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), 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.


Chief Financial and Operational Officer

Rita Jarecsni

Rita Jarecsni is the Chief Financial and Operational Officer at AFS. She oversees the finances of AFS International, as well as develops financial policy and direction for the AFS Network. She monitors the network organizations’ finances with the prior goal of maintaining financial stability in the Network and providing support to the organizations. In the area of operations she manages the HR of AFS International and oversees the team responsible for implementing the digital strategy of AFS.

Rita previously served as Executive Director of AFS Hungary between 2012 and 2018. During her tenure, AFS Hungary achieved impressive growth, doubling the number of study abroad program participants in a 5-year period. Prior to joining AFS, Rita worked for different financial institutions, including at OTP, the largest publicly-traded financial group in Hungary, and as Executive Director of AXA Mandatory and Voluntary Pension Fund, a French multinational financial group, with nearly USD 700 million assets under management. There, she was responsible for management of the fund’s overall operations, including overseeing the financial management of both the private and the voluntary pension fund business lines and all back-office activities.

Rita received her graduate degree in Economics in Hungary and in International Management from International Business School West Brabant (Bread, the Netherlands).


Associate General Counsel, Corporate Secretary & Data Protection Officer

Maria Grazia Brizi, Esq.

Ms. Brizi has been working at the legal department of AFS Intercultural Programs in New York since 2011.

In her current position as Associate General Counsel, Corporate Secretary and Data Protection Officer, Ms. Brizi is responsible for providing legal and corporate advice for the AFS corporation headquarter in New York and for supporting the international operations of the AFS Network.

Ms. Brizi holds a dual Law Degree from Italy and from Spain, a Masters Degree in International Relations from the Barcelona Institute of International Studies, and a Master of Laws (LL.M.) Degree from Brooklyn Law School. She is licensed to practice law in Spain and New York State. She is a Certified Information Privacy Professional/Europe (CIPP/E), a certification issued by the International Association of Privacy Professional (IAPP).

Prior to joining AFS, Ms. Brizi provided research and communications services at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) office in Managua, Nicaragua, where she conducted extensive human rights and human development research and worked with other UN agencies, local civil society organizations and governmental agencies to develop policy recommendations. She also completed research and volunteering work in Ireland, Argentina, and Brazil. Currently she volunteers for a number of nonprofit organizations, mainly focused on offering legal services to migrants    

Hal Denton

General Counsel & Chief Risk Management Officer

Hal Denton, Esq.

Hal Denton is the General Counsel and Chief Risk Management Officer at AFS responsible for legal work of the international division of AFS and overseeing risk management team and policies for AFS organizations in 60 countries. This includes developing policies, procedures and standards for global operations, oversight of worldwide litigation and claims against AFS and monitoring outside counsel around the world. Hal brings a wealth of experience to AFS, having  worked for several U.S. based law firms advising not-for-profits, software companies and international businesses on corporate law, asset protection, risk management, risk mitigation, international business transactions, acquisitions, software licensing, and intellectual property. Recently, Hal has co-authored a book on risk management, No Complaints, No Lawsuits with Fiona Lally. Hal received his Juris Doctorate degree from the Hastings College of the Law (USA) and his Bachelor’s of Art degree from Syracuse University. He is a member of the New York, Louisiana and California State Bars.


Chief Programs Officer

Efrem Fisher

Efrem Fisher is the Chief Programs Officer at AFS Intercultural Programs overseeing the global organization’s program operations, sponsored program portfolio, and business development initiatives. Prior to joining AFS in 2015, he worked as an emerging markets consultant with Veracity Worldwide in New York and in international development at the Corporate Council on Africa in Washington, DC. Efrem began his career as a high school teacher in the Dominican Republic and Brooklyn, New York, and holds masters degrees in education from Brooklyn College and international affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Efrem has traveled, lived, studied, and volunteered abroad, including in Israel, Namibia, and the Dominican Republic, and counts these experiences among the most impactful of his life.

Melissa Liles

Chief Global Engagement Officer

Melissa Liles

Melissa Liles has spent two decades leading efforts to help people and organizations improve how they communicate and connect across differences. As head of global partnerships and thought leadership for AFS Intercultural Programs worldwide, Ms Liles works closely with education authorities, practitioners and academic experts in over 60 countries. Accomplishments include establishing a state-of-the-art global training initiative, The Intercultural Link Learning Program, for 50.000 adult learners worldwide; serving as the first National Director for AFS India; and leading digital marketing campaigns for Global 500 brand clients. Her undergraduate and graduate work is in international relations and communications.


Chief Organization Development and Strategy Officer

Lucas Welter

Lucas Welter is the Chief Organization Development and Strategy Officer for AFS. His team is responsible for engaging 60 AFS Organizations worldwide around AFS strategic global priorities and impact goals. His team also oversees our global human capital development initiatives, providing AFS leadership, staff, volunteers and board members worldwide with the knowledge and skills required to lead a global mission-driven organization.  

Lucas’s nonprofit management experience spans more than 20 years, helping organizations tackle complex challenges in search of innovation. He is a dynamic presenter known for facilitating creative interactive training and planning workshops. Lucas uses design thinking and change management methodologies to build more effective organization development programs and redesign business processes focused on customer needs and greater user satisfaction. He has extensive experience in volunteer management and development, with a track record of helping build the AFS volunteer ranks to 55,000 worldwide.

Motivating and increasing retention rates of volunteers was the subject of his Master’s Degree dissertation. Lucas  majored in Business Administration from Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) in Brazil and holds a Master in Organizational Psychology from The London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Certificate in Social Impact Strategy from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to AFS, Lucas was a management consultant with Deloitte.