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Board of Directors

Message from Our President

Welcome to International Focus! For four decades, our organization has brought the world to the Triangle and North Carolina. With the help of our talented staff, board of directors, and volunteers, International Focus continuously makes a positive impact to our community through meaningful and life-changing interactions. We bring the world to our North Carolina community through cultural events and international exchange programs. Our members have the opportunity to host dinners for foreign dignitaries and our Global Socials enrich our community by bringing the food, art and music of the world under one roof.  We partner with the U.S. Department of State to connect local companies and area professionals with emerging international leaders and in turn, give them the chance to experience this country first-hand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts in North Carolina.  We also help develop our future leaders by mentoring students and offering opportunities to attend discussions with emerging global leaders. I along with our board invite you to explore the world here in North Carolina by participating in our events, becoming a member, and enjoying all the opportunities our exchange programs provide, or by your individual or corporate partnership that helps develop our future leaders and continue our transformative programs. We look forward to making a positive impact in your life and community.



 Sejal Mehta                                                                                                               International Focus President

Sejal Mehta


Sejal was born in Gujarat, India and grew up in New York City. Sejal serves the boards of South Arts, North Carolina Arts Council and North Carolina Literary and Historical Association. Previously, she served on the boards of Raleigh Little Theatre and Raleigh Review. Sejal worked as a contract attorney for Duke Energy, an attorney at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner, and a prosecutor in the Queens District Attorney’s Office. Sejal holds a B.A. from New York University and a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. She lives in Raleigh with her husband Jay Chaudhuri, their two teenage children and their golden retriever, Lincoln.

Jessica Porta

Vice President

Jess Porta is the Vice President on the board of International Focus and is the Director of Operations for Greenplaces, a Raleigh-based SaaS company that helps businesses measure and reduce their environmental impact. Prior to her role with Greenplaces, Jess served as the Executive Director of Raleigh Founded, a B-Corp and an entrepreneurial coworking community in the heart of downtown, where she helped over 400 companies connect to the tools and resources they needed to scale and grow. Jess’ background is in international human rights. She received her Masters of International Studies from North Carolina State University, where she focused on genocide and restorative justice. She later went on to work directly with survivors of human trafficking through the Salvation Army’s FIGHT program and then organized the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture, which was a citizen-led, truth seeking commission that held public hearing to delve into the use of state resources to carry out post 9-11 torture programs. Jess is a mural artist and lives in Cary, NC with her husband and two young sons. 

Henry White


Henry is a North Carolina native that earned degrees in Accounting and Business Management from NC
State University in 1978. He received his CPA license in 1982 and has provided tax, accounting, auditing
and business advisory services to a wide range of clients and industries over his 40-year career. He was a
partner with the Raleigh CPA firm of Stancil PC until the end of 2018 and continues to serve the firm in a
technical capacity as needed. Henry has served the non-profit community as a board member for
organizations such as Urban Ministries of Wake County and Marbles Kid’s Museum. He lives in Raleigh
with his wife Fran with whom he enjoys traveling, gardening and spending time with family and friends.

Mitch Rhodes


Mitch Rhodes is an entrepreneur who prides himself on putting ideas into action. He currently operates In-Rhodes Consulting which focuses on helping non-profits with strategy, operations and revenue generation. Prior to establishing his consulting firm, Mitch spent 9 years at Habitat for Humanity of Wake County building homes, community and hope. He is proud that during his time at tenure over 300 Wake families moved into their new homes built by Habitat Wake. When he is not consulting, Mitch enjoys two passions: outdoors and travel. If your run into Mitch, it will most likely be outside, either running on the trails in Umstead Park with his dog Porter or on a walking tour of some city around the world with his brilliant spouse Lisa.

Parul Shah

At Large

Parul was born in Gujurat, India and immigrated to the United States when she was two years old. She called small town North Carolina home for most of her life before moving to Raleigh in 2002. It was during college that she became in touch with my heritage and learned to appreciate diversity. She has a BA in Psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill, an MA in Family Counseling from the University of Akron and holds a certificate as an ESL instructor. Working with a non-profit, Asian Services in Action, she helped provide services to refugees in Akron. In Raleigh, she currently volunteers with USCRI as an ESL instructor. She served as PTAA president at Cary Academy and held various other leadership roles there including serving on the DEI committee. Parul believes it is important to find the common humanity we all share across the globe but also to celebrate our differences.

