B.J. Anderson holds a B.A. in Education from the University of Minnesota-Morris, an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Thomas, and a Certificate in Holistic Therapies from the St. Catherine University. BJ is a career educator who taught at the high school and college level; worked as Curriculum and Instructional Specialist for Osseo Area Schools for 15 years; worked at the MN Department of Education for 5 years, and then returned to Osseo Area Schools to lead the development of a large Magnet School. Currently, BJ is retired from education and working as a consultant for improvement in our educational systems.
BJ brings to the board a deep knowledge and love of teaching and learning. A personal life value she espouses is learning from experiences that open our world. She is proud that our organization is committed to that value as well.
Monica Vickman Ballard earned a B.A. in Behavioral Science and Law at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a J.D. from William Mitchell College of Law. She has practiced in the areas of securities and banking law, including both US and international, for approximately 14 years. Throughout this time she has worked in house for various financial services companies including American Express, Allianz, and RBC. She is currently employed at US Bank. Much of Monica’s work experience has included serving as a legal advisor to various corporate boards of directors.
Monica grew up in a bi-cultural home and speaks Spanish fluently. She enjoyed an immersion experience in Mexico City at the age of thirteen, and her family hosted numerous Mexican students throughout her childhood. In addition, her parents met through their own immersion experiences, and her mother was involved in developing one of the first public, Spanish immersion programs in the Twin Cities. Because cultural and language immersion has played such a significant role in her personal life, she is very pleased to have the opportunity to serve the organization as a board member.
Karen Brown holds a B.S. from Georgetown University in Chinese, an M.A. in East Asian Studies, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota. Karen is employed as Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change at the University of Minnesota. Karen also co-directs the Master of International Development Practice degree program, teaches in the Development Studies and Social Change graduate minor program, and serves on the Human Rights Program Advisory Board at the University of Minnesota. She has studied in Taiwan and conducted research in China and Europe. Formerly, she was the Special Assistant for International Scholarship, Office of International Programs at the University of Minnesota.
Karen brings a long-term commitment to and passion for international and intercultural education, both through personal experiences and the international education programs with which she works. She believes that international experiences can be transformative and are the best way to foster global citizenship.
Paul Ernst holds a B.S. in Computer Science and a B.A. in Mathematics from St. Cloud State University, an M.A. in Comparative & International Development Education and Educational Policy & Administration from the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development, a Mini-M.B.A. for Nonprofits from St. Thomas University, and has certification in the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).
Paul has over 20 years in the computer industry, mostly with Cray Research, Inc. His work took him all over the world, and whenever possible he stayed longer to meet people and immerse himself in the local culture. Paul currently does technology consulting for nonprofits, including foundations, community technology centers, new immigrant assistance organizations, public digital inclusion projects and MAP for Nonprofits. In addition, Paul volunteers his time on information communication technology (ICT) projects with communities in economically developing countries in Africa, Asia and Central America. Paul has traveled with several organizations on cross-cultural trips to many countries. He has served on nonprofit boards since 1984. He enjoys studying languages and has studied German, Japanese, French, Spanish, Swahili and Arabic.
Bruce Mielke holds a B.S. in Industrial Technology from Bemidji State University and an A.S. in Computer Technology from Northwestern Electronics Institute in Minneapolis. He currently works in the Global Business Services team at Best Buy corporate headquarters and provides employees access to human resources services through online web portals and a call center in India. Bruce has an extensive background in human resources, information systems, learning and development, and project management.
Through his travels to the UK, Japan, Mexico and Canada, he has developed a deep respect of the cultures in each country. This exposure helped him expand his view of the world and broadened his interest in global citizenship. He is passionate about global issues, and enjoys working with people. He believes that the success of our organization demonstrates that we can connect beyond cultural, social and geographical differences and come together to make real change in the world.
James Schwinghammer received his B.B.A. from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a minor in East Asian Studies, and an Associate Degree in Networking Support from MN School of Business. Most recently he completed a certificate program for TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) at Hamline University and is active as a volunteer teacher. James is employed at Prime Therapeutics in Eagan, Minnesota as an IT Operations Manager. He studied as an exchange student in Japan for a year and worked there for 3+ years with Starkey Laboratories operating a manufacturing facility.
