NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced today that Fanta Aw, PhD, a current vice president at American University and a career-long champion of campus internationalization, will serve as its next executive director and CEO, effective March 13, 2023. Among her many achievements and accolades, Aw served as the president and chair of NAFSA’s Board of Directors from 2013 to 2016, the longest tenure of any individual in that role in NAFSA’s history. In 2018, she received the NAFSA International Education Award for Distinguished Service. She will succeed Esther D. Brimmer, DPhil, who stepped down at the end of December after 6 years at the helm.
“After a robust search that yielded a very competitive pool of applicants, we are delighted to announce the selection of Fanta Aw as NAFSA’s next chief executive,” said LaNitra Berger, PhD, president and chair of NAFSA’s Board of Directors, a member of the board’s search committee, and associate professor of history and art history and director of African and African American Studies at George Mason University. “Fanta brings a dynamic track record of entrepreneurial leadership to this role, grounded in a broad background in higher education and complemented by deep experience in international education; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and strategic organizational management. As a former international student herself, a highly engaged member of NAFSA for more than 30 years, and a seasoned higher education administrator, Fanta will provide expert oversight to the continued evolution of NAFSA’s programs, products, and services in response to the changing needs of its diverse members and an ever-evolving field.”
Aw’s varied leadership roles at American University—including vice president for undergraduate enrollment, campus life, and inclusive excellence—demonstrate her skills in forging collaboration across multiple internal and external entities. Her tenure included co-leading a major institutional initiative to reimagine the student experience based on campus culture analysis, a survey of peer institutions, and consultation with focus groups. She also developed and led the inclusive excellence strategy at American University.
“This new opportunity at NAFSA represents a true homecoming for me, and I couldn’t be happier,” Aw said. “NAFSA is a venerable association that has been at the leading edge of international education throughout its existence. It is my honor to guide its next chapter. This is a pivotal moment for the association as it marks its 75th anniversary and, like all membership associations, navigates the impact of the global pandemic. I am excited to lead NAFSA in developing innovative and bold approaches to best position it for the future.”
An award-winning teacher, Aw served as the Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer at American University’s School of International Service, teaching courses on managing exchange programs; the theory and practice of international student advising; and globalization, migration, and the emergence of transnational education. Aw chaired the board of ETS TOEFL and sits on the Global Advisory Board of Times Higher Education. She is a frequent keynote speaker on topics related to international educational exchanges, diversity and inclusion in higher education, and U.S. immigration. Aw earned all of her degrees from American University: BS in accounting, MA in public administration with a focus in organizational development, and PhD in sociology with a focus in international education, social stratification, and transnational migration. Her research interests include the political economy of international education; transnational migration and diaspora communities; and race relations.
“I congratulate NAFSA on appointing a formidable international educator, academic, and higher education administrator as their next leader,” said Lavern Samuels, PhD, president of the International Education Association of South Africa, whose first term coincided with Aw’s tenure as NAFSA president and chair. “Given Fanta’s standing and gravitas, I have every confidence that she will provide visionary leadership to NAFSA and the broader international education community.”
Daniel Stoll, PhD, is serving as NAFSA’s interim executive director and CEO until Aw’s tenure begins in March. As a former U.S. State Department official and higher education leader, Stoll brings over 30 years of diverse experience in international higher education and foreign policy to the interim position. Prior to joining NAFSA as interim CEO, Stoll served as associate dean for global affairs at St. Norbert College in DePere, Wisconsin, where he directed the college’s Center for Global Engagement.
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 www.nafsa.org/press. To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit www.nafsa.org/takeaction. Resources to guide our members on these issues can be found at www.nafsa.org/reginfo.