ABOUT IVCLA

IVCLA offers a tangible way to make a difference in the world. Our exchange programs connect Angelenos with emerging international leaders and foster international collaborations, enabling great people to do even greater things!

Working since 1980 to increase international understanding and cooperation, the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles (IVCLA) arranges people-to-people exchanges between emerging international leaders and the citizens of the Los Angeles region. IVCLA's citizen diplomacy exchanges bring first-hand information about the rest of the world to Angelenos and provide international policy and opinion leaders with the opportunity to see with their own eyes the challenges and opportunities that define the Los Angeles region. These exchanges begin dialogues that would not otherwise be possible.

Each year IVCLA arranges professional meetings, cultural visits and home hospitality for nearly one thousand policy and opinion leaders from more than 100 countries. IVCLA International Visitors have one goal in common: to seek a greater understanding of the United States, its people, ideas, attitudes, and lifestyles. IVCLA Citizen Diplomats welcome people who are working to solve global issues that impact us all. IVCLA is dedicated to our vision of creating peace and prosperity for our community, our country and our world. 

Board of Directors

&

Advisory Board

 

Meet the Team

Janet Elliott
President & CEO 

 

Under the direction of the IVCLA Board of Directors, Janet is responsible for leading the organization as it creates global dialogue through citizen diplomacy. Janet has been dedicated to promoting IVCLA’s mission and expanding its reach in the Los Angeles area throughout her more than two decades with the organization. She is deeply passionate about the critical importance of building international understanding and cooperation. She is also involved in the local community, serving on the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce’s World Trade Week Committee, and as Chair of the Heidelberg Club L.A. Chapter. She also recently served on the L.A./Beirut Sister Cities Board. When she’s not busy at IVCLA, she enjoys visiting the fantastic L.A. area museums, and traveling - wherever and whenever she has the chance to go.

Danica Kreculj
Senior Program Officer

 

Danica graduated from UCLA, majoring in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations and a minor in French. She speaks fluent French, Serbian, and Croatian. She started working at IVCLA as a Projects Coordinator before becoming a Program Officer.  Her experience working internationally at the United Nations Development Program in Belgrade, Serbia piqued her interest in the intersection of diplomacy and social justice. Her favorite part about working at IVCLA is how rewarding it feels to create programs which change lives, not only professionally, but by bridging cultural barriers, promoting open dialogue, and allowing visitors to connect with Americans on a personal level. She enjoys traveling, exploring new hiking trails and playing basketball.

Ho Lo 

Accounting Manager 

Ho Lo joined IVCLA in 2001. As IVCLA's Accounting Manager, Ho is responsible for all of the organization's financial reports, managing the AR/AP and monitoring budgets for IVCLA's programs, such as the Open World Program and the International Visitor Leadership Program. He also prepares the financial information for IVCLA's public and private grant applications and provides tech support for the IVCLA office. Ho finds fulfillment in working with IVCLA because it helps him further his goal of creating a more peaceful world. Outside of IVCLA, Ho enjoys the simple things in life, like cooking, barbecuing, fishing and camping. He and his wife also love to explore America.  

Natalia Lvovich
Director of International Programs

Natalia Lvovich found her passion for cultural exchange upon starting her career at IVCLA several years ago. As Director of International Programs, Natalia oversees all aspects of the International Visitor Leadership Program and fee-for-service programs. She collaborates with the U.S. Department of State and National Program Agencies to create and implement programs for the group projects of the International Visitor Leadership Program. Natalia graduated from the University of North Carolina with a B.A. in International Relations and is a certified English-Russian translator. She is also a graduate of the Southern California Leadership Fellowship, Class of 2014. Natalia is determined to continue building bridges with other cultures and to support the mission of international exchanges. Aside from IVCLA she takes care of her twin girls, practices yoga, and plans her next adventure.

