Leadership Team:





      Dr. Gretchen Neisler, Director
      Assistant Professor, School of Planning, Design, and Construction



Dr. Gretchen Neisler is the Director of the Center for Global Connections in Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (CGC), a boundary-spanning global organization located in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University with over 45 years of international development experience.  In Dr. Neisler’s capacity as Director, she oversees a highly skilled team that is focused on reducing transaction costs for faculty and students to engage in global research and outreach opportunities. 

Dr. Neisler brings both depth and breadth in international development and higher education capacity building to CGC.  Neisler has extensive experience in working with institutes of higher education in Michigan and abroad.  Prior to her appointment at CGC, Dr. Neisler served as the Associate Provost for Strategic Planning at Albion College, where she facilitated and coordinated the development and implementation of a new college strategic plan.  Her international portfolio includes work across the Middle East, East Africa, West Africa, and Southeast Asia building sustainable partnerships within and for academic institutions.  She has led workshops with faculties from institutes of higher education and other public sector professionals on curriculum development, capacity building, leadership development, gender inclusiveness in the workplace and learning from our development failures. 

With the understanding that faculty at MSU must continue the tradition of being global problem solvers, Dr. Neisler co-founded the Academy for Global Engagement, a fellowship trainng program for early to mid-career faculty who are willing to both regularly participate in global activities and view their scholarship through a global lens. 

Engagement with international organizations and funding agencies is central to Dr. Neisler’s work.  She currently serves as the past chair of the International Agriculture Section of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU). 

Dr. Neisler holds B.S. in Animal Science, an M.S. in Agriculture Extension Education and a PhD from MSU in Higher Education Administration.


.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Biotechnology Potato Project Partnership Assistant

Barbara Bird is the assistant to the Project Manager of the Feed The Future Biotechnology Potato Partnership at CGC.  This is a U.S. government global hunger food security initiative to improve potato production in Bangladesh and Indonesia.  The project will produce and steward a potato for distribution to low-income farmers and commercialization.  Barbara will be handling logistics for travel, workshops and subcontract invoices.


''     Dr. John Bonnell, Capacity Development & Outreach Specialist

Dr. John Bonnell is the Capacity Development & Outreach Specialist at CGC. In this role he works with individual faculty members and cross-departmental teams to develop competitive small and large grant proposals for international research. John also assists faculty to identify and build partnerships with new collaborators both within the College and around the world.  He also supports CGC’s project management team in technical areas of individual, institutional, and systems capacity building in developing countries. Please contact Dr. Bonnell if you are interested in partnering with MSU on an international funding opportunity.

Dr. Bonnell brings to the CGC team unique experience as a practitioner and scholar in international higher education. He has worked with educational programs and interdisciplinary initiatives in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Ghana. His research and professional interests include higher education in developing countries, faculty development, organizational transformation, and cross-border academic partnerships.  Prior to coming to MSU,  Dr. Bonnell served as a faculty member and head of department at a private university in Kenya. While at MSU, he has worked on several interdisciplinary international projects, including the Tanzania Partnership Program and the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation (USAID-funded), and contributed to several successful grant-writing teams. Dr. Bonnell holds a PhD from MSU in Higher Education Administration, specializing in African Studies and International Development. 


    Dr. Joe Cousins, Senior Academic Specialist Emeritus

Dr. Joe Cousins is a Senior Academic Specialist Emeritus and continues to serves as Academic Advisor to Tokyo University of Agriculture exchange students in the Center for Global Connections in Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture and Natural Science. Dr. Cousins had worked in CGC for many years and retired in 2013. He continues to work part- time with logistical support and assignments for CGC as requested. 

Joe has been on campus since 1984 much of that time as Advisor in the Office for International students and Scholar. Interest areas include coordinating cross-cultural training activities and as an advocate on issues affecting international students, Asian Pacific American students, student of color, and campus-wide diversity outreach.  

Joe continues his part-time teaching at MSU for the Visitors for International Professional Program (VIPP) courses; along with acting as host/translator for the Japanese Veterinarians (NOSAI) program for the College of Veterinary Medicine during their annual campus visits.

He has also published articles and presented at national and international conferences on issues related to cross-cultural communication and international education and ethnic diversity.           

Joe was born and raised in Japan and has traveled extensively in Europe and Asia.  His Undergraduate, Masters, and Ph. D degrees are from Kansas State University.     

