Team

Holly Planells McKenna

Executive Director

Holly Planells McKenna was recently tapped to be the new executive director after serving as ICCR’s Director of Community Engagement since February 2022.

Holly’s interest in global affairs began as a child when she was told family stories of immigration from Cuba, Spain’s Basque Region, and Ireland. Her career is shaped by journalism, having been an upstate correspondent for Reuters for more than 20 years, and now teaching journalism at the University at Albany for the past 16 years. Holly served on the board of the Albany Public Library and the Friends and Foundation of APL. She has authored a book about her oldest son being raised in the country of Jordan without her, after her ex-husband took their son to the country as a young child, violating a U.S. custody court order. Her next book aims to discuss the heritage of her family and their move to America. Holly is originally from Long Island, and resides in Albany with her husband, Chris, with whom she has four adult children together.

DTrae Carter

Director of Community Engagement

DTrae Carter is the latest addition to the International Center of the Capital Region team. He is excited and eager to take on the role of Director of Community Engagement.

DTrae spent the last 15 years designing and directing work for some of New York State’s most significant and essential programs such as Taste NY, Pride of New York, Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and NY State of Health. He has utilized this experience to focus on elevating the visibility of and implementing effective visual-based marketing strategies for small to medium sized businesses.

Apart from their professional pursuits, DTrae is an avid traveler and an advocate for cultural exchange. They have journeyed to numerous countries, immersing themselves in different cultures, and fostering cross-cultural understanding. Through their travels, DTrae has gained a global perspective that informs their work and personal philosophy.

Barbara Weiler

Programming Assistant

Barbara joined the International Center as a volunteer after attending an informational virtual open house in March of 2022. She was a home host for two Open World visitors from Moldova in May of 2022, and after that she was hooked. That same year she home hosted visitors from Poland and Ukraine, and with the help of her NYC-based son, she also took all three groups on whirlwind day trip tours of the Big Apple. In January 2023, she started working part-time for the International Center as Programming Assistant and looks forward to future adventures in citizen diplomacy. Barbara has an M.A. in Criminal Justice, and has been working in the local criminal justice system for the past seventeen years. When not planning international-related activities or interviewing convicted defendants, she enjoys travel and playing pickleball.

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Evan Banaszewski

Programming Intern

Evan is currently an undergraduate student at the University at Albany, majoring in History and a minoring in Political Science. He is a member of the Presidential Honor Society and is on track to graduate Summa Cum Laude. Evan is an Albany local, but has also lived in Norfolk, VA and Washington, DC. Coming from a military family, Evan aspires to attend OCS following the completion of his Bachelors, and serve as an officer in the US Navy.

Evan is eager to gain experience working within the international community, as well as with representatives of state and national governments. He hopes to further his understanding of international relations, diplomacy, and governance.

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Kylie Cooper

Programming Intern

Originally from the Capital Region, Kylie graduated from the University at Albany with a degree in Political Science and a minor in French. While pursuing her Bachelor’s degree, Kylie was co-chair of the Gender and Sexuality committee of UAlbany’s chapter of Democracy Matters, a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots student political organization dedicated to deepening democracy. She also spent nearly six months studying abroad in France, where she interned with Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE). Continuing her education, Kylie is currently completing a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Public Policy at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany.

Kylie is excited about engaging in citizen diplomacy and work toward establishing a more unified global community. In her free time, Kylie enjoys listening to music, watching reality TV and playing with her family’s cat, Melo.

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Shay Eljastimi

Programming Intern

Originally from Brooklyn, Shay graduated Cum Laude from the University at Albany with a Bachelor’s degree in Globalization. Shay is currently a Masters of International Affairs student at the Rockefeller College with a concentration in Diplomacy and Global Governance. She is a second-generation American with parents from Morocco. Shay is also a native Arabic speaker, specifically the North African dialects. She has internship experience in social justice and community-based services by working with organizations like CASES, Ladies of Hope Ministries and The Center for Community Justice of Schenectady.

Shay hopes on contributing a meaningful understanding to the
complexities surrounding global conflicts and the potential for
diplomatic strategies to foster lasting solutions. In her free time,
Shay enjoys connecting with others, watching Turkish dramas, and
cooking.

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Andrew Fleckenstein

Programming Intern

Andrew is originally from Niagara Falls, NY. He completed his undergraduate degree in International Studies from Niagara University. This program ignited Andrew’s passion for global affairs and inspired me to delve deeper into the field.

Driven by a desire to expand his understanding of international relations, Andrew made the decision to pursue a master’s degree in International Affairs. This led him to Rockefeller College for Public Affairs & Policy in Albany, where he is currently immersed in a stimulating and enriching academic environment.

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Eleftheria Katsani

Programming Intern

Eleftheria Katsani holds a B.S. in Public Policy and Management from the University of Albany and is currently pursuing an M.A. in International Affairs with a concentration in Global Homeland Security. She was born in Albania, grew up in Greece, and moved to the US around ten years ago. Eleftheria is fluent in Albanian, Greek, and English. In her free time, she enjoys reading about history and politics.

Eleftheria is primarily interested in diplomacy and foreign policy. She is dedicated to addressing and resolving significant global and national threats, such as conflicts, wars, terrorism, cybersecurity, and climate change. Eleftheria is passionate about ensuring people’s safety and prosperity by tackling these issues and positively impacting the world.

Eleftheria interned for a local political campaign for a committee, which allowed her to understand the elections and legislation process. This experience enhanced her professionalism, creativity, and critical thinking skills and strengthened her research, organizational, and analytical skills.

Eleftheria also works part-time as a manager at Pizzaroni in Albany. At work, she manages daily operations, handles paperwork, resolves concerns, trains employees, supervises team members, and ensures customer satisfaction. She always strives to keep the team motivated and the customers happy.

Mercedes Wiegel

Programming Intern

Mercedes is very excited to be joining the team at the International Center of the Capital Region as an Intern. 

Originally from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Mercedes is an international undergraduate student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges with a dual major in International Relations and Sociology. Mercedes is currently in Rome, Italy for a semester abroad where she is focusing on urban studies, ethnography and sustainability. 

Mercedes is excited to use her own international experience to collaborate and interact with people from different backgrounds, while finding common grounds. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and running.