Staff & Board

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Autumn Weil

Executive Director
Autumn comes to International House with fourteen years of non-profit leadership experience. Her area of expertise is building brand equity through communications and fundraising, which has led to internal and external capacity building. Those who know her describe her leadership has dynamic, visionary, and gracious. She holds a BS in Education from Indiana University and a MS in Management & Leadership from Western Governors University. She is a trained coach and a Certified Fund Raising Executive. Autumn's background includes leading education organizations, with ESL and Citizenship programs, serving as past-president to NC Literacy Association, the Title II Representative on the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board, and President of the AFP Western NC Chapter. She and her husband, Stephen, enjoy traveling to hike and catch sunrises on the beach.
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Nina Batson

Citizen Diplomacy Program Manager
Nina is the Program Associate with the Citizen Diplomacy Program at International House. Originally from the Republic of Georgia, she has called Charlotte home for 13 years. She has a degree in International Relations and Political Science from University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Nina has worked at the International House previously as an intern and during that time was chosen as the Global Ties’ Emerging Leader in 2015. She is genuinely happy about being a part of this team and contributing to this great cause that unites us all.
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Johnelle M. Causwell

Citizen Diplomacy Program Director
Johnelle has been working with International House since 2012. Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, she graduated from Warren Wilson College with a major in Economics and a minor in Political Science. Under Johnelle's leadership, the Citizen Diplomacy Department has been recognized by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with the 2020 Community Leadership Award for North Carolina. She has been selected by the Mecklenburg Times as one of the Fifty Most Influential Women of 2020. She is the 2019 recipient of the Charlotte International Rotary Club's Under 40 Global Service Award. She received the 2018 Business Professional of the Year Award from the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs-Charlotte Chapter. Johnelle was selected as one of Charlotte's Top 40 Under 40 Professionals by the Charlotte Business Journal for 2016 and was the 2013 recipient of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce's Young Professional Newcomer of the Year Award. She has served as Chairwoman of the Charlotte International Cabinet has been appointed to the Board of Trustees for the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.
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Jorge Fernandez

Development Director
Jorge joins International House as Development Director after 14 fruitful years as the Major Gifts Officer at WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR news station. Born in Havana, Cuba, Jorge emigrated to the U.S. as a seven-year-old with his family. After stops in Cranford, NJ, and New York City, the family settled in Southeast Florida, where his siblings remain. After the welcome he and his family received as Cuban immigrants, Jorge is delighted for the opportunity to “give back” through fundraising efforts to an organization as worthy and fundamentally essential as International House. In his free time, Jorge enjoys reading, cinema, music and cooking, especially Cuban fare, his specialty baking flan. He’s a big fan of both ATP tennis and Jeff Beck and has been known to kneel at the altar of Roger Federer and cross state lines to see Jeff Beck in concert. Jorge holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Minnesota.
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Jelena Giric-Held

Immigration Clinic Director
An immigrant herself, Jelena came from Serbia in 1999. She developed a strong interest in immigration law and graduated from CPCC’s Paralegal Program in 2006. While at school, she heard of International House, and in 2004 started to volunteer at its Immigration Law Clinic as a paralegal. Since then, Jelena wore different hats within the organization, became a BIA Accredited Representative in 2008, and in 2014, the Clinic Director. Jelena has a background in Middle Eastern languages, majoring in Arabic and Turkish languages and literature from the University of Belgrade, School of Philology, in Serbia, former Yugoslavia. Coming from a country that went through civil war and witnessing its dissolution, Jelena personally understands and has great empathy for refugees, asylees, and other immigrants the Clinic serves and who have found their new home in Charlotte and the United States. She is married to Goran, who also comes from Serbia.
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Alma Hernandez

Client Services Director
Alma has a bachelor's degree from Southern Methodist University, (Dallas, TX). Volunteering for at-risk high school students inspired her to become a teacher. She worked for a decade in Education, teaching Bilingual/ESL elementary K-5; often leading after-school programs and tutoring for students and parents. Since her arrival in Charlotte seven years ago, she has been a community and political activist and grassroots organizer. She holds officer and board positions with organizations throughout Mecklenburg. She spends her free time playing sports, fostering kittens and volunteering for various local groups. Alma's family emigrated from Mexico in search of a better life. Having to learn English and the 'American' culture, she understands the struggles of immigrants and low-income families. Working at the International House allows her to interact, work with and serve the community.
Email Alma at
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Stephanie D. Peterson

Immigration Law Attorney
Stephanie joins International House as an Immigration Attorney. She holds a BA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and received her JD from Elon University School of Law. During her time at Elon Law, Stephanie interned at Legal Aid of North Carolina with their Battered Immigrant Project, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Dummit Fradin, and Orlando Center for Justice, thus gaining experience in both the nonprofit and private sector . She is committed to helping immigrants navigate the U.S. immigration system and better access the resources they need to succeed. She is licensed in the District of Columbia. In her free time she enjoys traveling with her husband.
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Samantha Williams

Volunteer & Events Coordinator
Originally coming to International House as an AmeriCorps member, Samantha serves as the International House’s Volunteer Coordinator. She is a native of Charlotte but has spent the last 8 years living in Greensboro where she earned a BA in International and Global studies at UNC-Greensboro. She recently returned to Charlotte to work on a Master’s degree in Communications at Queen’s University.
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Liz Zipperer

Supervising Immigration Attorney
Liz studied International Studies and Spanish at Virginia Tech. She attended law school in North Carolina, and graduated with Pro-Bono Honors distinctions. Liz was recognized for the highest distinction of having completed over 300 hours of pro-bono service in the Charlotte area. Liz is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association, Mecklenburg County Bar, and American Immigration Lawyers Association. As a daughter of a first generation Mexican immigrant she has a personal as well as an academic understanding of the political and economic struggles in the countries from which many immigrants flee. Her understanding has inspired her desire to devote her legal career to the immigrant community.
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Charles Lansden

Winstead PC

Cynthia Aziz

Vice President
Aziz Law Firm

Satoshi Watanabe

Wells Fargo & Company

Stephanie Spicer

Luquire George Andrews

Vince Altamura

Wells Fargo & Company

John Barquin

Duke Energy

Alba Belegu

Wells Fargo & Company

Dr. Maha Gingrich

Wells Fargo & Company

Dana Hicks

Gene Katz

Retired, Wells Fargo & Company

Janet Malkemes

Retired, CPCC

Sam Smith

United Way of Central Carolinas

Luis Tochiki

Principal, LTArchitecture

Joe Woerner

XCultureBridge, LLC