The San Diego Diplomacy Council’s Advisory Board meets periodically to provide expert insights and feedback on the San Diego Diplomacy Council’s programs and strategic initiatives and assist the Council with identifying and fostering new connections and opportunities.
Advisory Board Chair
George was born in Louisiana and grew up in a US Air Force family that lived in many parts of the world. He graduated from high school in Naples, Italy, where his father was Commander of Allied Air Forces (NATO) in Southern Europe. He attended Yale University and graduated with a BA in International Relations. Following Law School at Louisiana State University, he began practicing law as a criminal prosecutor with the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Read more
During his 35-year career, he specialized in white collar criminal prosecutions and served, among other jobs, as Chief of the Criminal Division in the US Attorney’s Office in San Francisco, and Chief of the Major Frauds Section in the US Attorney’s Office in San Diego. In the last five years of his career with DOJ, George worked in Southeast Europe as a legal advisor to several different countries and missions. For two years he lived and worked in Bucharest, Romania, where he was Resident Legal Advisor to the SECI Center (now SELEC), a platform for law enforcement cooperation in fighting organized crime, with representatives from 12 countries in the region. Later, he returned to the area on several occasions to provide guidance and training on Rule of Law issues. For example, he trained Macedonian judges, prosecutors and police on their new criminal procedure code; he conducted an analysis of Montenegrin efforts to combat corruption within the country; and he helped draft the new criminal procedure code for Kosovo. In San Diego, George has many interests including singing, tennis, jogging, and hiking. He is Immediate Past President of the Spreckels Organ Society, and currently Chair of Friends of Balboa Park, the non-profit organization devoted to preserving Balboa Park’s legacy for future generations through park-wide projects. George completed 6 years on the Board of the San Diego Diplomacy Council in June of 2018.
Bruce previously served as the Chair of the International Affairs Board for the City of San Diego. He is also serves on Sheriff Gores Advisory Board, Mayors Faulconer’s Advisory Board, and as Chair of the City of San Diego’s Human Relations Commission (HRC) for four of his eight years with the HRC. He also served as a San Diego County Commissioner on the Social Service Advisory Board for three years. Prior board service includes: Anti-Defamation League of San Diego, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Conflict Resolution Center, ACLU, and Equality California. Read more
Bruce came to San Diego in 1981 to attend Law School and has remained a dedicated, engaged citizen of our community. Throughout Bruce’s successful law career, he worked with many underrepresented people. Bruce has been a guest lecturer at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam law school for four years speaking on American law and current legal issues . Bruce has traveled to every continent except Antarctica. He speaks French, Hebrew, conversational Spanish, and studied Dutch and German. His professional and volunteer activities reflect his deep longing for a better world.
Knox Bell has been a business transaction attorney in San Diego for more than 50 years, with the law firm of Gray Cary, now named DLA Piper. The law firm has more than 4,000 attorneys, in more than 45 countries. Knox’s area of legal practice has been focused on entrepreneurial technology companies, and biomedical research organizations.Read more
For personal cultural travel experiences, Knox has traveled in more than 100 countries. Knox has a law degree from UCLA (1968), and a bachelor degree from UC-Davis. Knox studied for one year (1961-62) at the University in Aix-en-Provence, France. Knox is pleased to be a citizen of the global world, and he is eager to expand his knowledge and interests worldwide.
Mr. Robert “Bob” Ciaffa is an attorney recently retired from the U.S. Department of Justice. For over 25 years, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, first in Miami and most recently San Diego, where he investigated and prosecuted a wide variety of criminal offenses, many involving transnational organized crime. Mr. Ciaffa was also the office’s International Coordinator, providing in-house expertise and guidance on international matters, such as foreign evidence gathering and extradition, and conducting meetings and seminars for foreign professionals under the International Visitor Leadership Program.Read more
Mr. Ciaffa also served as the Department of Justice’s Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and Mexico City. Mr. Ciaffa is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C., where he earned a Juris Doctor/Master of Science in Foreign Service. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and speaks Italian and Spanish.
