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Chair of the Board

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 negotiations, working conditions and individual and collective agreements. Amalie previously worked as a consultant for the Organisations of Public Employees—Denmark and The Central Organisation of Industrial Employees in Denmark. Amalie is an AFS volunteer in Denmark and a former Board Chair of AFS Denmark. Amalie is an AFS exchange program alumna to Guatemala. Amalie received her Master Degree from Roskilde University during which time she studied a semester in Mexico.

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Vice Chair of the Board

Makiko Haraga

Makiko Haraga has written for various publications and published books both as an author and a translator. She also teaches English as well as introductory courses on leadership at the Tokyo Institute of Technology as Adjunct Lecturer. Makiko has managed her family business manufacturing designer handkerchiefs. She also worked in the communications office at Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Ltd. She has been an 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 exchange program alumna to New Zealand.  She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University (USA) and a Bachelor degree in Sociology from Keio University (Japan).

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Yasmin Ahmad Merican

Yasmin Ahmad Merican is a marketing strategist, brand builder and business transformation practitioner. A former Ernst & Young (EY) global consulting partner, she is interested in the impact of today’s communications processes and technologies on leadership and institutional behaviours, especially during and post pandemic. Passionate about building stronger competencies in sustainable goodwill management through better knowledge and governance, she is also author of the ‘The Right to Brand’ (2013). In 2006, supported the drafting of Malaysia’s nation brand blueprint and contributed towards the country’s successful positioning as a preferred tourist destination between 2000 and 2015. She holds an MBA in Strategic Marketing (Distinction) from the University of Hull, United Kingdom. An AFS alumna and former director of AFS Malaysia in the 1980s, Yasmin initiated the first multinational exchanges with Japan and the Asia-Pacific in collaboration with the Malaysian Ministry of Education.

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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 Global 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 at the University of Buenos Aires. Veronica holds a doctoral degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education (USA).

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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.

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Tolga Dorken

Tolga Dorken is the founding partner of ID Turkiye AS, a technical and project management consultancy firm focusing on accessibility of buildings and public spaces for people with disabilities. He holds a B.Sc. degree in Civil Engineering (METU, Turkey), M.Sc. degree in International Project Management (ESCP, France) and has over 20 years of management experience in the construction industry. Tolga is an AFS exchange program alumnus (from Turkey to the USA 1994-1995). An active AFS volunteer since his exchange year, he is a former board chair of TKV/AFS Turkey.

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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).

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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 were 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.

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PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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) where he provided strategic leadership for many groundbreaking IIE initiatives. Daniel led the launch of Generation Study Abroad, which mobilized 700 international partner organizations to help double the number of U.S. students who study abroad. Under his leadership, partners pledged more than $185 million to support study abroad. He was also responsible for all the activities of IIE’s network of 1,500 member institutions, IIE’s Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education, and the strategic communications team.

Prior to joining IIE, Daniel worked as Producer and Director of Product Development at the tech start-up iAgora.com, an online community for young internationals who live, work and study abroad. 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 serves on the Board of Directors of the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation and the Advisory Council of Diversity Abroad.

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Dr. Willibald Plesser

Willibald Plesser is an attorney at law. He retired as a long-time Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner in April 2022 and has since been practicing as an independent lawyer.

Willibald focuses on strategic legal and transactional advice for investors and corporations, especially in relation to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the financial institutions, energy and media sectors. He also advises and acts as counsel on related arbitrations. His core skills lie in negotiating transactions, structuring complex matters, and resolving disputes, and he has often been involved in the negotiations of joint ventures. He is well known for his expertise in Eastern Europe, in the former Soviet Union and in 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, and a member of the Board of Trustees of AFS International as well as a member of the AFS Foundation Board. He holds Master’s Degrees in Law and in English and History, and a Doctoral Law Degree from the University of Vienna, and is a Member of the Austrian and International Bar Associations.

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.

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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.”

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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.

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Gustavo Sénéchal

Gustavo Sénéchal is a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil. Since 2018, Gustavo has also served as the Head of the United Nations Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brasília. His previous work experience includes working on climate change, forign policy, peacekeeping and security in different positions within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations, and the Embassy of Brazil in South Africa. Gustavo holds a Masters in Diplomacy from Instituto Rio Branco and Masters in International Relations from Instituto de Relações Internacionais, as well as a Law Degree from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. He is an AFS exchange program alumnus from Brazil to Sweden in 1991, and an active AFS volunteer in Brazil for which he received the Distinguished LifeLong Volunteer Award in Brazil in 2016.

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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).