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Board of Directors

Honorary Chairs
Mayor Eric Garcetti
City of Los Angeles
Don Knabe
Chairman, L.A. County Board of Supervisors

David Stepp
Bryan Cave LLP

Matthew Olsen
Boston Private Bank & Trust Company

Vice Presidents
Michele A. Franchett
Stone & Gzegorek LLP
Michelle Marie Kezirian
Bet Tzedek Legal Services
Michael McDowell
Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board

Richard St. John
Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP

Ahmad Iqbal
BPM Advisors, LLC

Legal Counsel
Sandra Jones Anderson
Law Office of Sandra Anderson
Lynette Amerian
City of Los Angeles 
Office of the Mayor
Haifa Azawi
New Women Medical Care
William H. Collier, Jr. 
Keesal, Young & Logan
Lanie Denslow
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
Mathias Fobi
Bariatec Corporation
Dwayne Gathers
Gathers Strategies, Inc.
Wafa J. Hoballah
WJH Law Offices
Steve Jones
Los Angeles World Airports
Yuko Kaifu
Union Bank
Alexander Kramer
Millenium Capital
Deanne Neiman
Honorary Consul of Botswana
Wilma Pinder
Attorney at Law
Gary Rhodes
Center for Global Education
UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
Lourdes Saab
L.A. County Office of Protocol
Elga Sharpe
Special Olympics World Games
Yael Swerdlow
Women's Empowerment Foundation
Rinaldo Veseliza
Alisto Engineering Group

Executive Director
Janet Elliott

Corporate Diplomats

LA Tourism & Convention Board

Stone & Grzegorek, LLPUnion Bank

March 2014

In this month's newsletter you will find:

American Street Art: A Project for Afghanistan

Gold Star Alumnus: Aref Hosseini, Educator and Innovator

An Introduction to IVCLA's Newly Elected Board Members

Welcome IVCLA's New Communications and Events Coordinator

We hope you find this content interesting and informative. Please share your comments with us by sending an email to
American Street Art
A project for Afghanistan

It's often easy to see graffiti as a problem of juvenile delinquency, an eyesore created by bored kids with nothing better to do than deface public property. But sometimes, upon closer examination, simple graffiti is revealed to be complicated street art, an important tool for civic expression and political commentary.  Street art empowers citizens in a way that no other art form does - it enables anyone with the inclination and a few art supplies to make a statement that will engage an entire community.


Last month, three Afghan street artists visited Los Angeles to meet with prominent American artists, learn about traditional and contemporary art in the United States, and develop their tools to market and promote their own work. During their stay, they met with David Choe and Tracy Lee Stum, two renowned Los Angeles street artists, and viewed some of the outdoor work they have done around the city. They also met with Morgan Wells, a graduate student at UCLA's Department of Sociology who specializes in urban graffiti, and Ali Subotnick, a curator at the Hammer Museum. In addition to meeting with these important figures of the Los Angeles art community, they had the unique opportunity to work with artists Man One and Leba on a collaborative mural project that is now on display at 2341 East Olympic Boulevard.

IVLP Gold Star Alumnus
Aref Hosseini, Educator and Innovator

Seven years after his initial program in 2007, Aref Hosseini was selected by the U.S. State Department as a member of IVLP's Gold Star Alumni. As a Gold Star Alumnus, Hosseini returned to the United States last month to be honored for his contribution to his home community in the Palestinian Territories. This trip gave him the opportunity to revisit Los Angeles and share how citizen diplomacy has shaped his work and benefited his homeland.


Mr. Hosseini first visited the United States for an Elementary and Secondary Education program in 2007. Upon returning to his homeland, he used the pedagogical tools and strategies that he learned to develop Al Nayzak ("Shooting Star"), a program designed to foster critical thinking and scientific skills in young people. Since his initial visit, Al Nayzak has become a premier educational enrichment program in the Palestinian Territories, working with students of all ages.


Before coming to California, Mr. Hosseini visited Washington, D.C., where he met with U.S. Government officials, members of Congress, and business representatives to discuss his work and celebrate his accomplishments. During his time in Los Angeles, he met with administrators and researchers at Claremont McKenna College, top educators at UCLA, teachers at STEM Academy of Hollywood, and the California Science Center's Deputy Director of Education. Mr. Hosseini's meetings with these elite educators will undoubtedly enrich the institutions he visited, as well as his own, highlighting the universal need for quality education. 

IVCLA'S Newly Elected Board Members
At the Citizen Diplomacy Celebration in November, IVCLA elected six new members to our Board of Directors. The unique skills and experience of these new directors will be invaluable to IVCLA in 2014 as we prepare for another year of successful exchange programs with visitors from around the world. 

Haifa Azawi 
is a medical doctor board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. She served as president of the National Arab American Medical Association and lectures on issues of OB/GYN and women's health both locally and internationally. 


Mathias (Mal) Fobi is a medical doctor and the president of Bariatec Corporation, an innovative medical device company. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Trustees of IFS, a Fellow with numerous other medical associations, and an honorary member of several international medical societies. 


Deanne Neiman is the Honorary Consul of Botswana and the owner of Educational Equity Consultants, which provides services to school districts throughout California, conducting hearings and investigations regarding discrimination laws. She has been actively involved with the FASPACO (Pan African Film Festival) and participated in the African First Ladies Health Summit in 2009.   


Elga Sharpe is the Vice President of International Relations and Chief of Protocol for the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015. As the Chief of Protocol for three Los Angeles Mayors, she oversaw the relationships between the City of Los Angeles and foreign governments.


Yael Swerdlow co-founded the Women's Empowerment Foundation, whose mission is to educate, enrich, and connect women to each other. In 1994, Yael traveled to Somalia, Southern Sudan, and Rwanda with the International Medical Corps to document the reestablishing of the medical infrastructure in those war-torn countries.  


Rinaldo Veseliza is a Registered Architect, AIA and LEED Accredited Professional specializing in sustainable development and green design. Committed to education, he advocates for college student career training through the U.S. Green Building Council programs and serves as Co-Chair of the 2014 Intel International Science Fair in Los Angeles.  

Welcome IVCLA's Newest Staff Member
We are pleased to welcome Andrea Nishi as IVCLA's new Communications & Events Coordinator. Andrea received her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of Chicago in 2013. She studied Spanish, German, and Arabic in college, and spent semesters in Austria and Peru while pursuing her degree. Before joining IVCLA, she worked in the Center for International Studies at the University of Chicago and oversaw social media, newsletters, and community outreach for Doc Films.