Michelle Harpenau 2016Michelle Harpenau, Executive Director

Michelle joined the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) in a fulltime position in September 2010. She is happy to be in Cincinnati contributing to GCWAC’s ongoing mission and service to the greater Cincinnati community.

Michelle leads all aspects of programming and strategy for the council including revenue generation, community partnerships, staffing, and strategic planning. She has administered over 175 visitor exchange programs for over 1,150 visitors from all over the world. Michelle is committed to make this region the most prominent location for international understanding and cultural awareness for students, families, and professionals to succeed. She is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and U.S. Global Leadership Coalition as well as serves on other committees locally and nationally.

Prior to joining the staff of the GCWAC, Michelle was the Assistant Director of International Clients at Flat Hunter: Property Search Experts in Paris, France. In 2013, Michelle went to Nigeria for a professional and cultural exchange program through the Group Study Exchange with the Rotary Club of Cincinnati. She is a Cincinnati native and graduated from Ursuline Academy in 2006. She has organized events for American Cancer Society and volunteered in Guatemala and Belize. Michelle holds a bachelor of arts in International Political Economy and a bachelor of arts in French Language and Literature from Fordham University. She received certification from Harvard University Graduate School of Education’s “Think Tank on Global Education.”

Outside of the office – Michelle is the Past President of the Cincinnati Rotaract Club, a community-based young professional organization that was started by the Rotary Club of Cincinnati. In addition, she manages a family-owned horse farm business, Vine Hill Farm LLC. Michelle enjoys traveling, playing golf, riding horses, scuba diving, yoga, and going on new adventures.

Arnela Zekic 2016Arnela Zekic Hepner, Programs Manager

Arnela joined the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) in a full time position as the Programs Manager in October of 2015. She manages all the annual speaker events, interns, and global education programs including the Global Classrooms initiative. Previously in the fall of 2012, Arnela worked as the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) intern for GCWAC.

Arnela graduated from Northern Kentucky University (NKU) with a bachelor of arts in Communication Studies and a concentration in Global Citizenship. Originally from Europe, she has always had an interest in global affairs. She spent the summer of 2015 at Columbia University working on building community with students from 70 different countries.

At NKU, Arnela studied abroad in London, England, was involved with the Student Government Association, Greek Life, worked as an Orientation Leader, and the “Clearing the Air” initiative which involved decreasing the carbon footprint that the NKU population creates.


James McManus, Program Associate

James joined in a part time Program Associate position in the fall of 2016. He will be assisting with administration of events, coordinating and maintaining members & volunteers as well as supporting our intern and exchange programs.

James McManus is currently a first year graduate student in Northern Kentucky University’s Master of Public Administration program with a focus in community development. James also graduated from NKU in 2015, Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in History. His area of historical interest being Byzantine, Ottoman, and Middle Eastern history.

Last summer James spent three weeks travelling in Turkey after graduating from NKU which heightened his interest in international affairs and travel. While in Turkey he spent time in Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. His favorite “must visit” sites in Turkey are the Hagia Sophia, Dolmabahce Palace, and the Library of Celsus. In his free time, James enjoys attending cultural events, theater, and cooking.


Current Interns

Brian Swain, Global Exchange Intern

Brian is a senior at the University of Cincinnati majoring in both Criminal Justice and Political Science. On campus Brian is involved in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and the Ohio National Guard. Through these organizations and in his free time Brian has had opportunities to travel abroad to countries such as Dominican Republic and Poland. While abroad he has gained a passion for traveling and to connecting with people from different cultures. After graduation Brian plans on moving to Washington DC to pursue a job in foreign policy and diplomacy. Brian is an intramural legend and enjoys traveling, hiking, and golf.

Board of Directors


Board Chair
Richard Lauf, Consultant, Leamington Group
Retired, The Procter & Gamble Company

Vice Chair
John Pinney, Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution Client Services Department & Chair, International Practice Group, Graydon, Head, & Ritchey LLP

Richard King, Chemist R&D, The Procter & Gamble Company

Catharina Toltzis, Ph.D., Consultant & Advisor, United Nations


Bob Betz, Retired, President, Cognis Corporation

Karlee Hilliard, Retired

Linette Kuy, Practice Manager/RN, Kuy Plastic Surgery, Inc.

Francois LeRoy, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Global Engagement & International Affairs, Northern Kentucky University

Michele Mansfield, Corporate Functions R&D, Global Innovation Center Operations, Associate Director, Procter & Gamble

Martin Wilhelmy, Vice President Investments, UBS Financial Services Inc., Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Cincinnati

Philip Poland, Director, Customs and Regulatory Affairs, DHL Express Americas Region

Tim Swallow, Executive Director, Cincinnati World Cinema

Oxana Prokhorova, Director of Global Engagement, College of Engineering & Applied Science, University of Cincinnati

Advisory Group
Steve Black, Retired, Graydon, Head, & Ritchey LLP
Mary Ann Buchino, Ed.D. Retired School Psychologist, Cincinnati Public Schools
Jessica Donohue-Dioh, Adjunct Faculty, Social Work, Xavier University; Founder, End Slavery Cincinnati
Kim Harp, Manager, Business Retention and Expanison, Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI) Cincinnati Leslie Maloney, Senior Vice President & Program Manager, The Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation
Deborah Schultz, President, Transborder Solutions
Deborah Tyson, Senior Marketing & Development Advisor, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center