Board of Directors
Jo Ann Andera - Chair
JoAnn Andera is the Director of the Institute of Texan Culture’s signature events, including the Texas Folklife Festival, which she has director for over 30 years, and the Asian Festival. An exemplary events planner, Andera has earned “Professional of the Year” and “Lifetime Achievement” honors from the Texas Festivals Association. She is a past Board Chair of the International Festivals Association and a member of the organization’s Presidents Council. Jo Ann has worked for UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures since 1970. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and is a Certified Festival Executive from the International Festivals Association and the Institutional Management Institute at Purdue University.
Sandra Torres Richardson - Vice Chair
Sandra Richardson has been an active participant in two communities (Dallas and San Antonio) in the last 18 years. As a Board Member, Liaison, consultant & mentor she supports education, international, social, civic & environmental initiatives. She is currently the Founder of Women 2 Women Empowerment a leadership program she established in 2015 at the George W. Bush institute. The program is designed to promote young women to be highly effective professional & civic leaders in today's diverse communities. She was the first Director of Operations for the North American Development Bank in 1993. She also participated in the establishment of the Free Trade Alliance during its infancy stage. Sandra has also served on the Board of the Child Guidance Center, now known as Clarity Guidance Center for 3 years in an effort to support the expansion of their psychological services to the South Texas region. As a primary consultant, she secured initial funding for TEEX to establish the Frank M. Tejeda Center for Environmental Excellence in cooperation with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Sandra holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from St. Mary's University and a Bachelors of Arts in Education from University of Texas San Antonio.
Douglas Smith - Treasurer
Douglas Smith is the Assistant Director of the International Trade Center, University of Texas at San Antonio. The Center provides international trade consulting to small and medium-size companies and he is responsible for working with clients in the Austin-area. He has been involved in international marketing consulting for more than 25 years, focusing on import and export development, international marketing strategy, international market research, marketing channel management, and industry and economic research. He has consulted for small businesses as well as major corporations such as IBM, Motorola, and Johnson Wax, trade associations including the Business Round Table, and the foreign trade commissions of Thailand, Portugal, and Colombia. Prior to joining the International Trade Center, he was Vice President for Consulting at Global Trade Information Services, a Columbia, SC international trade information and advisory company, the International Business Department at the University of South Carolina, and Frank Lynn & Associates, a Chicago-based international consulting company. He was a contributing editor to Textile Asia Magazine and has articles published in Atlanta International Magazine, Twin Plant News, and Business Horizons. He holds a M.A. in Government and a M.B.A. in Finance and International Business from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a Certified Global Business Professional. In addition he serves on the Texas Camino Real District Export Council and the Steering Committee of the Austin International Business Coalition. He has visited approximately 70 countries or territories.
Patricia Pliego Stout
Ms. Patricia Pliego Stout is the President & CEO of the Alamo Travel Group, which she founded in 1990 and has since expanded to become a nationwide provider of corporate, leisure, federal, and state travel services. Ms. Stout has received immense nationwide recognition for her successful business. She is the recipient of several leadership and entrepreneurial awards including the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame, Small Business Woman of the Year from the Republican Women’s Leadership Forum, Entrepreneur of the Year by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Latina Excellence Award by the “Hispanic Magazine”, and the Hispanic Spirit of Enterprise Award by the National Association of Women Business Owner’s (NAWBO). She has also been featured countless times in magazines including Forbes, Latina Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Federal Times, and more. Additionally, she has held leadership roles as the former Chair of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC), former Chair and current National Treasurer of the Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos (AEM), former President of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) San Antonio, former Executive Board Member of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF), and the former Co-Chair of SAHCC’s Latino Leadership Institute.