Victoria Meza
Projects Coordinator 

Victoria graduated from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa with a Bachelor’s degree in Korean through the Language Flagship program and speaks fluent Korean. She spent her senior year abroad studying at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. While there, she also completed an internship at the school’s Korean Studies Research Institute, specifically in the Center for Digital Humanities. As IVCLA’s Projects Coordinator, Victoria is responsible for database entry of visitor programs, as well as organizing and helping prep for upcoming visitor programs. Her favorite part about working at IVCLA is the international exchange of culture and building connections with people from around the world. Outside of IVCLA, she enjoys watching anime, listening to music from around the world, and is always interested in learning new languages.

Andrea Martinez
Communications & Events Coordinator 

Andrea graduated from UCLA, majoring in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations.  Andrea manages event and media communications efforts and serves as the liaison between IVCLA and its Citizen Diplomat members. From her experience in counseling in student initiated programs at UCLA, interning with a House Representative’s Constituents’ Office, working in a nationally-recognized non-profit, to interning at major multi-media corporations, Andrea has found a passion in bridging cultural differences and misconceptions through bringing awareness to human injustices still prevalent in present day society. Outside of IVCLA, Andrea enjoys traveling, hiking, and checking food destinations off her bucket list.

 

Board of Directors

Honorary Chairs

The Honorable Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles 

City of Los Angeles

The Honorable Kathryn Barger, Chair of the L.A. County

Board of Supervisors

L.A. County Board of Supervisors

Michael McDowell 

Chair
L.A. Cultural Tourism, Inc.

Michael McDowell is an award-winning, nationally recognized leader in cultural-tourism marketing strategies and programs. He is currently a consultant at L.A. Cultural Tourism, Inc. Previously, he was Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer for Japan House Los Angeles, a public diplomacy initiative of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to grow awareness and appreciation of Japanese culture and contributions to contemporary life globally. It is one of only three such facilities in the world. Prior to that, McDowell was the first Vice President for Cultural Tourism at the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, where he promoted Los Angeles as a premier cultural center for visitors worldwide since 2004. Before that, McDowell held leadership positions at the California Institute of the Arts and the University of Southern California as well as top positions in higher education, government and publishing on the East Coast.

Mathias 'Mal' Fobi, M.D.
Vice Chair

Bariatec Corporation

 

Mathias 'Mal' Fobi is the CEO of Bariatec Corporation, a medical device company. He received his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati and his Surgical Residency at King/Drew Medical Center where he subsequently served on the faculty as the Chief of General Surgery. In 1977, he met a woman whose physical incapacity and ridicule as an obese person struck a chord of compassion leading him to shift the focus of his surgical career to the fledging field of bariatric (obesity). In 1981 he opened the Center for Surgical Treatment of Obesity and was often called “the Surgeon to Hollywood Stars”. Dr. Fobi lectures worldwide and has published extensively. 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. He and his wife Helen have four daughters and two grandchildren.

Michele Franchett 
Vice Chair

Stone Gzegorek & Gonzalez LLP

Michele Franchett is a partner at Stone Grzegorek & Gonzalez LLP. She is admitted to the California Bar, and is a Certified Specialist in the practice of Immigration and Nationality Law. She has over twenty years of experience in the field, and her current practice is focused on investor and entrepreneurial immigration, with particular emphasis on EB-5 capital group representation. She provides counsel to a number of regional centers seeking to obtain or amend regional center designations and exemplar petition approvals. Ms. Franchett served for two years on the EB-5 committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and is a former chair of the AILA Southern California Chapter. Having started working in the area of U.S. immigration in 1986, Ms. Franchett has since accumulated experience encompassing virtually every area of business-based immigration. She has represented multinational corporations, research hospitals, universities, investors, entrepreneurs, academicians, and artists from around the globe. Ms. Franchett has also represented clients applying for visas at U.S. Consulates in Toronto, Halifax, and Ciudad Juarez, and at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. In more recent years she traveled to China to provide EB-5 training for licensed immigration consultants. Ms. Franchett is conversant in Mandarin. In her free time, Ms. Franchett enjoys biking, hiking, live jazz, reading, and visiting her family in Minneapolis.

