Amb. William Eaton Becomes AFS-USA Board Chair

Ambassador Eaton addresses attendees at an AFS-USA Alumni/Returnee mentoring event, which he hosted in Alexandria, VA along with several other AFS-USA Board Members.

June 16, 2015 | New York, NY - Ambassador William A. Eaton, former U.S. Ambassador to Panama, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Administration, and Assistant Secretary General for Executive Management at NATO, has been selected as Chair of the AFS-USA Board of Directors. The election comes after Ambassador Eaton's 3-year term as the AFS-USA Board Vice Chair, during which time he proved to be a strong asset to the organization.

"Ambassador Eaton has brought invaluable perspectives to the organization's leadership," says Jorge Castro, President of AFS-USA. "We are thrilled to have him at the helm of our Board and excited for what his stewardship will bring."

AFS-USA, a global non-profit organization, has worked to provide intercultural learning opportunities and resources to U.S. citizens for nearly 70 years. Through its signature study abroad programs for high school students, global volunteer partnership, and exchange student hosting opportunities, it has become a national leader in global competency development. Ambassador Eaton benefitted personally from these opportunities as an AFS high school exchange student in Diksmuide, Belgium, during the 1971-72 academic year.

Among Ambassador Eaton's notable qualifications for this new role is his distinguished 30-plus year career as a diplomat with the U.S. State Department. As a member of the U.S. diplomatic corps, he served overseas in Guyana, Panama, Moscow, Istanbul, Milan, and Ankara. In 2001, having become one of the U.S.'s most senior professional diplomats, he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Administration and served in that capacity throughout Secretary of State Colin Powell's tenure.

In 2005, Ambassador Eaton was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the U.S. Ambassador to Panama, a position he held through 2008 and for which he was awarded the Gran Cruz prize by Panama's President for his success in deepening U.S.-Panamanian relations. Subsequently, he was selected by the NATO Secretary General as Assistant Secretary General of NATO for Executive Management in Brussels from 2010-2013.

As an organization dedicated to building global understanding through people-to-people exchanges, AFS-USA stands to benefit greatly from Ambassador Eaton's extensive diplomatic experience. Moreover, its longstanding partnership with the U.S. government makes Ambassador Eaton's involvement all the more fitting. Since its inception, AFS-USA has worked closely with the U.S. Government to provide exchange opportunities for youth, and it currently implements multiple U.S. Department of State-sponsored exchange programs, including the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program, the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) program, the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) and the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program, among others.

Ambassador Eaton's appointment also comes at an important time for AFS-USA. As key stakeholders in U.S. education call for greater emphasis on intercultural learning, AFS-USA is leveraging its position as an industry leader to help increase the number of U.S. citizens who have access to global education resources and experiences. With new programs abroad that accommodate diverse interests, schedules and age groups, as well as expanded outreach to U.S. schools and educators, AFS-USA aims to build on its nearly 70 years of experience to help contemporize and strengthen the international education movement – a national effort that includes notable campaigns such as the Institute for International Education's "Generation Study Abroad" campaign and the White House's "100,000 Strong Initiative".

"Intercultural skills are increasingly crucial for personal and professional development," says President Castro. "We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with likeminded organizations to advance what has always been a core part of our mission – increasing the global competency of U.S. citizens."