizabeth Allen was sworn in as the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Global Public Affairs on September 13, 2021. 

Liz was previously a Partner at global strategic communications and public affairs firm Finsbury Glover Hering (FGH), specializing in message strategy, project and crisis management, and executive leadership communications. 

Prior to FGH, Liz served at the White House as Deputy Communications Director and Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama, culminating eight years of service in the Obama Administration, where she held a number of roles, including White House Director of Message Planning and Deputy Director of Communications to then-Vice President Joe Biden. In 2020, Liz took a leave of absence from FGH to serve as Vice President Kamala Harris’s communications director on the Biden-Harris Presidential campaign. 

During her seven years at the White House, Liz drove communications planning around the President’s priorities, domestic and foreign policies, and legislative and outreach strategy. She managed complex message events, groundbreaking interviews and documentaries, and press coverage for President Obama and Vice President Biden across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries on five continents. 

Liz previously served at the U.S. Department of State as Director of Public Affairs for Educational and Cultural Affairs, focusing on public diplomacy and the impact of people-to-people exchange programs and international education. She has also held roles at the State Department on human trafficking and international women’s issues. In August 2016, Liz was named to the U.S. Presidential Delegation to the Olympic Summer Games Opening Ceremonies and traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on behalf of the White House with Secretary of State John Kerry. 

Liz is a Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Geneseo and a proud native of Buffalo, New York. 


Former Iowa Governor & Former U.S. Ambassador to China

is an American politician and former diplomat. A member of the Republican Party, he served three terms in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1973 to 1979 before serving as governor of Iowa from 1983 to 1999 and again from 2011 to 2017. Branstad served as the United States Ambassador to China from 2017 to 2020 under President Donald Trump. He is the longest serving Governor in American history.[2]

Branstad served as the 39th governor of Iowa from 1983 to 1999. Following this initial retirement from politics, he served as President of Des Moines University, a private medical osteopathic school, from 2003 to 2009. In 2010, Branstad returned to Iowa politics, running for governor again and defeating Democratic incumbent Chet Culver to become the state's 42nd governor.[3][4] His tenure of 22 years, 4 months, and 13 days makes him the longest-serving governor of any state in American history, having surpassed George Clinton's previous record of 20 years, 11 months, and 2 days in December 2015.[5]

In December 2016, Branstad accepted President Donald Trump's nomination to serve as the United States Ambassador to China. Branstad resigned as governor of Iowa on May 24, 2017 and was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to China on July 12, 2017. In 2020, Branstad resigned as the United States Ambassador to China in order to work with President Trump's 2020 reelection campaign.


Adam Gregg serves as Iowa’s 47th Lieutenant Governor. He serves as Chair of the Governor’s FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice Reform and Co-Chair of the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative. At the national level, he serves on the executive committee of the National Lieutenant Governors Association, and as the Chair of the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association. He has also served as a Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellow focused on leadership in education policy, and was chosen for the Aspen Institute Rodel Fellowship.
Gregg previously served as the State Public Defender, a position he was appointed to in 2014. In that role, Adam led a 220-employee organization focused on providing the constitutional right to counsel for Iowans. He modernized the agency by moving processes online, improving efficiency while increasing the ability to detect fraudulent claims for taxpayer dollars. He also created a new division to investigate potential wrongful convictions in the criminal justice system.
From 2013-14, Gregg served in the governor’s office as the legislative liaison and policy advisor. Prior to joining the governor’s office, he practiced at the BrownWinick law firm in Des Moines. He was the Republican nominee for attorney general in 2014.
Gregg graduated in 2009 with high honors from Drake University Law School, where he received the institution’s prestigious Opperman Scholarship. While there, he earned the faculty’s William and Ellen Cooney Hoye Award, given to the individual who demonstrates the greatest promise as an advocate, public servant and practitioner. Gregg was also chosen as an Iowa Supreme Court Scholar, and was a staff member for the Drake Law Review.
Gregg earned his B.A. from Central College in 2006. He graduated first in his class with degrees in political science and history, and played football for the Dutch.
Gregg is a graduate of West Sioux High School and a native of Hawarden, Iowa. He resides in Urbandale with his wife, Cari, and their son, Jackson, and daughter, Lauren. He and his family are active members and volunteers in Johnston River of Life United Methodist Church. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the Hoover Presidential Foundation, and on the Iowa State Fair Board. He also coaches his son’s flag football team and his daughter's basketball team.