James C. Clark
James Clark is Managing Director and Director of Development for California/Bajio Associates. C/BA works to link academic, business and civic enterprises between the Californias (California/Baja California) and the Bajio region of Mexico (Queretaro/Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, Aguascalientes and Michoacan). Clark is currently serving as a Chula Vista City Commissioner on the International Friendship Commission and is Senior Advisor to the Institute of the Americas. Clark is a native of Illinois, and a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana with a B.S. in Marketing. Read more
After military service in New York, Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Würzburg, Germany, he began his professional career in San Diego as an advertising account executive. Among his clients at the time were the San Diego Padres, Caliente Racecourse, and various real estate developments. With a partner, he moved north to found a Los Angeles-based magazine company to publish airline in-flight magazines. When he left that company—East/West Network—ten years later, more than 60 percent of all flights in the United States carried the company’s magazines. Following publishing ventures included serving as President/Publisher of San Francisco Magazine, the city magazine for the Bay Area, and Publisher of The Executive, a business magazine that profiled Los Angeles and Orange County companies through the eyes of those companies’ chief executive officers. Clark was also Director of Magazine Development at Freedom Communications in Irvine, and interim publisher of both World Trade and Latin Trade magazines, based in Irvine and Miami, respectively.
Prior to leading the California/Bajio Associates, Clark was the Founding Executive Director of the San Diego/Tijuana Smart Border Coalition (2007/2017). The Coalition is the leading bi-national organization working to ease border wait times between California and Baja California. It is the only regional organization with board members equally from Both San Diego and Tijuana. The Coalition also promotes the San Diego-Tijuana Region for investment, and is an advocacy group for bi-national border efficiency issues in Mexico City and Washington. Clark was the founding Director of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Mexico Business Center and led the organization for 11 years (2003-2014). Before joining the SDRCC, he was Director for the Californias of the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, based in Los Angeles (1997-2003). The United States-Mexico Chamber is headquartered in Washington, D. C. with sub-headquarters in Mexico City.
Clark has served on the Advisory Boards of San Diego Citizen’s Diplomacy Council, XLNC1 Classical Radio and LEAD San Diego. He has been a Member of the Board of Directors of the International Community Foundation and Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center as well as having served as the U.S. California Regional Team Leader for FUMEC and BIMI (Border Intelligent Manufacturing Initiative). He is a member of the North American Competitiveness Initiative of the George W. Bush Center, Dallas. He also continues as an Honorary Board Member of the San Diego/Tijuana Smart Border Coalition as well as being an honorary board member of Mainly Mozart 25 and the South (San Diego) County Economic Development Council. He was inducted into the Tijuana Paseo de la Fama in 2015.
Clark has been honored by the Congress of the United States, California State Senate, the State of Baja California, the Consulates General of Canada, Mexico and the United States, Tijuana Economic Development Corporation, Tijuana Innovadora, Tijuana Economic Development Corporation, and the Mayors of San Diego and Tijuana among others for his service to the region.
As a healthcare executive, Dean was the Chief Executive Officer of Sharp HealthCare in San Diego for some 20 years. In retirement, he served on the board and as president of the International Visitors Council, as the San Diego Diplomacy Council was then known.
Dean is a graduate of UC Berkeley and the Goizuetta School of Business at Emory University. He also studied at Harvard Business School and Christ Church Oxford. His community service includes emeritus membership in the San Diego Rotary Club and its International Committee, as well as volunteering with several Balboa Park organizations.
Judge H. Ronald Domnitz
H. Ronald Domnitz served for 24 years as a Superior Court Judge (1983 – 2007). During his tenure on the bench, he served in numerous court departments, including many years as a Family Law Judge. Since then he has continued to serve as a Family Law Judge on assignment to the San Diego Courts as well as those throughout the State. His prior legal background is rooted in 13 years of private practice with an emphasis in labor relations and family law. He was among the first group of attorneys in California to become a Certified Family Law Specialist. He has represented the American Bar Association in Bosnia and Ukraine by conducting “rule of law” seminars and visits to local court venues. He was the keynote speaker at the first Ukrainian Judges Association meeting held in Kiev.
