Active Global Citizen

Vishakha N. Desai, Columbia University

SDG #4 Quality Education
Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University and Chair of the AFS International Board of Trustees
For her work on Asian American issues, she has received awards from the University of Massachusetts, City University of New York, Asian Americans for Equality, and Leadership Education for Asian Pacific Americans (LEAP). For her leadership in the arts, she has been honored by Art Table, a national organization of women leaders in the arts, and has received a Gold Medal from the National Institute of Social Sciences. Dr. Desai was selected by Crain’s New York as one of the “100 most powerful women leaders” in New York, by India Abroad, the leading national weekly for Indian Americans, as one the “50 most distinguished Indian Americans,” and was honored by Zee T.V. (India) as the outstanding International Woman of the Year. In 2012, in recognition of Dr. Desai’s leadership in the museum field, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve on the National Museums and Library Services Board.
“There is a real urgency to provide opportunities to all young people to engage with the unfamiliar, appreciate and respect differences, and use the knowledge gained from understanding cultural differences to find and act on solutions for the problems in the world.”


Dr. Vishakha N. Desai is Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Global Thought, and a Senior Research Scholar in Global Studies at its School of International and Public Affairs.

From 2003 to 2012 Vishakha served as President and CEO of the Asia Society, a global organization dedicated to strengthening partnerships between Asia and the U.S. Under her leadership, the Asia Society expanded the scope and scale of its activities with the opening of new offices in India and Korea, a new center of U.S.-China Relations, internationally recognized education programs, and inauguration of two new architecturally distinguished facilities in Hong Kong and Houston.

Vishakha serves on the boards of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Teach For All, KREA University, and Mahindra & Mahindra, a major multinational corporation based in India. She also chairs the advisory board for Asian Pacific American Center of the Smithsonian Institution.

She is also an AFS alumna, and holds a B.A. in Political Science from Bombay University, an M.A. and Ph.D. in Asian Art History from the University of Michigan (USA), and is the recipient of five honorary degrees and numerous national and international awards.

Connect and network with Vishakha as well as other Active Global Citizens and leading 21st century education stakeholders at the AFS Global Conference: Active Global Citizenship—and How to Educate for It, 9-11 October in Montreal.

Register for the AFS Global Conference