Learn about our history, mission, vision, values, board and staff team.

Our History

Our history traces back to the creation of the Kazakh-American Free University (KAFU) in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan in 1994.  This university offered a unique education in post-Soviet Kazakhstan that was based on international partnerships.  In 1997, Dr. Marshall Christensen visited KAFU with three business representatives from Oregon.  As a result of their visit, in August, 1997, they created the Marshall Christensen Foundation for International Higher Education (the MCF).  The initial work of the MCF was focused on supporting the development of KAFU and its goal to develop leaders for independent Kazakhstan.

In 2004, Marshall Christensen created a servant leadership course for students at KAFU. The impact of this course was dramatic.  Students were eager to talk about the leadership problems that they saw in the world and to consider a better approach that embraced different values. As a result, Marshall Christensen and Daniel Ballast (who was working as vice-president at KAFU), understood the tremendous need to work with places of learning to help students and teachers consider leadership principles based on the universal values of people and relationships. They developed a formal program called the "International Servant Leadership Program" or "ISLP."  This program included the concept of an "Academy" where students would travel to a certain place to experience real-life examples of servant leadership. Over the following years, Co-Serve began to operate elements of the ISLP in a growing number of countries.

To operate programs around the world, the MCF relied on a growing base of public donor support and, in 2008, the MCF received formal authorization to operate as a public charity in the United States.  In 2009 the Board of Directors approved the DBA name for the organization, "Co-Serve International," a name which better reflected the on-going work of the organization. Co-Serve believes that servant leadership is all about building accepting, empowering, and interdependent communities.  Today, Co-Serve works to support such communities around the world, including in Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Thailand, the Philippines, Nigeria and the USA.


Our mission is to model and cultivate servant leadership communities around the world.

Our vision to see a growing number of thriving, sustainable servant leadership communities that are bringing transformation to our world.


  • People and Relationships.  We love and treasure people and relationships among people. This is a foundational value from which our other core values emerge.
  • Servant Leadership.  We model, share, teach and draw out the principles of servant leadership through our programs.
  • Purpose and Holistic Formation. We believe people are served best when they grow holistically (physically, emotionally and spiritually) and when they are able to understand who they are and follow their unique purpose in life.
  • Community.  We believe the context for servant leadership is in community. We live in, model and build learning communities of servant leadership.
  • Cross-Cultural Connection.  We desire to bring countries and cultures together in dialogue, friendship and partnership.


Co-Serve's Board of Directors represent servant leaders from a broad background of experience:

  • Rick Coulson, Chair.  Rick is an Intel Senior Fellow and director of the Storage Technologies Group (STG) at Intel Corporation.  He is an avid pilot (instrument-rated) and enjoys developing future business and technology leaders.
  • Carol Stiles, Vice-Chair.  Carol has served as an advocate for children in Central Oregon, where she has served on numerous boards, committees, and taskforces. Carol helped to develop the first Head Start program for Bend and Central Oregon. For 13 years, she served as the Executive Director of The Center Foundation, which provides a host of athletic and medical services for children.
  • Keith Naber, Secretary.  For the past 18 years, Keith has been with Intel Corporation in various roles including Plant Manager, Senior Operations Manager and Chief of Staff. Keith is a professional coach who is passionate about helping others clearly identify their goals and reach them.
  • Nancy DeSouza, Treasurer.  Retired from a career in Oregon State government, Nancy uses her experience to mentor and contribute to our future, including through service on various boards and commissions.
  • Valentina Yakuba.  Valentina is the English Philology Chairperson at Borys Grinchenko Kyiv University in Kyiv, Ukraine.  She has played an instrumental role in championing the work of Co-Serve International and the development of servant leadership in Ukraine.
  • Danette Ver Woert.  Danette is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington.  She is energized by opportunities to empower students, specifically young women, in leadership development and identity formation.
  • Steve Cramer.  Steve has led teams of scientists for over 40 years in the design and analysis of research efforts to resolve fisheries issues. He has worked as a fisheries consultant to state and federal agencies, Indian tribes, and private firms and he is the the Founding Scientist at Cramer Fish Sciences.
  • Aziz Harawi.  Aziz has worked as the Director of the Institute for Leadership Development in Herat, Afghanistan for over 10 years. Aziz has played a key role in helping Co-Serve to partner with the work of the ILD in Afghanistan.
  • Maria Peterson.  Maria has over 20 years of experience in education and development work in Central Asia. She is currently the Director of Partnership for MorningStar Development, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to bringing training and services to the Afghan people.


Co-Serve is incredibly fortunate to work with and learn from the following individuals as part of its staff team:

  • Dr. Marshall Christensen, Leadership Team Member.   Marshall has dedicated his career to higher education and helping students prepare for life.  He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon and he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.  He worked for 15 years as the president of Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon.  He is a professor of history and the international provost for the Kazakh-American Free University in Kazakhstan.
  • Dr. Daniel Ballast, Leadership Team Member.   Dan has helped to develop international higher education as vice-president of the Kazakh-American Free University in Kazakhstan since the university's creation in 1994.   He lives with his family in the Philippines, where he is part of the staff team at Shepherd's Home of Servant Leadership.  As a member of Co-Serve's Leadership Team, Dan helps to direct Co-Serve's programs around the world.
  • Gary Williams, Leadership Team Member.  Gary practiced servant leadership for many years as the COO at Western Partitions, Inc. in Portland, Oregon. He now champions and directs Co-Serve's Mentor Program and Coaching Program as well as Co-Serve's programs in Afghanistan.
  • Anna Kabardina, Leadership Team Member.  In addition to Anna's work on Co-Serve's Leadership Team, she works as a Manager in the International Department of the Kazakh-American Free University, where she organizes a variety of educational exchange programs.
  • Lu Hawley.  Lu works to build community and develop servant leaders as she teaches and mentors students in Thailand.  She works specifically with students from the Karen hill tribes in the Karen Leadership Development Program.
  • Jonathan and Janie Martin.  Jonathan and Janie work with international teams, nationals, and their agencies to help shape servant leadership communities that impact the culture they are in with these same values and practices.  They also coach church leaders to create and sustain servant-leadership communities with and amongst their staff and congregations.
  • Bob Maddox.  Bob has been doing leadership training around the world for the past 25 years.  Bob currently works with Co-Serve as a coach, consultant and leadership trainer.
  • Dr. Patrick Mitchell, EBI Champion.  Pat, a former Intel engineer, is a volunteer professor who serves at Co-Serve's partner university in Kazakhstan, the Kazakh-American Free University.  Pat directs Co-Serve's Education through Business Immersion (EBI) Program in Portland each summer.
  • Marilyn and Terry Braught, Nigeria Champions.  Marilyn and Terry support and encourage Co-Serve's partnership with Harvest Leaders Network and their staff in Nigeria..
  • Mike Hubbard, Administrative Assistant.  Mike works part time to assist Co-Serve with a variety of administrative and accounting tasks.
  • Maria Abrenica, Donor Relations Assistant.  Maria helps donors with their on-line donations and receipting.