2017 Annual Conference Agenda

Agenda is subject to change. 

Thursday, July 13

7:00am – 7:00pm

Early On-site Registration

8:00am – 5:00pm

US – Russia Mayors’ Conference 

10:00am – 12:00pm

Mayor Sessoms’ Virginia Regional Mayoral summit


Norfolk Sister Cities Pre-Conference City Tour (pre-registration required)


SCI Leadership Meetings (For SCI leadership only)


SCI Board Meeting


Global Leaders Circle VIP Reception

Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art


Conference Attendees Open Dinner

Military Aviation Museum


Friday, July 14

(First official day of the conference)

7:00am – 5:00pm


7:00am – 8:00am

International/1st Time Attendee Orientation 

8:00am – 9:00am

Continental Breakfast

8:30am – 9:30am

Cities Seeking Cities Networking Coffee

9:45am – 10:00am

Parade of Flags

From DoubleTree to Convention Center

10:00 am – 11:30am

Opening Ceremony

Virginia Beach Convention Center

12:00pm – 1:00pm 

Keynote Luncheon 


  • Khaled Sedrak, CEO & Founder,NxtVn Group 

1:30pm – 2:30pm: CONCURRENT SESSIONS

SESSION 1: Diplomacy at the Local Level: Mayors & Elected Officials Panel

Whether it’s signing a new relationship, welcoming delegations, or garnering support in your community, elected officials play a critical role in sister city programs. Come listen to mayors and other elected officials talk about which aspects of sister city programs are important to them and how you can better engage your officials to make the most of your partnerships.

  • Ron Nirenberg, Mayor of the City of San Antonio 
  • Lisa M. Gillmor, Mayor of the City of Santa Clara, CA 
  • Dr. Hiroyuki Hamada, Professor, Old Dominion University 
  • Jose Victor Chan-Gonzaga, Minister and Consul, Embassy of the Philippines 

SESSION 2: Sister Ports – Gateways to Friendship and Prosperity

Ports can provide an advantageous opportunity for community development. Sister cities have a long history of both developing new port-to-port relationships and expanding existing port linkages into new areas of exchange. Hear from members who have successfully facilitated sister port partnerships on how you can turn your community’s port into an engine for trade and peace.
  • Clare Petrich, Commissioner, Port of Tacoma
  • Russell Held, Vice President, Economic Development Virginia Port Authority
  • Guy Spence, Former Deputy Lord Mayor, Belfast City Council*
  • Dr. Victoria V. Panova, Vice President for International Relations Far Eastern Federal
  • University*

3:00pm – 4:00pm: CONCURRENT SESSIONS

SESSION 1: The Importance of a Digital Infrastructure

Discuss incredible new opportunities to boost tourism in your community through sister city exchanges including medical tourism, eco-focused missions, service opportunities, brewery exchanges, art festivals, and food-focused trips.


  • Khaled Sedrak, Founder & CEO, NxtVn Group
  • Joel Ogren, President & CEO, Assured Communications Advisors International
  • Adam Noll, Chief Commercial Officer, FTS Fiber

SESSION 2: Your Mayor’s First Question: What is the Return on Investment (ROI) of You Sister City Partnership?

Did you know that sister city programs contribute over $525 million to the U.S. economy each year? Gathering information on the economic impact of sister city relationships has always been difficult, but it’s now easier than ever to show how you and your partners generate economic development. Learn how you can articulate the importance and value of your sister city relationships and garner support from your local officials.
  • Beth Hendrix, Executive Director, Denver Sister Cities International
  • James Donavan, Founder & Chairman, Global CEO Alliance 
  • Roger Lawrence, Vice President, Global Quality and Regulatory, McCormick & Company, Inc.


SCI: Candidates Forum

4:15pm – 5:30pm 

SCI: Annual Business Meeting

6:00pm – 8:30pm

Virginia Beach Hosts SCI Beach Bash

Neptune’s Park


Saturday, July 15

8:00am – 3:00pm


8:00am – 9:00am 

Continental Breakfast

8:00am – 9:00am 

SCI: New Board Member Orientation (For SCI leadership only)

8:00am – 9:00am

Africa Sister Cities Meeting

9:00am – 10:00am

Breakfast Keynote: Foreign Diplomatic Corps Panel 

A panel of official Diplomatic Representatives will give remarks on the importance of sister city relationships for their respective country’s bilateral ties with the U.S., and will discuss opportunities for stronger, more impactful sister city relationships for the future. The representatives will touch on the importance of all exchange sectors, including business, culture, technology, and youth and education.


