International Board of Directors

Updated as of January 28, 2021

Composed of leaders from within the Partners’ network as well as the wider international development community, our Board of Directors exercises overall responsibility for the policies, programs, and direction of Partners of the Americas. The board is designed to reflect the geographic diversity of our network and the broad range of community development issues that we address through solution-driven projects, with all members having a strong and demonstrated commitment to Partners’ mission and values.

LezcanoHeather.jpgMs. Heather Martinez, Director (Panama)
Ms. Heather Martinez works at IOM as a client service assistant. She has previously consulted with Partners for the Panama Teacher Match Program as the in-country coordinator (2017) and the EducaFuturo Program as a counterpart reviewer (2016). She has also collaborated logistically with Partners at the Summit of the Americas in 2014. Ms. Martinez started volunteering at the age of 16 in 2007 with the Special Olympics, TECHO, Ponte en Algo, and FLJADIS Panamá, among other organizations. She joined PartnersCampus Panamá in 2013. She joined the Chapter's Board working on human management in 2013 and became its president in 2015. Ms. Martinez was the recipient of Partners' Education & Culture exchange grant in 2017, where she was paired with the Philadelphia Chapter and helped facilitate meetings and activities in the city, New York, and Washington, D.C. She currently advises on the Partners Board's policy, finance, programs, and personnel. Ms. Martinez also enhances relationships with Partners' Youth volunteers and other community groups and agencies. She speaks fluent English and has a basic knowledge of French. Ms. Martinez graduated from the University of Panamá with a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on Finance and International Business.
Mr. Wayne Ferdinand WilliamsDirector (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Chapter)
Mr. Wayne Ferdinand Williams has been a member of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Chapter in the Caribbean for 30 years. Since 1993, he has served as the Chapter's chairman of the Youth and Sports Committee. From 1996 to 1998, Mr. Williams participated in the Partners Kellogg Fellowship in International Community Development Program (IX). He then completed coordinator training in Ecuador and became country coordinator and regional trainer and facilitator for the A Ganar program to empower youth through sports. Mr. Williams had the honor of implementing and managing the first A Ganar program in an English-speaking country and assisting in training the coordinators of several other countries. Mr. Williams also had the responsibility to raise local counterpart funding to realize the success of the program. Outside of Partners, Mr. Williams was the personnel manager at the Music Centre for almost 30 years. Since 1995, he has helped to source funds and fulfill basketball scholarships to eligible Caribbean players. Mr. Williams has also served as the president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Basketball Federation and represented the organization at several regional and international forums. Since 2009, Mr. Williams has acted as the vice president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic and Commonwealth Games Committee (SVGOC), as well as serving as the chairman of the SVGOC Marketing Commission.
Mr. Steve Richards, Director (Kansas Chapter)
Mr. Steve Richards is the president of the Kansas Paraguay Partners (KPP) Chapter. He has spent more than 15 years as a member of the Chapter, previously serving as the vice president and as a co-chair of KPP's Emergency Preparedness project. In 2014, Mr. Richards was a mentor for the American Youth Leadership Program. He received a bachelor's degree in physics, math, and art, holds a master's degree in electrical engineering, and is a doctoral candidate. Two careers included clinical engineering and donor relations for nonprofit agencies. Mr. Richards has served on several boards, including Circle of Hope — Peace Connections, an initiative that seeks to improve the financial health and well-being of the Harvey County community. He has also served on the local school board and a community clinic. As well, Mr. Richards has served on local and regional committees and a regional visioning task force for the United Methodist Church.
Mr. Reynolds HawkinsDirector (Long Island, New York Chapter)
Mr. Reynolds Hawkins is the president of the Long Island, New York Chapter. He first joined the Partners Chapter in 1988 as the chair of the Youth and Sports Committee. During the same year, Mr. Hawkins traveled to St. Vincent to consult, teach, and train track and field athletes prior to their participation in the 1988 Summer Olympics. Mr. Hawkins traveled again to St. Vincent in 1995 to work with youth on the benefits of sports. He holds a bachelor's degree from Florida A&M University in Criminal Justice and Sociology and a master's degree from Stony Brook University in Social Work (MSW). In addition to working with youth and sports, Mr. Hawkins provides individual and couples therapy related to stress management, crisis intervention, crisis related to substance use, and anxiety disorders.
