For Immediate Release

Washington – Today, NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced that executive director and CEO, Dr. Esther D. Brimmer will be stepping down at the end of her second term on December 31, 2022. She has served in this role since January 2017. The Board of Directors has retained the services of Isaacson Miller, an executive recruiting firm with a specific international education practice and a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, to begin an international search for her successor immediately. 

“After nearly six years at the helm of NAFSA, Dr. Brimmer has served the association as a principled and dedicated leader,” said Dr. LaNitra Berger, president and chair of the NAFSA Board of Directors. “She has led NAFSA through some of the most significant and difficult years in the history of the association, including the Trump administration’s assault on travel and the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on the field. While facing these challenges, Dr. Brimmer also deepened NAFSA’s commitment to social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion through important initiatives such as NAFSA’s RISE program. We are grateful for her service to the association, and we wish her well in her future endeavors.”

Brimmer brought to the role a deep understanding of how the values underpinning international education are relevant to the most pressing issues of our time, including advancing social justice, peace-building, and people-to-people connections around the globe. Her background in U.S. government and expertise in international relations has been a driving force behind NAFSA’s successful public policy and advocacy endeavors, including pushing back a directive that barred international students from studying in the U.S. if their classes were fully online and a proposed rule to end the duration of status policy, while securing essential provisions to enable international education and exchange to rebuild and recover during the pandemic. 

“It has been a deeply rewarding experience to lead the world’s leading professional international education association for these last several years and it has been truly fulfilling to work with, and learn from, our outstanding expert staff, members, and partners around the world,” said Brimmer. “I have taken particular pride in our efforts to promote international education’s vital contributions to broader foreign policy goals, including combating authoritarianism, expanding academic freedom, and advancing social justice.”

During her tenure, Brimmer prioritized deepening relationships with the higher education associations in the U.S. and with sister international education associations across the globe. For example, NAFSA joined seven other leading higher education associations in calling for the United States government to implement a national strategy to return international student enrollment to pre-pandemic levels. Brimmer was elected to serve as Chair of the Network of International Education Associations for 2022.

Under Brimmer’s leadership, NAFSA sharpened its strategic goals to be “Educate, Advocate, and Innovate," providing a framework to lead the association in meeting the changing needs of its members now and in the future. NAFSA updated and advanced its offerings to serve and grow the field of international education, including creating the International Education Competencies 2.0 with members, the new Executive Internationalization Leadership e-Institute, and the RISE Fellowship, which provides in-depth training for international education professionals from underrepresented minority backgrounds. 

Brimmer also oversaw the transition of its industry-leading magazine, International Educator to a twelve-month all-digital format in January 2020 to expand its reach, and commissioned a book on the history of NAFSA that will be published in 2023 as part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the association to document and celebrate its evolution. 

Prior to leading NAFSA, Brimmer’s distinguished career included three appointments within the U.S. Department of State, serving as the assistant secretary for international organization affairs from April 2009 to 2013. She was a professor of practice of international affairs at The George Washington University, served as an adjunct senior fellow for international institutions at the Council on Foreign Relations, and was a senior adviser at McLarty Associates.

Before serving at the State Department, Brimmer was deputy director and director of research at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) from 2001 to 2009, and a member of the SAIS faculty. She also taught at the College of Europe in Belgium, and from 1995 to 1999, she was a senior associate at the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. Earlier, she served on Capitol Hill as a legislative analyst for the Democratic Study Group in the U.S. House of Representatives. Immediately after earning her doctorate from Oxford University, she spent two years as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company.

“As NAFSA moves into its next chapter, the board of directors will begin the search for a new CEO,” said Berger. “This process will be robust and comprehensive. The board will solicit feedback from members and other stakeholders. To lead the search, I have appointed a search committee of current and former board members who represent all facets of international education and NAFSA membership and we have retained the services of Isaacson Miller. Through this process, I am confident that we will identify a new leader who will ensure that the association continues to thrive.”


About NAFSA: Serving more than 10,000 members and international educators worldwide, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. Visit us at To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit Resources to guide our members on these issues can be found at