Senior Fellow in Global Thought

Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President

Senior Research Scholar, School of International and Public Affairs

Dr. Vishakha N. Desai is Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University and a Senior Research Scholar for the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. From 2004 through 2012, Dr. Desai served as President and CEO of the Asia Society, a global organization dedicated to strengthening partnerships between Asia and the U.S. Under her leadership the society expanded the scope and scale of its activities with the opening of new offices in India and Korea, a new center of U.S.-China Relations, internationally recognized education programs, and inauguration of two new architecturally distinguished facilities in Hong Kong and Houston.

In 2012, in recognition of Dr. Desai’s leadership in the museum field, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve on the National Museum and Library Services Board. An internationally renowned scholar of Asian art, she has published and lectured extensively on the intersection of traditional and contemporary arts and policy in diverse countries of Asia. Dr. Desai is a Trustee of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; and serves on the Board of Directors for Teach for All; the corporate board of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. (one of the largest corporations in India); and the Governing and Academic councils of KREA University a new private liberal arts university in India. She has also served as Senior Advisor for Global Programs to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, as a member of the International Advisory Committee for the Auroville Foundation, India, an Advisory Trustee of the Brookings Institution, a Trustee of the Bertelsmann Foundation, and Chair of the Board of Trustees of AFS Intercultural Programs.

Dr. Desai holds a B.A. in Political Science from Bombay University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Asian Art History from the University of Michigan, in addition to honorary degrees from Williams College, MA 2014; Centre College, KY, 2008; Pace University, NY, 2008; The College of Staten Island, NY, 2006; and Susquehanna University, PA, 1996.


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Select Honors and Awards


  • Ph.D., Asian Art History, University of Michigan
  • M.A., Asian Art History, University of Michigan
  • B.A., Political Science, Bombay University