Elliott School professor named international education group’s CEO

An Elliott School of International Affairs professor was recently named the executive director and CEO of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors.

The board of directors of NAFSA selected Esther Brimmer after an “extensive search process,” according to a NAFSA release. The position will require her to lead the organization and create goals, which means leaving GW behind after three years as a faculty member.

NAFSA is an international organization that supports global education and cultural understanding, according to its website. The group currently has 10,000 participants in 150 countries through more than 3,500 institutions, Brimmer said.

Brimmer said she was interested in the position because of its focus on the advancement of international education – a topic she has been passionate about.

“I recognize that they do really important work in helping support institutions of people who are actually advancing international education through study abroad, exchange of scholars and other types of activities,” Brimmer said. “I’m glad to have a chance to help contribute to that work.”

As part of the U.S. Department of State advisory commissions, Brimmer previously worked with NAFSA on international education programs. Brimmer was appointed to the Department of State three times and was the assistant secretary of state of International Organization Affairs until she came to GW in 2013.

Being at GW and understanding international students’ needs will help Brimmer as CEO, she said. Although she won’t have to move because NAFSA’s headquarters are located in D.C., Brimmer said she will miss the students and faculty at GW.

“I have always been very fortunate in my career to have always worked in dynamic environments driven by ideas, and that was very much true here at GW,” Brimmer said. “I feel like it’s a new chapter but in the same book.”

Brimmer said she also considers her time as part of the Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies essential experience that prepared her for this position. She currently serves as an adjunct senior fellow for international institutions on the Council on Foreign Relations and senior adviser at McLarty Associates, an international strategic advisory firm.

Fanta Aw, NAFSA president and chair of the board, said the search committee was impressed with Brimmer’s experience and passion for international education.

“She was selected because she was without a doubt the most compelling candidate that we had who in many ways based on her experience, based on the depth of knowledge that she has, based on her record of public service and given what NAFSA is, we thought she was absolutely the right person at the right time,” Aw said.

Reuben E. Brigety, the dean of the Elliott School, said in an email that Brimmer contributed to the school through her knowledge and experience in foreign policy.

“We all benefited from her dedication and generosity of spirit,” Brigety said. “We will miss her and wish her well as she continues to serve the public interest in her new capacity as head of the Association of International Educators.”

Robert Maguire, a professor of international affairs and the director of the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies program who works in the office next to Brimmer’s, said she was a “strong advocate” for women and minority students in the Elliott School.

Maguire also assisted Brimmer with research on Brazil’s role in the international community as part of the Brazil Initiative, an Elliott School program focused on educating the public about the country.

“Overall, I would say it was very positive for the Elliott School to have her at GW,” he said. “She brought a lot of energy. She brought a lot of important focus on key contemporary issues, and she was very in good in transferring her skills and knowledge and focus into the classroom.”

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