Deanne Neiman
Secretary

Deanne Neiman is the Owner of Educational Equity Consultants which provides services to school districts throughout California, conducting hearings and investigations regarding discrimination laws. She was appointed Honorary Consul of Botswana for the Western U.S. in 2012. She has been actively involved with the FASPACO (Pan African Film Festival) and participated in the African First Ladies Health Summit in 2009 which addressed HIV/AIDS, Maternal Reproductive & Child Health, and Girls Education. Deanne received her Master of Arts Degree from California State University, Los Angeles. She has lived, worked and/or studied in Israel, Mexico and England. She was previously Director of the Educational Equity Compliance Office of LAUSD, where she often made presentations and lectured throughout the United States regarding equity issues. 

Wafa Hoballah
Legal Council

Middle East Law

 

Wafa J. Hoballah, attorney at law, specializes in International and
Immigration law, representing clients across the globe in business,
commercial and corporate law. She has worked with clients from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, focusing on major aspects of international business transactions, negotiations, due diligence investigations, development, financing and joint ventures. Her practice focuses on international investments, employment and investment based immigration. Ms. Hoballah has a strong commitment to giving back and has been a keynote speaker and featured panelist on a broad range of topics at conferences, organizational meetings and for special delegations. She has given presentations and is an educator of communities, not only in business, but also on topics such as Human Rights Political Asylum, VAWA, and the dangers and aftermath of Human Trafficking. For all her years of community contributions, Ms. Hoballah is a proud past recipient of the Arab American Lawyers Association's Judge James Kaddo Award. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles Beirut Sister Cities Committee; the Corporate Financial Officer for the Lebanese American Foundation, L.A. Charter; and a Member of DHS/USCIS Community Based Organizations Committee.

Haifa Azawi, M.D.

New Woman Medical Care

 

Haifa Azawi is a medical doctor, board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. Through her New Woman Medical Care she fulfills her desire to help women understand their conditions and provide for their best possible care. Her practice also includes the Multi-Specialty Network, a group of primary care physicians and specialists throughout the greater Long Beach area. She received her medical certification in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Royal College of OB/GYN in London. She lectures on issues of OB/GYN locally and internationally. She was born in Iraq and served as president of the National Arab American Medical Association (NAAMA) and is present Chair of the Iraq Liaison Committee for NAAMA. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, who is a surgeon. They have three children.

Wendy Gladney

Wendy's Enterprises

 

Wendy Gladney is CEO of Wendy’s Enterprises, which includes: Personal Services Plus Consulting, Season of Greatness, Forgiving for Living, Inc., and Wendy, the Author & Speaker. She has worked with many leading organizations, small businesses and corporations in America. Her aim is to help her clients organize and attain their overall goals. She is member of the International Coaching Federation, Screen Actors Guild, and American Marriage Ministries. Wendy is a regular columnist for the Los Angeles Sentinel and the Inland Valley News. In 2015 she was selected by The Jewish Federation of Greater L.A. as an Ambassador of Goodwill to Israel; and also traveled to South Korea with G.C.S. as a Goodwill Ambassador on behalf of California. Locally, she sits on the boards of the American Women for International Understanding and UCLA Black Alumni. For her achievements and commitment to the community, she has received several honors, including twice being chosen for the “Women of Distinction Award” Certificate of Congressional Recognition by Congresswoman Judy Chu and California State Assemblyman Chris Holden. She is also listed in “Who’s Who in Black Los Angeles.” A native of Southern California, Wendy received her B.A. in Political Science from UCLA. She is also a graduate of the Antioch University Coaching Tools Program and The Protocol School of Washington.