James international experience includes volunteer trips to Africa and South America, and he has a passion for intercultural exchange and understanding. He comes to the board looking to contribute to and serve the global network community.
Jeffrey T. Sommers holds an A.S. in Computer Information Systems from Milwaukee Area Technical College, a B.A.in Communication and Organizational Management from Concordia University, and an M.B.A from Augsburg College. Jeffrey served one three-year term on the board of Kobe College Corporation-Japan Education Exchange and coordinated the internship program in the Twin Cities. His family has hosted six Kobe College students over the past eight years. Jeffrey is employed as an Application Development Specialist/Project Manager at Country Financial in Arden Hills.
Jeffrey brings a strong understanding of organizational management including change management, virtual teaming, and project management. He has a great passion for promoting cross-cultural understanding around the globe and a personal desire to learn more about the various cultures and languages of the world. Jeffrey indicates that cross-cultural understanding is crucial to the advancement and enlightenment of the human race. Jeffrey believes in the old Chinese proverb that it is possible to move a mountain by carrying away small stones. The small stones represent each personal human connection formed by the efforts of our programs.
Peter Wagner holds a B.A. in Accounting from Gustavus Adolphus College and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant. He currently works in Regulatory Reporting and Financial Analysis for UnitedHealth Group and is pursuing an M.B.A. at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. His prior work experience includes public accounting at McGladrey and Pullen. Peter also enjoys competing in triathlons.
Peter spent a semester living in New Zealand as an undergraduate student learning about their culture and trekking through the bush. This experience helped him to gain a world view and developed his interest in becoming a global citizen. He is encouraged by and hopeful of the opportunities and challenges that face our organization.
Wayne Wilson is a retired Sales Manager from Honeywell International. He has taught for over 15 years and continues to teach marketing and sales classes at Metropolitan State University. Wayne sits on the board of Parenting with Purpose (PWP), a Christian Ministry that works to help restore families that have been impacted by incarceration. In addition to his duties with PWP, he is also a board member for Compassionate Solutions for Africa's Development (COSAD) where they are working to increase economic development in Tanzania.
Wayne has led five cross-cultural expeditions and fully recognizes that retirement has afforded him the opportunities to contribute to organizations that truly make a difference.
"It never ceases to amaze me, as I meet more and more people of varied and different cultures, I continue to discover the difference that we have in common."
If you want to expose your children to other cultures in a way that is more real, in-depth, personable and memorable – by working in community with them rather than just traveling – this is the way to really learn about another culture.
We were exposed to something few of us get to experience. Most often we simply drive through communities. This time we got to meet and really get to know people, and they were so generous. We got far more out of the experience than we gave.
Kathy P., Rock Point, AZ (family of 4)
This was our best family vacation and a phenomenal experience. I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to do this with my children. My children realized that although the people in the community we visited didn't have a lot of material possessions, they had some things we didn't. The community members were funny, loving and generous.
The group experience was what made it so great. The team leaders were remarkable. They never passed judgment and treated my children like full members of the group, so they acted that way. The experience made them more confident and more excited about taking other travel adventures.
Marcy G., Xiloxochico, Mexico (family of 6)
Volunteering in Tanzania was a life-changing experience that opened my eyes not only to the needs of our fellow global citizens, but also to the lovable and exhilarating culture of Bukoba.
Megan age 19, Bukoba, Tanzania
GCN wasn't just a volunteer trip but instead a life altering two weeks that helped me discover myself.
Shannon age 15, Bukoba, Tanzania
Our GCN sponsored program in Tanzania wasn't a vacation but rather a deeply moving experience our family will cherish for a lifetime.
Sean, Dad, Bukoba, Tanzania
Working side by side with my husband and children, helping, reaching out, and learning from people in a culture vastly different from our own together as a family was one of the most valuable experiences of my life. We are already planning our next volunteer vacation.
Karen, Mom, Bukoba, Tanzania
This experience changed all of us. Nothing can compare with it. It's made my kids into global citizens. Before we left for Kenya, I was concerned that my kids were getting spoiled, but the trip showed them how happy people were, even though they had so little by comparison. They also discovered how much more important it is to have experiences instead of things.
My kids are so mature now as a result of the trip. They have a new and broader world view.
