J.C. Thomas III serves as Director of External Affairs for Sempra International. In his position, Mr. Thomas is responsible for governmental affairs, community relations, media and marketing strategies for the company. Prior to joining Sempra International, Mr. Thomas has held positions with San Diego Gas & Electric, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, in regulatory affairs, customer service, public affairs and fire preparedness. Prior to joining SDG&E in 2002, Mr. Thomas served as regional director of government relations for a broadband telecommunications company and served as chief of policy with the San Diego City Council.Read more
Mr. Thomas currently serves on the Smart Border Coalition Board of Directors, San Diego Fire-Rescue Foundation Board of Directors and the Institute of the Americas Energy Committee. Mr. Thomas is a graduate of San Diego State University and resides in Solana Beach, California.
Amanda Lettmann, a US Air Force Veteran, is the Chief Operating Officer of Simple Disability Insurance, a Software as a service technology company based in Silicon Valley. Over the past 20 years, recognized as a business transformation leader, Amanda has accelerated the global adoption of hi-tech and digital marketing solutions in both startups and Fortune 500 companies. In addition, as the Founder and CEO of 6Elements Consulting she also coaches other entrepreneurs, executives and veterans, in the areas of branding, leadership, and business performance. Read more
Amanda’s diplomacy started when she served on active duty in the United States Air Force. Stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (AFB) and in support of Air Force One at Andrews AFB, she deployed as a member of Operation Northern Watch and lived in Turkey. In addition, Amanda has made international relationships during her travel to over 40 countries.
Amanda holds a MBA in Technology Management and Certifications in Coaching, Program and Change Management, and Business Effectiveness. She supports and advocates for Small Businesses, Women in Tech, and Veterans in Tech.
Rajan, currently, is the Director of Accounting at Sempra Energy. He has been with Sempra Energy for almost 20 years and has had various leadership position in the area of accounting, finance and income taxes. Prior to Sempra, Rajan was also in public accounting with the accounting firm of Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Aside from his volunteer work with the Diplomacy Council, Rajan also volunteered his time and talents to Coronado School of the Arts Foundation, Grant School Community Foundation, and the San Diego Children’s Choir Parent Association.
Yen Tu was born in Saigon, Vietnam and came to the United States as a refugee with her family in 1977. She is one of 10 children. A San Diego resident since 1978, she graduated from UCSD in 1990 with a BA degree in Chinese Studies. Yen owns a consulting business focused on marketing, community outreach and special events. Her clients include the Chinese Historical Museum, City of San Diego, BAME CDC, Asian Business Association, Center City Development Corporation (CCDC), San Diego Chinese Center, I Love a Clean San Diego, and Linda Vista Multi-Cultural Fair. Read more
Yen’s previous positions include serving as the Community Relations Manager for Viejas Enterprises, Executive Director for the Asian Business Association, Senior Campaigner for United Way of San Diego County, and Legislative Aid for two City of San Diego Council Members, and one San Diego County Supervisor.
After graduating from the University of Southern California where she served as a Research Fellow at the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, JohannaAfshani worked as Special Assistant to then-former President Ronald Reagan in Century City, California. Johanna is an attorney with specialized training in mediation from Pepperdine Law School’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution and Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation. Johanna serves on the Board of Directors of the National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC). Read more
She is the Chair of the NCRC-KPBS Community Heroes Selection Committee, which honors individuals who make significant contributions to our community and give selflessly to build civility in San Diego. In addition, Johanna sits on the Board of the San Diego Diplomacy Council and is the Chair of the Cultural Diplomacy series. She attributes her passion for world affairs to her multicultural French, Iranian and American background, as well as her travels around the globe.
Sharon Payne is currently a Financial Advisor with Multi-Ventures, Inc. – a real estate and management company that owns or has owned hotels, office buildings, a community shopping center and mini-warehouses in San Diego over the years. Sharon also owned and operated financial planning practice specializing in socially responsible investing and managed as many as 300 clients at peak. Read more
Sharon currently volunteers at the Museum School Collaborative as well as the Worldview Project. She created, curates and leads an international cultural themed book club since 2014.
Sharon places a special personal emphasis on issues of globalization, social inequality, sustainability and especially, causes and ramifications of deep poverty.
Christie Thoene serves as senior director of public affairs for Qualcomm. In this role, she is responsible for managing external communications regarding U.S. and international policy, regulatory and legal matters. Christie also serves as a special assistant to Qualcomm’s general counsel.In this capacity, Christie works closely with Qualcomm’s senior management and executive team to position Qualcomm and its leading-edge technologies with lawmakers, the media, think tanks, and advocacy coalitions. Read more
Her work covers a wide range of complex public policy and legal issues including litigation, intellectual property rights, antitrust, mergers and acquisitions, tax and immigration policy, and state and local issues. Prior to her work at Qualcomm, Christie was a partner in the San Diego office of the law firm Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith LLP. She received her Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law (’94) and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Central and East European Studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder (’91).
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.