Dr. Cousins has been a recipient of the Distinguish Academic Specialist Award and Excellence in Diversity: Lifetime Achievement Award, Asian Pacific American Student Organization Student Organization Advisor of the Year in recognition his service to MSU.

Joe currently serves on the Board of the MSU Retiree Association and the Asian Pacific American Faculty

Leisure activities includes: running, volunteering, Asian cooking, and attending MSU sporting events.


''  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Global Collaboration Specialist

In his role as Global Collaboration Specialist, Andrew Gerard supports faculty in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources as they develop global partnerships. Specifically, Andrew identifies and analyzes opportunities for engagement with foundations and other potential supporters of faculty research and extension activities.

While working at CGC, Andrew is pursuing a PhD in the Department of Community Sustainability. As part of a Research Assistantship in Community Sustainability, he supports the USAID-funded African Great Lakes Coffee Support Program in Rwanda and Burundi.  Prior to coming to MSU, Andrew was a Senior Program Officer at the Global Knowledge Initiative, an international development organization based in Washington, DC. There, he worked on programs related to collaborative innovation, policy analysis, and agricultural development in East and Southern Africa. Andrew holds a Master of Public Policy from Georgetown University, with a focus on International Policy and Development, and a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Sciences from Andrews University.


''       .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Special Projects Coordinator

Sean has been a practicing attorney for 12 years.  After starting his legal career as a trial litigator, the majority of his career has been in the area of immigration law where he specialized in immigrant visas and naturalization.  Sean has represented clients from over 25 different countries. 

Sean received his B.A. degree from Western Michigan University and his J.D. degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School where he also studied international and comparative law abroad at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, England.  


''    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Program Coordinator

Brenna Lashbrook provides assistance in planning events and organizing faculty travel.  In particular, she works with the Academy for Global Engagement and helps with communication for the program and the department as a whole.  She is a recent Animal Science graduate of Michigan State, and is excited to learn more about international development on the world stage here at the Center for Global Connections.




   Michelle McLain, Financial Administrator



Michelle McLain is the Finance Administrator at CGC.  She works with the CGC pre-award team to coordinate with faculty regarding grant requirements.  She also develops and revises budgets for faculty and Contract and Grant Administration.  Michelle acts as post-award liaison between the grant’s Principal Investigator, CGC, and Contract and Grant Administration throughout the life of the grant.

Contact Michelle if you have questions about monthly reporting, subcontracts and payments, or accounting controls.


''      .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Project Manager

John holds a PhD in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong education with a specialization in international development from Michigan State University. He has worked internationally for several NGOs over the last thirty years in community development, leadership training, and higher education capacity building. At CGC, he has managed and supported capacity building projects for USAID, USDA, and the John A. Kufuor Foundation, in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malawi, and Rwanda. He has presented his research on educational system development and capacity building at academic conferences around the world and continues to do research on human and institutional capacity development.


''      .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Communications and Strategic Directions Manager

Abby Rubley is the Communications and Strategic Directions Manager at CGC.  Her primary roles in the office include coordination of pre-award activities, building partnerships with development firms and universities, and telling the international story of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).   Abby’s unique vantage point within CANR gives her connections to the communications community across MSU.  She works closely with MSU Communications & Branding, as well as CANR communications.  Abby previously served as the Press Secretary for the Michigan Speaker of the House.

Please contact Abby if you have an international story to share or are interested in partnering with MSU on an international funding opportunity.


''      Sara Tauqi, Research Administrator

Sara Tauqi provides research coordination support for international programs and education focused on food, agriculture and natural resources initiatives. Additionally, she provides services in grant proposal development, supports new business initiatives, coordinates travel, processes travel reconciliations, and also assists with account reconciliations and payments.  Sara is currently working towards a MA in Education at Michigan State University.





    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)on Wakeman, Program and Finance Administrator


Jon Wakeman provides pre-award budget support and financial and contractual oversight for projects housed within CGC. He obtained his BA in Accounting at MSU and worked for the Defense Department for 11 years as an auditor of government contracts for various agencies, including DoD, NASA, DOE, USAID, DOT, and DOC, in the Boston and Washington, DC areas. He obtained his MA in English Literature from University of Massachusetts, Boston and his teaching credentials from George Mason University before moving with his family to Zagreb, Croatia for 2 years, where he taught at the American International School of Zagreb. Before joining CGC, he taught in the Lansing School District as a high school English teacher for fourteen years.