Our Team

June 30, 2016
Richard Mendola, Executive Director
rich-studentsiteHello! My name is Richard Mendola. I was born in Buffalo, New York, the grandson of immigrants from Italy who settled in western New York. I am married to Janet, a former international student who studied in Bolivia, South America. We have six children!I attended Colgate University in New York State where I majored in Biology and minored in Education and Philosophy and Religion. I also studied in a Master’s degree program in counseling.I have been working full time serving international students since 1980. I have served in three locations: Buffalo, New York; Athens, Ohio; and Columbus, Ohio (since 1991).I am the Executive Director of IFI and oversee all the staff and operations. I also am a pastor and a writer. I have written several Bible study series for internationals. I love to spend time with international students and visit students when they return to their home countries. I also like to play chess and eat different kinds of food. Email to Rich:
Ken Barker, Chief Operating Officer

ken-barker-optHello! My name is Ken Barker. My wife, Julie, and our three children have been hosting international students since 2008. In August 2014, I joined the staff of IFI as the Chief Operating Officer. Prior to coming on board, I founded and ran a software design and development consultancy. I was an international student at Sheffield University in the United Kingdom in 1992. Both my wife and I (and now our kids) enjoy traveling overseas and experiencing different cultures. We enjoy competitive and friendly board games, raising chickens in the city, and hiking.

Abby Zou, Campus Staff

abbyI grew up in a beautiful city in the southeast of China. At the age of 18, I went to Beijing alone for college. Then I went to Hong Kong to get my Master degree in 2007. After graduation, I have worked in Hong Kong for three years. At the last year in Hong Kong, I was serving mainland China students who are studying in Hong Kong. I love this job. God has called me to come to US to study in a seminary. After three years’ in Chicago, I moved to Columbus Ohio because I love the international students and want to serve them. I have been an international students for a long time and I understand them very much. I love to help people to find their dreams and destiny. Of course, I like to have fun with students. We can share cooking, music, books and sports together. Contact me: .

Don Hayes, Director of Finance
DSC_6003Don followed the Lord’s leading to IFI in November 2013 after hearing about the need for a Director of Finance. Prior to joining IFI, Don worked for three years in small CPA firms doing consulting, bookkeeping and tax preparation. During this time Don was searching for just the right place to use his financial experience and leadership skills according to God’s plan. These skills were developed during a successful 28 year career in corporate accounting that Don left when he volunteered for early retirement. His business experiences are proving useful in helping Don lead IFI’s financial activities. Don and his wife Cheryl raised their four children in northwest Columbus and they now enjoy being grandparents.
Estera Pirosca, ISEED Program Director

Estera-picHi! My name is Estera Pirosca and I come from the beautiful country of Romania. I was blessed to pursue higher education in the United States. I completed a BA in Organizational Communication with minor in Computer Science at Southeastern Louisiana University, in Hammond, Louisiana. Then I had the amazing opportunity to do a one year internship with IFI in Columbus, Ohio. During this time I was accepted at The Ohio State University to study a Masters of Public Administration. I graduated in May 2013.

I love having friends from all over the world, learning about their cultures and languages, and sharing about my culture. My passion is to share with those around me the joy and love I receive from God. I get to do that every day, and more, while working for IFI as Internship Director. Contact me at: 

Fabiola Jara, Campus Staff

fabiola-jara-optHi! My name is Fabiola, but feel free to call me “Faby.” I come from the longest country in the world—that’s right—Chile! I like working with internationals because as an international myself I can relate to them and they can relate to me. I like spending time with people and learning about their cultures and backgrounds. I like to play ping pong, and as a South American, I also like soccer! I enjoy going for a walk, a bike ride, or watching a good movie. My native language is Spanish, but I love it when I have the chance to learn a new word in a different language. I think languages are beautiful and fascinating!

George & Heena Chow, Campus Staff


Hello! My name is George Chow and I have been living in Columbus since 1999. I volunteered with IFI for almost ten years before joining as Campus Staff in 2009. My wife Heena and I both love to serve international students in every way we can. I love different cultures, languages and food!

In my free time I like to learn to play new songs on my guitar. I like photography as well. Learning and playing new games is my favorite past time!

My name is Heena. I came to Columbus in 2006 as an international graduate student. After graduation, I did a one year internship with IFI. Currently, I am working with IFI as a part time Graphic Artist and part time as Campus Staff. Together with my husband George, I have met and helped many students from around the world. It is such a privilege to get to know friends around the world and their cultures at our doorstep! In my free time I like to make jewelry, paint, or just dance to some fast music!

Guy Deal, Campus Staff

guy-deal-optHello! My name is Guy Deal. After graduating from Iowa State University in Civil/Construction Engineering, I was involved in both bridge construction and general construction as well as building gas refineries in Saudi Arabia with Fluor Engineering.

I received my MA in Biblical Studies at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in the Philippines, which led me to start to use my engineering background to help design and build Bible schools both in the Philippines and Indonesia.

After spending fifteen years overseas, I joined the ministry of Teen Challenge, for eight years, helping others break free from life-controlling situations. As the passion to reach out to International students at OSU grew, my wife Kathy and I joined IFI  as Intercultural-specialists in establishing friendships and helping to serve these students.