Patricia Sasser

At Large

Patricia Sasser is currently the Assistant Head of School at Saint Mary's School in Raleigh, NC.  Originally from Washington D.C. as the daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service mom and Nigerian dad, Patricia spent her elementary and middle school years living overseas in Nigeria, Haiti, and Niger. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelors of Arts degree in English Literature and in African-American Studies. Patricia also earned a Masters of Arts degree in Educational Leadership & Administration from The George Washington University. Recently, Patricia was named a Fulbright Specialist for a tenure of three years (2023-2026) by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and World Learning. 

Before joining Saint Mary's School, Patricia served as the Head of the Upper School at Ransom Everglades School. Patricia also worked at the Loomis Chaffee School as a Dean of Students and was heavily involved in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion at the school. Prior to Loomis Chaffee, Patricia worked at her alma mater The Madeira School in several roles, including as a Major Gifts Officer, Director of Student Activities, Special Assistant to the Head of School on Diversity, and the Assistant Dean of Students for Residential Life. Before transitioning into education, Patricia worked at ESPN in Bristol, CT as an Associate Producer where she was a two-time Emmy® nominee and a 2006 Emmy® award winner. 

Being actively involved in and of service to her community is extremely important to Patricia. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Jack & Jill of America, Inc. and the Junior League of Raleigh. 

One of her favorite quotes that inspires the way she lives her life is "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." by Maya Angelou.

Patricia enjoys traveling, playing volleyball, reading, and going to the movies. She currently lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband and son. 

Alison Rimsky Vernon

At Large

Alison is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and has lived throughout the world, including stints in Spain, Luxembourg, and Romania. She has lived in the Raleigh-Durham area since 2000.

Alison Rimsky Vernon has been a senior research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) for 22 years. During her time at CNA, she has conducted studies ranging from an overview of military operations in the 1990s; U.S. civil-military relations; the issue of interagency cooperation during military operations; the role of humanitarian operations in the War on Terror, Navy strategic laydown and global posture and cost-imposing strategies. She has also done a number of organizational studies that have helped large military organizations identify issues and structural answers to those issues for both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps.

As part of these efforts she has traveled extensively in Asia, South and Central America, the Caribbean and Africa, speaking to national leadership about their perceptions of these operations and the role of the US military as part of an overall US foreign policy designed toward creating partnerships. 

She did her doctoral research in political science at Ohio State University where she specialized in civil-military relations in democratizing nations.  She was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in Romania and she speaks Spanish and Romanian proficiently. She enjoys ballroom dancing, great dinner parties, and swimming.

She has been involved with International Focus (and its predecessor, International Affairs) since 2006. The effect on her two daughters of growing up seated around dinner tables with guests from all over the world has been enormous; her oldest daughter is currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy after a semester in Cape Town, South Africa.

Bardia Asefnia

Emeritus Member

Bardia was born in Raleigh, N.C. of Iranian parents who emigrated to the U.S. just before the Islamic Revolution unfolded. Having visited Iran twice as a young boy, he acknowledges the vast differences between two cultures – where he was raised and where his family originated from, thus sparking his passion for education and politics. He grew up as an avid soccer player and continued his academic studies onto the University of Massachusetts, where he excelled as a student-athlete graduating with a B.A. in Political Science. Currently, Bardia assists political candidates seeking re-election or higher office to educate their constituents through fundraising efforts. He previously worked with the N.C. Attorney General and currently works to elect the next representative of N.C. to U.S. Congress.

Bardia’s interest in International Focus stems from his desire to expose people from all backgrounds to cultures different than their own, free of political bias. He envisions a world in which individuals can learn from one another and celebrate the positives of each others cultures.

Martin Noble

Emeritus Member

Born in the U.S. to an American father and Argentine mother, Martin spent his childhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He completed high school in the U.S. and an Economics degree at NCSU along with a study abroad in Spain. Curious about the world, his early career took him to Santiago, Chile and later managed Latin American operations for a global Dutch company. For the past several years, Martin has been serving as a Financial Advisor for individual and businesses in North Carolina and has been involved in local organizations empowering Latino and diverse business owners. Martin looks to help drive International Focus’ goals through his global outlook and belief in the constructive and enriching power of intercultural exchange and dialogue.