Our Team

Administrative Staff

Paula Land, Executive Director

Paula Land joined Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) early in 2011 as Executive Director. Paula is a graduate of Mount Mercy University and most recently held the position of Vice President of Operations and Organizational Effectiveness for Trees Forever. Paula has three children and four grandchildren. In her spare time, Paula enjoys singing and volunteering in the community. She considers herself a lifelong learner. Passionate about nonprofits, Paula’s excited to be back in the education and human services fields.


Anthony Carter, Facilities Technician

Anthony grew up in Cedar Rapids where he attended Regis High School and was a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Church.  He earned his Eagle Scout at the age of 13.  He went to technical school in Mooresville, NC and Glendale Heights, IL.  After tech school, he spent many years in various mechanical and electrical fields.  In 2007-2008, fate brought him back to Cedar Rapids where he connected with a long time friend from high school, whom he later married.  He has 3 beautiful children, ages 11, 13, and 24, and 2 dogs, Finnegan and Ella.  Before coming to CMC, he had been feeling a call to serve his community, and volunteering has always been a part of his life.  When he saw the maintenance position at CMC, it spoke to him.  He is grateful to God for the opportunity to serve his community and deepen his faith.


Mitch Geers, Supplemental Services Manager

Mitch was born and raised in Cedar Rapids. He graduated from Linn-Mar High School and then from Coe College with a Psychology and Neuroscience degree. Service has been a key part of Mitch’s life since he started in Boy Scouts in 6th grade. He would go on to get his Eagle and then pursue volunteering in his free time, and eventually dedicate two years to service across the country in AmeriCorps NCCC. Purpose driven service is critical to having an entire community thrive, and he is very happy to help continue and spread that value through the many programs at CMC.


Marissa Haas, Grant Specialist

Marissa earned a B.A. in Sociology & Anthropology from Carleton College and a M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University.  She started as a volunteer at CMC in 2013, and joined the staff in 2014. In 2019, Marissa stepped down from her role on the Grants Team in order to spend more time at home with her three children. She was thrilled to rejoin the staff in 2021 on a part-time basis and use her love of writing to support the CMC mission. In her free time, Marissa enjoys cooking, traveling, hiking, and reading mountains of books with her children.


Amanda Hazelett, Operations Coordinator

Amanda has a B.A. in Business Administration from Mt. Mercy University.  She is most proud of making Dean’s List all four years in college and graduating magna cum laude, all while working full time and raising a family.  She is married with a daughter who is her Mini-Me.  She plays the viola in the Cedar Rapids Community Orchestra.  In her spare time she enjoys cooking and reading.


Madison Moller, Communications Manager

Madison graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in Spanish Language & Literature and International Studies with a focus on human rights. After her studies, Madison went on to become a teacher at a dual-language elementary school where she taught third grade and language literacy groups for three years. As an educator, she developed a passion for building empowerment in underserved areas. Madison is grateful for the opportunity to serve her community and support CMC’s mission.


Morgan Nielsen, Development & Compliance Coordinator

Morgan graduated from Coe College with a degree in Communication Studies and Public Relations.  She is excited to bring her skills and experience to CMC and help support this amazing organization and it’s mission.  In her free time she enjoys antiquing and thrifting, reading, traveling, and spending time with her husband and rescue dog, Calliope.


Laurie Perry, Custodian

Laurie is looking forward to being part of the team at Catherine McAuley Center.  She is a widow who was married for 29 years.  She has 3 cats, Sophie, Max, and Lily.  She enjoys reading poetry, drawing, working in her yard, decorating, and going out to eat.  Laurie worked at Kirkwood Community College for 14 years before retiring.  She knows she will enjoy working here and appreciates everything the Catherine McAuley Center does.


