Our Leaders

"Our goal has been moving the community conversation from not having awareness, to being part of the conversation, and now becoming a centerpiece in the community in many different kinds of communities.

When you start a new organization, it’s not always obvious what the organization will be or if it will be here in the future. The fact that we are here 10 years later is a testament to our mission and enduring vision for Global Cleveland."

— David Fleshler, Board Chair

David Fleshler, Current Board Chair and Vice Provost for International Affairs for Case Western Reserve University, reflects on Global Cleveland’s expanding mission-driven work and evolving impact, regionally and globally.

Global Cleveland came literally from an idea in people’s minds. I think that seeing the way – the only way – that we can move forward and make real change will be the idea that migrants, immigrants, refugees, and international students need to be on the frontlines for the success of any organization – be it profit, non-profit, corporate, or government. Global Cleveland was founded to bring this impact to our region. For too long, many have not really understood that immigrants lead the way economically. While this hasn’t always been the compelling, underlying goal, it has become quite clear that Global Cleveland has helped to put this high on the list of strategic community priorities for all.

When I became Chair, there were questions about whether Global Cleveland was an organization for a corporate community or for a refugee or a nationalities community. We are now an organization embraced by many more segments. We continue to strive, refining and strengthening our mission. Global Cleveland is moving in a direction that has gone from thinking that the definition of success was increasing newcomers to the region, (“In 10 years, we will bring 100,000 new people to Northeast Ohio.”) to the idea that true success is elevating the quality of life and prosperity in the region for all. Not only do we feel comfortable sharing this shift, but the wider community has responded. Not just new migrants and immigrants coming to Greater Cleveland, but those who have been here for generations.

We’re not there, but we are getting there. There are some specific things that are helping us get to where we want to be. Pre-pandemic, the wonderful naturalization ceremonies where we welcome newcomers and their families. The welcoming work and learning environment at Thomas Jefferson Newcomer Academy, created for PreK-12 students who have just arrived in Cleveland from other countries. Helping them find their way in a new country with a different language and different customs. From old-timer Clevelanders working with kindergartener and high schooler newcomers, bringing them all together has been important, gratifying work. We expanded our reach through our Sister Cities, building a deep local-global network of businesses, educational institutions, organizations, and local governments connected to Cleveland to further internationalize our great city. We are really starting to have people from around the world (and vice-vice versa) see something, want to start something, here in Cleveland.

When you start a new organization, it’s not always obvious what the organization will be or if it will be here in the future. The fact that we are here 10 years later is a testament to our mission and enduring vision for Global Cleveland. We have a very small staff, with less person power to do all the work. We need to set the table and bring people around the table who understand, who can collectively begin to implement and encourage others to do this kind of work with us, within their own organizations for greater exponential reach and impact. 

My proudest moment as Board Chair in the last 10 years was hiring Joe Cimperman. As the great Mort Mandel once said, “It’s all about who.” All about having the right leader in the right place at the right time. I was fortunate in my first year as a Chair. We found Joe, or rather, Joe found us, and that makes all the difference for an organization like ours. At the end of the day, he is the driving force.

 As a leader for the Global Employer Summit, this is a personal issue for me. I would argue that our international students are the best and the brightest, and if we can capture a bigger portion to stay in Greater Cleveland, helping to advance Greater Cleveland, I see a lot of areas for Greater Cleveland to advance and continue to transform. This is about bringing people together. We have made a much stronger, more conscious effort reaching out and getting more people involved. I understand it so much more viscerally now, to impact more people, to truly improve more lives. We are just at the beginning. We are starting to see Cleveland’s outreach to the rest of the world. We are on the cusp of doing so much more.