Board of Directors
The ISS Board of Directors oversees our international programs and maintains the ethical and fiduciary responsibility of our organization to financial supporters, state government and Iowa's citizenry.
The Board is led by the Executive Committee, which is comprised of the President, President-Elect, Treasurer and Secretary. This committee meets prior to all Board meetings (and other times as necessary) and acts with the authority of the Board between meetings.
Teresa joined the ISS Board in 2014 but has been a citizen diplomat for over three decades. Teresa has played an integral part in the Yamanashi/Iowa Baseball Exchange and has been active in Iowa as the Athletic Director of Holy Trinity School and Governor of the Iowa Amateur Athletic Union for 16 years.
Vice President / President Elect
Roger has been involved with ISS for over 21 years. Currently, he also sits on the ISS Board of Directors and has since 2014. Roger is an adjunct member of the Grand View University faculty. In the past, he has served as Legal Counsel for the Iowa Legislature, Deputy Executive Director and Counsel for the Iowa League of Cities, and City Attorney of Marshalltown.
Todd has volunteered with ISS for the past few years and recently has stepped up to become the chair of the Kosovo Committee. You can really tell the passion that Todd has for the Iowa- Kosovo relationship that began during his time with the Iowa National Guard. He is always willing to help wherever possible to make the Iowa-Kosovo relationship a success.
Monty Freeman has been involved with Iowa Sister States since 2001. He previously served as the ISS Board of Directors President, and most recently as Interim Director for Iowa Sister States. For many years, Monty taught Biology at Urbandale High School. He is active in his community as a local 4-H club leader, and as a volunteer at the Annett Nature Center, where he conducts summer camps for youth.
Dr. Will Zhang
Paolo joined ISS in 1998. His term on our Board of Directors began in 2004 and since then he has been President and Treasurer. He currently serves as Chair of the Iowa-Veneto partnership. Paolo was born in Lecco, Italy, and worked extensively in the fashion industry for many years. He moved to Des Moines in 1997 and was the owner of the retail stores A Touch of Italy and Accenti. He is now a travel consultant for his company Traveling Treasures. Paolo has served on numerous boards and committees including Drake Fine Arts, the Des Moines Metro Opera, and the Italian-American Cultural Center of Iowa.
Luca has been involved with ISS since the very beginning! He assisted in its formation in 1983 and has serve in various capacities since then, and has been on the Board of Directors since 2006. Luca was born and raised in Torino, Italy and built his ties to Iowa as a foreign exchange student at Hoover High School and then as an international student at Iowa State University. Luca is the President of SACMI, USA Ltd., a subsidiary of an Italian manufacturing company.
Rob joined our Board of Directors in 2018. He is the president of the Des Monies Area Community College and has been there since 2003. In addition, Rob is active on nearly twenty community boards. Rob received his B.S. in Political Science and Economics and his M.S. in Higher Education Administration from Iowa State University. He graduated from Law School at the University of Florida in 1979 and is a board certified civil trial lawyer.
Dr. Karstens is a compassionate and proven leader with a background in higher education, law and fundraising. She is the 11th President of Briar Cliff University, also serving as Interim President, Chief of Staff and Executive Vice President.
She received her Ph.D in Education from Drake University. Her dissertation research explored the experiences of college and university presidents as fundraisers while leading private, nonprofit institutions of higher education..
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
Grant joined the ISS Board in 2014. He is the Director of Market Development for the Iowa Soybean Association, and has participated in overseas trade missions all around the world. Grant is a sixth-generation family farmer, and in February 2012, he and his family hosted then-Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping for a highly-publicized farm visit. Grant also met with Xi in Beijing the following month as a part of the Iowa Lt. Governor's trade delegation.
Tom Rial has made community service a priority in his personal life. He has served as President of Iowa Sister States, Chairman of the Iowa Lottery Board Authority, and President of the Wallace House Foundation.
In 2002 he was selected to participate in the European Union Visitor’s Program and awarded a 2003 Freeman Fellowship for Young American Leaders by the Asia Foundation. He is a proud alumnus of the University of Northern Iowa, and earned two Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Marquette University and Political Science with a focus on international political economy from The George Washington University.
Phyllis Van Gilst
Phyllis joined the Board in 2004, and she has traveled with ISS on an exchange to Yamanashi, Japan where she climbed Mt. Fuji. Her international travel experience is extensive, and she has hosted many international guests over the past two decades. Phyllis is the Director of International Trade Compliance for Emerson Process Management.
Kenn Yu is a Lead Management Specialist – Operational Risk Management with Transamerica Corporation based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Prior to joining Transamerica, Yu spent seven years with Principal. He played a key role while working for Principal, supporting the 30th anniversary of sister state relationship between Iowa and Hebei. He has volunteered multiple times for the ISS as interpreter for official delegation visits from China. He is originally from Suzhou, China and proudly calls Iowa his second home.
Dr. Will Zhang
Will has been volunteering for ISS since 1998. He has also served as Chair of the Iowa-Hebei partnership since 2000. Will is our immediate past president, and has helped coordinate many exchange projects in Hebei and in its neighboring cities Tianjin and Beijing. Will teaches English and global study courses at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC).