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Board of Directors

Elise Collins Shields, PhD — Co-Founder and CEO

Elise Collins Shields

Dr. Shields is Founder and CEO of CommonWell Institute International, Inc.  She also maintains a consultancy on leadership training, Executive Coaching, cross cultural communication, dialogue and collaboration.

Elise combines her skills as a business/social entrepreneur with training in Conflict Transformation Across Cultures from School for International Training.  Through CommonWell International she forwards the economic, educational and political contributions of women throughout the world.

Following the sale of the company she founded with her husband, Elise completed two masters degrees and a PhD in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology.  Her focus centers around cross cultural understanding and communication.

She was Board Chair and Executive Director for OPUS Archive & Research Center in Santa Barbara, California.  At OPUS she built infrastructure, board of directors, archival collections, and donor base for the organization. 

She currently serves on the Boards of Directors for Karuna Center for Peacebuilding (www.karunacenter.org), Quantum Leaps, Inc. (www.quantumleapsinc) and the Joseph Campbell Foundation (www.jcf.org) in addition to CommonWell Institute International.

Dr. Shields is a member of the Board of Advisors of the University of Arizona’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences as liaison to the National Institute for Civil Discourse.  Additionally, she serves on the Board of Advocates for Americans for UNFPA and as a coach and mentor for the international SupportTED Fellows project. She is located in Tucson, AZ.

Sultana Parvanta — Co-Founder and Project Partner

David B Collins

Dr. Sultana Parvanta grew up in Afghanistan and began her long career as an educator at the age of 16 when, at the urging of her mother, she taught Afghan languages to Peace Corps volunteers in the 1960’s. 

Following her degree from Kabul University she traveled to the U.S. and earned two Master’s degrees and a PhD in the field of Education. She subsequently became a researcher at Johns Hopkins university and taught at Emory University and California State University Monterey Bay, California.

In 2003, Sultana returned to her home country to assist in the rebuilding and redevelopment both economically and in the field of education. She has served in numerous Afghan Ministries including General Director for Planning and Policing - Ministry of Urban Development & Housing, Economic & Business Development, Independent Board of New Kabul City, Ministry of Finance among others.

Dr. Parvanta also served as Chancellor at Cheragh Medical University, Kabul, and Special Projects Assistant at American University, Kabul.

She generously volunteers her time conducting leadership training at the Technical and Vocational Academy, Afghan Relief Organization in Kabul, in addition to spearheading projects on behalf of CommonWell Institute International.

Sultana has served as a mediator, trainer and interpreter for numerous organizations internationally.  She is fluent in Farsi/Dari, English, Pashto and French. Sultana is located in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Mary Beth Ginter, PhD - Vice President

 Mary Beth Ginter, PhD

Currently, Mary Beth Ginter is an Academic Dean at the West Campus of Pima Community College. She came to Pima following the completion of her doctoral work at University of Arizona where she was employed as a Research Associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education, a translator/interpreter in Mexican-American Studies, and as support in the Faculty Center. Prior, Ginter worked and lived in France for two years, and was previously employed at the University of Detroit as Executive Director for Foreign Languages and Cultural Training in Detroit, Michigan. While in Michigan she taught Spanish at colleges, university and high school.

Ginter led groups to Spain and Mexico with the School for International Training (World Learning), and has lived and/or traveled in several countries.  She has worked in the financial field in private sector, and for several years in workforce programs.

Her research interests include social media, the social construction of technology, technology for teaching and learning, and cross-cultural, global partnerships. She has published in these areas in peer-reviewed journals.

Ginter earned her Master of Arts in Spanish and International Trade from Eastern Michigan University and PhD in Higher Education from the University of Arizona. Ginter holds a B.S. in Human Resources & Development from Oakland University of Rochester, Michigan and maintains social work certification from Michigan. She holds the Diplome in French from Université d’Aix-Marseille and Advanced Spanish Certification from Universidad Pontificia, Salamanca, Spain. She currently resides in Tucson, AZ.

Creston Shields, PhD

Creston Shields

Creston Shields graduated from the U.S.Air Force Academy and served as a pilot instructor and Forward Air Controller before receiving his PhD in Operations Research and becoming a professor of Mathematics at the Air Force Academy for ten years.

Following retirement, Creston founded Shields Real Estate, along with his wife, grew the company before selling it in 1996 and taking up photography.

He currently serves as a mentor/tutor in mathematics for students in Tucson, Arizona.

His extensive travel has taken him to Thailand, the Philippines, India, United Arab Emirates and throughout Europe and North America. He remains a citizen of the world and an active promoter of peace as an alternative to war. Creston is located in Tucson, AZ.

Alissa D. Peterson — Treasurer

Alissa Peterson

After earning a B.A. degree in Literature and History from Colorado State University, Alissa entered her initial career as an Executive Recruiter in San Jose, California.  She established a reputation as a top recruiter before moving to Tucson, Arizona, to join the field of real estate.

As a top Realtor in Arizona for national leader Coldwell Banker, Alissa also took time to marry and launch her career as a mother of two children.  Her current endeavors include assisting with forwarding the efforts of Waldorf Schools and creating global citizens of her two children who are currently age 6 and 4. 

Additionally, Alissa is a certified yoga instructor and has trained at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Western Massachusetts.

Alissa has served on numerous boards in addition to CommonWell Institute International, Inc.  Notable are the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault and Aurora Foundation, Inc., in addition to chairing committees for fundraising initiatives for SACASA and Waldorf. She is located in Colorado Springs, CO.

David B. Collins

David B Collins

Based in the Washington DC headquarters, David Collins has served as Assistant Executive Director for Cotton Council International (CCI) since 1993 with responsibilities for oversight of day-to-day operation of the organization, its offices and programming in over 60 countries worldwide. David also serves as Regional Director for South Asia and has line responsibility for managing CCI activities in South Asia and the Arabian Gulf. David is the team leader for the Cotton’s Revolutions initiative, a virtual think-tank, developed to explore and anticipate changes in the structure and operation of the global cotton/textile/retail and branding environment 20 years into the future. 

David speaks frequently on CCI, the COTTON USA program and serves on the industry advisory board of the Texas Tech University school of Fashion and textile design, including guest lecturing in the curriculum.

Before joining CCI, David served as the private sector liaison on the staff of the National Commission on Agricultural Trade and Export Policy, a Congressionally mandated commission established to explore policies and strategies to increase U.S. agricultural exports. 

David was raised in West Texas and graduated with a BA in Political Science from Texas A&M University in 1982. In 1991 he received a Masters degree in International Affairs with a concentration in Science and Technology Policy from The George Washington University in Washington DC.

David is active in a number of local civic organizations and has worked as an advocate on educational issues. David also participates in local and national political activities, having run for the Virginia House of Delegates (state legislature) in 2001. He has served on the national board of the Texas A&M University Association of Former Students as well as President and a board member for the local Washington DC area chapter.

Jacquelyn L. Jackson

Jacqueline Jackson

Jacquelyn L. Jackson is a communications executive with a broad range of local and national experience in the creation, development and delivery of integrated public policy, communications, marketing and media initiatives.

Jacquelyn formerly served as Vice President, Southern Arizona Leadership Council where she was the public policy expert for the organization that represents the CEO’s of a wide range of companies based in Southern Arizona. She was responsible for influencing and shaping policy at the state and local level and promoting the long-term vision and goals of Southern Arizona in key areas including education, health care, transportation, economic development and governance.

She is retired from Tucson Values Teachers, where she was Executive Director, and has also served as Outreach Director for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Jacquelyn is located in Tucson, AZ. where she is continues to impact the public good through her writing business.

Freita Fuller Keluche, PhD

Freita Fuller Keluche

Dr. Freita Fuller Keluche completed a PhD in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology.  Following her academic studies, she founded the Ancient Ways of Knowing Foundation, a Colorado non-profit dedicated to the exploration and rediscovery of ancient knowledge to provide an opportunity for the universal human to reframe the Original Teachings as our human experience expands.

The first event of Ancient Ways of Knowing was an eight-day gathering in September 1998 between 8 Chinese masters of the healing arts and 14 Native American elders and healers who represented 11 different tribes. The purpose of the gathering was to share philosophies, healing practices, and rituals associated with health and wellness.

Six months later, a follow-up gathering brought together a Bantu medicine man and his peers from Native American and Chinese cultures to continue the dialogue. The result of these two gatherings suggested a profound interconnectedness between the traditional healers of these three indigenous cultures and their focus on the wholeness of spirit which contributes to the health and wellness of an individual.

Dr. Keluche continues her commitment to fostering understanding and common dialogue between cultures and is active in the Native American community. She has served on numerous civic and national boards. She and her husband, Gene Keluche, live in Colorado Springs, CO.