Those Who Support and Sustain the Council’s Efforts



The Council’s Champions

The Cleveland Council on World Affairs thanks the members of our Board. Their input and guidance provide our organization with the strength, stability, and vision necessary to extend our outreach and further our connections within the international community. The support and effort of our Board of Directors is a hallmark of CCWA as the vibrant organization that it is today.


FY 2023-2024

Paul Clark, Chair
Regional President (retired)

Seda Ergun, Vice Chair
National Director Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, Principal Consultant
TRC Solutions

David Fleshler, Vice Chair
Associate Provost for International Affairs
Case Western Reserve University

Linda F. Robertson, Ph.D., Vice Chair
Retired Director
Gerald H. Read Center of Intern’l and Intercultural Education
Kent State University

Fritz Heintel, Treasurer
Corporate Banking Centralized Underwriting

David O. Zimmer, Secretary


The Council’s Core Team




President and Ambassador-in-Residence

R. Henry Norweb Chair

Ambassador Heather Hodges

President and Ambassador-in-Residence, R. Henry Norweb Chair

Ambassador Heather Hodges became the President and Ambassador-in-Residence at the Cleveland Council on World Affairs in November 2011 after retiring from 31 years in the U.S. Foreign Service. Ambassador Hodges did consular work in Venezuela and Guatemala. She was Consul General in Bilbao, Spain, and was deputy chief of mission in Managua, Lima, and Madrid. In Washington, she was Peru desk officer and Deputy Director of Cuban Affairs, and had a fellowship to work on the Senate Subcommittee for Immigration and Refugee Affairs. She was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Resources from 2006-2008. Ms. Hodges was Ambassador to Moldova from 2003-2006 and Ambassador to Ecuador from 2008 to April 2011. Ambassador Hodges is a native of Westlake, Ohio, and now lives in Bay Village, Ohio. She has a B.A. in Spanish from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and an M.A. from New York University. She was elected to the American Academy of Diplomacy in 2011. She is a member of the board of the Jocotoco Foundation, an Ecuadorian NGO, and is on the Advisory Council of Rainforest Trust. Both are nonprofit environmental organizations.



Chief Executive Officer

Carina Van Vliet

Chief Executive Officer

Carina Van Vliet joined the Cleveland Council on World Affairs in January 2019 as the Chief Executive Officer. After moving to Cleveland from New York City in 2014, she served as a Senior Advisor to the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Forum. She was a Regional Manager for Business Development and Communications at Jones Day, and also served as a Senior Advisor to the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Ms. Van Vliet served as a Political Affairs Officer at the United Nations from 2006 to 2014, covering Latin American and Middle East issues, disarmament affairs, and women, peace and security issues. Prior to joining the U.N., she was the Director for Policy and Leadership Programs at the French-American Foundation in New York. She also co-authored an economic history textbook in French, and taught international economics in the People’s Republic of China. Ms. Van Vliet was born and raised in Cannes, France, by American parents. She has a B.A. in Political Science from Bowdoin College, a master’s degree (diplôme) in International Relations from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), and an M.A from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University. She was also a Term Member with the Council on Foreign Relations from 2011 to 2016. Ms. Van Vliet is a member of Leadership Cleveland class of 2021, and co-chair of the "Global Issues" programming committee of the City Club of Cleveland.



Senior Director

Development and Marketing

Jenni Carney

Director of Development & Marketing

Jenni joined the Council in November 2012. As Director of Development and Marketing, Jenni brings in versatile experience in development, donor stewardship, events and database management. She is committed to strengthening and stewarding CCWA’s donor and member base, developing philanthropic strategies to secure stronger support for CCWA, and overseeing CCWA’s marketing strategy. Prior to joining the Council Jenni worked in various development roles at the Achievement Centers for Children, The Cleveland Orchestra and the American Red Cross. Jenni has a M.A. in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations from Helsinki University. She is a native of Finland.



Director of Global Education

Maura O’Donnell-McCarthy Center for Global Understanding

Elizabeth Colvin

Director of Global Education

Elizabeth Colvin joined the Cleveland Council on World Affairs in June 2018. In her current role, Elizabeth is responsible for a cross-cultural communication training program, a globally-minded leadership development experience for young professionals, and professional development programming focused on supporting educators’ capabilities for teaching global issues. Prior to joining CCWA, Elizabeth worked as an elementary school English Language Arts teacher with Breakthrough Schools. Elizabeth also served as a 2015 Teach For America corps member. Elizabeth is a Georgetown University alumnus with a dual degree in Government (B.A.) and Art History (B.A.), and holds a M.S. in Education from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education.



Senior Program Officer

International Visitors

Andrew Kovach

Program Officer

Andrew Kovach joined the Council in June 2015 and serves as Program Officer for the International Visitor Program. Andrew holds a M.A. of Global Interactions from Cleveland State University where he also completed his undergraduate degree in International Relations and Political Science. Andrew first joined the Council in 2015 as Development Assistant, and then assumed a role as International Visitor Program Associate, before being promoted to his current role as Program Officer. Previously, Andrew worked at CCWA as an International Visitors Leadership Program Intern, and a social media volunteer. His other professional experiences have focused on Cleveland’s refugee community through various roles at the International Services Center and Global Cleveland. Andrew is passionate about non-profits, foreign affairs, refugees, and his hometown Cleveland.



