Meet ILA's Staff

Cyn Cherrey Cynthia Cherrey
President & CEO
+1 (202) 470-4818 ext. 106

About Cynthia Cherrey

Cyn Cherrey Cynthia Cherrey has been involved with the International Leadership Association (ILA) since its inception as an invited participant in the W.K. Kellogg Leadership project to advance leadership knowledge, education and practice for the 21st century. She has served as ILA's executive director since 2000 and as president since 2011, when the ILA became an independent 501c(3) corporation. In September 2015, Cherrey assumed the role of president and CEO on a full-time basis.

Prior to starting her full-time role at ILA, Cherrey spent five years at Princeton University as the vice president for campus life and lecturer in the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs. Between 2003 and 2010, Cherrey served as the vice president for student affairs at Tulane University and a clinical professor in the A.B. Freeman School of Business. Following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, she helped lead the New Orleans university through one of the most challenging periods in its history as part of the senior leadership team on recovery and renewal efforts.

From 1989 to 2003, Cherrey worked at the University of Southern California, serving ultimately as an associate vice president for student affairs, a clinical associate professor in the Rossier School of Education and lecturer in the Annenberg School of Communication. She taught undergraduate courses in communication studies and graduate courses in educational administration, leadership, and policy.

Cherrey has published journal articles and book chapters in areas of leadership, organizational development, and higher education. She also has served as co-editor of a publication series and co-written a book entitled Systemic Leadership. Most recently, she served as editor of Women and Leadership Around the World, part of ILA's Women and Leadership: Research, Theory, and Practice series (Information Age Publishing).

A former senior fellow at the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership and recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, she has spoken at numerous conferences and events around the world.


Shelly Wilsey Shelly Wilsey
Chief Operating Officer
+1 (202) 470-4818 ext. 101

About Shelly Wilsey

Shelly Wilsey Shelly Wilsey has nearly 40 years of experience in leadership development, non-profit management, organizational development, and community organizing. She began working with the International Leadership Association in 2000 and serving since then in a variety of leadership and management roles as the ILA expanded from 1.10 FTEs to its current staff size. Wilsey started at the Academy of Leadership in 1997 as the director of the Community Action School, which she built into a highly successful training program attended by more than 1,000 diverse community leaders. She also coordinated the Community Action Network program, which provided seed grants to nine community groups to support local leadership development initiatives. Both programs were supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. While working with the ILA, she was also the Deputy Director of the University of Maryland's James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership from 2004-2009. Prior to that, Wilsey worked for seven years at the CLEC Canvass Network in a variety of progressively responsible roles, including: financial manager, administrative director, and director of development and client relations. She began her non-profit management career at the Fullerton Management Company, where she served the administrative director for DC membership operations. In 1988, Wilsey was one of several co-founders of the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force, a regional, pro-choice, all-volunteer organization. In 1986, Wilsey moved to the Washington metro area for a dream job at the United States Student Association (USSA) as the first program coordinator of the GROW project, a national training program for student leaders and activists based on the Midwest Academy model. Before leaving New York State for DC, she was first a regional organizer and then the organizing director of the Student Association of the State University of New York (SASU). She began her activist work in 1980 as a summer field canvasser and manager for NYPIRG. Upon returning to campus that fall, she became involved in organizations working to protect the environment, secure student voting rights, and expand access to higher education. Wilsey earned her BA in history from SUNY Plattsburgh and was one of the first students there to earn a certificate in women's studies. A committed activist, she was active in a number of local, state, and national issue campaigns and held several campus-wide leadership positions. She received the Women's Studies Academic Excellence Award, and was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa.


Debra DeRuyver Debra DeRuyver
Communications Director
+1 (202) 470-4818 ext. 102 

About Debra DeRuyver

Debra DeRuyver Debra joined the ILA after spending three years as the Electronic Communications Coordinator for the Academy of Leadership, where she developed their web site into a content rich resource on leadership, and a year as the Internet and Information Project Manager for the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance, where she developed an interactive web site and published a quarterly print newsletter, Splash.

Debra is ABD in American Studies from the University of Maryland where she taught one of the first web-based distance education classes on campus, a senior seminar on electronic publications and virtual exhibitions. In 2001, her web site,, won the National Council for Public History's graduate student project of the year award. She has also been active in the field of leadership studies, writing a hypertextual literature review of the field for the Leadership Learning Community, and teaching a junior level seminar at Maryland on the topic of online activism and online leadership. She has pubished in American Quarterly, the premier journal in American Studies.