Dean J. Haas
Dean J. Haas is the principal/owner of DJH Coaching. In his private executive coaching practice, he works with government professionals as well as with clients in the business, educational, healthcare, high tech, think tank and NGO sectors. Dean also serves as a part-time Senior Advisor and Leadership Coach for the U.S. State Department. From 1987 to 2011, Dean served as an officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, retiring with the rank of Minister-Counselor. From 2010-11, he was Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.Read more
His 25 years of diplomatic service saw him assigned to Slovenia, Canada, Turkey, and Colombia. Approximately half of his career was spent in leadership positions in Washington DC. Dean has served on the extended staff of the Secretary of State and as a Deputy Executive Secretary on the National Security Council staff at the White House. He is a native of Chula Vista, a graduate of UCSD, and returned to live in San Diego full-time in 2017.
Jordan Harrison is a professional speaker, DEI consultant and international youth development specialist born in Chicago, IL. He earned his BS from San Diego State and his Masters in Education from Harvard University. Most importantly, he is a disruptor to make a difference. He lives a mission driven life focused on eradicating inequality with the constant reminder of our collective shared humanity. His work has allowed him to speak to over 250,000 people in boardrooms, classrooms, prisons and conferences on anti-racism, equity, inclusion, and how to build people and institutions to thrive across differences.
He is currently the Senior Manager for Global Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. His work is centered on designing global strategies that promote equity, access, and belonging for underrepresented groups in the biotechnology field. He helps enables senior leaders, employee resource networks and all employees to build equitable spaces.
Chinyeh Hostler was born and raised in Taiwan. After finishing college, she came to the United States to pursue higher education, first studying at Columbia University in New York for a year and a half, later relocating to San Diego. Upon graduating from San Diego State University and working for large financial firms for several years, she realized her deep desire was to travel and to learn about different cultures and people. Thus, she established an import and export company which allowed her to explore many parts of the world. So far, she has been to 150 countries and is eager to visit more.
Chinyeh’s late husband, Charles Hostler, Ph.D., was a distinguished U.S. Ambassador and received medals from 9 countries and 4 religious leaders. She works diligently to carry on his philanthropic legacy at the Charles Hostler Institute on World Affairs at SDSU and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, among other non-profit organizations. Chinyeh is working on her own philanthropic projects, and is also a member of the Advisory Board of San Diego World Affairs Council.
Kit is a long-time member of the San Diego Diplomacy Council and its predecessor, the International Visitors Council of San Diego. Over the years she and her family have enjoyed entertaining international visitors and had dinner with our Vietnamese IVLP delegates last Friday. Her interest in international relations was sparked by a year spent studying in France on a Fulbright scholarship. She holds a BA and MA in French language and literature and, as a returning adult, studied journalism at San Diego State University.
Hon. Richard C. Matheron
Former U.S. Ambassador
Mary McKenzie. J.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Mary McKenzie received her BA from Georgetown University and her MA and PhD in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. More recently, Dr. McKenzie received her J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law. During her graduate studies, she spent several years in Germany, where she studied German foreign policy in the context of transatlantic relations. She was also awarded a MacArthur postdoctoral research fellowship at the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt to investigate international security institutions. In 2001, Dr. McKenzie was selected to participate in an International Faculty Development Seminar on Contemporary Cuba, sponsored by the Council for International Educational Exchange.Read more
Since receiving her Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1994, Dr. McKenzie has taught regularly in the Political Science Department. She also has taught at California State University, San Marcos and at Grossmont College. At USD, Dr. McKenzie teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses in international relations, including International Organizations, American Foreign Policy, Politics and the Environment, International Human Rights, and Model UN.