Kathy Jones Irish

Kathy Jones Irish Consulting, LLC

Kathy has more than 30 years of public and private sector experience in project and personnel management in the fields of transportation, engineering, procurement, local government, waste management, water resource planning, workforce development, and corporate philanthropy. Immediately prior to founding her firm, Kathy was vice president with Arnie Berghoff & Associates. She also had an active career with the City of Los Angeles, where she served as City Councilman Tom LaBonge’s Chief of Staff and was named Interim General Manager for the Department of Cultural Affairs by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Kathy’s most recent city service was as Assistant General Manager for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.  She is a graduate of Occidental College and holds a Certificate in Public Policy Analysis from the Claremont Graduate School. Kathy was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the Board of Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists, and has received numerous commendations for public service, public policy engagement and community investment.  She lives in Pasadena and is the proud mother of her son, Brandon Carleton Irish.

Jonathan Kaji

Kaji & Associates

Jonathan Kaji is President of Kaji & Associates, a real estate development and brokerage firm located in Torrance, California. The firm has developed commercial, industrial, retail and residential properties in Southern California and has been in operation since 1984. Jonathan is a member of the Board of Governors of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. He formerly served as the Director of the State of California Office of Trade and Investment, Tokyo, Japan for 7 years. Jonathan has also served as a past President of the University of Southern California Asian Pacific Alumni Association; Board Member of the Torrance South Bay Family YMCA; and member of the President's Export Council. Jonathan is a graduate of the University of Southern California and resides in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Michelle Kezirian

Attorney at Law

Michelle M. Kezirian is a sole practitioner with more than twenty years of legal experience.  She previously served as the Director of Litigation and Policy Advocacy at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Directing Attorney at Bet Tzedek Legal Services, and Senior Staff Attorney at Inner City Law Center.  Prior to her work in public interest, Michelle was in private practice.  Over the years, she has taught law at UCLA, USC and Santa Clara University Schools of Law and served on boards of directors of nonprofits serving communities in Los Angeles County and statewide.  Currently, Michelle serves on the boards of International Visitors Council of Los Angeles and Tenants Together and is a member of the Southern California Leadership Council of the Armenian Assembly of America.  Michelle is also a sustaining member of the Pacific Council on International Policy where she co-chairs the Council’s Guantanamo Bay Task Force.  Michelle graduated in 1992 summa cum laude and phi beta kappa from University of California, Davis, and received her J.D. in 1996 from Santa Clara University School of Law.

Patti MacJennett

Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board

As the Senior Vice President for Business Affairs at the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, Patti develops and implements the organization's community engagement strategy with local, state and federal organizations and serves as liaison with key policymakers, civic and business organizations. Previously she was SVP of the Global Marketing Division and head of the International Marketing Department, and was responsible for opening L.A.'s first international marketing offices. Patti has served in volunteer leadership capacities with U.S. Travel and Visit California and locally sits on the boards of the Valley Economic Alliance, San Pedro Chamber of Commerce and Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. A native of California, she is a graduate of the Stanford Executive Program with a B.A. from Arizona State University.

 

Rima Nashashibi

 

Ms. Nashashibi has over two decades of experience in non-profit leadership and has been recognized for her community involvement, leadership and fundraising skills. In addition to her work in non-profits, Ms. Nashashibi is accomplished in the private sector. She spent over 20 years in management with AIG, where she interfaced with leaders and executives in Fortune 500 companies and was responsible for accounts and projects valued up to tens of millions of dollars. In this role, Ms. Nashashibi also trained and managed a team of 80 sales representatives, 600 production sources and a budget of $158M. Recognized internationally as a skilled speaker, Ms. Nashashibi has led lectures, seminars and training including as a guest of the U.S. Department of State in places such as Jerusalem, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as well as local and regional speaking engagements. She has received many awards for her work, such as, the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce's 2017 Member of the Year Award, WELead OC's 2016 Empowered Women Award, the 2012 Congressional Recognition Award and the Harry S. Truman Lifetime Achievement Award.     

