IA welcomes applications from all who wish to join our exciting community.
Application forms are available now and are due by April 15, 2024.
Applicants will be automatically considered for grants from the IA Community Fund as well as the Star Island Corp Financial Grants program and MAY receive funding from both sources. The combined application is online here: http://www.starisland.org/conferences/financial-aid.
Financial assistance applications MAY be made for consecutive years. Please note, this is a change in policy from past years!
All financial assistance applications are held in strict confidence. From the conference only three members of the IA Community Fund Committee, one of whom serves as the Chair, as well as the IA Registrar/Treasurer, who is a non-voting member view the applications.
Financial assistance from IA and Star Island can be combined with discounts and promotions, with an earnest attempt to reach the requested room and board discount.
Only full-week conferees (five nights or more) are eligible to apply for financial assistance
IA’s Financial Assistance funds are generated yearly through fundraising activities during the previous year’s conference (including an art auction and a silent auction) and individual donations.
The IA Community Fund is committed to providing financial assistance to invest in a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive community. Individuals and families from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.
Each year the conference is planned and organized by a leadership team consisting of the Conference Committee, the Youth Director, and the Registrar-Treasurer.
The Conference Committee is the governing board of the International Affairs Conference at Star Island, a nonprofit corporation (bylaws). Committee members serve for five years: three as members, one as Chair, and one as Chair Emeritus. At the end of each conference, a new member rotates on and the Chair Emeritus rotates off.
The Chair selects the theme and recruits speakers and the minister of the week. Each Committee member has a portfolio of responsibilities, including finding and recruiting program leaders and other volunteers, coordinating with Island staff to ensure a smooth week, and generally being available to attend to the needs of the conference.
Gretchen Donehower, Chair IA 2024
Gretchen has been attending IA since age 6. She loves Star’s natural beauty and New England quirkiness, and IA’s spot on the calendar as THE not-to-be-missed summer gathering for her parents and siblings (including her sister, the fabulous registrar Kristin Laverty!). Her favorite Star activities are theme talks, watching softball, and solving the problems of the world with other conferees from a rocker on the porch.
Off-island, Gretchen is a demographer at UC Berkeley helping NGOs, governments, and researchers around the world understand how population affects our economies. She works from her home in southern Oregon, which she shares with her husband, John, and sons Jack and Bill. The boys love the kid-freedom of Star, running around with friends for swimming, softball, exploring, and games. John can’t always get away from his vital work as a craft brewer (hey, it is Oregon after all), but on-island can be found making breathtaking catches in the cemetery during the Pel-IA softball game.
Greg Dixon, Chair Emeritus
Greg began attending Star Island conferences with his parents when he was nine years old. He spent a number of summers working on the island as a Pelican, and it was during one of those summers that he met his wife, Kyla. The two began attending IA with their young family in 2013. They fell in love with the conference’s slow pace, it’s good people, the intellectual stimulation and the wonderful children’s program.
On the mainland, Greg is a producer for National Public Radio (NPR). Currently, he works for the International Desk, supporting NPR reporters in 19 bureaus around the world. Prior to this role, he worked for the network’s flagship afternoon show, All Things Considered, for over a decade. Greg has reported for NPR around the world from war-zones, conflicts, natural disasters and, occasionally, places not in turmoil.
Greg, Kyla and their two small children live in Washington, DC.
Deb Nelson, Committee Member
Deb began going to IA week with her mom, brother, and sister when she was six years old. It was her favorite week of the year. She took a break from Star after moving to California, started coming back with her sons seven years ago, and feels very grateful to be part of the IA community. On the mainland, Deb is executive director of the Just Economy Institute, a community of practice and leadership development program for financial activists. She’s been supporting, educating and connecting social entrepreneurs, impact investors and nonprofit leaders for two decades. Deb and her sons Sam and Will live in Berkeley, CA.
Anthony Silva, Committee Member
Anthony first came to Star Island during IA week for an overnight in 2014 with his wife JoAnn to honor the memory of their close friend George Brandenburg. They’ve returned annually since that first visit. Anthony retired from CBS in 2015 after a 37 year career at WBZ Radio and TV in Boston where he was the afternoon radio news anchor and New England Business Editor. He created a quarterly breakfast meeting series that attracted a wide range of business and technology experts including Richard Branson and Jack Welch. He also founded the Me&Thee Music series at the UU Church in Marblehead that is now in its 53rd season. Anthony has been a dedicated UU for 55 years and has held a variety of leadership positions in two congregations. Anthony and JoAnn live in Marblehead, MA.
Rev. Carol Thomas Cissel, Committee Member
Rev. CTC (a UU parish minister currently serving in Arlington, VA) simply loves STAR. She’s been coming to the island for several years. Her first on-the-rock experience was in 2015 as a newly ordained UU Minister. “The week was magical. I felt the layers of stress and the weariness of spirit that often comes at the end of a church year just peel away the closer I got to STAR.” Her journey from the Washington DC area to IAC includes several modes of transportation: Uber, Plane, Bus, and Uber to the Dock, all before finally boarding the Thomas Laighton. CTC enjoyed a few different SI conferences and then settled into our community in 2022. “IA is my place. Y’all are my people.”