Alex Montoya is an activist, award-winning public speaker, thought leader, and director of the Alex Montoya Foundation in San Diego who focuses on inspiration, inclusion, and diversity and celebrates disability and immigrant communities. He has written eight books, including a children’s book about inclusion and has a podcast “The Alex Montoya Podcast.”
Alex has won a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the San Diego Hispanic Chamber; was given a Medal of Honor from the Colombian government; and carried the Olympic Torch in 1996. He has delivered his message for audiences including Google, NASA, Harvard, and the NFL’s Denver Broncos. Alex earned his Bachelor Degree at the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s from the University of San Francisco.
Alex is on the Board of Directors for the Gurmilan Foundation, which supports people with disabilities in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. A native of Medellin, Colombia, Alex immigrated as a youth to San Diego, California, where he resides.
Fern P. Nelson M.D.
Born in Detroit Michigan, Dr. Fern P. Nelson graduated from Wellesley College (1975) and University of Michigan Medical School (1980). Her dermatology residency was completed at University of Illinois where she remained as an Assistant Clinical Instructor teaching dermatology residents and students. She served as Division Chair of Dermatology at West Side Veterans Administration Hospital, was well as having a private practice (1984-2000). Dr. Nelson joined the faculty of the Department of Dermatology at UCSD upon her move to southern California in 2002. She was head of medical student education in Dermatology as well as teaching dermatology residents until her recent retirement in 2020. Dr. Nelson is a founding member of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art, and member of the Balboa Park Conservancy.
Carl Nettleton is an award-winning writer, speaker, and subject matter expert regarding water, climate, sustainability, the ocean, and U.S. Mexico affairs. His consultancy, Nettleton Strategies, helps clients to move toward the future by providing analysis, insight, and strategic problem-solving. He is also the founder of OpenOceans Global, an international NGO focused on the ocean plastic crisis. Carl serves on the national and California advisory councils for Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national, nonpartisan group of business owners, investors and others who advocate for policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. He is the co-chair of the San Diego Water Conservation Action Committee (CAC). Business memberships include the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce, Lambda Alpha, the South County Economic Development Council, the Border Philanthropy Partnership, and the Smart Border Coalition. As a member and past president of the Kiwanis Club of San Diego and a board member of the club’s foundation, Carl helps to serve the local community through philanthropy and service.
Elena Salsitz is one of the community’s leading experts in the field of protocol, diplomacy and management of visits of dignitaries, diplomats and high-level international and domestic guests of the city. After working as chief of protocol for the NASA/Johnson Space Center and an assignment at the White House, she amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience in managing all logistics and details surrounding visits of hundreds of dignitaries from across the country and around the world. Read more
Elena has extended the reach of the protocol office to several organizations, including the San Diego County Hotel-Motel Association, World Affairs Council, San Diego World Trade Center, Japan Society of San Diego/Tijuana and the San Diego Concierge Association. She also coordinated making the 9/11 Day of Remembrance and established strong ties with the San Diego area military community. Elena has established strong ties with many sectors and sub-communities within the city, and during her tenure, San Diego has gained an additional two sister cities: Jalalabad, Afghanistan and the Shannon Region of Ireland.
Elena has also coordinated or participated in visits by the President, White House officials, international officials and many other notable visitors. Elena participates in community organizations including the Japan Society of San Diego/Tijuana, Citizens Diplomacy Council of S.D., KPBS, Crawford High School Somalian/Ethiopian Refugee Education Program, Bird Rock Elementary’s Homework Help Center, READ San Diego’s Citizenship Exam Preparation Program, Duke University Alumni Admissions Agency, Refugee Services Agency, Better Business Bureau, American Cancer Society and is a graduate of Leadership Houston. Her awards include being listed in Who’s Who Among American Women; the NASA/Johnson Space Center’s Certificate of Commendation, Outstanding Performance Award, Superior Achievement Award and Go the Extra Mile Award; and the NASA Administrator’s Commendation for management of JSC Distinguished Visitors Program.