Who we are

Welcoming the world to Iowa since 1938

Iowa International Center enriches lives and creates pathways to prosperity

Our Work

We connect international visitors and Iowans to educational and cultural resources – leadership that makes Iowa a more inclusive and welcoming place to live, work and raise a family.

The Iowa International Center is uniquely positioned and equipped to provide effective and efficient access to international resources as follows:


Through the Center’s own Sehgal Foundation International Visitors Center , the Iowa International Center works with the U.S. Department of State and USAID to facilitate visits from hundreds of emerging international leaders each year. These exchanges build personal and lasting connections between Iowans and professionals from around the world, as well as economic development opportunities for Iowa.

Removing language barriers

The Iowa International Center provides an extensive interpretation and translation service through an ever increasing number of languages, with currently more than 60 languages and dialects and a network of 150 professional interpreters. A 24/7 Emergency Interpretation Hotline in 220 languages assists non-English speakers and first responders dealing with crisis situations. More recently, we’ve offered ELL educator traning in Des Moines.

Buildling understanding

Iowa International Center’s Passport to Prosperity awards celebrate the lived experience of immigrants and refugees who make Iowa a better place. Our Global Conversations dialogue series addresses Iowa issues with perspectives from around the world.

Our History

The Iowa International Center was formed by a group of volunteers to assist immigrants fleeing the war in Europe. In 1941, the Center partnered with a group of community organizations to sponsor a Panamanian student’s trip to Iowa — a venture that led to the formation of the Pan American Board of Education.

  • In the 1940’s, this organization sponsored 150 college students from
    Panama and changed its name to the Iowa Children’s Institute of Language
    and Culture. Elinor Robson was hired as director.
  • In the 1950’s, the leaders of the Children’s Institute decided that building a cultural and international awareness was a task that needed a broader objective, and again, they changed the name of the organization to the Boards of International Education (BIE).
  • Throughout the 1960’s the name changed to the Des Moines Area Council for International Understanding. The council’s translation service became actively engaged in both emergencies and business work.
  • In 1976, the Council joined the National Council for International visitors (now called Global Ties), placing it, for the first time, in a national network of agencies to receive and schedule international visitors form the United States information agency.  Thousands of emerging international leaders and industry professionals have visited Iowa through this program.
  • In 1978, Thomas Grouling hired to be Executive Director and served the Council until June 1992. The name Iowa Council for International Understanding was adopted by the Board in December, 1992. Dr. Judy Conlin served as Executive Director of the Iowa International Center from 2008 until January 2017.  Patricia Grote is the the current Executive Director for the Iowa International Center.
  • In August 2011, the Iowa Council for International Understanding changed its name to the Iowa International Center to better capture and describe the scope of its services and programs. The organization has resided in several locations around Des Moines, and is currently in the Merle Hay Mart building located across from Merle Hay Mall.

Throughout the organization’s history, the many volunteers who provided leadership and time to the organization always believed the Center should be dedicated to international understanding between Iowans and the rest of the world.

Our values

As a leader in international understanding and civic diplomacy, our mission is to enrich lives and create pathways to prosperity. Our vision is to create global community, welcoming the world to Iowa.

We value:

  • global cultural respect
  • collaboration
  • compassion
  • growth and learning
  • embracing change
  • openness and community


Patricia Grote

Executive Director

515-282-8269 x 13
Fund Development, Strategic Leadership, Board Collaboration, Staff Training and Passport to Prosperity

Kassi Bailey

International Programs Director

515-282-8269 x 15
Fund Development, Donor Management, Passport to Prosperity

Elyse Pate

Global Language Program Manager
515-282-8269 x 16 Interpretation and Translation Services, 24/7 Interpretation Hotlines and Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable

Board of Directors

Dina Rose


John Deere Des Moines Works

Elizabeth Zaletel

Vice President

Wells Fargo

Tim Wieland



Johnny Alcivar



Karter Smith

Immediate Past President

Baton Global 

Ahmed Agyman, Ph.D.

Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families

Trinh Le-Coulter


Alex Freeman

Business Consultant & Grant Writer

Elizabeth Etchells

Dentons Davis Brown

Andrea Krieg

John Deere

Zachary Marsh

Calibrate Wealth

Jay Sehgal

Sehgal Foundation

Sharon Wegner

Iowa Attorney General’s Office

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