Peggy Rubero, Director of Community Partnerships & Organizational Development 

Peggy’s undergraduate studies centered on psychology and education, as she was very interested in human behavior and aspired to be an inspirational teacher. During student teaching, she discovered this wasn’t the right fit for her. At all. That didn’t make her any less interested in either subject, and in many ways it influenced her professional life, including her MBA studies. The majority of her career was spent at GE, which took her to Cedar Rapids, as well as Missouri and Michigan, but she always knew she wanted to return to Eastern Iowa. After many years, Peggy decided to leave the corporate world to buy and run a coffee shop in downtown Cedar Rapids. Managing the coffee shop reinforced her love for the community, but the flood of 2008 brought an end to that business. Following that chapter, Peggy spent 11 years at Pearson, a global company with a mission centered on improving lives through education. She is excited and blessed to be joining the Catherine McAuley Center, where she has an opportunity to carry out that mission and more with a local focus!


Katie Shaffer, Government Grants Coordinator

Katie graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in English and a Masters in Library Science.  She began tutoring at CMC shortly after moving to Cedar Rapids and has volunteered in various capacities since then.  In her role as Government Grants Coordinator, Katie is so happy to help grow the important programs offered by CMC.  When not working, Katie loves spending time with her husband and two young children, reading, running, and visiting family and friends on the East Coast.


Katie Splean, Volunteer & Outreach Manager

Ever since Katie got her first taste of international travel in high school, she has been very passionate about encountering and learning about all cultures and lifestyles.  She majored in Business Management and German at Luther College, but took a detour to teach English in South Korea for two years.  After returning, Katie joined CMC as a RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps member, having benefited from a helping hand overseas and wanting to pay it forward to new arrivals in our community.  Following her AmeriCorps term, she has joined the administrative staff and is excited to be continuing to support CMC’s mission.


Kelsey Steines, Director of Development & Communications

Kelsey graduated from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL, with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a concentration in Not-for-Profit Management. She joined CMC in March 2015 after volunteering as a tutor since October 2014 and is excited to use her degree to support CMC’s mission. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys finding adventure through running, reading, and travel.


Garrett Turner, Welcome Assistant

Garrett has been an adult literacy program volunteer and English tutor for CMC for the past two years.  It was through this that he became acquainted with CMC’s humanitarian vision.  In his free time, he is an artist and musician, and enjoys working with a variety of art mediums and instruments.  He also enjoys cooking, sewing, and spending quality time with his friends.


Dave Walters, Director of Finance

Bio coming soon!

 

 

 


Sandy Weger, Director of Facilities & Technology

Sandy joined our staff in January 2015 as our Systems and Facilities Manager.  She was a computer programmer for 16 years before resigning to stay at home with their three sons.  At that time, she volunteered at church, school, and with their youth baseball program.  She is thrilled to be able to serve the staff and community at the Catherine McAuley Center!


 

Maria Osman, AmeriCorps Youth Education Navigator

Maria is a junior at the University of Iowa, majoring in International Studies and a certificate in Human Rights. She is planning on working with refugees in Jordan which is what prompted her to join AmeriCorps and work with refugee and immigrant children at the Catherine McAuley Center. Maria’s parents immigrated from Sudan and she grew up in a Sudanese community, which led to her interest in working with immigrants and refugees. In her free time, Maria loves to paint, read, and watch movies.


Morgan Turner, AmeriCorps VISTA Outreach & Communications

Morgan has a love for libraries, fairy tales, good sandwiches, their cat Mousie, and drinking copious amounts of coffee with people they care about.  They have a deep love of the world and hold a deep commitment to social and racial justice.  They volunteered with the LIFE program in the fall of 2021 and are delighted to be able to serve CMC through the position of Communications and Outreach VISTA supporting the administrative team.

 

 Education Services Staff

Anne Dugger, Director of Education Services

Anne holds a B.A. in English from Coe College and an M.Ed. with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership from Mt. Mercy University. She worked in the healthcare industry for many years and taught in Barbados for two years. She is passionate about helping students and tutors create community through quality language learning and new educational opportunities. Anne believes all learners are teachers and all teachers are learners, and to that end, is inspired daily by the interactions she sees at CMC. In her spare time, Anne spends time with her close family, loves to write funny and slightly dramatic letters to all and sundry, and going out for great meals with friends.