Stephen Ozoigbo

Studio Institute Global

 

Stephen Ozoigbo, serial investor and advisor to multiple startups, is the International Advisor for Studio Institute Global in Los Angeles and the CEO of the African Technology Foundation. Prior to these roles, he was the Foreign Direct Investment Manager for the Government of Catalonia, and was responsible for a diverse array of international project management and advisory services that increased investment, innovation and  bilateral trade relations between Catalonia and the West Coast of the United States. Stephen previously held roles at Smith Barney and Citigroup. He has an MBA in Global Business from Pepperdine University and an Executive Diploma in Behavioral Finance and Investment from Harvard University. 

Karen Richardson

Formerly U.S. Department of State

 

Karen Richardson formerly served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Public Affairs at the U.S. State Department. From January 2009 to February 2014, she worked at the White House as Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. In this role, she was responsible for developing and managing domestic outreach to NGOs, advocacy organizations, and constituency groups on a broad range of foreign policy issues. She also served as an advisor to Ambassador Melanne Verveer at the U.S. State Department and to Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett on international issues, including managing Ms. Jarrett’s involvement in international gender policy development in her role as Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls. Richardson began working for President Obama at his Senate Office in August 2005, serving as Deputy to the Policy Director. She then joined the Obama for America campaign as the State Policy Director for Iowa and became the Policy Director at the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Los Angeles, California, Richardson has a BA from Howard University, a JD from Howard University School of Law, and a Masters in International Affairs from the London School of Economics.

Lourdes Saab

County of Los Angeles

 

Lourdes Saab is Chief of Protocol for the County of Los Angeles. In her position she represents the L.A. County Office of Protocol on the IVCLA board and serves as the liaison between the protocol office and the county’s international community. In addition, she aids foreign missions in the county by coordinating visits for dignitaries. Lourdes served as Chief of Protocol of the City of Los Angeles from 1993 to 1997. She previously worked in Mayor Yorty’s Office of Latin American Affairs and in the offices of Mayors Bradley and Riordan. She was a founding member and has served as executive director of the Hispanic Women’s Council, Inc. She was Commissioner for the County Department of Children’s Services and has been recognized for her work with community based organizations.

Dilpreet Sidhu

City of Los Angeles, Office of the Mayor

Dilpreet Sidhu most recently worked for the U.S. Department of State as an Economic Officer in Basrah, Iraq, where she advanced U.S. policy goals and reported on economic conditions. Prior to this role, Dilpreet was the Special Assistant to National Security Advisor (NSA) Susan Rice at the White House from 2015 to 2017. In this capacity, she prepared briefing materials for the NSA’s daily intelligence briefing to the President and coordinated the NSA’s review of all national security memos to the President and materials for policy meetings. From 2013 to 2015, Dilpreet was a Staff Assistant to Secretary of State John Kerry, traveling to over 30 countries to coordinate Secretary Kerry’s foreign trips and managing his briefing materials and remarks overseas. Previously, from 2011 to 2013, Dilpreet served as a Foreign Affairs Officer on the India Desk at the U.S. Department of State, where she managed and monitored U.S. bilateral relations with India. Dilpreet holds a B.A. from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She speaks fluent Punjabi and conversational Spanish.

William 'Jerry' Silva
Southern California Edison

 

William ‘Jerry’ Silva is the Compliance Reliability Manager for Southern California Edison, which he joined in October 1982. He is presently responsible for leading a team of Senior Project Managers to review all proposed and adopted electric reliability regulations for applicability to power supply operations for SCE. Jerry is an active member of the community and serves on a variety of boards including the Hispanic 100 and the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute, and has served as regional judge and Chair of the Los Angeles Regional Panel for the prestigious White House Fellows Program from 2000-2010. Jerry received a gubernatorial appointment in 2015 by Governor Jerry Brown, having first been appointed in 2008 to serve on the Professional Engineer and Land Surveyor’s commission.