Ms. Dowlatshahi is Chief Diplomacy & Protocol Officer heading the City of San Antonio’s International Relations Office. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Westminster in London, England and then completed her graduate degree in the University of Cambridge in England. She also studied at the Alexandria University, Egypt and the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. As Head of the City's International Relations Office, she advises, assists and supports San Antonio elected officials and executives on matters of international affairs and diplomatic procedure; is responsible for providing assistance in international travel as well as planning visits and welcoming high-level foreign dignitaries and diplomats to the City of San Antonio; oversees the San Antonio program of official relationships namely Sister and Friendship Cities; and oversees the Casa San Antonio program in Mexico. Ms Dowlatshahi currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the World Affairs Council of San Antonio, the San Antonio Mexico Friendship Council, and the Alamo Asian American Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, she serves on advisory boards of Musical Bridges Around the World and University of Texas Health in San Antonio’s International Relations Committee. She is enthusiastic about raising San Antonio’s global profile and citizen awareness about opportunities for mutual enrichment.
Marcos Fragoso has served as the Vice President for International Affairs at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) since 2010. Previously, he oversaw operations at the UIW campus in Mexico. He has a Master of Business Administration in International Business and a Bachelor of Business Administration from UIW. Marcos is responsible for international initiatives including reciprocal agreements for education, study abroad programs, the management of UIW campuses in Mexico, and Heidelberg, Germany as well as the management of the Rosenberg Sky Room, and the International Conference Center.
Ms. Mandel has always been an engaged global citizen. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Education and Spanish, she put her language skills to work in Mexico helping global businesses like Ford Motor Company, Chrysler de Mexico, Mellon Bank, and Babcock and Wilcox acculturate their senior executives and families for life in Mexico. She also developed curricula and tailored instruction for Mexican National managers to prepare them for business with their U.S. counterparts. In 1980, Ms. Mandel moved back to the United States and began conducting market research for Mexican exporters, creating a marketing plan for U.S. sales to Mexican firms, and helped pioneer The Entrepreneurship Development Program at the UTSA Business Development Center. During this time, she earned a Master of Business Administration before going on to teach International Marketing at the University of the Incarnate Word. Ms. Mandel along with business partners developed University Park, a northwest side 282- acre business and industrial development, where she served as Operations Manager, and liaison between Developers and University Park business owners. Now, she is very active in the San Antonio community serving in the San Antonio Business and Economic Society, the Masters Leadership Program, Mays Cancer Center Board of Governors, and the San Antonio Council for International Visitors.
Jorge Canavati is the principal at J. Canavati & Co. LLC, an agency, int’l commercial representation and consulting company with a focus on logistics and international trade. His company is an agent for Logistics Plus Inc., which provides worldwide logistics with global offices. Mr. Canavati has over 30 years of experience in international trade, multimodal transportation, air cargo and logistics. He is the author of various articles and editorials on trade and transportation issues with a focus on the NAFTA marketplace. Mr. Canavati is on the board of various international trade organizations and is the official U.S. representative of the National Importers and Exporters Association of Mexico (ANIERM). Consultant to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) Border Trade Advisory Committee (BTAC). He is a member of the Camino Real District Export Council, appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Recently appointed as chair of the International Energy Commission of ANIERM. Recently appointed to the board of directors of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and appointed co-chair of the international business committee of the same organization. Mr. Canavati was recently appointed by Mayor Nirenberg to the Airport System Development Committee. Its purpose is to strategically consider the future aviation needs of the San Antonio region as it grows over the next 30 to 50 years. Former chair of the Logistics Subcomittee of the Associación de Empresarios Mexicanos (AEM) Energy Committee. He was added to the San Antonio Business Journal “Who’s Who” list in Energy logistics. He lectures at various universities and participates on various high-level panels per year at international trade events. He is an invited educator-lecturer twice a year at the School of Law post graduate studies (Energy Law Master’s degree) program at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo Leon (UANL) in Monterrey where he lectures on the “Basics of Energy Logistics.” He has been married for 35 years to Daisy Miriam and has two adult children, Jorge Mauricio and Gabriela Sofía, a daughter-in-law Michelle Gonzales and a lovely granddaughter Penelope Michelle.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, where she spent her early years, Patricia migrated to San Antonio from Mexico. After studying at Marymount Junior College, now Marymount University, in Arlington, Virginia, she enrolled in the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. For the next twenty–three years she lived and worked in Central and Northern Mexico. In fall of 1974, she accepted a position at the UNAM Extension Campus in San Antonio as sub-director, and moved to San Antonio with her family. In December of 1975, she was named to the newly created position of Director of International Relations and Marketing for the City of San Antonio, working with the newly formed San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau. When she accepted a position as marketing director for a French hotel corporation, she relocated to Houston and was in Houston over 5 years working with various national and international hotel chains. Upon returning to San Antonio she was hired to design and implement a week-long festival in downtown San Antonio. Later she became Director of Congregational Development for the The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. After that she established herself as an independent consultant outsourcing her services in many areas of expertise. Patricia continues to work and be actively involved in the community. She has been involved in the development of the SACIV since its inception. Patricia is the mother of six, grandmother of thirteen and great grandmother of eleven, which she considers to be her greatest achievement.
