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OUR IRIS TEAM

Bob Anderson

Bob Anderson

FOUNDER & PRESIDENT EMERITUS

Bob Anderson is the founder of IRIS and a former Iowa Lieutenant Governor. He was a founding board member and first executive director of the Iowa Peace Institute. For more than 25 years, he directed nonprofit organizations devoted to international understanding. Bob is the President Emeritus of the IRIS Board of Directors.

Del Christensen

Del Christensen

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Del Christensen is the Executive Director of IRIS, Inc. He has been involved with IRIS programs since 2002, serving as Executive Director since 2006. He has coordinated more than 130 programs involving groups from more than 50 different countries. He has led groups of Americans to Armenia, Georgia, Nigeria and Tanzania. He was involved in the establishment of the IRIS component of the Youth Exchange and Study program. In addition, he has helped to develop and implement Rotary International-sponsored programs in Nigeria, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Ukraine. Del has also been involved with Iowa Sister State Committee activities with Yamanashi, Japan; Terengganu, Malaysia; and Kosovo. He serves on the board of Japan-America Society of Iowa, the Abdelkader Education Project, and others.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Chris Fultz

Chris Fultz

Current Chairperson

Chris is a real estate agent and development partner, and has worked with Iowa Realty for 4 years. He is also the current vice chairperson for IRIS. His team is active in Des Moines’ industrial but transforming Market District. Chris previously worked in brand/product management and business plan writing. He has been active in planning of the Human Rights Symposium and with an organization that assists the homeless in Polk County.

Why IRIS?: "It is inspiring to hear IRIS students express their optimism for the future and their gratitude for the new friendships they make while in Iowa."

 

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Vani Meher Bojia

Current Vice-Chairperson

Vani Meher Bojia was born in India and came to Iowa in 2008. Holding three Master degrees, MA(English), MCA(Computers), and MS(Computers), Bojja has previously worked as a teacher in India and as an analyst in information technology at Renewable Energy Group. Bojja volunteered for IRIS before serving on the IRIS Board of Directors. She now lives in Texas, but continues her commitment to serve our board. 

Mike Coverdale

Mike Coverdale

Current Treasurer/Secretary

Mike is the former President of Block Party Studios, Inc., located in Nevada, Iowa, which produces quilting products sold through retail stores in 23 countries.

Why IRIS?: "It provides demonstrated leadership with promoting understanding, development and peace by connecting Iowans to communities worldwide."

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Dromi Etsey

Born raised in Ghana, Dromi obtained her law degree and was later called to the Ghana Bar in 2011. Upon moving to the U.S., she graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law. She practiced as an attorney in the Cedar Rapids community before joining the College of Law in January 2017, as the Director for Global Community Engagement. Her role at Iowa Law allowed her to help international students transition from one system into another and integrate without losing their own cultural identity. Dromi currently works with Collins Aerospace

Nicole Gassman

Nicole Gassman

Nicole is originally from Ames, Iowa. From early childhood she has enjoyed meeting and making friends with people from around the globe. While attending ISU, she lived abroad in Germany for 8 months. For over 10 years, she has worked as an engineer for John Deere. She has travelled to Cambodia to see how Human Trafficking is being combated there. Outside of work, she likes to spend time with family, friends, home improvements, and reading.

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Ronelle Langley

Ronelle Langley’s career as an academician and practitioner spans over 30 years and three continents where she obtained graduate degrees in Psychology (M. Science from Australian National University; Ph.D. from University of Johannesburg) and Business (Executive MBA from University of Iowa).
Ronelle has led several student groups to South Africa. She is involved with leadership development in companies with a
global vision. She has worked on long and short term projects,
presented at international conferences, and gave guest lectures in Australia, Israel, USA, Portugal, Spain,
England, Japan, China, Poland, Czech Republic, Egypt, South Africa, and Brazil.

Susan Anderson

Susan Anderson

Susan is a retired office manager and optician at Boone Vision Center. Anderson traveled with IRIS and IRIS board member Mike Coverdale to Nigeria in 2004 and also hosted a YES student through IRIS that same year.

Why IRIS?: ""Our family has had numerous students and visitors from around the world stay with us through the years, and I believe that opening your home and your hearts to visitors can help make the world a better, more peaceful place by increasing global awareness, fostering greater cultural understanding, and creating lasting friendships. It is a life changing experience." 

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Ursula Ruedenberg

Ursula Ruedenberg grew up in Ames, Iowa, but lived in New York City for 30 years. She spent much of her life as a professional mural artist and directed a community mural program for the City of New York for 20 years. She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and the New York Academy of Art. Ursula has been Pacifica’s Affiliate Network Manager since 2002, keeping relations with over 200 network member stations. In her work for Pacifica, she produces “Sprouts, Radio From the Grassroots“, she was a founding member of the Radio For People Coalition and she helped with the application and construction of numerous new community radio stations.

OUR AWESOME STAFF

Christelle Enega

Christelle Enega

Christelle Enega is the YES Recruitment/Alumni Program Coordinator, originally from Cameroon, Africa. Enega graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.