Stephen McTier, Education Coordinator

Stephen’s passion for teaching language led him to teach ESL in Mexico, Russia, Turkey, and the exotic land of Minnesota.  Through his church, he learned about volunteering at CMC then came on staff as Tutor Student Liaison because “CMC gives people the means to a stable, good life.  Who wouldn’t support that?”  He has made friends in five countries he had never been to before and has written an unpublished novel.  In his free time, he reads, walks, goes birding, watches old and new movies, and cooks.


Angie Miller, Education Coordinator

Angie has a TEFL/TESOL Certificate and a B.A. in English Language Learners Studies.  She started volunteering as a tutor at CMC and loved it so much that she applied for a job!  Her favorite part about CMC is meeting people from all over the world and with many different backgrounds.  In her free time, she likes to care for her animals and volunteer in her church.  She also goes on mission trips to Guatemala every year and plans to teach there someday.


Achissa Mushimiyimana, Education Coordinator

Achissa received her B.A. in accounting at AUCA (Adventist University of Central Africa) in Rwanda in 2000. She came to CMC in March 2015 as a student.  She is delighted to be part of the education staff as an Education Coordinator because it gives women and men the opportunity to expand confidence and empowers them to be who they want to be regardless of where they are from.  Achissa enjoys swimming, cooking, and spending time with her family in her free time.


Jelani Ragins, Summer Education Coordinator

Jelani is a student at Coe College. He heard about the Catherine McAuley Center from one of his professors and began tutoring students before being asked if he was interested in being hired for the summer. Jelani is passionate about helping others and that’s why he supports CMC. He is proud to be attending college and advocates for human rights. In his free time he likes to cook, shop, and hang with his friends and watch tv.


Katie Rosenberger, Learning and Curriculum Manager

While studying for a B.A. in music at the University of Iowa, Katie accepted an Honors Fellowship in the Writing Center, where she discovered a love for tutoring.  That led to teaching English Language Acquisition at Kirkwood Community College.  Katie joined CMC in January 2016 and is excited to be part of an organization that empowers students by building their knowledge and skills.  In her free time, Katie plays bass guitar, sings, and volunteers as a sound tech at Legion Arts’ CSPS Hall.


Jenny Rowe, Curriculum Developer

Jenny grew up in rural central Ohio and received a BA in English Language Arts Education from Ohio Northern University in 2009 and a Masters in TESOL from Wright State University in 2011.  In 2012, she moved to Iowa City for an ESL lecturer position at the University of Iowa and immediately fell in love with the area. Though she left in 2018 to be a high school English teacher at Tsinghua International School in Beijing, by mid-2020 she was back in eastern Iowa and had the opportunity to teach adult ESL students through Kirkwood Community College.  Jenny is now honored to serve the CMC as a curriculum developer, which she found through her Kirkwood colleagues. She firmly believes that everyone has a valuable life story, and she enjoys any work that empowers students to share their stories at any point in their learning journey.  She will be expanding her own story in the University of Montana’s graduate creative nonfiction writing program, which starts in August 2022.


Heather Taylor, Summer Education Coordinator

Heather studied at Kirkwood Community College before going to Emmanuel Bible College, where she just finished her second year. She is working towards a Bachelor’s in Educational Ministries, with a minor in TESOL.  When she is not in school, she enjoys watching documentaries, spending time outside, working on embroidery, and spending time with friends and family.  She is excited to be on staff and looks forward to getting to know CMC.


Amanda Weeks, Education Development Coordinator

Amanda has a B.A. from the University of Iowa in Health and Sport Sciences and a M.A. in Teaching from Drake University with an endorsement in all sciences.  She taught Environmental Science, Astronomy, Geology, and Biology at Waukee High School and taught Biology, Botany/Zoology, Environmental Science, and Field Biology at Marion High School.  She also planned and directed KICK summer camps at Kirkwood Community College.  Amanda is passionate about helping others and providing engaging learning experiences.  In her free time, she likes to spend time with her friends and family and her pets.  She loves kayaking in warm weather, taking care of her gardens, and playing trivia.