Cody Perron is Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer of Fidelis Global Group – a security and travel risk management consulting firm serving a wide array of clients. He is a former Special Agent at the U.S. State Department and a U.S. Marine veteran who possesses nearly two decades of experience developing, implementing, and managing security programs in government and private sectors. In his role as a special agent at diplomatic facilities abroad, Cody advised fellow diplomats on safety and security strategies, and conducted close protection for multiple U.S. Secretaries of State, congressional delegations, and colleagues in Baghdad, Iraq, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Erbil, Iraq, Beijing, China, Moscow, Russia.Read more
Cody is a graduate George Mason University in Fairfax, VA where he earned Cum Laude honors when obtaining his Bachelor of Arts in Global Affairs, with a focus on Russia and Central Asia. He is currently finalizing his Masters of Science in Organizational Leadership at National University in San Diego, CA and has dedicated his thesis research to discovering best practices in leadership across international cultures.
Cody has a passion for international travel, studying international culture, cuisine, and languages. He has traveled to over 40 countries as a special agent and has recently authored the book “Agents Unknown – True Stories of Life as a Special Agent in the Diplomatic Security Service.”
Ram Rajagopalan is an engineer by profession. He pursued his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from West Virginia University, Morgantown WV. During his graduate studies as a member for India Student Association he was responsible for event planning, coordination and fundraising activities, also as a student researcher he has traveled to Germany, Sri Lanka and Canada. After graduating from WVU , he joined Hughes Network Systems to work on mobile satellite communication systems at their Washington D.C. office. Read more
After 5 years of career as a wireless engineer at Hughes, Ram decided it was time for a change of scenery (and weather) and moved to sunny San Diego, where he was offered a Senior Engineer position at Qualcomm. In addition to engineering, Ram is a regular contributor to non-profits and an enthusiastic Mountaineers and Steelers fan. He is an ardent swimmer, numismatist and a stamp collector.
Ryan is the Director of Strategic Advancement at San Diego Grantmakers, a regional association of more than 120 foundations, corporate philanthropy programs, giving circles, donor-advised funds, grantmaking public charities and government funders where he leads the expansion of SDG’s efforts in membership growth, resource development, public policy, and communications. Previously leading the San Diego Center for Civic Engagement at the San Diego Foundation, Ryan’s career in philanthropy and community organizing has leveraged over $2.5bn in infrastructure funding and directly raised $15m for local charities. Read more
Ryan moved to San Diego from Brisbane, Australia, where he spent five years as a policy and media adviser in the federal government on the portfolios of financial services, industry and innovation. An active writer and thinker about future directions in philanthropy, Ryan has authored thought pieces and OP-EDs in numerous national publications and has been a speaker at internationally renowned conferences such as South By South West (SXSW), the Public Relations Society of America’s International Conference (PRSA ICON), Social Media Week, and more locally at Politifest and the Cause Conference on themes focused on civic technology and immersive storytelling.
Jeremy Martin, Vice President Energy & Sustainability Jeremy M. Martin is Vice President, Energy & Sustainability at the Institute of the Americas, an inter-American public policy think-tank located at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). The Institute of the Americas Energy & Sustainability Program works to foster a deeper understanding of the most critical energy issues facing the Western Hemisphere.Read more
Jeremy spends his time delving into the geopolitics of energy and closely following energy industry trends and policy issues across the Americas, and is a frequent commentator and writer on Latin American and energy issues. Jeremy has testified before the US Congress on energy issues in Latin America, teaches a graduate course in Latin American Energy Policy at UCSD and the University of San Diego (USD) and serves on the Board of Advisors for the Inter-American Dialogue’s Energy Advisor newsletter. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the San Diego Diplomacy Council and is a member of the host committee for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation San Diego Chapter annual Bet on Cures event. Thanks to his upbringing, he is a diehard Red Sox fan, Civil War buff, and news junkie. Jeremy graduated with honors in History from The Citadel in Charleston, SC and a Masters in International Affairs/International Development from the American University in Washington, DC. He has yet to achieve his lifelong dream of being a Stand-Up Comic.
Mark J. Ballam serves as Managing Director for San Diego State University’s Center for International Business Education and Research (SDSU CIBER). SDSU CIBER is a national center of excellence funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. One of only fifteen centers nationwide, SDSU CIBER was first established in 1989. The Center assists in linking workforce and information needs of U.S. business with the international education, language training, and research capabilities of universities across the U.S. Read more
Ballam came to SDSU in 2005, after eight years at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Before Georgia Tech, he had a twelve year career in the banking industry. Since his arrival at SDSU, he has been instrumental in raising more than $7.5 million in grants and gifts.
Diana Adjadj is a litigation attorney and founder of the law firm, Adjadj Legal Group. After earning her Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Southern California, Diana returned to San Diego where she offered a dean academic scholarship and earned her Juris Doctor Cum Laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Upon her admission to the State Bar of California, Diana accepted a position in Beirut, Lebanon where she served as Counsel for Mena City Lawyers. During her time in Lebanon, Diana assisted in the formation of multinational business entities focused on medical services and technology, as well as representing international corporations in cross-border negotiations and complex commercial agreements. Read more
When not working Diana enjoys playing tennis, is an avid reader and volunteers for local organizations including Junior Achievement a non-profit dedicated to teaching children financial literacy. Diana is drawn to the San Diego Diplomacy Council because of her passion for international relations, dedication to cultural awareness and desire to stay connected to international realm.
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.