Kasia Daniec was born and grew up in Poland. She moved to the United States in 2001. Kasia received her Juris Doctorate degree from Saint Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas in 2010. She practices in the area of insurance defense. Kasia has two children, son Jan and daughter Julia. She is an adventurous traveler and has so far visited 5 continents. Her favorite places include Spain, Morocco and Mexico, in that order. Kasia is an avid reader and a fitness enthusiast and recently added cycling to her hobbies. Her native language is Polish, but she also speaks Spanish fluently. She joined SACIV in 2020.
Bonny Johnston’s early contributions in the city of San Antonio were in the field of Education in the North East Independent School District where she taught Honors English. Joining UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures, Bonny directed the Texas Children’s Festival and then served as Director of Programs, Exhibit Floor, and Volunteer Services. This move not only broadened her career path but created a passion and dedication to serving community. A member of Assistance League of San Antonio for many years, she has served on the board as Membership Chair and has chaired philanthropic and fundraising programs, helping the underserved children and adult community in San Antonio. She was awarded the Above and Beyond Award from the San Antonio chapter. Bonny is a member of Masters Leadership of San Antonio and currently serves on the Alumni Board. Active in her neighborhood and a member of the Baylor Alumni Chapter, she is an avid reader and enjoys theater and music. A graduate of Baylor University, she earned a B. A. degree in English and Communications and a B.S. degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology.
Egyptian born and raised, Lilly is currently known throughout the San Antonio area for her role in DreamVoice|DreamWeek as the Program Manager, the President of the Lilly Agency with a passion of positively, culturally and economically impact the city and neighboring counties through ongoing efforts to increase exchange of ideas and resources. She also serves as a board member in the Global Chamber San Antonio and as a member of the San Antonio Women’s Chamber of Commerce. During a recent 2-year stint in Oklahoma, Lilly served as a key Spouse Mentor for a military unit, planned/coordinated operations as the Manager of the Air Force Base recreational community center, and volunteered to teach Arabic as a second language to Military Active Duty Members. While a member of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Lilly had over eight years’ experience with the State Department as the Cultural Affairs Advisor managing citizen diplomacy programs through media, cultural & educational exchange and Public Affairs networking in consultation with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Finally, Lilly is a proud dog parent of two German shepherds, A’ntar & Lila and she enjoys a long walk at the Riverwalk where she can breathe nature and be filled with peace.
Cecilia Cross is the Executive Director of the San Antonio Council for International Visitors (SACIV). She joined the organization in 2015, managing a variety of responsibilities, including implementing the US Department of States’ International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), which has brought thousands of international visitors to San Antonio to participate professional exchange programs during her tenure. Under her leadership, SACIV has flourished into a healthy and robust organization. She has been instrumental in developing and launching many new programs, resulting in SACIV’s program capacity quadrupling in her first four years, providing an array of unique and innovative programs to the local community. These successes have heightened the organizations’ profile locally, nationally, and international, garnering her respect from many esteemed leaders and important institutions in the field. Her accomplishments have also included diversifying the non-profit’s revenue stream, establishing sufficient resources to ensure SACIV’s financial health. She achieved these successes as the sole employee of SACIV for more than two years and has since brought on additional staff, providing her with an opportunity to mentor others. In her role as Executive Director, Cecilia has furthered SACIV’s community and international reach, raising awareness of the importance and impact of citizen diplomacy.
