Our BOARD OF DIRECTORS is dedicated, dynamic, and devoted to intercultural engagement:
Ashish Sarkar, President
Ashish Sarkar is a retired energy industry executive with decades of senior and executive management experience. He worked in over twenty countries within the energy and infrastructure industries, and retired as executive vice president for global business development with the company, Globeleq. Prior to that, he was Chief Executive Officer of Covanta Power International and a Senior Vice President at CMS Generation Corporation. He is active on various boards of nonprofit organizations.
Del Blain, Vice President
Del is the former Dean of Learning Resources at Washtenaw Community College where she managed the college library, media services for faculty, computer labs and the first official website for the college. At WCC, Del enjoyed frequent contact with students of diverse ages and cultures, including students from around the globe. On retirement, Del volunteered at ECIR (now IHAA) assisting staff with the Global Friendship Program. As a Board member, Del appreciates the opportunity to provide service and stewardship to IHAA’s living learning community.
“I am always pleased when IHAA residents, upon leaving, express their thanks for having a home away from home at IHAAand convey their gratitude for the respectful experiences they had there with persons of different cultures and spiritual traditions.”
Jim Schaafsma, Treasurer
Jim serves as the housing attorney for the Michigan Poverty Law Program (MPLP), works with the Resident Issues Advisory Committee of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, and the Michigan Court Forms Committee and its Civil Infractions, Other Civil, and Summary Proceedings Work Group.
Brian Derickson, Secretary
Brian develops Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) solutions for courts, municipalities, and independent agencies with a mission to provide communities with more accessibility to justice. As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, Brian took an interest in companies dedicated to innovation and disruption. After graduating from U of M with a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies, Brian worked with a local startup to improve safety and survival skills. Now Brian is fully devoted to removing the barriers that prevent people from resolving their legal matters. After attending public events at IHAA, Brian became an active participant in helping IHAA grow and expand so that more people can experience the amazing benefits that come from being a part of an international community.
Daniel is the Assistant Director of the Beijing Institute of Collaborative Innovation at the University of Michigan, and Principal of China Intelligence, a consulting firm specializing in U.S.-China partnerships. Holding a PhD in Chinese politics and an MBA from the Ross School of Business, Daniel has taught political science at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, founded and led Ford Motor Company’s China sourcing operations, consulted in China for PwC and Deloitte, managed an economic development program at the University of Michigan, and led strategy and fundraising for a Washtenaw County educational nonprofit.
“IHAA is a practical, real-world incarnation of the international, cross-cultural perspective that has animated my entire career. I am honored to be able to use my years in global business and education to help IHAA provide more students the invaluable experiences it has to offer.”
As the Director of the International Center at the University of Michigan, Dr. Judith Pennywell oversees international student, scholar, and employee services as well as global engagement and education abroad programming. Judith has more than 25 years of experience in the fields of International Education Administration and Student Affairs, and has taught leadership and multicultural education courses. Her professional background includes managing immigration services, education abroad, cultural programming, international student recruitment, ESL, partnerships and agreements. Judith earned a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University with research focused on campus internationalization. Judith is the Chair of the 2019 NAFSA: Association of International Educators Annual Conference and Expo, the largest gathering of professionals in this field. She previously served on the board of the Association of International Education Administrators and was an AIEA Presidential Fellow. In her free time, Judith enjoys singing in a local chorus. She has traveled around the world for work and for cultural tourism, including study abroad in Spain and South Africa, a Fulbright Award to South Korea, and a faculty fellowship in Qatar.
Angelo Pitillo is Director of the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan. He oversees programs providing language and academic instruction to international graduate students and preparing undergraduates to teach ESL in local communities and abroad. He serves on the University’s Council on Global Engagement, Campus Climate committee, and Islamophobia Working Group. Before coming to Ann Arbor, Angelo worked for more than twenty years as a teacher and administrator in English language programs in the US, Japan, and the Middle East. His work is informed by his own experience as an international graduate student in Germany and a professor of English in Japan. He has also worked as a freelance journalist writing about arts and popular culture for publications in the US, Ireland, China, and Japan. In his free time, Angelo is a beginner pianist and avid hiker and cyclist. He travels frequently to explore new cultures and maintain connections to friends around the world.
Rabbi Robert Dobrusin is Rabbi Emeritus of Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor. He served as rabbi of Beth Israel from 1988 to 2018. Rabbi Dobrusin received his B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University and an M.A. and Rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In 2010, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from JTS .and served as rabbi at Beth Israel from 1988-until his retirement this past June. His essays and sermons have appeared in several anthologies and journals. He also writes a blog on his website at robdobrusin.com and recently published a book entitled The Long Way Around: Stories and Sermons from a Life’s Journey
Rabbi Dobrusin is an active supporter of many different Jewish organizations and is a former national co-chair for T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call For Human Rights. He is a founding member of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County and has served on the board of directors of the Round Table and of several other community agencies. In 2015, Rabbi Dobrusin was honored as one of the 33 most inspiring rabbis in America by The Forward.
Linda Kentes has a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language and a twenty-two year background in International Education. She taught English as a Foreign Language (in Germany) and English as a Second Language (in Ann Arbor). After spending a number of years teaching academic preparation ESL, she launched, owned, and operated a successful language school which focused on English for business purposes. At the University of Michigan, Linda was the Assistant Director of the International Center for about a dozen years, supervising the office of International Student and Scholar Services. During that time, she sat on the ECIR Board of Directors for a couple of years. Currently, Linda is serving as the Academic Chief of Staff in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, where she partners with the LSA Dean to fulfill the college’s mission and vision. Her passion is to engage in public diplomacy by supporting the dreams and education of international students.
Elena teaches at the U-M School of Information, where she leads courses on Graphic and Interaction Design for audiences that include graduate and undergraduate, youth and adult, local and international students.
Daniel J. Cramer
Mr. Cramer is the managing partner of the law firm of Cramer, Minock & Sweeney PLC in Ann Arbor. He has been a practicing attorney since 1978 and focuses his practice on commercial transactions, taxation, estate planning, and probate proceedings.
After my family hosted 10 exchange students through Youth for Understanding, I began a career in facility management as a house director on the University of Michigan campus. My fascination with both areas led me to volunteering at IHAA.