Program Officer

International Exchanges

Maria Garcia-Olalla

Program Officer, International Exchanges

Maria Garcia-Olalla joined the Council in October 2021 and serves as Program Officer for International Exchanges. Maria is an alumna of John Carroll University, where she graduated with a B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. From 2019-2020, Maria worked at CCWA as an International Visitors Fellow and interacted with young adults from Taiwan, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. A native of Spain, Maria has always had an interest in world cultures, but it was the fellowship experience at CCWA that truly ignited her passion for exchanges and helping people expand their global awareness.




Student Programs

Veronica Ruhe

Manager, Student Programs

Veronica Ruhe joined the Council in October 2021 and serves as Manager for Student Programs. She is responsible for ensuring the success of our Model UN program, building participation in our annual Academic WorldQuest competition, and engaging students in Junior World Affairs Councils (JWAC) in local middle and high schools. Veronica holds a M.A. in Gender Studies in the Middle East at University of London School of Oriental and African Studies and a B.A. in Political Science at Kent State University. Veronica was President of the Model NATO team at Kent State University. Veronica is passionate about giving students opportunities to lay the educational foundation for their own international studies, and sparking their interest in world affairs.




Speaker Programs

Jacob Connell

Manager, Speaker Programs

Jacob Connell joined the Council in August 2023 and serves as Manager of Speaker Programs. He is responsible for developing, planning, and executing CCWA’s Foreign Policy Forum and Cleveland Committee on Foreign Relations speaker programs. Jacob graduated from George Washington University with a B.A. in International Affairs and a minor in History. Prior to joining CCWA, Jacob served as an AmeriCorps member in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District advising high school students as they prepare for a post-secondary education. A proud Cleveland native, Jacob strives to think globally and act locally.



Office Coordinator

Grace Blanchard

Office Coordinator

Grace Blanchard joined the Council in October 2021 as Office Coordinator. She is responsible for enhancing the Council’s efficiency and effectiveness by providing high-level administrative support and strengthening office operations. Prior to this, she worked as Development Coordinator for University Settlement. She is an alumna of John Carroll University, where she graduated with a B.A. in Political Science and Theology & Religious Studies. Grace has served as a social justice advocate in various capacities and worked to increase political engagement in the community. A Cleveland native, she is also passionate about human rights, diversity, and global affairs.



Program Associate

International Exchanges

Trey Rainey

Program Associate, International Exchanges

Trey Rainey joined the Council in January 2024 and serves as Program Associate for International Exchanges. Trey twice graduated from the Ohio State University with an M.A. of East Asian Languages and Literatures, specializing in Advanced Chinese Language and Culture, and a B.A. in International Relations and Mandarin Chinese. Trey has always had a strong interest in world cultures that has been strengthened by several study abroad opportunities and working abroad in China for a combined three and a half years. He is excited about working on international exchanges where he can help foster international relations at the individual level.




Carter E. Strang Young Professionals Advisory Committee

Photo Aug 03 2023, 6 47 46 PM (1)

The Cleveland Council on World Affairs’ Carter E. Strang Young Professionals Advisory Committee (YPAC) is a body of young professionals who support the work of CCWA in its efforts to engage young professionals and students in our programming. YPAC members do this by providing program feedback and insight to the board and staff of CCWA, leading coordination of young professional events, and serving as community ambassadors for CCWA and its programs.

Responsibilities of Members

Members of the Young Professionals Advisory Committee are expected to fulfill the following responsibilities:

  • Generate ideas for engaging a younger and more diverse audience through new methods of outreach and recruit other young professionals for CCWA programming;
  • Provide feedback and recommendations related to boosting young professional engagement with CCWA;
  • Serve as CCWA “community ambassadors”;
  • Help develop a pipeline for younger Citizen Diplomat volunteers (volunteers who engage in international exchange programs); and
  • Coordinate events as desired and as deemed appropriate by CCWA (social events or international-themed events targeted to young professionals).

Benefits to Members

YPAC members can expect to enjoy the following benefits of membership:

  • Development of leadership skills in preparation for future nonprofit committee and/or board involvement;
  • Opportunities to engage in small-group/private conversations with foreign policy experts;
  • Targeted opportunities to meet with international visitors and/or guest speakers (once in-person speaker programs and international exchanges resume);
  • CCWA membership benefits at the “Individual Member” or “Student Member” rate;
  • Resume building and networking opportunities; and
    Opportunity to help advance the work of CCWA and play an integral role in local Citizen Diplomacy initiatives.

Contribute to Global Connections


For a century, the CCWA has brought diverse perspectives on issues of international import to Cleveland. Much of our programming is made possible by the the support of our members and the generosity of our donors. Will you help us continue to create global connections?