She earned her BA in International Studies with an area concentration in the Middle East and North Africa from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Her collegiate experience also led her overseas and across the country. In Paris, France she studied French for a summer; in Rabat, Morocco she studied languages, explored the region, and taught English for a semester; in Amman, Jordan she studied Arabic and interned for a semester under the tutelage of a Jordanian government official; and in Washington, DC, she interned in the International Division of the US Chamber of Commerce for a summer. After college, Cecilia also interned at the Free Trade Alliance San Antonio where she was tasked with a variety of duties ranging from event management to marketing and outreach.
Cecilia is a dual British and American citizen, an avid world traveler, and a lifelong global learner. She serves on the Board of Directors of two San Antonio non-profits. She has many hobbies and particularly enjoys playing the cello, dancing, and spending time outdoors. Globally-minded and curious, she is proud to consider herself a true “citizen diplomat”.
Tanzila Kaiumova, Program Coordinator, has more than 10 years of experience in coordinating international events and programs both abroad and in the U.S. Her passion is creating and maintaining meaningful, long-term relationships both in business and personally. She graduated from the Ukrainian National University with a Master’s Degree in International Business where she was running several public events promoting regional business awareness in the European and Russian markets. She did this in her work for the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Ukraine. In this capacity, she organized business trips abroad for local businesses and worked to increase the attraction of investors to that industrial area in Ukraine. She considers herself a “mediator” between different cultures, helping people to establish mutual understanding and find safe environments to discuss and exchange experiences. Ms. Kaiumova is gaining a broad understanding about San Antonio and its communities and works to assist international visitors to see the best sides of its rich history, to have genuine learning experiences and to find opportunities for international friendships.
Irma Reyes - Chair Emeritus & Founder
Irma Reyes' contribution to citizen diplomacy began in 1971 when as a Scout leader she coordinated Scouting exchanges between Mexico and San Antonio. Her formal citizen diplomacy work began in 1977 as a volunteer for the Visitor's program. In 1989 she was one of the founders of the San Antonio Council for International Visitors. Since its inception, Irma's tireless efforts and contagious smile have welcomed thousands of U.S. Department of State's international visitors to San Antonio. In addition to providing many opportunities for cultural and business exchanges, Irma's efforts are an example of excellence in citizen diplomacy. Many of the visitors still remain in contact with Irma today. She has been active with many community organizations including Catholic Charities, Refugee Resettlement, and the Women’s and Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, Free Trade Alliance, the City of San Antonio's Zoning Commission and Cable Advisory Board. Irma is one of the three founders of SACIV.
Betsy I. Cameron - Past Chair
For over 20 years, Betsy Cameron has worked to promote and support international business, education and relationship opportunities in San Antonio. Her experience includes twelve years with the City of San Antonio International Affairs Department where she oversaw the award-winning San Antonio Export Leaders Program and managed San Antonio’s three foreign trade offices in Mexico, coordinating incoming and outgoing trade missions, and participating in other international business and government relations initiatives.Betsy has also worked with the Camino Real District Export Council where she implemented the Export Fellows Program at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, the Free Trade Alliance San Antonio and the World Affairs Council of San Antonio.Originally from Panama, Betsy received her Bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech in Atlanta and a Master's degree from the University of Oklahoma. She also holds the NASBITE International Global Business Professional certification.