  • Mary Kane, President & CEO, Sister Cities International
  • Jose Victor Chan-Gonzaga, Minister and Consul, Embassy of the Philippines
  • Dr. Hiroyuki Hamada, Professor, Old Dominion University, Representative of Virginia Beach-Miyazaki, Japan Sister Cities
  • Typhaine Biard-Hamon, Head of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society Organizations

10:30am – 11:30am: CONCURRENT SESSIONS

SESSION 1: What Does the Future Look Like? Virtual Exchanges and Virtual Internships

Whether it’s because it’s too expensive to travel, or because continued relationship building is key to development and success, more and more programs are looking to virtual exchanges as part of their regular sister city activities. Learn about new ways to keep your sister city connections alive without traveling around the world.
  • Kate Bentley, Division Chief for Professional Fellows Exchanges, U.S. Department of State
  • Rick Burns, Founder of Karadah Project International
  • Kathleen Roche-Tansey, Founder of San Diego International Sister City Association

SESSION 2: Peer-to-Peer Fundraising with the Home Office

Join SCI Director of Development Ryan Newcomb for a chance to discuss fundraising options to support your program like peer-to-peer and mobile fundraising.
  • Ryan Newcomb, Director of Development, Sister Cities International
  • Dr. Jane S. Cahaly, State Representative Liaison, Sister Cities International
  • Dr. Christine Warnke, Board Member, Sister Cities International

SESSION 3: Growing Your Influence: Building Partnerships with Organizations in Your City

Successful sister city programs don’t just build relationships abroad—they build them in their respective communities. Learn how can you work with organizations in your community, including civic organizations, private business, and other nonprofits, to strengthen your sister city program and local community.
  • Rainy Young, Director, Office of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of State*
  • LTC Shaun R. Mistlebauer, Branch Chief, USEUCOM & USAFRICOM
  • Elizabeth Warren, Manager of Corporate Relations, Kiwanis International

12:00pm – 1:00pm 

Keynote Luncheon 


  • Karim Wasfi, renowned cellist and conductor, CEO & Founder, Through Arts Global Foundation 

1:30pm – 2:30pm: CONCURRENT SESSIONS

SESSION 1: Reinventing the Classics: Art and Cultural Exchanges

Arts and cultural programs are some of the oldest and most robust in the sister
cities network and continue to be one of the first ways we engage people from other communities. In this session learn what the U.S. Department of State, local city governments, and other exchange organizations are doing to keep this classic area of exchange fresh and new.
  • Shahrzad “Sherry” Dowlatshahi, Chief of Protocol and Head of International Relations, International Relations Office, Economic Development Department, City of San Antonio
  • Gennadi Nedvigin, Artistic Director, Atlanta Ballet
  • Suhail Arastu, Director of Development, Musical Bridges
  • Shin Koyamada, Actor, Philanthropist, Martial Artist
  • John McKenna, Director of Playing for Change Foundation – Peace Through Music

SESSION 2: Building Technology-Forward Cities

Technology has changed almost everything about how we live and work. From smart phones to smart houses, consumer products are increasingly designed to facilitate decision-making and make decisions on our behalf. In order to keep up with these changes and continually improve the lives of citizens, city officials need to plan innovative ways to implement and adapt automated technology on a city-wide scale. In this session, attendees will gain new insight into how we can lay the foundations to build technology-forward cities.
  • Dan Hou, Director of Strategy, HUGE Inc

2:45pm – 3:45pm: CONCURRENT SESSIONS

SESSION 1: Sister Cities in the Digital Age: Leveraging Technology to Engage Your Community

Does your sister city program have a website? When was the last time you updated it? The way we share information in the digital age is constantly changing, and it can be hard to keep up. Join Bob Zhang to discover how you can leverage online channels to proactively engage your local and global communities. This session will cover basic concepts of online marketing as well as a few tips on getting started and managing your online resources. We
recommend that you come in with a basic understanding of website/social media/search engine/internet technology concepts.
  • Bob Zhang, Founder & General Manager, USABAL Solutions LLC

SESSION 2: Beyond Mayors – Exchanges with Municipal Departments

Elected officials may start sister city relationships by signing agreements, but often it’s municipal employees who often bring them to life. Throughout its history, the sister cities network has excelled at expanding excellence in municipal administration. Whether it’s fire department chiefs, public health officials, sanitation workers, or any other city administrator, sister cities can provide access to innovation and management techniques that can help your city better serve its citizens.
  • Jim Wood, Member, Virginia Beach City Council

SESSION 3: Expanding Opportunities by Partnering with Community Colleges and Universities

Getting young adults interested in the mission of sister cities takes more effort than posting on social media. Explore ways you can increase interest in your sister cities program among students through effective outreach to your local community colleges and universities.
  • Irina Karmanova, Public Affairs Officer, Office of Public Engagement, Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  • Sherry Lee Mueller, Ph.D., Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, School of International Service, American University; President Emeritus, Global Ties U.S.

4:15pm – 5:00pm

Open Session – Youth Leadership Summit Final Simulation

5:00pm – 5:30pm

CCID Memorandum of Understanding Signing Ceremony

6:00pm – 11:00pm

Lou Wozar Diplomatic Awards Dinner


Sunday, July 16

9:00am – 12:00pm

SCI: Board of Directors Meeting (For SCI leadership only)