Jill Schillinger spent the majority of her 19 year career with the Department of Defense, including holding a position as a Program Manager for Foreign Military Sales working closely with US allies. While in this position, Jill represented the US government in foreign policy security assistance efforts, including initiatives to rebuild Bosnia, policy support in Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia, logistic supply efforts with NATO, and development activities in Africa. She has received numerous awards for her contributions to the Federal Government, including an award from the Vice President of the United States, Meritorious Civilian Service Award and Distinguished Civilian Service Award. Read more
Outside her Defense Department experience, Jill was a Program Associate for the United States Information Agency in the International Visitor Division, campaign representative for a former Speaker of the House, and Provost for an Acquisition Education Program within the Federal Government. She has a Masters of Arts Degree in International and Public Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh with special certification in International Political Economy and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and a minor in Economics from the University of Tampa.
Executive Vice President
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. Read more
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.
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 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.
Lidija Obrenovic-Brucker is a JD graduate of the University of Belgrade, School of Law. She has a Masters Degree in Comparative Law with an emphasis in International Law from the University of San Diego, School of Law. Read more
After she moved to San Diego in 1995 from Belgrade, Lidija worked at the San Diego District Attorney’s Office’s Superior Court Division. She was also a founding member of the Lifer Hearing Unit. Lidija has experience working with a local civil law firm as a legal assistant practicing construction defect and employment law.
In 2008, she accepted a position with the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade, as a program liaison on Wanted for War Crimes Program founded by AEGIS Trust in the UK, to improve the enforcement of the international criminal law through building case files on suspected perpetrators.
Currently, Lidija resides in San Diego with her family, raising her two daughters, and managing vacation rental properties. She is an active board member at SDDC.
Richard Bainter is an attorney who advises non-profits, international organizations, and small businesses on matters related to international law and relations. He served as legal counsel to the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and to the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and has been involved in a number of projects to promote democratic governance in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, and Vietnam. Read more
He has also taught classes on international law at the University of California, San Diego and at the University of San Diego School of Law. Ric graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History and received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Denver College of Law. Ric also serves on the National Governing Board of Common Cause, a nonprofit organization that promotes open, honest and accountable government in the United States.
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. Read more
Following Law School at Louisiana State University, he began practicing law as a criminal prosecutor with the US Department of Justice (DOJ). 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 Montenegran 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, biking, and hiking. He is the immediate past president of the Spreckels Organ Society, the non-profit organization devoted to preserving, promoting and programming the Spreckels Organ in Balboa Park, and a member of the Board of Friends of Balboa Park.
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. 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. 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.
Sarah Czarnecki is a PR specialist and works for the public relations firm Nuffer, Smith, Tucker. Previously she has worked with Scott Peters and has numerous political contacts. She is very passionate about supporting the organization and believes it is essential given the current political and social climate. She has previous board and fundraising experience with the nonprofit Encore.
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.
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.
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.