Ms. Liz de la Vega Avendaño, Director (PartnersCampus Uniatlántico, Colombia Chapter)
Ms. Liz De La Vega Avendaño is the president of the PartnersCampus UniAtlántico Chapter. She previously started volunteering with the Chapter as an environmental project leader and a project director in the area of education in charge of programs like the Buddy Program and the Enjoy Language Program. In 2017, Ms. De La Vega Avendaño became vice president of the Chapter. She is a lawyer currently studying procedural law, in addition to being in the ninth semester of a degree in foreign languages. Ms. De La Vega Avendaño speaks fluent English, French, and Italian, and has a basic knowledge of Portuguese and German. She has worked as a language teacher and administrative assistant and has taken technical courses in accounting and administration at SENA Colombia. In 2014, with the Scouts of Colombia, Ms. De La Vega Avendaño worked as a leader in Barranquilla in the national Friend of Children project, which seeks to protect the rights of children supported by the Amichi Dei Bambini Foundation and the European Union.
Ms. Aubrey Cox OttensteinDirector (Oklahoma Chapter)
Ms. Aubrey Cox Ottenstein's relationship with Partners began during childhood. Her father held leadership positions in the Oklahoma Chapter and she would attend Chapter meetings to learn about Partners' work. In high school, she spent a semester living with the family of the Jalisco Chapter's president in Guadalajara, Mexico. There, Ms. Ottenstein studied Spanish, lived abroad for the first time, and participated in the Jalisco Chapter's activities. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Ms. Ottenstein held an internship as the assistant to Senior Vice President of Public-Private Partnerships at Partners, Matt Clausen. Ms. Ottenstein holds a master's degree from American University, where she focused on conflict resolution in International Studies. She has worked extensively in Latin America during her time at Operation Smile, ACCION International, and the U.S. Institute of Peace. In these roles, fundraising, financial management, and communications have been central to her work. She is currently the Executive Director of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy where she has significantly expanded the organizations' revenue and fundraising efforts.
Ms. Cathy Healy, Director (District of Columbia)
The former editor of the National Geographic Intranet and Américas Magazine, as well as a Reuters Digital Vision Fellow at Stanford University, Ms. Cathy Healy has bridged networks of educators since 1990. She was the special liaison for Partners' "Connecting Teachers, Connecting Classrooms Initiative," with iEARN and its 140-country, K-12 network enabling teachers to select from 100 virtual projects in English, Spanish, Portuguese and other languages. A director emeritus of iEARN-USA, Ms. Healy is an advisor for its world-languages program, an advisor for Educadores Globais/iEARN-Brasil, and a veteran member of Partners' Chapters in Washington, D.C. and her home state of Wyoming. Through the end of 2018, she was the vice president of the LU Ranch, a family operation recognized for its sustainable practices and technological acumen, including being the first ranch to use computers.
Dr. Sandra HodgeDirector (Virginia)
Dr. Sandra Hodge became involved with Partners in the early 1980s with the Virginia-Santa Catarina, Brazil Chapter, where she served several positions, including executive director. She had a Partners Kellogg Fellowship in International Community Development (Fellows II) and was a Fulbright Scholar to the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in 1994. Dr. Hodge recently worked in University Extension at the University of Missouri-Columbia, first in agroforestry extension and then as a state public policy specialist. In her last position, she directed a collaborative international civil society program in Thailand, training several hundred Thais in civic engagement and deliberative dialogue, who then taught others. Dr. Hodge is a certified mediator and was a Senior Fellow at the Dispute Resolution Center at the University of Missouri Law School. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Rhode Island, a Master's in Community Development, and a Ph.D. in Forestry from Michigan State. In 2014, Dr. Hodge and her husband retired to their farm near Charlottesville, Virginia. She started a second career as a book artisan and has a studio making hand-crafted books and journals. Dr. Hodge also organized a local community chorus that now has over 100 singers.
