July 18, 2017 | New York, NY – AFS-USA is pleased to announce the election of Joan Bowman Siegel, an AFS Returnee and retired U.S. Government Analyst, as its new Chairman of the Board of Directors. Following the election in June, Siegel will serve a one-year term as Board Chair with the potential for re-election for a second year.
Intercultural education is a cause that is close to Siegel’s heart; as a teenager, she studied abroad in Japan for a full year with AFS.
“It was life altering—the things that I saw and did and learned,” says Siegel, who credits her early experience abroad with shaping her career path. “It was such an incredible year… When I came back from Japan I knew I wanted to make something of my time there.”
Siegel went on to study Japanese at the University of Oregon before working on the Japan equities desk at Salomon Brothers International in London. She then completed a Master’s Degree in Japanese Linguistics and Politics at Harvard University and later became a U.S. Government analyst working on Japan. Her time with the government included a three-year stint at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo with the State Department. “I made a 30-year career out of my one year in Japan with AFS,” she says.
After retiring from public service, Siegel turned her attention toward education. She currently serves as Secretary/Treasurer of the University of Oregon Foundation’s Board of Trustees, and she sits on the University of Oregon’s Clark Honors College Advisory Council. She also volunteers with the Parent’s Association of Sidwell Friends School, which both her daughters have attended.
Siegel now brings her wealth of experience in education and government to the role of AFS-USA Board Chair, along with a deep understanding of—and commitment to—the organization. She first joined the Board as a member in 2012, and she and her husband provide scholarships for students to participate in AFS programs, including one scholarship specifically for Montana students. “AFS was so instrumental in the way my life turned out,” she says. “The opportunity to give back was something I couldn’t say no to.”
AFS-USA President, Jorge Castro, says the organization is fortunate to have Siegel’s passion and expertise at the helm of its Board. “Joan understands the tremendous value of studying abroad at a young age—the confidence and perspectives that students gain,” says Castro. “And with her international, financial and governmental experience, she is well positioned to help AFS-USA increase its impact at a time when cross-cultural understanding is more relevant than ever.”
As for Siegel, she says she feels fortunate for two early mentors who helped put her on her life’s path. “Special thanks to Sarah Repka and Maria Kendall, my Spanish teachers at Billings West High School in Montana who headed the AFS club. If anyone was responsible for getting me involved in AFS, it was them.”