Michelle 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 250 visitor exchange programs for over 1,700 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.


James McManus, Director of International Programs

James joined the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) in a part time position in the fall of 2016. In his current role as the Director of International Programs for GCWAC, he will be overseeing and administering all the international professional exchange programs including sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s premier exchange program, the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). He is thrilled to be contributing to GCWAC’s mission of building the regions capacity to thrive in a 21st century global environment in this capacity.

He is currently a 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.

James has enjoyed travelling abroad and is always looking forward to new adventures. He has travelled extensively in Turkey as well as in Ireland and Canada. In his free time, James enjoys attending cultural events, theater, and cooking.


Arnela Zekic Hepner, Education Consultant 

Arnela joined the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) as the Programs Manager in October of 2015 and in August of 2017 has transitioned to a Consultant role.

During her time as Programs Manager she planned all annual education programs. She increased the student outreach to local K-12 and university students from 3,000 to nearly 9,000 per year by implementing new global education initiatives and programs.

As Programs Manager, Arnela also managed interns, assisted in planning speaker events on foreign affair topics, and helped plan and grow the annual gala, ONE World. Now transitioning to a Consultant role, Arnela will be working with GCWAC on an as-needed basis to assist in planning the International Education Summit and the Academic WorldQuest. She will also help develop and train new staff members. She is excited to continue serving GCWAC and the community in this capacity.

Arnela graduated from Northern Kentucky University (NKU) with a bachelor of arts in Communication Studies and a concentration in Global Citizenship.


Hannah Gerth, Communications and Programs Coordinator

Hannah joined the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) as a Public Ally in September 2017. Her current role as the Communications and Programs Coordinator for GCWAC consists of coordinating and executing overall logistics for events. She will also be managing and editing all social media accounts for GCWAC. She is very excited to start this new journey and interact with a variety of people from all over the world.

She is currently an AmeriCorps member through the program Public Allies. This nationwide program helps find and cultivate leaders and connect them with non-for-profits in their community.

Hannah graduated from the University of Cincinnati (UC) with a bachelor of arts in Communication and a focus in Early Childhood Education. Before joining the staff of GCWAC she served as an AmeriCorps member for the Health Professions Affinity Community (HPAC) through UC Nursing school. During her service she worked in rural high schools in Brown and Clermont county implementing HPAC, a program designed to encourage young students to pursue a career in healthcare.

She enjoys traveling and hopes to continue these journeys as each year goes by. So far she was spent time in Guatemala, the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Norway.


Ciarra Wooten, Education and Development Coordinator

Ciarra joined the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) in a part-time position in September of 2017. In her current role as Education and Development Coordinator for GCWAC, she will be managing all education programs and expanding outreach and global education initiatives to local K-12 and university students. Ciarra will be assisting in the planning of the International Education Summit and the Academic WorldQuest as well as key development events. She is very excited to join GCWAC and serve the community in a spirit of sustained investment in global education and fellowship.

Ciarra graduated from The Ohio State University (OSU) with a bachelor of arts in Russian and a concentration in International Development Studies. During her undergraduate studies, she worked for the humanitarian organization, International Forum of Solidarity Emmaus (IFS-Emmaus), in Bosnia-Herzegovina. With IFS-Emmaus, she was active in various community development projects which provided assistance to vulnerable populations in the region, working at shelters for victims of human trafficking, leading arts and crafts sessions for young girls to express themselves in a safe environment in addition to serving as camp counselor for the international youth camp.

She is currently a volunteer for the American Red Cross International Services. Ciarra has over three years of experience in teaching English as a second language to diverse populations at language centers and universities both in the United States and Turkey. She greatly enjoys the arts, international languages, and travel.


Current Interns

Andrew Michels, Global Exchange Intern

Andrew joined the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) as an intern in September 2017. In his current role, he will be assisting with the U.S. Department of State’s premier exchange program, the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). Andrew is excited to be a part of GWAC and help connect citizens of the world.

Andrew has spent time abroad as an exchange student at Sogang University in Seoul for the Fall 2016 semester. His travels also include Japan, Hong Kong, and Macau. He graduated from Xavier University in May 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies. His areas of interest are in International Relations, East Asia, and the Middle East. Andrew has also published a paper in the Xavier Journal of Politics, Prima Europa: The Populist Radical Right in Liberal Democratic Europe.

Halle Morel, Programs Intern 

Halle joined the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) as an intern in September 2017. Her current role at GCWAC focuses on Global Education. Halle is currently in her third year at the University of Cincinnati, double majoring in International Relations and Spanish with a focus in Economics. While at UC she is involved in many programs including the International Partners and Leaders (IPALs), Leaders of Environmental Awareness and Protection, and Bearchats, an international student mentoring program. In Halle’s free time she enjoys traveling, being outside, playing hockey and supporting her favorite NHL team, the Columbus Blue Jackets. She is very excited to work with GCWAC this semester!

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