Andrew Fernicola, Children’s Learning Center AmeriCorps VISTA

Andrew “Fern” Fernicola graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 2018. There he learned the Jesuit values of service as an exchange and developed a passion to educate the whole person. He began volunteering as an ESL instructor in the fall of 2019. He is very excited for the opportunity to work at the Catherine McAuley Center as he feels the other staff appreciate similar values as himself. In his free time he enjoys hiking, reading, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.


Marimer Stadtmueller, RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps Education Coordinator

Marimer became a U.S. citizen in 2019 and she wants to serve her new home by building a stronger country. She believes in working little by little to make an impact in the lives of others in the community. Marimer started out as a student at CMC and after passing the citizenship exam, she became a tutor! Now, she is joining the Education team as an AmeriCorps Education Coordinator and she loves the environment and people at the Center.


Ben Turner, RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps Distance Learning Coach

Ben has volunteered as an English tutor for CMC for over 2 years.  He is excited to be a part of the Catherine McAuley team, where he will help teach, and prepare students and tutors for learning and teaching online.  In his free time, Ben loves to draw, play the violin, read, practice archery, and cook recipes from all over the world.  As a nature lover, he also likes to garden and take hikes.  Most of all, Ben is passionate about learning about people’s stories and experiences, and giving everyone space to live as their best selves.

 

Refugee & Immigrant Services Staff

 

Mirwais Azizi, Refugee Social Services Manager

Mirwais is an immigrant who left Afghanistan for the safety of himself and his family.  He has worked for the US Government for more than 6 years as chief of staff of a program who’s aim was to help the people.  Before that, he worked for the French NGO “ALTED” where he ran a department that helped immigrants returning from Pakistan and Iran to find shelter and other needs.  He has 14 years of experience as an aid worker and has always been involved in helping people, which he is most proud of.  He is an EMBA holder and loves to be part of a family that helps people.


Jacques Bisimwa, Case Manager

Jacques is from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He left the Congo in 2007 and went to Zimbabwe where he lived as a refugee until moving to the USA in 2017.  He’s currently a student at Kirkwood Community College, majoring in Human Services.  He has a great passion for inspiring people to do well in their lives, which pushed him to volunteer in any possible way to help people.  From 2016 to 2017, Jacques was helping to make uniforms for high school students in his refugee camp in Zimbabwe.  He’s always been proud to see people progressing in their lives.  That’s the only thing that makes him happy.


Benedicte Chubaka, Resettlement Program Manager

Benedicte attended Allegheny College and got her bachelors degree in Global Health Studies and Community and Justice Studies.  She supports CMC’s mission because she knows what it is like to be in need of something and having that support and opportunity available.  During her free time, she is either hanging out with friends doing activities like brunch or traveling, or watching movies.


Jamie Forster, LIFE Program Coordinator

Bio coming soon!

 

 

 


Abby Freese, Resource Navigator

Abby holds bachelors and masters degrees in Social Work and has worked in social work since 2006.  After completing an internship at a refugee resettlement agency in Chicago in 2006, Abby had a goal of working with refugees and immigrants in her career again. After working in homeless shelters for 10 years and working with adults with intellectual disabilities, Abby returned to working with refugees & immigrants in 2016 when she started her position at CMC. Abby loves her job at CMC advocating for refugees & immigrants and connecting them with resources and services in the community.  Abby enjoys learning about other cultures and working with her co-workers at CMC to serve refugees and immigrants from the multiple cultures found in our community.  When she’s not working, Abby can usually be found spending time with her husband and their 2 adorable sons.


Caleb Gates, Case Manager & Advocacy Specialist

In February 2018, Caleb came to CMC to work with and advocate for refugees and immigrants.  Caleb began working with refugees in 2011 and previously worked with refugees under Catholic Charities here in Cedar Rapids and in Louisville, KY.  Caleb graduated from Faith Baptist Bible College with a B.A. in Biblical Studies/Spanish and from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with his Masters of Divinity.  Caleb studied abroad in Peru, Ecuador, and Japan.  He enjoys time with his wife and keeping up with his 4 children.  Caleb’s interests are eclectic – ranging from languages and cultures, history, politics, literature, science, ethics, and philosophy.  He applauds CMC’s mission to welcome and empower our society’s most vulnerable.  At CMC, Caleb works with new refugee families, gives refugees and immigrants a platform to speak, and brings people of disparate backgrounds together. Caleb is currently learning French and Swahili to better serve our clients!