David Stepp

Crowell & Moring LLP

 

David Stepp is a partner with Crowell & Moring LLP. His practice spans a variety of customs and international trade issues, including those related to motor vehicles, steel, textile and apparel products, footwear, retailing, electronic products and other consumer goods. Mr. Stepp's practice focuses on customs compliance and counseling, including tariff classifications, valuation, country of origin marking, Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) participation and other regulatory requirements. His practice includes global customs and international trade audits of multinationals and advice on improving and benchmarking compliance programs. He also advises clients on local trade and customs options for companies in China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. He is a frequent speaker on global customs and international trade issues.

Yael Swerdlow

Women's Empowerment Foundation

 

Yael Swerdlow is the CEO and Founder of Maestro Games, SPC as well as co-founder of the Women's Empowerment Foundation.  Yael is an Independent Visiting Scholar in the Gender Studies Department of the University of Southern California and consultant for USC’s groundbreaking Game Pipe Lab.  She is a board member of Shelters for Israel. She is a graduate of USC's  Master of Public Diplomacy program and is an associate member of the Los Angeles Consular Corps. A native Angeleno, Yael has been a freelance photojournalist based in Los Angeles for over twenty years, shooting for United Press International, the Associated Press, and the Los Angeles Times, where she was a part of the Pulitzer Prize winning teams for the Los Angeles Riots in 1992 and the Northridge Earthquake of 1994.  In summer of 1994, Yael went to Somalia, Southern Sudan, and Rwanda for International Medical Corps, to document the reestablishing of the medical infrastructure in those war-torn countries.  Yael also writes fiction, including the cinematic script for Activision’s best-selling video game, “True Crime:  Streets of LA”.

Tim Watkins

Watts Labor Community Action Committee

 

Tim Watkins is President and CEO of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC). His primary concern is in the area of public policy and how it often exacerbates and perpetuates poverty. Along with his day-to-day responsibility for operating the WLCAC, he researches and develops legislative recommendations that positively impact the quality of life for residents of Watts and neighboring communities. Because Tim is a firm believer in the use of cultural enrichment as a means of healing the human spirit in places like Watts, he is leading a much needed discussion on the concept of Social Enterprise as a long-term solution to poverty and neglect.

Nivine Woods

Johnson & Johnson

Nivine is the Global Director of Surgical Marketing at Johnson & Johnson, with more than 15 years experience in pharma, medical devices and consumer products, both globally and domestically. She has worked in general management, brand management, strategic planning, innovation and sales and has launched products in the U.S., Japan, Canada, Europe, Asia and South America. She received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Cairo University, her MBA from the University of Texas and completed graduate coursework at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. She speaks English, French, Arabic and German and resides in Orange County.

 

Advisory Board

William 'Bill' Bogaard

Mayor Bill Bogaard was first elected mayor of Pasadena in 1999 and was the City’s first directly elected mayor. He won subsequent elections with overwhelming majorities. In 2011 he ran unopposed. He retired as mayor in 2015 having been the longest serving mayor in Pasadena's history. Prior to being elected mayor he was engaged in private law practice, and then served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of First Interstate Bancorp. He has taught law at the University of Michigan and USC Law School. The Mayor is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He received his juris doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School after serving as a U.S. Air Force Captain in Los Angeles and Casablanca, Morocco.

He holds a strong belief in the importance of international dialogue and has supported many of Pasadena’s international programs including the Pasadena Sister Cities Program. He served on the board of directors of the Pasadena Educational Foundation and the Pasadena YMCA, and served as President of the Board of the League of California Cities. In 1997 the City of Pasadena granted him its highest civic recognition, the Arthur Noble Award.

Amarjit Marwah

Dr. Amarjit Marwah is known as a generous philanthropist and a respected pillar of the Los Angeles community. He was born in the Punjab region of India, where he lived until coming to the United States in 1950 to study dentistry. He became the first dentist of Indian descent in America. In addition to his community work in the L.A. area, he remains active in his home region, where he endeavors to advance women’s education and rural development. In the 1980s, he co-founded the Bank of Punjab, built on the principles of social justice and community service. Dr. Marwah and his wife have adopted the entire village of Gurudidhabb, equipping the town with running water, paved roads, and a town hall. He is also the founder of the first Sikh temple in California located on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles.   