Executive Director, Congressional Office for International Leadership

Jane Sargus of Washington, D.C. is the Executive Director of the Congressional Office for International Leadership (formerly known as the Open World Leadership Center). Before assuming her duties as Executive Director, Ms. Sargus brings 40 years of federal experience to the Open World program.

Having served as Open World’s Program Administrator and Budget Officer from 2008 to 2012, Ms. Sargus crafted the congressional budget justification for the Appropriations Committee in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. With her financial management experience and a deep understanding of international programs in the Legislative Branch, Ms. Sargus performed in-depth analysis and research on multiple and complex issues related to budget formulation for a program with both national and international impact. From 2012 to 2017, Ms. Sargus rose to serve as Open World’s Deputy Executive Director to manage day-to-day operations for all aspects of the agency and to coordinate its logistical contract of $7 million annually.

Prior to Open World, Ms. Sargus served as a Budget Analyst in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer of the Library of Congress. Her work supported the Library’s $400 million budget request for congressional oversight committees. In the Library’s Congressional Research Service (CRS), Ms. Sargus provided critical fiscal support for the Frost Special Task Force on the Development of Parliamentary Institutions in Eastern and Central Europe while also serving on the Financial Management Team overseeing CRS’s annual appropriation. Ms. Sargus also spent five years in the Library’s John W. Kluge Center managing all aspects of financial operations for more than 20 funds totaling over $71 million.

Jane Sargus has a B.A. from the Miami University in Oxford, OH and graduate work in Business Administration from The George Washington University.


Ms. Carolina Coronado-Park is the Director of International Engagement at the University of Northern Iowa. She also oversees the Culture and Intensive English Program. She holds an M.A. in Political Science with a focus on International Relations and has completed graduate work in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Intercultural Communication at UNI. Her B.A. is in Journalism from the Universidad de Piura, Peru. Carolina also has a conflict management resolution and citizen diplomacy certificate from the University of Maryland, College Park. Carolina has over 20 years of international work experience in education and international relations, giving her a clear perspective in assisting and supporting students and scholars from various backgrounds and cultures. She also has experience developing successful partnerships with local and international institutions and organizations to promote intercultural exchange and Academic English instruction. 


Major General Timothy E. Orr was appointed by Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter as Board member of the Reserve Forces Policy Board (RFPB) on September 18, 2015. He also was appointed as Chairman to the RFPB subcommittee of Enhancing DoD’s Role in the Homeland, focusing on improving the capability and capacity of the reserve component to address the increasing threats to the homeland. 

General Orr assumed the duties as The Adjutant General, Iowa on 26 March 2009 and also served as the Director, Iowa Department of Public Defense command and control of more than 100 Army and Air National Guard units with approximately 9,400 assigned Soldiers and Airmen. His primary mission was to ensure the Iowa National Guard trained, mobilized, deployed, sustained and reconstituted units, ensuring the state provided ready forces in support of community, state and national requirements. General Orr retired 23 May 2019, after 40 years of military service. 

General Orr began his military career by enlisting into the Iowa Army National Guard in December 1978. He received his officer's commission through the United States Army Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning on 20 August 1985. He has commanded at the detachment, company, battalion and brigade level. His most recent command assignment was Commander, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Iowa Army National Guard, from October 2004 to September 2007. Following that assignment, General Orr served as Chief of Staff, Iowa Army National Guard, from October 2007 to December 2008, and as the Deputy Adjutant General from December 2008 to March 2009. 


Kathy Garms is Abdelkader Education Project (AEP) co-founder and a non-profit advocate, who values education, diversity, and collaboration. She is passionate about building global community by promoting cultural understanding to inspire future leaders and compassionate global citizens. Being a USAID volunteer in Kyrgyzstan opened her eyes to a new world. Kathy revived the Elkader (Iowa) sister city program with Mascara City, Algeria, strengthening friendships and building relationships between the U.S. and Algeria. Kathy organized the Elkader launch of John Kiser’s biography Commander of the Faithful that inspired the Abdelkader Education Project. She directed AEP’s activities and events and continues to expand its network at home and abroad. As a guest in France and Algeria, Kathy participated in events focused on Emir Abdelkader’s impact as a model humanitarian with lessons for today. Kathy continues to share the Abdelkader Story envisioning a better world for all people. 


