Jane Eckhardt McMullen is president of CIVIC’s board of directors. She grew up in Iowa City, graduating from City High and earning her BA, Masters and Ph.D. degrees in French at the University of Iowa. She taught French as a graduate assistant at UI, to cadets at West Point, and in the Adult and Community Education program for Fairfax County Public Schools (Virginia). She was a lectrice d’anglais in Poitiers, France and taught English to Burmese students in the English Language Program of the American Embassy in Rangoon. Accompanying her husband Ron during thirty years of Foreign Service postings, she lived in the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, Gabon, South Africa, Fiji, Burma and Eritrea. Returning “home” in 2012, Jane teaches ESL with the International Women’s Club. She joined CIVIC in 2013 and became a Board member in 2014. Jane previously served as vice president and has chaired the Membership Committee. Jane also filled a staffing gap as CIVIC Interim Program Coordinator (summer 2016).
Newman Abuissa is currently serving as the interim board treasurer. Newman was a past president (2010-2012) and has been on the board since 2004. He was born in Damascus, Syria and received a bachelor and Master degrees of Science from South Dakota State University. He was elected as National Delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004. He was the Board President of the Iowa City Human Right Commission 2008-2009. He was the Parish Council Chairman at the start of St. Raphael Church in Iowa City 2001-2006 and is the Arab American Institute Iowa Chair 2002- present. He appeared on Aljazeera Arabic and BBC Arabic covering American politics for Middle East audiences and has spoken at local organizations and churches about the Middle East and current events.
Martha Kirby is on temporary leave from her position as board treasurer. She is an academic advisor at University of Iowa for undergraduate students in political science, international relations and finds that her interactions with the CIVIC visitors informs and enriches her work with students. As a native of Iowa City, Martha enjoys introducing international visitors to her hometown, and particularly enjoys hosting home hospitality dinners. She enjoys the outdoors, travel, gardening, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends.
Christy Weitz is an English language teacher at Weber Elementary School in Iowa City. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Morningside College. Prior to teaching at Weber, she taught high school Spanish in Lone Tree, Iowa, and fifth grade ESL in Houston, Texas. Christy serves on the Cultural Competency Committee for the Iowa City School District and was selected as a 2016-2017 fellow in the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program. She lives in Iowa City with her husband and two children. Christy and her family enjoy meeting visitors through CIVIC and welcoming them to Eastern Iowa. Christy is the current Board Secretary.
Ken Royar has been on the CIVIC board for about ten years. He is a retired United Methodist pastor, retiring in 1999. Both he and his wife Gayle Royar have been active in relating to international students, having had several international students live with them. They are also active in the Friends of International Student program here at the University of Iowa as well as serving on its board.
Dave Tiffany is a previous CIVIC President. He also served as Executive Director of CIVIC during the 2011-2012 year. He lives in Iowa City with his wife Denise and son Mike. Dave’s prior experience has been 22 years in the US military as a soviet analyst and another 27 years as a criminal prosecutor for the Johnson County Attorneys Office.
Concepcion Piragine was born and raised in Corrientes, Argentina. After graduating from the Universidad de Cordoba, Arg, as a Teacher of English and as a Legal Translator, she taught at the British Council, several high schools and colleges, the Teachers’ Training Colleges, the Universidad Nacional del Nordeste, UNNE, in Corrientes, and Cordoba, Arg, and at the Univ. of Crete, Greece. In 1980 she was awarded a Fulbright grant to do Linguistic studies at the Univ. of Northern Iowa where she also earned a Certificate of Translation and Interpretation. She did further studies in Linguistics at the UI. Concepcion has taught English in Argentina, the USA, and Greece. In Iowa, she worked as Legal interpreter for the Johnson County Court System, the Public Defenders in Cedar Rapids (CR), and for the Federal Judges at the CR Federal Court. She has also volunteered as an interpreter of Spanish and Greek at the UIHC. She speaks Spanish (native), English, Modern Greek, and understands Italian and Brazilian Portuguese. As a Rotarian since 2000, she tries to help meet the needs of people of the community she lives in, and communities world-wide. Working as a volunteer for CIVIC allows her to meet international visitors and to practice “citizen diplomacy,” which she enjoys.
Jennifer Blair grew up in Knoxville, Iowa, and graduated from the University of Iowa in 1998, with a degree in History. As a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, Jennifer earned an M.Phil in International Peace Studies from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and remained in Ireland for the next decade, qualifying as a lawyer (solicitor) and practicing in one of Ireland’s largest law firms. In 2009, she returned home to Iowa, where she first headed the International Student Services office at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, and then was fortunate to find an opportunity to return to her alma mater in Iowa City as an academic adviser and programmer in the College of Business, focusing on opportunities to foster greater engagement between American students and the College’s sizable international student population. She now serves Assistant Director for Academic Success Initiatives in the Undergraduate Program Office. Jennifer is Chair of the Communications Committee.
Amy Chastain, an English as a Second Language Programs faculty member at the University of Iowa, and her husband, Mohamad Hallak, a chef, relocated to Iowa from Abu Dhabi, UAE. Amy has also lived and taught in France and China, which she considers her second home. In addition to English language courses, she serves as a Program supervisor and enjoys working with graduate teaching assistants in Linguistics. Ms. Chastain has also been appointed to the UI Charter Council on Diversity (2017-2020) and serves as a founding board member of the Dragonfly Foundation for Research and Development. Upon finding CIVIC, Amy feels like she has found her niche in Iowa City and is currently serving as Chair of the Membership Committee.
Emma Cole is earning her Masters of Public Health in Policy from the University of Iowa. As an undergraduate earning her BA in International Studies, she studied abroad in India and Jordan and worked for CIVIC as a Programming Intern where she was selected as a Global Ties Emerging Leader. Through CIVIC, Emma enjoys being able to interact with international visitors to showcase her home state of Iowa. She currently serves on the Fundraising Committee.
Mazahir Salih is currently serving as the interim vice president of CIVIC’s Board of Directors. Prior to joining board in the fall of 2018, she worked with many of CIVIC’s international delegations on community organizing and immigrant issues. Mazahir came to the United States 20 years ago with a degree in civil engineering from her native Sudan. She first settled in Virginia, where as an immigrant women she found she had to start over with her career and education. While in Virginia she became a citizen, married her husband, and started a family. She moved to Iowa City in 2011 to pursue a degree in Electroneurodiagnostic Technology, a program she finished about a 2 years ago at the top of her class. Mazahir also became very involved as a community activist, helping to found the Center for Worker Justice where she is currently a full-time community organizer. Working at CWJ, Mazahir works on behalf of labor and social justice issues. In 2017, she became the 1st Sudanese American to hold an office in the USA, when she was elected to the city council of Iowa City. She lives in Iowa City with her husband and five children.
Liz Bergeron grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and graduated from Carleton College in Minnesota with a BA in Philosophy. She went on to earn an MA in Linguistics with a certification in TESOL Instruction from the University of Colorado. Although now retired, her career has included a wide range of positions. Following several years in publishing management in Minnesota, she taught ESL in Slovakia and colleges in the US and Business English skills in Finland. When she returned to the US, she was Director of Linguistics and Global Supplier Development for a translation and localization services group. Most recently, she served as the Associate Director of Capacity & Leadership Development with Community Colleges for International Development. Her responsibilities included designing capacity building programs, cultivating partnerships, and providing oversight and administration of sponsored programs. CIVIC has provided her a wonderful opportunity to continue her passion for global engagement, share Iowa culture, and learn more about the world from our visitors.