In the past, Debra has been politically active around graduate student labor issues and was co-chair of the American Studies Association's Students Committee from 1997 - 1999. Prior to that she was involved in student government at Cal State University, Fullerton, where she received her Master's in American Studies and The University of Michigan, where she received a B.A. in English Literature (Go Blue!). Debra loves to travel, read French symbolist poetry, go to the flicks, play Minecraft with her tween son and go to the park with her twin 4-year olds.


Bridget Chisholm Bridget Chisholm
Director of Conferences
+1 (202) 470-4818 ext. 103

About Bridget Chisholm

Bridget Chisholm Bridget began her conference and event planning career in Richmond, Virginia in the early 90s after working as a travel agent in the late 80s. She planned annual conferences for the National Organization for Women, Midwifery Today, Baxter Healthcare, the United Nations Environment Program, and other environmental and social organizations, NGOs, and privately held corporations. In 1999, Bridget moved to Washington, DC and took the position of Conference & Travel Director at JOI (Joint Oceanographic Institutions, now the Consortium for Ocean Leadership). In 2005, she took a year off to establish a small farm in rural Fauquier County, just outside of Washington, DC in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 2006, she took the position of Conference Director at the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), a nonprofit with virtual offices in North America.

Bridget's leadership in creating sustainability initiatives at the conferences and events she organizes has led to several hotel and convention centers adopting more comprehensive recycling programs and beginning, or improving upon, their composting programs. She is passionate about sourcing food seasonally and locally and she enjoys working with the chefs and caterers to ensure the local farming community is being tapped for these resources.

Bridget studied Business Management at Virginia Commonwealth University and she is a graduate of the Lucas School of Business and Travel Management.

Nick Kiessig

Nick Kiessig
Digital Communications Coordinator/Conference Registrar
+1 (202) 470-4818 ext. 107

About Nick Kiessig

Nick Kiessig Nick studied global economic, trade, and development with a focus in Latin America at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was first introduced to Latin America in 2011 where he spent several months living in the tropical rainforest at a self-sustaining ranch in Costa Rica. Continuing his Latin American adventures, Nick worked for a startup in Monterrey, Mexico and Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Currently, Nick speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese with aims of learning 2 more languages over the next 5 years.


Jennifer DuMarsJennifer DuMars
Administrative Coordinator
+1 (202) 470-4818 ext. 106

About Jennifer DuMars

Jennifer DuMars Jen started working as administrative coordinator and executive assistant to the president at the ILA's Silver Spring office in February 2017. Prior to working at the ILA, Jen assisted both lobbyists and economists in Washington, DC for 10 years. She holds a bachelor's degree in Urban Affairs & Planning from Virginia Tech and a certification in Editorial Practices. At the graduate level, Jen studied Applied Economics at Johns Hopkins University and International Commerce & Policy at George Mason University.

Jen considers herself a lifelong student and explorer of the world. She is a certified Reiki practitioner and continues to pursue studies in energy healing modalities and plant medicine. As a visionary artist, she currently works with mixed-media sculpture, found art, photography, and writing. Jen lives in Silver Spring, MD with her dog, Murph..


Yinka Gardiner
Business Manager
+1 (202) 470-4818 ext. 104

Julie Polzer
Conference Associate

About Julie Polzer

Julie works part-time as an ILA conference associate developing the new Call for Proposals online tool and implementing improvements and efficiencies in the CFP process. She also provides support to conference proposal submitters and track chairs, and assists with conference logistics. Prior to joining ILA, she worked as the assistant conference manager for the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) for more than 5 years and at the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University, where her jobs included meeting, training, special event, and conference planning.

Julie grew up overseas in Marsa El Brega, Libya, and Jakarta, Indonesia, before her family returned to the United States and settled in Texas. She has degrees from Texas A&M University in International Studies, Anthropology, and Russian. After college, she and her husband lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, with short stints in Turkey, Portugal, and Denmark where they participated in maritime archaeology projects. They moved to the Washington, DC, metro area in the spring of 2004.

Julie has two young daughters who keep her very busy. Outside of work and family time, she enjoys cooking, reading, music, swimming, and knitting.


Amelia Cross
Communications Intern
Florida State University

Joanna Jones
Communications Intern
University of Maryland

Nicole Regalado
Conferences Intern
Florida International University

Katherine Wankel
Conferences Intern
California University of Pennsylvania

Devon Weichel
Community Manager Intern
Lynchburg College