LaschoPaula_0.jpgDr. João Francisco Meira, Director (Minas Gerais, Brazil)
Dr. João Francisco Meira is a political scientist who has been working with public opinion, market, and electoral research, and directing projects in Brazil, and Latin American, African, and European countries during the last three decades. He also has a wealth of experience in graduate and post-graduate teaching in both public and private universities in his native state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Dr. Meira is a co-founder and board member of Vox Populi, one of the leading Brazilian private market and opinion research houses. In this capacity, he is a former vice-president and board member of ABEP (Brazilian Association of Market Media and Opinion Research) and a member of the Brazilian Political Science Association. Dr. Meira's other professional interest field is Oenology, particularly on the development of viticulture in his hometown, Diamantina, Minas Gerais, where he runs a vineyard on his property, and collaborates with the local university in agronomical projects, historical research, and vine growing experiments.
LaschoPaula_0.jpgDr. Paula Laschober, Director (Washington Chapter)
Dr. Paula Laschober has previously served as the treasurer for both the International Board of Directors and the Foundation Board of Directors. Dr. Laschober has been a member of the Washington Chapter of Partners of the Americas since 1989. She currently serves as the Chair of the Education and Social Development Committee and is an Executive Director. She has served in a variety of roles within the Chapter since 1989 including the chair of the Economic Development Committee, vice president, and president. She has also served on the Partners’ Interamerican Board of Directors and has attended more than ten annual international conventions since 1993. Previously, Dr. Laschober received the Partners Kellogg Fellowship in International Community Development (VI) and has held the position of Chair of the Education and Social Development Committee.
Mr. José Márcio Soares de Barros, Director (Espirito Santo, Brazil Chapter)
Mr. José Márcio Soares de Barros joined Partners of the Americas in 2003 and was the secretary of the International Board of Directors and the president of the Espirito Santo Chapter in Brazil. Mr. Soares de Barros previously served the chapter as a project coordinator in joint efforts with the State of West Virginia in the areas of disaster prevention, high technology, youth programs, student exchanges, educational projects, and fundraising. He graduated with a degree in Economics from the Universidade Federal do Espirito Santo and completed post-graduate work in Finance at Clemson University in South Carolina.
Elias AlcocerMr. Elias Alcocer, Director (Yucatán, Mexico Chapter)
Mr. Elias Alcocer is a social anthropologist from the Autonomous University of Yucatán and a professor at the Universidad de Oriente and the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatán. Since 1991, Mr. Alcocer has been a member of the Yucatán Chapter involved in youth, environment, and culture committees, as well as the vice president. He is currently the president of the Yucatán Chapter.
HeuselGary_0.jpgDr. Gary L. Heusel, Director (Nebraska Chapter)
Dr. Gary Heusel is currently the Program Leader and CEO of Global Andragogical, an organization that offers opportunities for young adults from the U.S. and Brazil to study abroad. In his role, he provides consultation and leadership to develop and deliver educational programs in communities, states, and nations with on-site assistance after the community declares a priority needs to be addressed. Successes within his program include the development and implementation of a youth development program in Armenia, a volunteer center in Brasilia, Brazil, and a multi-state character education program in Brazil. Prior to his involvement with Global Andragogical, Dr. Heusel worked for a variety of similar organizations including the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, the Midwest Consortium for Service-Learning in Higher Education, a program under the United States Department of Agriculture, 4-H and Cook County Chicago. Dr. Heusel obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in Animal Science. He obtained his graduate degree from the University of Illinois in Guidance and Counselling. And, he obtained his doctoral degree also from the University of Illinois in Human Resource Development. Dr. Heusel served as President of the Nebraska Chapter of Partners of the Americas from mid-2000 to mid-2002. He is currently a member of the Brookings Art Council, the Brookings Human Relations Commission, the Southern Poverty Law Center and serves on the Board of Directors of the Northeast Family Center.
Mr. Tiberio Monteiro, Director (Pernambuco, Brazil Chapter)
Mr. Tiberio Monteiro is a member of the Pernambuco-Georgia Chapter since 2003. An attorney as well as a professor of law at Focca - Faculdade de Olinda, he has devoted his work to issues related to nonprofit institutions (Third Sector) in Brazil, including a pro bono initiative to support local NGOs. Tiberio has held various positions, most recently as the president of the Pernambuco Chapter and is currently the executive director.
