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 works on the local level to administer the US Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) along with other international professional and youth exchange programs. Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, she graduated from Warren Wilson College with a major in Economics and a minor in Political Science. She was instrumental in the conception and launch of the Young Professionals at International House and has overseen the growth of this organization to one of Charlotte’s leading Young Professional groups. She currently serves as Staff Liaison. 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 is very committed to community service in Charlotte and has received recognition for her work from the Carolinas Asian Chamber of Commerce and the Mecklenburg County Chapter of the NAACP. She has received numerous awards for her work and service in the community including: The Mecklenburg Times Fifty Most Influential Women of 2020, Charlotte International Rotary Club's 2019 Under 40 Global Service Award, 2018 Business Professional of the Year Award from the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs-Charlotte Chapter, Charlotte Business Journal 2016 Top 40 Under 40 Professionals, and Charlotte Chamber of Commerce's Young Professional Newcomer of the Year Award 2013. She is the immediate past Chairwoman of the Charlotte International Cabinet, still serving with a portfolio in International Business. She has served on the Board of Trustees for the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Charlotte Sister Cities Organization and is a founding member and Co-Chair of the Charlotte International Women's Day Planning Committee. Johnelle has previously served on the Multicultural Advisory Board at Johnson C. Smith University, on the Alumni Board of her Alma Mater, Warren Wilson College, and on the Executive Board of the 4th District of the American Advertising Federation.
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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.
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Ingrid Linzan

Operations Specialist
Ingrid joins International House as an Operations Specialist and brings with her 20 years of accounting experience. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY; she began her career working with a non-profit organization in Manhattan. Ingrid relocated to Charlotte, NC six years ago, and earned her Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Strayer University while balancing a career in the corporate world. Ultimately, Ingrid sensed her calling and decided to return to working with non-profit organizations. In one word, Ingrid would describe herself as “thankful,” and appreciates her blessings. She is passionate about making a difference in her community and strives to achieve her many goals while setting a great example for her children. During her leisure time, Ingrid enjoys walking through parks and reading mystery novels.
Email Ingrid at
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Stephanie D. Peterson

Immigration Law Attorney
Stephanie Peterson is a bilingual immigration attorney licensed in the District of Columbia. Prior to joining International House, Stephanie interned at non-profits such as Legal Aid of NC, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and Orlando Center for Justice. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Elon University School of Law and her undergraduate degree in political science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Stephanie is devoted to helping clients with limited resources, as she is passionate about making a meaningful, positive, and personal difference in the immigrant community. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with family.
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Erin Phelps

Education Coordinator and Instructor
After various English teaching experiences abroad and in Charlotte, Erin accepted a position while interning with International House. Born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and raised in Leland, North Carolina, Erin is also a member of the Waccamaw Siouan and Lumbee Native American tribes. She is a Wingate University alumna who majored in History and Sociology with a Political Science minor. After she graduated, Erin moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and worked as an English teacher at two different Cambodian universities. Since moving back to the US, she has taught ESL with the YMCA, CPCC, and has also had private tutoring sessions in her and her student’s homes. She loves being in the classroom with people from various cultures, and she is excited to teach and coordinate with various educational partners at International House. Erin spends her free time teaching herself guitar, listening to podcasts, taking road trips, and trying new foods.
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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 and a Graduate degree in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. She returned to Charlotte in 2016 to work on a Master’s degree in Communications at Queen’s University, graduating in May of 2018. She spends her free time reading, working with rescued dogs, and hanging out with her family.
Email Samantha at
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Liz Zipperer

Supervising Immigration Attorney
Liz Zipperer is the Supervising Attorney at International House’s Law Clinic. Liz has extensive experience in the preparation of complex immigration cases, including, but not limited to naturalization, adjustment of status, waivers, consular processing, removal of conditions, and petitions. She has devoted her career to helping clients navigate complex government regulations to achieve their immigration dreams. As the daughter of an immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico, Liz appreciates the plight of immigrants and is passionate about representing clients through their journey. She is determined to ensure that all individuals have equal access to outstanding legal representation and to defend immigrants’ rights. Liz received her Juris Doctorate from Charlotte School of Law, where she was awarded a Merit Scholarship based on her academic achievements. During law school, she was awarded Pro Bono Honors Distinctions for completing over 300 hours of pro-bono service while interning at several non-profit agencies. Prior to law school, Liz received a Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies and a second Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish from Virginia Tech. She is a member of the North Carolina Bar and AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association). She spends her free time outdoors (hiking, camping, mountain biking, etc.) with her husband and daughter.
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Gene Katz

Retired, Wells Fargo & Company

Stephanie Spicer

President Elect
Luquire George Andrews

Sam Smith

United Way of Central Carolinas

Janet Malkemes

Retired, CPCC

Cynthia Aziz

Aziz Law Firm

Dana Hicks

International Business Consultant

Charles Lansden

Winstead PC

Amit Mehta

Wells Fargo & Company

Niketa Mittal

Chair YP@IH

Cristina Moncayo

Duke Energy

Luis Tochiki

Principal, LTArchitecture

Joachim Woerner

XCultureBridge, LLC