Chuck Rose is a retired US Army Officer. He served in Europe, Asia and numerous countries throughout Central and South America. After the Army, Chuck established and managed Ryder Systems’ Cross-Border Operations along the US/Mexico border, and a Foreign Trade Zone operation at Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio. Working at the corporate headquarters of Compaq & Hewlett Packard Computer Companies, he was responsible for the coordination and negotiations of 3rd Party Logistics/Transportation contracts world-wide. His last position was CEO/President of SyncStrat Logistics Solutions, a supply-chain management company. Chuck is a graduate of the San Antonio Masters Leadership Program and is actively serving on nonprofit boards in San Antonio. He received a BA in International Affairs, International Law, and Political Science from Florida State University. He has an MA in Industrial Management from Webster University, and a MS in Military Strategic Studies and Theory-Strategy from the US Army War College.
Jose Luis Garcia
José Luis García currently serves as the City of San Antonio’s Aviation Marketing Manager for the San Antonio Airport promoting international growth in commercial and general air service. José Luis previously served as Chief of Protocol for the City of San Antonio and as director of the City’s International Relations Office. In these roles, he helped program the visits of over 1,500 delegations to San Antonio. Key projects under his supervision included the visits of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip; Presidents of Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Poland, and Spain, among others. José Luis also served as the City’s liaison to the NAFTA signing ceremony, Latin America Anti-Drug Summit, and the Trilateral Technology Summits (2002-2005.) José Luis serves as an Honorary Board Member for Sister Cities International and has served on the boards of the San Antonio-Mexico Friendship Council, and the National Protocol Officers Association in Washington, D.C. His honors include decoration of the Orden de Isabel la Católica, en grado Cruz de Oficial bestowed by the Government of Spain; recipient of SACIV International Leadership Award; Consulate of Mexico-Award for Outstanding Service in U.S.-Mexico relations and recognition by the Federation of Mexican Communities Living Abroad.
Justin Rice is an in-house attorney with The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit headquartered in Washington D.C. whose mission is to preserve plants, animals, and natural communities in the U.S. and abroad by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. Justin has spent considerable time in Latin America (including managing a fishing lodge in the Yucatan) and was a Rotary Ambassadorial Graduate Scholar at El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City focusing on Mexican foreign policy. Justin grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, received his law degree from the University of Texas and conducts admission interviews for his undergrad alma mater, Rice University. Justin joined SACIV in 2000 and also serves on the board of the World Affairs Council.
Christopher Herring is the Executive Director for Global Chamber® San Antonio. He is a decorated combat veteran of the United States Air Force serving his nation as a commissioned officer for over 20 years. He is President and CEO of River Walk Publishing, LLC, Vice President of New Horizons School, LLC, and a business partner of Legendary Realty focusing on commercial real estate for US and international businesses looking to expand their operations in Texas. Mr. Herring was twice elected and is serving in his last term as the Chairman of the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce (TAAACC), where he advocates for over 250,000 businesses and 24 chambers of commerce to help them succeed. Since 2011, Christopher has served three mayors as the Mayor of San Antonio's appointee to the Small Business Advocacy Committee (SBAC) overseeing the Small Business Economic Development Advocacy (SBEDA) Program subcontracting goals. Over two year period with University of Texas Austin, Mr.Herring sponsored 50 African business leaders, from 35 different nations, to San Antonio showcasing an international city made up of high-impact businesses, organizations, and government entities. He is a Board and Marketing Committee member for the San Antonio Symphony, Board President for Bluffview Estates of Camino Real, and Editorial Board Chairman for the San Antonio Observer Newspaper.
Mary Stanton Walsh
Mary Stanton Walsh is a retired professional and currently serves on several community boards. Originally from Laredo, she managed several international travel agencies there. With a B.A. degree in design, Mary created and successfully marketed clothing designs in the 1960s. She and her husband Michael Walsh (former air attaché to Rangoon, Burma), have traveled extensively both domestically and internationally. Mary is very active in the community and is one of the founding members of both SACIV and C-Fire, a non-profit organization that supports fire departments at the local and state levels.