Ayoub Idriss, Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator

Ayoub is originally from Sudan and moved to the United States in 2016 via a diversity visa. He has a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Khartoum in Sudan. He is also enrolled at Kirkwood Community College to continue his education.  He is married and has 3 kids, a boy and 2 girls.  He loves to spend his free time with his family and take his kids out when the weather is nice. He worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sudan, helping people affected by the armed conflict.  He knows how a person can feel when they provide humanitarian help to people in need and is thrilled to join the team at CMC and contribute to helping people in need.


Luke Kabuya, Case Manager

Bio coming soon!

 

 

 


Bonnie Lunsford, Healthcare Navigator

Bonnie obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing at Coe College in 2006 and has worked as a Registered Nurse for the past 13 years at Unity Point, St. Luke’s Emergency Department. Prior to that, she volunteered in Lakeside Montana for twelve years with Youth With a Mission, a non-denominational, international missions organization holding such positions such as a Ministry Team Member, Preschool Manager, and coordinator of travel and booking for various performing artists.  Valuable interaction with multicultural individuals began to form the foundation for her present work at CMC. Bonnie spent the Fall of 2018 at CMC as an intern for her masters in Community and Public Health Nursing. She is excited to use both of her previous job experiences to advocate for the health disparities of the vulnerable refugee and immigrant population, working to assist with their navigation of our complicated healthcare system.


Rex Mwamba, Employment Services Case Manager

Rex is from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He arrived in the U.S. in 2013.  He has a bachelor’s degree in Network & Systems Administration from DRC and an associate’s degree in IT from Kirkwood Community College.  He is also a Member Manager of his own company called World Development, LLC.  He has 3 kids, 1 boy and 2 girls.  In his free time, he likes to spend quality time with his wife, go swimming with his kids and walk his dog.  Rex is thrilled to join the team at CMC and help people find the resources they need.


Celestin Ndagije, Case Manager

Celestin came to the U.S. from Rwanda in March of 1996, after spending 2 years in different refugee camps in Congo and Zaire.  Celestin settled in Nashville, TN with his family.  As communicating was the main barrier upon his arrival, he entered Nashville State Community College to learn English and earned an Associate’s degree of Applied Sciences in Computers in 2003.  In 2019, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Tennessee State University.  In addition to his studies, Celestin worked as a nurse assistant and sometimes worked multiple jobs, so he could help people back in Africa, especially his native Rwanda.  In 2000, he began helping the Agency and Metro social service in Nashville resettle refugees from Burundi.  That experience led him to connect with the Catherine McAuley Center.  In his free time, Celestin likes to socialize with family and friends and talk to his extended family in Africa.


Renae Popelar, Careers & Employment Program Manager

Renae graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Iowa.  Renae has focused her career on helping those with various barriers gain employment and advocate for themselves.  For the past 8 years, she has been employed at IowaWORKS.  While there, she was part of the Linn County Refugee Alliance, Immigrant Concerns Committee and partnered with CMC on a project assisting Afghans secure employment and explore Career Pathways.  It was through these opportunities that Renae came to work at CMC in March of 2022.  When not working, Renae enjoys volunteering at her children’s activities (theater, dance, and show choir), family camping trips, and time on the Wapsipinicon River (the Wapsi.)  She also has a love of words.  Words can be powerful when used with kindness.


Hilaire Tshombe, Case Manager

Hilaire came to the U.S. via South Africa, but he is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. When he arrived here, life was not easy. He had to adapt from speaking French to English, and overcome financial obstacles to education. He did not give up because he had a dream to fulfill. He started at Kirkwood Community College in the spring of 2015. He struggled through the first few weeks, needing help, but having no idea where to turn. He never lost hope. Hilaire attended Mount Mercy University, and his goal is to become a social worker to help people dream of success and become self-reliant. He is always working hard so that one day he can say he has fulfilled his dreams. He believes that in the United States, we can all succeed, no matter where we come from. He is looking forward to being a part of the Catherine McAuley Center team.