Dr. Kristi Marchesani serves as the Director of International Recruitment and Admissions at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI).  She earned her PhD in Educational Leadership from Iowa State University and both her bachelors and masters at UNI. She has worked in international admissions at UNI for the past twenty two years where she has been responsible for outreach to international undergraduate and graduate students, establishment of admission policy, and advocacy of international education on the campus.  She has served as president of StudyIowa and teaches a course for first-year international students at UNI. Her professional responsibilities and personal passion has allowed her to travel to over 105 countries and to visit every continent.  


Artan Duraku is a career diplomat with the rank of Minister Consular, of the Republic of Kosovo, as of April 2019 serving as head of the Mission of the Consulate of the Republic of Kosovo in Des Moines Iowa. Artan is a Political Scientist and holds a BA in Political Science and MA in European Politics, European Defense and Security from University of Leeds in United Kingdom. During the service in the Kosovo Institution he served over 15 Years in different Institutions such as Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The last three years before moving to Iowa, he served as Head of Policy Planning Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Some of the key activities in the institutions are Strategic Planning, Security Sector Review, Counter Organized Crime, and Migration Management. 

His main objectives of the service in Iowa are related to economic development, trade, culture and education.


Artan is married to Zamira Hyseni Duraku and they have a daughter Erika, 11 years old.


Karla McCollum, the Executive Director for Iowa Sister States,  is a firm believer in citizen diplomacy and understands the role citizen diplomacy has in developing Iowa's strategic international partnerships.   Iowa Sister States mission is to develop and implement international partnerships and programs that promote cultural, economic, and other interests of the State of Iowa and its citizens through volunteer, public, and private action through economic, agriculture, athletics, education, or cultural relationships. Karla came to Iowa Sister States with a strong background in building international relationships in July 2020 during the pandemic from her previous role as Director of International Affairs at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, where she developed relationships with over 36 countries and traveled to 25 countries to bring students to the US. Karla has developed and opened new markets by seeking out, developing, and maintaining key local, state, regional, national and international relationships, including forming partnership agreements with other higher education institutions in intra- and inter-state wide, building relationships with the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the US Department of Commerce, US Department of State Education USA offices, foreign country Ministries of Education, Ministries of Foreign Affairs,  and US and foreign Consulates and Embassies. 


As Executive Director for Iowa Sister States, Karla brings skills of relationship building, strategic data decision making,  and a passion for the Iowa Sister States mission of connecting Iowans to the world  and is excited to continue to focus on strengthening Iowa’s existing Sister States relationships while building a foundation for future international strategic relationships and connect more Iowans across the globe.


Liza Gashi is the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora in Kosovo. Ms. Gashi is an executive leader,innovator, social entrepreneur, and policy analyst with experience in migration and diasporas, public and digital diplomacy, civic engagement and advocacy. Ms. Gashi is the founder and former executive director of GERMIN, a leading regional nonprofit specializing in engaging diaspora communities in advancing the development and democratization of their home

countries in Western Balkans. Ms. Gashi and GERMIN has been at the forefront of shaping the public discourse on diaspora matters and has advocated on the advancement of the country’s policies, legislation and institutional approaches on diaspora engagement. Ms. Gashi has founded, a crowdsourcing digital engagement and diplomacy platform that has promoted Kosovo’s statehood internationally. She has also founded and previously led

the UWC Kosova, an education movement that helped place talented and youth leaders of Kosovo into worldleading education institutions that are part of the United World Colleges network. Ms. Gashi’s policy and research experience in international development, innovation, foreign policy, and migration matters spans across international andlocal organizations, including the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UNDPA), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the University of Applied Sciences Bonn-RheinSieg, and IREX. Ms. Gashi is fluent in Albanian, English and Spanish. She has completed a Master of Public Administration (MPA) at Arizona State University and holds abachelor’s degree from Wartburg College (IA) in International Relations, Political Science, and Spanish Language and Literature. She is also a proud alumna of United World College in Costa Rica and the National University of Córdoba in Argentina.


President,  The World Food Prize Foundation 

Barbara Stinson assumed leadership of the World Food Prize Foundation on January 4, 2020, building on a career of championing policy, research and project innovations through collaborative solutions. She became the second president of the Foundation since it was established in 1986 by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug. Ms. Stinson previously served as a co-founder and Senior Partner of the Meridian Institute, a renowned non-profit organization based in Dillon, CO and Washington D.C. that guides collaboration and drives action to address our world’s complex challenges.  

