IRIS CONNECTS IOWA TO INDIVIDUALS AND COMMUNITIES WORLDWIDE
Founder & Executive Director
Bob Anderson is the founder of IRIS, Inc. and a former Iowa Lieutenant Governor, legislator, and high school journalism teacher. He was a founding board member and first executive director of the Iowa Peace Institute. He has managed numerous U.S. State Department and the United States Information Agency programs in countries around the world. 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 is the Executive Director of IRIS, Inc. He has been involved with IRIS programs since 2002, serving as Executive Director since 2006. During that time, he has coordinated more than 100 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. He has traveled to countries on the African continent more than 70 times to develop and coordinate other Africa-based programs for IRIS and other organizations. He served as the lead IRIS staff person working with Iowa State University and the University of Juba to develop a peace education curriculum program in Southern Sudan. He has been involved in the development, review, and pilot testing of more than 10 different educational curricula. In addition, he has helped to develop and implement Rotary International-sponsored programs in Nigeria, Tanzania, and South Sudan. Del has also been involved with Iowa Sister State Committee activities with Yamanashi, Japan; Terengganu, Malaysia; and Kosovo.
Board of Directors
Susan is the current chairperson. Anderson is the office manager and an 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. Anderson’s term on the IRIS Board is from 2015-2019.
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. Chris lives in Des Moines and joined the IRIS board in 2016.
Pamela Pomerenk is an educator, artist, and life-long learner. She is now a retired teacher, having taught all levels K-12 as well as junior college classes. Pamela continues to substitute teach, runs a small business making greeting cards and gifts, and is an avid runner. She and her family have hosted an IRIS student in the past. She will serve on the IRIS Board through 2022.
Mike Coverdale is the current Treasurer/Secretary of the IRIS Board of Directors. Mike is also the former President of Block Party Studios, Inc., located in Nevada, Iowa, which produces quilting products sold through retail stores in 23 countries. Coverdale’s term on the IRIS Board is from 2016 – 2020.
Kwesi Atta-Krah is an attorney in the business litigation practice group at Fraegre Drinker. Prior to his transition into law, Kwesi held senior-level positions in auditing. In his last post, he supervised and managed risk assessments, internal controls testing and implementation, and audits involving corporate governance, corporate finance and accounting, and consumer credit solutions. Kwesi came to the United States in 2000 as an international student from Ghana and experienced first-hand the support of host parents. Outside of work, Kwesi enjoys spending time with his 3 boys and watching and playing soccer.
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. Nicole will serve on the IRIS Board of directors until 2023
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. In 2011, she led the construction of KHOI Community Radio in Ames, Iowa as Chair of the Board, and is currently KHOI’s station manager.
Our Awesome Staff
Originally from Wisconsin, Taylor moved to Iowa four years ago. She graduated with a degree in History from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, and has always been interested in learning about different cultures and people. Taylor says her career has always been focused on helping people, and she’s excited about the people she’ll meet through her work as the Operations Manager at IRIS.
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. She is on the board for the Volunteer Center of Story County.
Originally from Fort Madison, Iowa, Alesia Hassan is the IRIS Youth Program Manager. She says she has always enjoyed working with children and learning about new cultures. Alesia got her Bachelor’s in Political Science with a specialization in International Relations and a minor in Environmental Studies. Alesia also has two boys, ages 12 and 14, and enjoys spending time with them, going to lakes, parks, cultural events and local festivals.
Most of Alba’s career has been dedicated to implementing diversity and inclusion strategies for organizational growth working at all levels of the organization and with system partners to build relationships and increase engagement. Alba served as Executive Officer for the Office on Latino Affairs & Status of African Americans, an agency of the Iowa Department of Human Rights. She also served for nearly 12 years as Diversity Development Director for the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Alba is a native of Honduras who has called Iowa home for over 30 years, serving in the non-profit, private, and public sectors, as well as on numerous civic and community boards. Alba resides in Des Moines Iowa with her children and grandchildren.
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 in 2013. Vosburg now works as an Instructional Collaborator for Hampton-Dumont Community School District. Vosburg and her family have hosted two YES students through IRIS, which has ignited her passion for the international community.
Originally from North Carolina, Alex is an undergraduate double major at the University of Iowa, studying Art Education and Ceramics. Upon graduation in 2020 she plans to enter a graduate program and hopes to teach art at the high school level. In her free time Alex enjoys camping, cycling and spending time with her family. She joins the IRIS team as a Local Coordinator for the Iowa City/Fort Madison area.
Rochelle Heffern Almazan
Rochelle Heffern Almazan is a Local Coordinator in Northeast Iowa and Southwest Wisconsin. She graduated from Coe College with a degree in Psychology. She lived abroad in South Korea for two years and recently returned to the US from living in the Philippines. She also teaches English online. In her free time, she likes to go biking, hiking, and spend time on the farm taking care of her chickens and ducks.
Ashley Heffern is a Regional Program Assistant in Northern Iowa. Ashley attended Iowa State University for her undergraduate degree and University of Northern Iowa for her Master’s. She has worked with IRIS on youth programming since 2008, lived abroad in South Korea for two years, and is currently a therapist in Mason City, Iowa.
Emerald Johnson is a local coordinator in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. Her responsibilities include supporting students and host families while on-program. Emerald has a BA in Spanish from Truman State University and currently works as a realtor in Davenport, Iowa. Emerald has hosted many international guests since 2012, including seven YES students through IRIS.
Riley Speer lives in Atlantic, Iowa, and works at Atlantic Community Schools in Southwestern Iowa. Riley attended Iowa State University for her undergraduate degree in event management and graduated in 2018. Riley just got married and she enjoys golfing and planning vacations with her husband. She also enjoys arts and crafts and has traveled to Europe three times. Riley has worked with IRIS on and off since 2017 in different roles including Events Intern and now Local Coordinator for Atlantic, Iowa.
Dr. Saidu Yakubu
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 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 is a YES Program Coordinator in Zanzibar. He has been working with IRIS since 2007.
Our Interns & Volunteers
Anna Olson is the PR Intern for IRIS. She is currently a freshman at Iowa State University studying journalism and political science. Anna is involved with the Iowa State Daily, First Amendment Club and is the Senior Director of Communications for ISU Student government. She is super excited to show everyone the amazing things IRIS students are doing through her internship!