Dr. Bernard "Ben" Buecker
Ben Buecker's contribution to citizen diplomacy began in the late 1970’s as a Fulbright scholar at University of Heidelberg Faculty of Law. During the 1980s his efforts resulted in the Distinguished Service Cross (Federal Republic of Germany) and the German American Friendship Award. Ben's work continued into the 1990’s and the twenty-first century. In 2003 and 2008, he received the Award of Merit from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for Outstanding Commitment to the Protection of Children and Knowledge of Hague International Child Abduction Issues. In 2010, the government of Germany awarded him the German Service Cross, First Class. Ben remains active in citizen diplomacy and is the founder and chairman of the San Antonio - German Sister City Association in addition to serving as Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany. Ben has been a member of SACIV since 1990, serving in a variety of board positions with the organization.
Cav. Francesco Cristadoro
Cav. Francesco Cristadoro has been Consular correspondent of Italy from 1981 to present, in the promotion and development of activities between Italy and the United States. Cav. Francesco Cristadoro received his Masters of Science in Electronics Engineering Specialization in Nuclear Physics and Management from the University "La Sapienza" in Rome, Italy. He has been engaged in professional positions involving systems engineering and consulting for major engineering and governmental entities, including the US Air Force. He is heavily engaged in community activities and in 1991 received from the President of Italy, the title of Knight to The Order of the Republic of Italy. Cav. Cristadoro joined SACIV in 1999 and is the former President of Christopher Columbus Italian Society.
Sarwat Husain is the founder and president of the Council on American Islamic Relations-San Antonio (CAIR-SA), a chapter of the largest civil rights and advocacy organization for Muslims in the US and Canada, headquartered in Washington DC. She also serves on CAIR’s national board. Sarwat is a frequent lecturer and presenter on inter-religious dialogue, and is a founding member of the American Muslim Democratic Caucus and former president of the Texas Muslim Democratic Caucus. She serves as as a guest columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, is a member of UT Health Science Center’s Council for Excellence in Women’s Health, and is the founder of Al-Ittihaad News.
Dr. Angelika Jansen-Brown
Dr. Angelika Jansen-Brown has worn many hats in her professional life – but always in relation to citizen diplomacy. Her work started 30 years ago in New York City when she helped build an institute at the German Department of New York University that had a sole purpose – bringing Americans and Germans together through learning the German language and exchanging cultural programs. In San Antonio, Angelika launched the Jansen-Perez Galleries, opening communication channels via visual art with Mexico and San Antonio. This work triggered cooperation with Monterrey and The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Angelika is on several cultural and educational boards and has coordinated numerous artist exchange programs for the City of San Antonio. Her most recent endeavor is serving as the San Antonio-Dresden Alliance Coordinator, a partnership inaugurated in February 2009. In 2010 she also helped create an Alliance with UTSA and the Technical University in Berlin, Germany. Angelika has been a member of SACIV since 1991 and has hosted many international visitors.
Ann Nguyen is an international trade & foreign direct investment consultant with 13 years of extensive professional experience in public and private sector. She provides the consulting services for global expansion of the Southeast Asian companies to the U.S and the U.S companies seeking expansion to Vietnam. Previously, Ann provided market research, business development, and capital mobilization consulting services to companies operating in Vietnam. Before entering the private sector, Ann worked for the U.S Embassy in Vietnam and encouraged foreign direct investment in Vietnam as the head of international cooperation for a local government, where she developed foreign investment guidelines and conducted investment project preparation. Ann has received multiple awards by the Vietnamese provincial government as well as by the U.S Ambassador to Vietnam for her contribution to investment promotion of Vietnam and U.S- Vietnam bilateral cooperation. Fluent in both English and Vietnamese, Ann earned bachelor’s degrees in English and business administration in Vietnam and currently completing her MBA at University of Business and International Studies University in Geneva, Switzerland Besides, as a professional master of ceremony (M.C.), she has facilitated hundreds of international and local conferences in business and other industries, all prominent and well-attended events in Vietnam. She is keen on exploring multi-cultures, connecting the dots globally and foster cultural understanding.