Dr. Vishaka N. Desai


Dr. Vishakha Desai

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. Vishakha is 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.

Urlich Voss

vice chair

Ulrich Voss

Ulrich Voss is the Founder and Managing Partner of Kronberg Advisors, a management consultant firm. Ulrich has been working at the interface of banking, technology and operations for 20 years. As Chief Operating Officer of HSH Nordbank AG , a board member of Avaloq Evolution AG a financial technology company and a seasoned management consultant at McKinsey & Company Inc., Ulrich has extensive experience and an impressive track record in the design and implementation of complex projects. He is a committed AFS volunteer and a member of the Advisory Council of AFS Germany. Ulrich is Treasurer for “Freunde und Förderer der Bischof-Neumann-Schule”,  a German charitable association in the field of education.  Ulrich is an AFS Alumnus. He has a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University (USA) and a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering from Darmstadt Technical University (Germany).

Veronica Boix Mansilla

Dr. Veronica Boix Mansilla

Dr. Veronica Boix Mansilla is a Principal Investigator and Steering Committee member at Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she leads the IdGlobal Project and chairs the Future of Learning Institute. She co-developed the OECD-PISA framework on Global Competence in 2018, which is part of the PISA standardized testing administered to 15-year-olds worldwide. With a background in cognitive science, human development and education, she examines how to prepare our youth for a world of increasing complexity and interdependence. Her research focuses on three main areas: global competence as it develops among learners and teachers in various world regions; quality interdisciplinary research and education among experts, teachers and youth; and quality teaching and learning in disciplines (history, biology, the arts) as lenses through which to understand the world. Veronica serves as an advisor at a variety of institutions including the Asia Society, Association of American Colleges and Universities, Council of Chief State School Officers, the Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, the International Baccalaureate, World Savvy and Global Kids, among others. She teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has taught the University of Buenos Aires. Veronica holds a doctoral degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education (USA).


Lennart D’hulst

Lennart D’hulst is an HR Project Manager at NMBS, the Belgian railways company. He previously worked as project manager at Bpost (Belgian’s largest parcel delivery company) and, at the beginning of his career, as a staff member of AFS Belgium-Flanders and also the European Federation for Intercultural Learning, the umbrella organization for AFS in Europe. Lennart obtained his master degree in International Relations at Ghent University, Belgium and is a certified project and change manager.  He is an AFS alumnus to South-Africa, still an active AFS volunteer in Belgium-Flanders and also serves on the Board of Directors of Sentio, Inc.


Amalie Ferdinand

Amalie Ferdinand is Trade Union Consultant, focusing on the field of teachers working conditions. Currently, she works for the Union of Education Denmark, with a focus on labor contracts, working conditions and collective agreements. Amalie previously worked as a consultant for the Organisations of Public Employees—Denmark and CO-industri (The Central Organisation of Industrial Employees in Denmark. Amalie is an active AFS Volunteer in Denmark and a former Board Chair of AFS Denmark. Amalie is an AFS Alumna. Amalie received her degree from Roskilde University and followed several subjects at the University of Copenhagen.

Makiko Haraga

Makiko Haraga

Makiko Haraga has written for various publications and published books both as an author and a translator.  She is also Adjunct Lecturer in English at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Makiko has managed her family business manufacturing designer handkerchiefs. She also worked in the communication’s office at Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Ltd. AFS volunteer since 1988, including: member of AFS Japan’s Board of Councilors (1998-2000), member of AFS Japan’s Board of Directors (2012-March 2018).  Makiko is an AFS alumna. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University (USA) and a Bachelor degree in Sociology from Keio University (Japan).


Isada Hiranwiwatkul

Isada Hiranwiwatkul is Partner and Managing Director at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Head of BCG Thailand. He has extensive experience in strategy development and execution, digital transformation, people & organization design, and buy-side M&A support. He is currently on the Board of Directors of AFS Thailand. Isada is an AFS alumnus. He has an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management (USA) and a Bachelors of Engineering from Kasetsart University (Thailand).


Regina Honu

Regina Honu is the founder and CEO of Soronko Solutions, a software development company, as well as the Soronko Academy, Tech Needs Girls and many other initiatives. She is a passionate advocate for empowering  girls and women in Ghana and throughout Africa. She has received numerous recognitions, including being featured on CNN as one the inspirational women who rock STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), honored among women making an impact in Tech in Africa, named as one of 10 female entrepreneurs to watch in emerging economies, awarded Young Entrepreneur of the year by the GPA Awards from Africa 2.0 and much more. She belongs to the African Leadership Network and is a Mandela Washington Fellow. In 2018, she won the AFS Global Citizen of the Year Award. Regina is an alumna of AFS study abroad programs, from Ghana to Norway in 2000. Find out more about Regina in her interview with AFS.

Ivonne de Leon

Ivonne de Leon

Ivonne de Leon is the founding partner at Transilient, a management consulting firm focusing on n human resources and organizational culture in Latin America. Ivonne has been senior executive with more than 20 years of experience in the airline industry, most recently as Talent Vice President for Avianca Airlines.In addition to her considerable experience in human resources processes,de Leon has a =strong background in finance and strategy. Her past experience also includes working in different strategic capacities for World Bank Missions in Guatemala, Aviateca (the Airlines of TACA in Guatemala), and TACA Airlines.She is a member of the Executive Board of Avianca Holdings. Ivonne  attended the UCLA Anderson School of Management (USA) and received her Master’s and Bachelor’s Degrees from Universidad Francisco Marroquín (Guatemala).