Dr. Marwah’s commitment to citizen diplomacy is based in part on his own experiences as an immigrant being warmly welcomed when he arrived to the U.S. In addition to hosting IVCLA International Visitors every year, he also hosts the annual Fulbright Luncheon. He has served on the boards of IVCLA and the LA World Affairs Council, chaired the Hollywood Arts Commission and LA/Mumbai Sister Cities, and served as president of the LA Cultural Heritage Commission. Along with numerous other awards Dr. Marwah received the 2006 Outstanding Citizen Diplomat Award from IVCLA.

Sebastian Zacharia

Sebastian Zacharia served with the United Nations for 26 years in senior diplomatic and executive management assignments world-wide. During his time with the U.N. he worked and lived in four continents and traveled to over 100 countries gaining a global perspective and high level networking with people of diverse interests and expertise. His last position with the U.N. for more than eight years was Director of the Division for Asia Pacific Regional Programs.

After an early retirement from the U.N. he taught a wide spectrum of global issues as Adjunct Professor at USC. He was recommended by the Parent's Association of USC for the best teaching and mentoring award. Until his retirement in 2012, he was the Director of International Studies at Woodbury University and Adjunct Professor for such courses as Modern Middle East, Arab Spring and Social Media, and International Business and Negotiations to name a few. He also conducted a senior-level training workshop in Cairo, Egypt on behalf of the University of California, Irvine in 2001. He is a member of many organizations including the Oxford University Round Table and the United Nations Association for USA, and he was the former Vice Chair for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

 

History

1980's

When the World Affairs Council ended its role in the International Visitor Program, Mayor Tom Bradley recognized the importance of the program and recruited civic leaders to keep it going. With startup funds from supporters, office space from Arthur Anderson, one telephone and a typewriter, the L.A. Council for International Visitors (LACIV) was born.

The early 80's saw several executive directors and locations for LACIV, but by 1985 the three staff members and several volunteers settled into office space at Cal State L.A. Board President Bob Kleist and LACIV Executive Director Clare Ricci are pictured welcoming the Director of the U.S. Information Agency, Charles Wick to L.A.

Dedicated volunteers kept the program functioning in the 1980's. Board Members such as Caroline Ahmanson, Bob Kleist, William Pagen and Walter Ralphs set policies for the new organization. Volunteers assisting with all aspects of the program, included Maurine Ruzek, Dorothy Mendelson, Dick Dommes, Mary Dee Romney, Maria Wrigley and Jo Roskam, who is pictured with the President of Gambia on his visit to Los Angeles in 1989.

The decade ended with new stability for LACIV. The name changed to the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles (IVCLA); the office moved to the newly renovated Biltmore Court; the city of L.A. provided needed funding; and Robin Hincliffe, pictured welcoming visitors, took the helm as Executive Director. 

1990's
Following the first successful International Citizen of the Year Awards Dinner in 1989, 1990's gala was equally successful, honoring long-time IVCLA supporter Caroline Ahmanson. She is pictured with Mr. & Mrs. Art Linkletter recognizing her dedication to creating international understanding.

Bob Kleist lobbied for support and sang IVCLA's praises to all who would listen. He is pictured with other dedicated board members, Ginger Barnard, Bee Lavery, and Ned Munger in 1992. 

IVCLA hosted 10 Ukrainian professionals in its first Community Connections Program. The program was created for participants from the former Soviet Bloc countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. 

1999 marked the 10th Fulbright Luncheon hosted by Dr. and Mrs. Amarjit Marwah. Pictured are friends Rodney Punt, Ethelda Singer and Greta Peck enjoying the event with Dr. Marwah.

