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 empower and connect communities that practice and teach servant leadership.

Our vision is 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:

  • Carol Stiles, 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.
  • Gilbert Gleason, Vice-Chair.  Gilbert has pastored a church in Oregon for the past 40 years. He grew up as a son of missionaries on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. He is the author of the book, "Love So Amazing: The Missionary Biography of Bert and Colleen Elliot." He has served as an adjunct professor for Trinity International University and Western Seminary and he is a teacher of the Perspectives Course.
  • Douglas K. Hartman, Secretary.  Doug is Professor of Technology & Learning at Michigan State University. He directs the graduate program in Teaching & Curriculum and conducts research on the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning. He has several decades of experience working with scholars and educators globally.
  • Valentina Yakuba, Treasurer.  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.
  • 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.
  • Ron Wiley.  Ron has worked for the past 29 years with Resource Exchange International, Inc. (REI, Inc.), an international humanitarian service organization. With over 30 years of engagement in Central Asia, Ron is currently the Central Asia Director for REI, Inc. Within his REI, Inc. leadership role, Ron is an associate professor of International Relations at the Kazakh-American Free University, in Kazakhstan, and is also part of the launch team on the faculty at the Samarkand International University of Technology in Uzbekistan.


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

  • Dr. Marshall Christensen, Founder.  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.  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.  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.  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.
  • Rick Coulson, Leadership Team.  Rick recently retired as 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.  Marilyn and Terry support Co-Serve's global Academy programs and training programs.
  • 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.