Eric Lomelí

Eric Lomelí is part of the State & Local Government team at esri. Eric has 20+ years of experience in the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) field and over 12 of those in local government and the rest in higher education. His other areas of expertise are demographics, historical digital data, spatial analysis, mentoring, project management, strategic planning, efficiency assessments, and intercultural learning. He has served on the AFS USA Board of Directors and is the former Chair of their Volunteer National Council. Eric is an AFS alumnus (USA to Italy ‘92). He holds a Master of Science degree in Geographical Information Systems (Management) from the University of Redlands (USA), and a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (USA).


Michaela Mariani

Michela Mariani is a lawyer and currently the head of the legal and corporate affairs department at Cherry106 S.p.A., an Italian financial institution, operating in the field of non performing loans and credit recovery. Her work focuses mostly on banking law and regulation. Previously, as attorney at law enrolled in the Venice Bar, her main specializations have been on M&A, company law and antitrust. Michela is an AFS alumna (high school year abroad from Italy to the USA 1997-1998), she is a committed and active volunteer of Intercultura in Italy. She used to be the Vice Chair of the Association and she is a member of the Board of arbitrators.



Daniel Obst

Daniel is President & CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs. Under Daniel’s leadership, the 100+-year-old organization has developed a transformative new global strategy focused on three mission-driven impact goals: developing active global citizens, globalizing schools and other institutions and expanding access to intercultural education to young people in underserved communities. Before joining AFS in 2016, Daniel served as Deputy Vice President for International Partnerships at the Institute of International Education (IIE), and Producer and Director of Product Development at the tech start-up iAgora.com. Daniel has a B.A. in International Relations from the George Washington University (USA) and holds a Master’s degree in European Studies from the London School of Economics (UK).

He currently serves on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, the Advisory Board of the Leading Disruptive Innovation Program at Rutgers University, and the Advisory Council of Diversity Abroad.

Ernesto Rey Moreno

Ernesto Rey Moreno

Ernesto Rey Moreno is the  Founder & CEO of Empresas REYMORENO and President & CEO PiLife – Felicidad Inteligente. Empresas REYMORENO is based in Colombia and was initially founded in 1978 as a telecommunication and IT company, The company now focuses on tourism and capital investment, with elements of corporate social responsibility and entrepreneurial projects for sustainable development in Colombia. PiLife is a mentoring and life coaching consulting firm. Ernesto has  served as the Chair of the  AFS Colombia Board. This is Ernesto’s second time serving on the AFS Board of Trustee.  Ernesto received Master’s Degrees from the  Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Telecommunications Executive Management Institute of Canada (TEMIC) and an undergraduate degree from Universidad de los Andes.


Dr. Willibald Plesser

Willibald Plesser is an attorney at law and a partner in Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s global transactions group. He also is a Freshfields country partner for the CEE/CIS region and for Turkey. Willibald focuses on global transactions, esp. mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the financial institutions, energy and media sectors, and on related arbitrations. His core skills lie in negotiating transactions, structuring complex matters, and resolving disputes, and he is often involved in the negotiations of joint ventures. He is well known for his expertise in Eastern Europe as well as in the CIS region and Turkey. For a number of years in a row, Willibald has been ranked as the no. 1 CEE lawyer in Austria by a leading Austrian magazine. Willibald is an AFS Alumnus, he and his wife have hosted AFS students and sent their own 3 boys on AFS programs. He is a committed AFS volunteer and currently a member of the Advisory Council of AFS Austria. He holds Master’s Degrees in Law and Philosophy and a Doctoral Law Degree from the University of Vienna, and is a Member of the Austrian and International Bar Associations


Dr. Roberto Ruffino

Roberto Ruffino is the Secretary General of Fondazione Intercultura.  His work focuses on the pedagogy of international pupil exchanges . He has encouraged research in this field by cooperating with UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and the European Commission. Roberto founded and served as the Chairman of the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL), served on the European Board of SIETAR and presided at SIETAR Italy. SIETAR International Congress in Washington awarded him the Senior Interculturalist Award. Roberto is an AFS Alumnus. Roberto holds a doctoral degree in philosophy from the University of Turin (Italy) and an honorary doctorate in education science awarded by the University of Padua for being “an entrepreneurial leader in the field of intercultural education, that he has contributed to introduce into Italian schools.”


Dr. Helmut Schuster

Helmut Schuster, PhD is currently an executive advisor at bp, a global energy company, and spent the last decade as bp’s Head of HR. Advocating for diversity and inclusion and developing global competence in young people around the world is a major priority for him. Schuster helped create the innovative bp Global STEM Academies, a four-week international scholarship program for students from all backgrounds that combines STEM and intercultural learning. He studied international relations and completed his PhD in economics at the University of Vienna. Helmut is currently Chairman of Ivoclar Vivadent, and co-founder of Chirymoya, a social enterprise focused on building the next generation of underprivileged Colombians. A former board member at AFS Austria, Helmut is also an alumnus of AFS study abroad programs, from Austria to the USA in 1977.