2000's
IVCLA has always appreciated the many elected officials who take time to meet with International Visitors, and was thankful to begin the new decade with greatly needed funding from the County of Los Angeles. Pictured is L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley meeting with visitors.

The 9-11 tragedy focused the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on improving understanding to help end the violence shattering our world. IVCLA hosted the first IVLP group of Afghan women after the fall of the Taliban. CA Assemblyman Bob Pacheco is pictured presenting them with commendations at a reception hosted by Southern California Edison.

IVCLA was pleased to welcome the first IVLP delegation from Iraq in 2004. IVCLA arranged a full program for them, providing the opportunity to share information with many Angelenos. The six Iraqi's are pictured during a discussion at Manual Arts High School.

Dick Dommes, the familiar voice calling members for home hospitality for more than 20 years, "retired" from his position in 2009. Gohar Grigorian, Shafia Mir, and Wafa Hoballah, board member and former IVCLA Board Chair thank Dick for his dedication.

 

FAQs

Does IVCLA arrange travel services and tours for visitors vacationing in Los Angeles?

 

No, IVCLA works directly with private and public sponsors, including the U.S. Department of State, to set up professional meetings, home hospitality and cultural arrangements for participants in the International Visitor Leadership Program, or similar international programs.

Does IVCLA provide tourism information, such as hotel recommendations and sightseeing information?

No, IVCLA does not provide this type of information for individuals traveling to the Los Angeles Area. For tourism information, please visit Discover LA, the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. 

Is IVCLA part of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board?

No, while IVCLA works with L.A. Tourism to help promote Los Angeles through our exchange programs and they support the work of IVCLA, we are a completely separate organization. 

Who qualifies for the International Visitor Leadership Program?

 

Participants in the International Visitors Leadership Program must be nominated by an American Embassy in their country of origin and complete a series of interviews with Embassy officials.

Do International Visitors only travel to Los Angeles?

 

While some programs, such as the Open World Program, travel only to Los Angeles, most programs start in Washington D.C. and travel to several cities throughout the U.S. To learn more, click here

How can I become involved with IVCLA?

 

There are many ways to get involved with IVCLA: become an IVCLA Citizen Diplomat, meet with visitors as a professional resource, or support IVCLA as a Corporate Sponsor or Ambassador. For more information about how to get involved, click here.

 

 

Are Citizen Diplomats required to host visitors in their home?

 

No, while Home Hospitality is a benefit you can enjoy as a Citizen Diplomat, it is not required. Some of our members choose to take visitors to a restaurant or not host at all. There are many other benefits and events you can participate in as a Citizen Diplomat. 

Can I keep in contact with International Visitors I have hosted when they return to their country of origin?

 

Absolutely! It is IVCLA's mission to create connections between International Visitors and people in Los Angeles both through professional meetings and home hospitality.

If I am traveling abroad, may I contact IVCLA International Visitor Alumni?

 

Yes, as an IVCLA member, IVCLA will conduct a complimentary search of the International Visitor Alumni with whom you share interests and who would look forward to meeting you in their country.

How are professional meetings arranged with International Visitors?

 

Each International Visitor or group of visitors has a specific topic or theme on which their program focuses. Professional Resources in the selected field are contacted by IVCLA program officers prior to the visitors' arrival. If the Professional Resource is available, a meeting time is arranged with the visitors. IVCLA encourages an open exchange of ideas. 

How are professional meetings arranged with International Visitors?

 

There is no formal selection process to become a Professional Resource. IVCLA is always looking for professionals in all fields to meet with International Visitors. If you are interested in becoming a Professional Resource, please contact us.

 

At IVCLA we love connecting Angelenos with interesting people from all over the world. Contact us if you want to find out how you can be connected.

3450 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 705

Los Angeles, CA 90010 

213.388.1428

info@ivcla.org

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© International Visitors Council of Los Angeles. A non-profit, non-partisan organization. Partial funding provided by the United States Department of State, the County of Los Angeles, and the City of Los Angeles. | Privacy Policy