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Lena Gryn

With over fifteen years of progressive professional experience managing multilingual environments, Lena Gryn serves as Operations Manager at IRIS. Trilingual and bicultural, Lena holds an MBA Degree from Drake University. 

Emerald Johnson

Emerald Johnson

Emerald Johnson is the IRIS Youth Program Manager, supporting students and host families while on-program. Emerald has a BA in Spanish from Truman State University. Emerald has hosted many international guests since 2012, including many YES students through IRIS.

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Carmon Baker

Carmon Baker is the IRIS PR Intern. With a background in communications and as a former study abroad student, Carmon is passionate about student exchange programs. She is a current junior studying multimedia journalism and Spanish at Drake University. 

LOCAL COORDINATORS

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Mike and Sarah Jackson

EMAILS: MIKE@IRIS-CENTER.ORG 
SARAH@IRIS-CENTER.ORG

Hi, we are Mike and Sarah Jackson! We've hosted 5 IRIS students over the last 12 and continue to stay in touch with them all. We are blessed to have this extended family all over the world. We're excited to expand our role to local coordinator where we can support other families and enrich these awesome students.  By day, Mike works in software development and Sarah is a virtual administrative assistant. We have 3 grown children (besides our exchange children) and one in high school.

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Alexis Vosburg

Alexis Vosburg is a Youth Programs Local Coordinator in Northeast Iowa. Vosburg has a degree in Elementary Education and earned her Masters Degree in teaching with an emphasis in special education. Vosburg now works as the Alternative Program Coordinator for the Hampton-Dumont-CAL Community School District. Vosburg and her family have hosted seven (and counting) YES students through IRIS, which has ignited her passion for the international community.

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Marissa Fichter

Marissa is a Youth Programs Local Coordinator in Central Iowa. She lives in Ames with her husband, three children, and dog. Marissa currently homeschools their children as well as being a coordinator. She has been involved in IRIS since 2017 through either hosting, being a coordinator, or enjoying the local placed students! Marissa and Adam have hosted four students so far. They love the students and this program! It's such a gift to bring the world to Iowa and share the richness of each country. 

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Destiny Teixeira

Destiny Teixeira is a Youth Programs Local Coordinator in Central Iowa. Teixeira is a special education teacher in Des Moines, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and a third child on the way. She grew up in the town of Lansing, Iowa and enjoys getting back home to the Mississippi River and the beautiful bluffs that make up Northeast Iowa. After having traveled to many different countries throughout the years, Teixeira loves the experience of working with youth from all over the world right here in Iowa. 

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Alesia Hassan

Alesia lives in Ankeny and currently acts as a Local Coordinator for the Central Iowa area. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and a 5-12 teaching license in Social Studies. She has been involved with IRIS since 2018 as a Youth Program Manager and Local Coordinator. She loves that she is always learning something new from the students. The best thing about IRIS is the way everyone works together to support the students and host families to ensure that they have the best possible exchange experience. 

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Jenny Wells 

My name is Jenny Wills, and I live in Jefferson, IA. I first became involved with the IRIS program through my pastor and have hosted two students - one from Israel and the other from Indonesia. This is the first year I have been a local coordinator and am enjoying being involved with the students in a different capacity. 

The IRIS students have always impressed me with their acceptance, willingness to learn new things, adventurous spirit, and intelligence. They help restore my faith in the world and expose me to new cultures that I might never be able to visit. It is absolutely amazing to be able to connect and care about "family" on the other side of the world! 

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Yolanda Pralle

Yolanda Pralle is a Youth Programs Local Coordinator in North Central and Northeast Iowa. A native of Australia and an import to the USA, she has a unique perspective on cultural shock and acclimation and brings that to her guidance of the families and exchange students under her care. She and her family live in Sheffield and have hosted 5 different exchange students with IRIS themselves which introduced her to the program and made her want to extend her involvement to be a key component of this life-changing experience. 

Jim Plate

Jim Plate is a Youth Program Coordinator in Southeast Iowa. He taught secondary mathematics at Fort Madison High School for thirty-four years. He currently teaches math for the Burlington Community School District Virtual Learning Program (VIBE). The Plates have five children and have hosted four YES students through IRIS. 

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Krys Plate

Krys Plate retired after 36 years of teaching elementary and middle school math in Fort Madison. She has a Masters Degree and is National Board Certified. The Plates and their children have greatly enjoyed hosting students from Tanzania, Egypt, Nigeria, and Tunisia.  

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INTERNATIONAL COORDINATORS

Dr. Saidu Yakubu

Dr. Saidu Yakubu

NIGERIA

Dr. Saidu Yakubu is the IRIS Program Country Director in Nigeria. He has served as Country Director of IRIS programs in Nigeria since 2002.

Grace Foya

Grace Foya

TANZANIA - MAINLAND

Grace Foya is the IRIS Country Director in Tanzania. She is a lifetime educator who has served as the Country Director for IRIS programs in Tanzania since 2006.

Mohamed Dau

Mohamed Dau

TANZANIA - ZANZIBAR

Mohamed Dau is a YES Program Coordinator in Zanzibar. He has been working with IRIS since 2007.

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