SoaresJose.jpgMs. Beth Outterson, Director (Portland, Oregon) 
Beth Outterson has been a part of Partners of the Americas since 1993, when she received the Partners Kellogg Fellowship in International Community Development (IX). During the fellowship period, she conducted a health theater project on HIV and drug abuse with teens in Washington D.C.'s partner city of Brasilia, Brazil. After the fellowship, Ms. Outterson became involved with the Washington, D.C. Chapter, serving as secretary for two years and later as president for six years. Earlier in her career, after receiving her master's degree in public health and Latin American Studies, Ms. Outterson served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo). Upon her return, she worked as a health educator in the U.S. migrant and seasonal farmworkers across the eastern shore states, and later moved to Washington, D.C. to work with a national farmworker employment and training program. She then served in training and advisory roles at the U.S. Peace Corps and several nonprofit organizations, including Family Health International, Save the Children, and Medical Teams International. Ms. Outterson is currently an independent public health consultant in Portland, Oregon.
SoaresJose.jpgDr. Francis Wardle, Director (Colorado Chapter)
Dr. Francis Wardle is a Professor of Education at the University of Phoenix in Colorado and online. In his role, Dr. Wardle has taught graduate-level courses in Counselor Education, Educational Administration and Educational Leadership. Dr. Wardle graduated with a B.S. in Art Education from the Pennsylvania State University. He graduated with an M.S. in Cultural and Philosophical Foundation of Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialty in Early Childhood Education from the University of Kansas. Dr. Wardle is also trained and has participated in workshops on ADA, sexual harassment policies, grant writing, research ethics, diversity, coaching and training, children with special needs, working with parents, administering volunteer organizations, federal regulations, international education, not-for-profit organizations, and management. Dr. Wardle published the journal article, "Adding to Our View of Early Childhood Multicultural Education" in Childhood Education in August 2018. He further wrote the book, Oh Boy! Strategies for Teaching Boys in Early Childhood, in December 2018 about the struggles young boys have in early childhood programs and elementary schools. Francis recently completed his term as president of the Colorado Chapter.
AbrahAshish.jpgDr. Ashish Abraham, Board Chair (San Diego, California)
Dr. Ashish Abraham is currently the President of Abraham Strategic Health Consulting, providing clients with consulting services in the areas of organizational strategy, revenue optimization, health program design, operations, quality measurement, and improvement. Dr. Abraham is an entrepreneur and a seasoned healthcare management executive with more than 20 years of diversified experience in direct clinical care, healthcare operations, health technology, data analytics, and strategic consulting for government and commercial clients. Prior to his work at UnitedHealth Group, Dr. Abraham was a Principal and Physician-Leader at Mercer Consulting. In 2007, Dr. Abraham co-founded Altruista Health, a care management technology and solutions company, and served as the founding CEO in the formative years of the company’s existence. He then went on to serve as President and Chairman of the board and is still actively involved on the board of Altruista Health under its new ownership. Dr. Abraham completed his medical training from Christian Medical College in India and has also earned master's degrees in business administration and health administration from Arizona State University.
McPhailJohn_0.jpgMr. John McPhail, President and CEO
With over two decades of experience in organizational leadership, John is a seasoned expert in partnership building, strategic planning, and stakeholder engagement. He is passionate about community development in Latin America and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador. After his service, he remained in the country for a total of over fifteen years, marrying a Salvadoran doctor and raising their three daughters. John brings significant experience as a country and regional director for international nonprofits including Save the Children, World Vision, and Project Concern International. He has held leadership positions on the Boards of numerous local nonprofits and associations in El Salvador, providing operational and strategic direction. He coordinated or co-coordinated multiple national and regional networks in Central America in health, water & sanitation, and agriculture/food security.  John received a BSc in Civil Engineering from MIT and a Master's in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign. He is fluent in Spanish and has a working knowledge of French. John enjoys listening to music, reading, playing volleyball and frisbee, and spending time with his family.
Mr. Alan J. Berkeley, Esq, Legal Counsel
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The International Board meets quarterly with each member serving on a minimum of two committees. Traditionally, one-third of the International Board's members are elected each year for a three-year term of office. Please login or join PartnersConnect to learn more about this process.