Nancy F., Maili Tatu, Africa (3 time repeat participant with 2 kids)
I took each of my two granddaughters on a trip when they turned 13, as a rite of passage. It was tremendously bonding for us. It deepened our love and our relationship, but it also sensitized the girls to different cultures and helped them gain an understanding and empathy for others.
One of my granddaughters was extremely wary. She said, "I don't know how to do this and I don't want to be there." But by the end, she was begging to stay. She had formed some amazing friendships. It was quite a transition.
My advice to families considering this kind of trip is this: Even if you have some hesitation, trust that the experience will be transforming for your child and for your relationship with your child. My two granddaughters are totally different personalities, but the same positive transformation happened for both.
We had so many one-on-one reflective conversations about what we were experiencing and learning. It's a different and more intimate way of being with children.
The team members were incredibly kind to my teenagers. The leaders were such good role models -- caring and inclusive.
Meg V., Rock Point, AZ 2003; La Push, WA 2007
The truly amazing thing about this community is the pride, character, and sense of respect you feel being with them. They carry themselves with esteem. Being with them, you know they will not only survive, they will succeed, collectively using the resources available to them for the good of the whole.
Joyce, Pennsylvania; Kenya Participant
With the beauty, the simplicity, the strength and comedy of this place, each day becomes an adventure to be anticipated.
Gladys, Ontario; Kenya Participants
I learned much more that GCN is about the process of building long term relationships with communities, not necessarily about the process of "building!" It was truly priceless to be allowed to be on the 'construction site' with a bunch of indigenous people in Mexico. Tourists DO NOT get that opportunity-nor should they. We all believed WE TRULY MADE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS.
Diana, Colorado; Two-time Mexico Participant
I have just this last hour arrived back home after what can only be described as an experience of a lifetime, the people at Jampaling were wonderful and I return with a feeling of accomplishment, and everlasting respect for a group of people who work so hard with such limited resources to achieve their goals.
David, Ontario; Nepal Participant
As a GCN volunteer you expect to fill the role of giver, giving of your time, efforts, money and heart. During a recent trip to Nepal, I felt more like a wide receiver for a pro football team, with countless blessings being passed my way! It started before I even left with support from a bunch of people, some of whom I don't even know, my sponsors through fundraising.
Cherril, New York; Nepal Participant
A positive growing experience that will unfold as time moves on. I do appreciate the warm hospitality of the local Navajo people and thank them for all they did to open our eyes and heart to their life, culture and values.
Jerry, Minnesota; New Mexico volunteer
It has become the most meaningful thing I've experienced in my life. It was more than a casual cultural exchange. I never felt like a tourist - I felt like I was coming home.
Ted, New York; New Mexico volunteer
The trip to Rock Point was a wonderful experience for me. Our team really "connected" and are talking among ourselves of doing other trips together! We all agreed we haven't laughed and sung songs like we did there for a long time. The Navajo people are wonderful, and we were able to share songs, dinner with them and they with us. We were able to complete the projects they had for us and still have lots of time for culture exchange.
Lynne, California; Arizona volunteer
My goal was to get lifted out of my personal and professional rut, to have my head and heart spun around and to land more solid and grounded. For the most part this happened.
Nancy, Vermont; Guatemala volunteer
Because of a scholarship provided by Global Citizens Network, I was able to spend two weeks volunteering in Guatemala, in a rural village called Llanos de Morales. This was my second trip volunteering in a developing nation (I went to Nicaragua two years ago), but my first time working with GCN. My experience was unforgettable and I would recommend it to anyone!
The best thing about the trip was getting really close-up pictures of horses. The hardest part of the trip was leaving Chirapa
Tana-Isabel, Washington; Peru youth volunteer
I wanted to be "in the middle of nowhere" and enjoy it as well as learn about the Quechua culture. My comfort zone has expanded and I enjoyed getting to know the people!
The most inspiring moment for me was receiving a genuine Quechuan percussion instrument as a gift from the community. It showed me that the community valued my presence and it is something that I will never forget.
David, University of Minnesota Participant; Peru volunteer
As I zipped into my sleeping bag, I reflected on this totally crazy, awesome experience, and in many ways wondered how (why) we are having so much fun. This is -- by far -- the best trip we have ever taken as a family and perhaps even my best trip ever. Everything is an adventure. We are living it rather than observing it. Amy S., Chicago, Guatemala volunteer