Zia Ud Din Zakhail, Afghan Parolee Assistance Program Case Manager

Zia Ud Din has completed his bachelors and masters degrees in Finance from the Institute of Management Sciences.  Besides his degrees, he has diplomas in accounting, IT, and the English language.  He was a volunteer interpreter with CMC for the Afghan refugees.  When he arrived in Iowa, he loved it so much that he applied to work for CMC.  He likes working with CMC because he can interact with people from all over the world.  He has a wife and one year old daughter living in Kabul because it was impossible for him to evacuate them.


David Clower, RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps Resettlement Coordinator

David grew up in Grinnell, Iowa, and graduated from Macalester College with a degree in political science focusing on international politics, forced displacement, and immigration policy. He is excited to be back in his home state to help welcome newly arriving refugees to eastern Iowa. After serving as a RISE AmeriCorps member at Hoover Community School in Cedar Rapids, David joined CMC to get directly involved in the resettlement process, build his skills working with refugees, and help address the challenges facing immigrants in the community. In his free time, David enjoys running, making music, and spending time outdoors.


Laurent Ramazani, RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps Case Management & Employment Services Assistant

Laurent was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He left Congo and moved to Zambia with his mother, where he spent most of his childhood as a refugee.  He arrived in America, (specifically Greensboro, NC) in 2018.  He moved to Iowa in 2020 and attended Jefferson High School.  After graduating, Laurent decided to take a gap year and volunteer to work with refugees.  Helping other people and making their lives a little easier makes him feel good about himself.  When he finishes his AmeriCorps term, Laurent will attend Kirkwood Community College but hasn’t yet decided on a major.  In his spare time, Laurent enjoys playing soccer.

Women’s Services Staff

Bella Burns, Women’s Services Case Manager

Bella got her degree in Social Work from Loras College, during which she worked as a community trainer providing direct community and home-based support to people with intellectual disabilities.  She finished her degree by interning with Friends of the Family in assisting survivors with fleeing domestic violence and locate housing.  After she graduated she worked as an IHH case manager through the Abbe Center and was promoted to the PATH homeless outreach position, during which she worked with many women with, not only the trauma of homelessness, but with several incidents of sexual assault, domestic violence, and substance use.  She decided that she would hone her skills of  advocacy and connections to resources towards the Catherine McAuley Center, so she could continue to serve the women within her community to support them on their journey.


Kristin Bratton, Women’s Services Support Specialist

Kristin graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies and Spanish.  She began working for the Transitional Housing program after volunteering in the Education program since 2015.  She is excited to support CMC’s mission by empowering women with education and resources.  In her free time, she enjoys supporting her bonus children, being outdoors, and playing with her two cats.


Cassandra Malecek, Women’s Services Coordinator

Cassandra obtained her degree in Social Work from Mt. Mercy University.  She felt that her experiences and desire to help others led her to CMC. She believes in the mission of CMC and says it’s inspiring to be part of an agency that highlights the importance of education to spark change. Cassandra is most proud of her family and the strong bonds she has with them and her friends. These relationships keep her grounded and provide her with limitless amounts of joy and laughter.  In her free time, Cassandra enjoys traveling.


Bailey Wilson, Race, Gender, & Homelessness AmeriCorps VISTA

Bailey graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology.  While at Iowa State, she worked as a Peer Wellness Educator, implementing programs around mental health and violence prevention, and empowering her peers to take action in their own lives.  After graduating, she spent her time volunteering with causes she cares about in her home community of Pella before joining the Women’s Services team at Catherine McAuley Center.  Her passion for understanding social inequalities and barriers faced by marginalized communities brought her to her role as Race, Gender, and Homelessness VISTA.  She looks forward to seeing future programming and resources built from the research she does in her role at CMC.