Inspired by Dr. Borlaug’s mission of increasing agricultural productivity and education globally, Ms. Stinson is committed to expanding the impact of the Foundation and its programs to address pressing global challenges. 

Ms. Stinson brings more than 30 years of experience in environmental public policy and business management, focusing the last 10 years on global food security and food safety. She has successfully led collaborations addressing complex challenges, such as tackling food safety in sub-Saharan Africa and the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity. Her work emphasizes policies and programs that support smallholder farmers, especially women and youth, by bringing institutional support and access to new tools, technologies and data to improve the quantity, quality and availability of food. 

During her 22 years at Meridian, Ms. Stinson led programs focused on innovative approaches to agricultural development, alternative energy development, ecosystem restoration, climate change, air-quality management, natural resource management, and low-level radioactive waste disposal. Notably, Ms. Stinson was responsible for executing more than 40 major collaborative problem-solving projects in these areas, involving thousands of stakeholders from diverse perspectives. Since 2011, Ms. Stinson directed the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), a pan-African, multi-stakeholder program seeking to reduce aflatoxin prevalence across the continent. 

Prior to Meridian, Ms. Stinson worked in the science and public policy program for The Keystone Policy Center, where she served as a neutral third-party mediator and facilitator.  

Ms. Stinson serves on several boards, including the Foundation for Women Liberia, which offers micro-loans to local women developing businesses in Liberia. 

She earned a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Arts in environmental conservation from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She and her family relocated to Des Moines, Iowa from Denver, Colorado. 


Kyle Poorman joined the World Food Prize Foundation in June of 2021 as Director, International Dialogues. 

In this role, Kyle will help to develop and produce the Foundation’s major programs, such as the Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue and Digital Dialogues. These events bring together policy experts, global food security leaders and farmers, both in person and online, to discuss clear steps to fight collectively against hunger around the world.

In addition, Kyle will oversee the implementation of the annual Iowa Hunger Summit, which over the past decade, has grown to become the premier conference in the state of Iowa for those confronting hunger. This conference gathers leaders from across Iowa that represent community organizations, business and industry, state and local governments and other individuals and groups that lead or participate in fighting hunger within the state.

Prior to joining the World Food Prize Foundation, Kyle was the Communications Manager and Policy Lead at Iowa State University with the Consortium for Innovation in Post-Harvest Loss and Food Waste Reduction. In this position, Kyle helped steer a global agriculture and food organization with major international members and funders. 

Kyle has worked in many places across the globe, such as Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Ohio, France, Italy and the Netherlands. His work has primarily focused on sustainability, conservation, research, education and unification across all fronts when discussing climate change. He previously held an Associate Professional Officer position for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome. In this role, he brought together Fortune 500 businesses, world class universities, NGOs and governments to amplify the conversation around sustainable agricultural improvements.

In 2012, Kyle graduated from Yale University with dual Master’s Degrees, one in International Relations and the other in Environmental Management. He won the Miguel Ferreyros Award for his academic excellence at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. 

Kyle received his Bachelor’s Degree in History with a minor in Political Science at Iowa State University in 2004, where he graduated with Distinction.


Rob Denson was appointed the fourth President of Des Moines Area Community College on November 1, 2003.

Rob grew up on a farm near Homestead, Iowa, south of the Amana Colonies, and graduated from high school in Marengo, Iowa. The first native-born Iowan to be President of DMACC, Rob has a B.S. in Political Science and Economics and an M.S. in Higher Education Administration from Iowa State University. He worked for Iowa State as an Assistant Dean for three years before moving to Florida to serve as an Assistant Dean of Students.

Rob graduated from Law School at the University of Florida in 1979, and was an Associate University Attorney for three years before operating his own law practice for 16 years. He is a board-certified civil trial lawyer. In 1996, he became Assistant to the President and Dean for Institutional Advancement at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida.

In 1998, Rob returned to Iowa as President of Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar, Iowa.

Rob loves his job at DMACC and is active on a number of community boards, including three years on the United Way of Central Iowa Board.

In addition to his DMACC position, he serves on the National Board of Gateway to College, a drop-out recovery program; the Governor's STEM Advisory Council and Executive Committee; the National STEM connector Innovation Task Force, and the Food and Ag Council; and, the National Leadership Council of Opportunity Nation. He also chairs the National STEM connector Higher Education Council and serves on the boards of Iowa Student Loan Liquidity, the Iowa Ag. Literacy Foundation, the Technology Association of Iowa, the Iowa Quality Center, the Agri-Business Association of Iowa, the Iowa Direct Caregivers Association, the Iowa Rural Development Council, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Iowa Innovation Council, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Rob and his wife, Pat, have two children and five grandchildren.