Off island, her ministry work focuses on Social Justice and Community engagement. She loves contemporary poetry, PBS mysteries, and Craft Beer. Her collection of NW Coastal Peoples Art continues to grow. What else? ” I couldn’t live without travel” (Paris, Prague, Normandy and NOLA in 2023). CTC has two adult children, a doodle pup named Prescher, and steals kisses from her two grandsons as often as possible.
Kristin Laverty, Registrar and Treasurer
As Registrar/Treasurer, Kristin Laverty handles many things that make IA run smoothly, including room assignments and travel arrangements for conferees and overnight guests. A third-generation Shoaler, she began attending IA in the 1970s and is a current member of the Star Island Corporation and active on the Nominating Committee.
A highlight of her lifelong devotion to Star were the five seasons she lived and worked on the Island as the Island Registrar, from 2006-2010.
The proud Mom of a fourth-generation Shoaler, Kristin lives with her family in Plymouth, Massachusetts where she is a middle school substitute teacher and active in school and youth sports organizations.
For questions regarding registration, Kristin may be reached at email@example.com.
Katie Bender, Youth Program Coordinator
Our Youth Program in 2022 is directed by Katie Bender, who has been an early childhood educator for nearly two decades. She is a life-long IA conferee and former Pel. Katie lives in Medfield, Massachusetts, with her husband Marc, their three children (Abby, Brooke, and Lilla), three cats, and their dog Bailey. In her spare time Katie loves to take walks in the woods with Bailey and relishes the rare opportunity to curl up with a cup of tea and a new book.
Nicole Bibbins Sedaca is the Executive Vice President of Freedom House, a non-governmental organization that works to expand and defend freedom globally, where she oversees the organization’s strategy and programs.
Gabrielle Bardall, Ph.D is an educator, advisor and activist who has worked to advance democracy and human rights in over 60 countries over the past two decades.
John Carey is the John Wentworth Professor in the Social Sciences and the Associate Dean of Faculty for the Social Sciences at Dartmouth.
Vasu Mohan currently serves as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ (IFES) senior global advisor for conflict, displacement and minority rights.
Dhanaraj Thakur is Research Director at the Center for Democracy & Technology, where he leads research that advances human rights and civil liberties online.
Robert Trent Vinson is Director & Chair of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American & African Studies at the University of Virginia and a Research Associate at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.
Maria Estrada has years of experience as a community leader and change maker, a strategic planner and implementer of JEDI initiatives, and an academic and trainer of trainers to advance equity work in education and the environment.
Al Race was Deputy Director and Chief Knowledge Officer at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University for 15 years, until his retirement in 2021.
Christina Rivers, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Political Science at DePaul University and has written about ballot access for pretrial detainees, felony disenfranchisement laws and prison-based gerrymanders.
Penn Loh is Senior Lecturer and Director of the Master of Public Policy Program and Community Practice at Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning.
Jendayi E. Frazer is a visiting professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, a former US Ambassador to South Africa, and the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2005-09.
Syaru Shirley Lin teaches political economy at the University of Virginia and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
In addition to the morning theme talks, a number of workshops and activities are offered in the afternoon. Here are some examples of what has been available in the past:
Music Workshop and IA Choir
Music at IA takes many forms. A surprising number of talented musicians attend the conference and we happily exploit their talents. A choir has been held each afternoon made up of anyone in the conference who likes to sing. Experience is not required, nor is the ability to read music, although experienced music readers are enthusiastically welcomed. Traditionally, the choir sings in the chapel every morning and we often appear in the IA Follies, our all-conference talent show.
The IA Choir has been a wonderful place to sing, whether you have never sung in your life or do it all year long. Music has ranged from simple hymns to folk music to classical rounds to short anthems to African freedom songs to Broadway tunes to original songs about Star to just about anything else you can think of.
Art Barn Workshop
Last year’s IA Art Barn workshop focused on re-purposing and transforming everyday materials that were produced for one-time use. Since our environment can’t afford to absorb single-use items into landfills, we gave paper products, twine, metals, and plastic new lives by making functional and aesthetically pleasing objects and wares. We incorporated other “found objects” on the island into projects and made drawings using charcoal from the remains of the bonfire. Art supplies are always available in the Art Barn for conferees to borrow and use for making art at any time!
At the end of the week, we hold our annual Art Auction that raises money for the IA Scholarship fund. We auction art made on the island, but conferees are also invited to bring art for the auction.
Yoga Workshop and Morning Stretch
We often include a yoga workshop and morning stretch, both of which are open to all bodies and abilities. Morning stretch takes place on the front porch and starts off your day with energy and community. Yoga workshops are usually held inside in the large, bright space of the Brookfield building several times throughout the week.
Writing, poetry, book clubs and others
Past conferences have included many other activities, including writing and poetry workshops, book discussions, and many others.