I enjoy swimming, scuba diving, biking, exercising, camping and cooking with Kathy and our two daughters.

Jason Pinschenat, Director of Development

bruce-stevenson-optHi! My name is Jason Pinschenat and I’m the development director for IFI. My job is to raise funds, recruit volunteers and many other things to better serve our international friends. I was born in New Orleans, grew up in Houston, Texas, and have lived in Ohio for over eight years now. My wife’s name is Kristy and she grew up in Ohio. We have three kids. Jackson and Brynlee (twins) are 8, and Weston is 6. Before starting our family, my wife and I traveled to many places, such as Mexico, Spain and China. We love internationals!

Jerry Shellhaas, Director of Administration

jerry-shellhass-optHello! My name is Jerry Shellhaas. I grew up in Mansfield, Ohio (60 miles north of Columbus) and graduated from Toccoa Falls College in Georgia with a degree in cross-cultural communications. My wife, Gwen, and I have spent time in other countries. We have one daughter, Eliana, who was adopted from China. We are excited to be serving international students at The Ohio State University and are delighted to have so many international friends.

Leila Gardner, Director of Volunteer Recruitment & Training

leila-gardner-optHello! My name is Leila Gardner. I have volunteered with IFI since I was a student at OSU in 1988. I have enjoyed all aspects of the IFI ministry. In 2001, with the help of other moms, I started the International Mothers Group, a support group and English class for international moms and their children. I have made friends with students from all over the world. My husband and I have even had students live with us. My two children enjoy attending IFI potlucks and picnics. They think mom has a very fun job! They have also made lots of international friends through IFI. I have worked at IFI since 2005. I recruit new volunteers with the help of 40 church coordinators and other IFI staff. I am also in charge of new volunteer orientation sessions and training for current volunteers. When I am not working at IFI I can be found helping at the children’s school, taking morning walks, kayaking and bike riding with the family, or working out.

Michelle Prindle, Campus Ministry Director
michelle-prindle-optHello! My name is Michelle Prindle and my birthday is November 27th. I love to work with internationals because I learn so much about the world as they share their culture and experiences with me. In my free time, I enjoy music, theater, reading, cooking, eating ethnic foods, hiking, and dancing. You can contact me at: 
Mike Burt, Campus Staff

mike-burt-optHi! My name is Mike Burt.  I have been married to my wife for 36 years and have two adult sons. I have been on staff at IFI since 2001. I enjoy working with international students because I like making new friends and I like helping people. I also enjoy teaching from the Bible and taking students on trips to new and exciting places.

Nathan Wylder, Director of Volunteer Coordination

Hello! My name is Nathan Wylder. Prior to joining IFI in 2010, I spent seven years as copy editor and senior editor for a local publishing company. My wife, Glenda, and I enjoy trying new foods, love learning about other cultures, and have been passionate about serving internationals since our college days. We have one son, Jackson, and lead a Xenos home church with another couple. In addition, I am a wrestling coach at Northland High School.

Phil Foell, Director of Strategic Events

phil-studentsite2Hello! My name is Phil Foell. I have a BS in Management and Computer Science from Case Western Reserve University where I befriended many International students and frequently had them home for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. My role at IFI includes enhancing communication and documentation between the staff members, coordinating and overseeing the scheduling & training for the IFI ISEED interns, and working behind the scenes to plan major events and student trips. I like to read about marketing and innovation in my free time.  My wife Ellen and I have been married 23 years and have four beautiful children.

Russ and Rebecca Sermon, Campus Staff

rebecca-sermon-opt Hello!  My name is Russ Sermon.  I have almost 30 years of experience serving international students, with a BA degree in Cross Cultural Communications and an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL).  During this time, I have served international students at the University of Minnesota, University of Washington, Virginia Tech, American University (Washington, DC), George Mason University, and the University of Maryland at College Park.  I also taught ESL in a public middle school for two years from 2002-2004.  In 2004, I met and married my beautiful wife, Rebecca.  I lead the English Conversation Club and discussion-based Bible discovery groups. Email me at:

Hi!  I am Rebecca.  I was a missionary church-planter in Russia and Central Asia for 10 years, focusing on evangelistic Bible studies and discipleship.  In 2006, Russ and I served in ministry in Central Asia, but after three short months we had to return to the U.S. for family medical reasons.  In December of 2007, we joined the staff at IFI to work as full-time campus missionaries to international students!  I lead the weekly International Wives Group investigative Bible study.  Russ and I also have a Bible study in our home every week.  We have two wonderful children, Joy (age 9) & Josh (age 7).

Ryan Finke, Communication Director
FinkeRyan_headshot_300dpiHi, my name is Ryan Finke. I am from Cincinnati and attended the University of Cincinnati studying design. My wife, Liz, grew up in Columbus and we met in Cincinnati at a house church. We both have travelled to many countries (including China, India, Uganda and Spain) and love experiencing different cultures! We enjoy camping, playing ultimate frisbee, and hanging out with friends. When I first met international students in college, I was very excited to learn about their cultures, languages, and food (my favorite!). Since then, I have made some life-long international friends and enjoy keeping in touch with them. Some of my favorite international foods are lamb saag with mushrooms (Indian), hotpot (Chinese) and burritos (Mexican).