John Dabeet was born in Jerusalem, Palestine. Prof. John Dabeet is the Business Department chair and a distinguished professor of Economics and Statistics at Muscatine College, Muscatine, Iowa. Prof. Dabeet serves on several boards of directors for international, national, and local organizations. John was a Foreign Policy team member for Biden’s Campaign during the 2020 campaign.

Prof. Dabeet was a visiting professor at Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia; Vista University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa; Drohobych University, Drohobych, Ukraine, Alquds College, Amman, Jordan, Bir-Zeit University, Palestine.

Currently, he is serving on Muscatine Community School Board as the President of the School Board, Sister Cities International Honorary Board in Washington D.C., Global Leaders Circle member, Country of Palestine Representative on Sister Cities International Board, and  Muscatine Sister Cities President. John is the current Vice-President of the US Palestinian Council (USPC). John was recognized by the Iowa Governor and Iowa House of Representatives and awarded the outstanding citizen award for his work in Citizen Diplomacy, The Palestinian person of the year in 2020 from the Palestinian Lady of Earth Foundation, as well as receiving The Palestinian President Academic Diplomacy Award in 2021. Several International and National awards have been presented to Prof. Dabeet for his work in Politics, Citizen Diplomacy, and Education.


Dr. Ben Hassman is Associate Professor of Instruction, Co-Director of the Conversation Center

Ben joined the Rhetoric Department in Fall 2015, and is Co-Director of its Conversation Center . Directing the Conversation Center builds on his experience with peer-leadership programs like the Berwick Boys Foundation, formative time advocating for Service-learning at Onondaga Community College, and teaching for Gen-ed Rhetoric and the Rhetoric Minor, including Speaking Skills, Advanced Speaking Skills, and the Conversation Center’s own RHET 2090 Conversation Practicum. He wrote his PhD dissertation in Philosophy of Language on paradoxes and their implication for how we understand the relationship between our sentences and the world. His current interests include informal and intercultural communication especially as a lynchpin to learning.

Dr. Hassman is the proud recipient of the 2021 CLAS International Engagement Teaching Award


As a consultant with Bâton Global, Karter has supported engagements with non-profit organizations and corporations in areas of strategy development and execution, market analysis, data-driven tool development, and leadership development.  He also brings past expertise in business development, marketing communications, and project coordination through experiences in Iowa and Minnesota.

Karter holds a B.S. at Drake University where he earned degrees in Marketing and Management through the College of Business with magna cum laude honors. 


Tom Rial is Principle of Midwest AgriTrade, an international business consulting firm based in Des Moines, Iowa. Tom provides marketing, sales, and business start-up consulting to food and agricultural companies, the bio-energy sector, and new-to-export clients in trade logistics, supply-chain development, and import/export trade compliance.


For over 25 years Tom has worked in various international roles for both private business and non-profit organizations and with the US Government managing a range of projects in marketing and promotion, global supply-chain logistics and trade compliance as well as consulting for food, agriculture, and bioenergy clients.  Tom also manages his family farm of 960 crop-share acres in north-central Iowa.


Tom currently serves on the Board of Directors for Iowa Sister States where he served as President from 2012-2014.   Past community service includes volunteer work with the Iowa District Export Council, Iowa Food Policy Council, as President of the Wallace House Foundation, and as Chairman of the Iowa Lottery Board Authority. Tom is a member of the Iowa Corn Growers Association and graduate of the inaugural class of the Iowa Corn Leadership and Enhancement Program.  In 2002, he was selected to participate in the European Union Visitors Program and awarded the 2003 Asia Foundation Freeman Fellowship to participate in the Young American Leaders Program in SE Asia.


Tom has a BA in Political Science and Philosophy from the University of Northern Iowa and an MA in International Affairs from Marquette University as well as his second MA with advanced graduate work in international political economy at The George Washington University.



Prakash practices Citizen Diplomacy by advocating for common causes between Iowa and nations such as India and China. He has worked with leaders and organizations such as the Iowa Asian Alliance. Prakash played a key role in various Presidential campaigns during 2019 in the areas of US Foreign Policy, US Immigration Policy, US Healthcare (Autism & Mental Health) Policy and US Education investment. He was the Marketplace Outreach Chair for Diverse Abilities Team Member Network


Director of Sales to the Americas and Product Management Manager, Hy-Line International

Hy-Line International is the world’s largest and oldest primary breeder of egg laying hens distributing product to more than 120 countries around the world with a 40% market share. I have held several positions with Hy-Line over the past 27 years. International Sales Manager to Latin America, Director of International Sales. With my position at Hy-Line, he has travelled and conducted business in nearly all of the Western Hemisphere countries, China, several Southeast Asia countries, Europe, North Africa and some Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries. He speaks, writes, and reads in business fluency level of Spanish. Tom is an Iowa State University graduate with a degree in Business Administration with focus on Finance with minors in International Studies, Spanish and Economics.


Pat Grote is the Executive Director of the International Center of Iowa, where she is responsible for Fund Development, Strategic Leadership, Board Collaboration, Staff Training and Passport to Prosperity.


Steve Rude is the community and two-year college representative. Steve works as an international student adviser at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). Steve is fortunate to work with all of the international students that come and study at DMACC.


Kerri joined the USCRI Des Moines Field Office as Director in 2019. Prior to this position, she worked in the antiviolence movement for more than a decade including as the Director of Operations and Special projects at the state sexual assault coalition and the founding Executive Director of a local rape crisis center. Kerri has presented at state, national, and international conferences on topics including mitigating vicarious trauma, services to sexual assault survivors living with disabilities, and best practices in staff supervision. She holds a master’s degree in Human Services with a concentration in Social Service Administration from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Kerri was awarded the Lois Haight Award for Excellence and Innovation in 2015 by the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus. 


Pronouns: she/her/hers 

(full bio here)


Nicholas Wuertz is the Director of Refugee and Immigrant Services at Lutheran Services in Iowa. He is passionately focused on expanding the services, support, and training available to individuals, families, and ethnic communities that come to Iowa through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. The goal is that every individual who comes to Iowa through the refugee program would be able to access the resources needed to pursue the life they desire for themselves and their families and that they would have every opportunity to participate in and contribute to the life of our communities.


Allen Williams has worked for the State of Iowa Economic Development for almost 27 years.  During that time, he has successfully completed 160 different economic development attraction and expansion projects resulting in 23,000 new jobs being created in Iowa and $7.4 billion of new capital investment.

Prior to working in government, he held positions in sales and marketing for several companies in the private sector. He has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business from Iowa State University as well as a Master of Business Administration from the University of Iowa.   He and his wife live in Indianola and have three adult children.  Allen enjoys travelling for work and pleasure and once lived for a year in China where he taught English.


Ryan Carroll is a veteran in the economic development industry with over 15 years of experience. As international trade manager and project manager at the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Ryan is responsible for a variety of roles supporting existing industry business retention/expansion and international trade management. He is currently leading the implementation of the Global DSM strategy created by Greater Des Moines (DSM) business, community, education and government leaders as a part of the Brookings Institution’s Global Cities Initiative (GCI). Ryan also leads The Partnership’s international educational programming efforts in collaboration with public and private sector partners and serves on the Board of Directors of the International Traders of Iowa to promote trade in DSM.

As Project Manager on the regional economic development team, Ryan supports the growth of existing companies in DSM by providing consultation in site selection, workforce development and state/local incentive accessibility. He also serves as The Partnership’s primary contact for freight movement/optimization and is currently engaged in a project that will bring a rail port to DSM.

Prior to joining The Partnership, Ryan worked in the economic development field at both the state and local levels in business recruitment and retention/expansion.


Cassie L. Barnhardt, Ph.D. is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies, and a Senior Research Fellow with the Public Policy Center at the University of Iowa.  Dr. Barnhardt’s research focuses on various aspects of civic and public engagement, including how college students learn about and enact social responsibility, and how universities contribute to democracy and civic life. She was a 2019 Fulbright Scholar to the Republic of Kosovo where her post was with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and a Fellow with the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement in 2020-2021. Barnhardt’s other professional experiences include being a senior researcher with the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good, and with the Core Commitments initiative of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Some of her grant-funded work has been supported by the John Templeton Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and DIKU- the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education.  She teaches courses on higher education administration, student affairs, policy, organizational behavior and management in postsecondary institutions, and research methods.


Hon. Kenichi Okada is the Consul-General of Japan in Chicago. The jurisdiction of the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago covers 10 states in the Midwest and Great Plains: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.