Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Debra Eisenman is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Asia Society and Founding Director and Senior Fellow of the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI). As EVP and COO, Debra oversees the operations and strategy of the Society’s substantive pillars and the global network of centers.
Prior to this role, she was Managing Director of the Asia Society Policy Institute, where she led and oversaw initiatives on development, governance, sustainability, and security challenges throughout Asia, with a particular focus on Myanmar, Central Asia, and Iran. She also ran ASPI’s strategy and operations, and has been with ASPI and its predecessor, the Global Policy Programs department at Asia Society, in numerous, progressively responsible roles since 2011. Debra created the business, operating, and strategic plans for the development of ASPI—and managed and oversaw the Institute’s growth from 3 staff in New York to more than 30 staff across the globe, and to a respected and well-ranked global think tank.
Before joining Asia Society, Debra worked on the Peacebuilding and Western Balkans grantmaking programs of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. She was also previously at the National Crime Prevention Council in Washington, DC, building and managing projects to advance youth civic engagement and individual and community safety.
Debra has been an election observer in Kosovo, Albania, Ukraine, and Armenia. She holds a master’s degree in politics from New York University, and is a cum laude graduate of the University of Maryland with high honors in government and politics. She is also a fellow of the Truman National Security Project and a member of Women in International Security. She is a contributor to radio, television, and print media. In June 2018, she authored the ASPI report, Reconciling Expectations with Reality in a Transitioning Myanmar.
Vice President, Education
Neelam Chowdhary is the Vice President of Education. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the department’s strategy and direction for the Center for Global Education, China Learning Initiatives, and Education for Equity programs.
She joined Asia Society in 2011 as the Executive Director of Global Learning Programs, where she led the development and design of global competence curriculum, teacher training programs, and digital content. She specializes in data-driven decision-making centered on research-based teaching and learning.
Before joining Asia Society, Neelam was the Vice President of Programs at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. She co-authored Entrepreneurship: Owning Your Future (2009) and Exploring Careers for the 21st Century (2011). She has experience as an educator in both Los Angeles and New York City public schools and is a National Board Certified Teacher.
Chowdhary earned a doctorate in curriculum studies from Teachers College, Columbia University, a master’s degree from Pepperdine University in education administration, and a bachelor’s degree from The University of Southern California in sociology.
Vice President and Managing Director, Washington, D.C., Office
Wendy Cutler joined the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) as Vice President and Managing Director of the Washington D.C. Office in November 2015. In these roles, she focuses on building ASPI’s presence in Washington — strengthening its outreach as a think/do tank — and on leading initiatives that address challenges related to trade and women’s empowerment in Asia.
She joins ASPI following an illustrious career of nearly three decades as a diplomat and negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Most recently she served as Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, working on a range of U.S. trade negotiations and initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region. In that capacity, she was responsible for the just-concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, including the bilateral negotiations with Japan.
Ms. Cutler’s other responsibilities with USTR included bilateral trade relations with all TPP countries, U.S.-China trade relations, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum, the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum, and Trade and Investment Framework Agreements with countries ranging from Pakistan to the Philippines. Ms. Cutler held a number of positions at USTR since joining the office in 1988, working on both bilateral and multilateral issues. She was the Chief U.S. Negotiator for the U.S.-Korea (KORUS) Free Trade Agreement and led the U.S. trade and investment agenda in APEC. She also negotiated a wide range of bilateral agreements with Japan on such issues as telecommunications, insurance, and semiconductors. She has extensive multilateral trade experience as the U.S. negotiator for the WTO Financial Services Agreement and several Uruguay Round Agreements. Prior to joining USTR, Ms. Cutler worked on trade issues at the Commerce Department.
Ms. Cutler received her master’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and her bachelor’s degree from the George Washington University. She is married and has one son.
Chief Programming Officer
Philipp Ivanov is Chief Programming Officer at Asia Society, leading global public programs and collaborations among Asia Society's centers across four continents, as well as the Asia 21 Next Generation Leaders Initiative. A China specialist and public policy leader with extensive experience in strategy and organizational renewal, education, China-Australia, and China-Russia relations, he is also a senior Fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute.
In 2023, Philipp was a Fulbright Scholar and visiting fellow at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. From 2015 to 2023 he was the Chief Executive Officer of the Asia Society Australia Centre. During his term as CEO, the Centre grew from 1 to over 15 staff, while consolidating its position as Australia’s leading business and policy think-tank on Asia. He is the founder of the Asia Society flagship initiatives - Disruptive Asia, China Executive Briefing, Asia Briefing LIVE, and Generation Asia.
Previously, Philipp worked on China policy at the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and as a Deputy Director of the Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific at the University of Sydney. He was awarded the Australian Government’s Endeavour Executive Fellowship to conduct research on China’s policies for leadership development at the National Academy of Education Administration in Beijing. His commentary and analysis have been featured by Foreign Policy, The Australian, the Australian Broadcasting Corp., Bloomberg News, CNBC, The Australian Financial Review, Melbourne Asia Review and ChinaFile.
Philipp has a bachelor’s degree in Chinese history from the Far Eastern Federal University and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from RMIT University. A fluent Chinese and Russian speaker, he grew up in Vladivostok, and lived and worked in China for over six years, before making Australia his home.
Chief Digital and Communications Officer
Aalok Kanani is Asia Society’s first Chief Digital and Communications Officer, overseeing the organization's marketing and communications efforts and leading its transformation into a digital first institution.
Aalok joined Asia Society in February of 2022, after leading marketing and digital strategy for a range of public, private, and nonprofit organizations. In 2020 he was the Director of Digital Communications for the Biden-Harris general election campaign. Before that he held the same role for Pete Buttigieg’s primary campaign.
Aalok served in the Obama administration overseeing digital strategy for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Prior to that, he was the Confidential Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Education. He left the Obama administration to join the UN’s Ebola Response Mission, working as a Public Information Officer across Sierra Leone and Liberia, and subsequently worked as a consultant advising the African Development Bank, FIFA, and nonprofits across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
Prior to Asia Society, Aalok was on the public affairs team at Lyft. Early in his career, he worked for a start-up accelerator in Bangalore and a technology policy think tank in San Francisco.
Aalok has a BA in International Relations from Tufts University and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
Director of Asia Society Museum and Vice President of Arts and Culture
Yasufumi Nakamori joined Asia Society in August 2023 as Director of the Museum and Vice President of Arts and Culture. An experienced museum leader, curator, and noted scholar, he is responsible for overseeing the museum’s exhibition program and collection, as well as arts and culture programming across the organization.
Nakamori came to Asia Society from Tate, where he served as the Senior Curator, International Art (Photography). Nakamori led the development of Tate’s collection of photography as well as the strategy for representing photography in the program at Tate Modern. He also advised on Asian and Asian diaspora art in programming, and provided strategic management for photography and modern art in the programming at Tate Britain.
From 2020 to 2022, Nakamori was a member of Tate’s Race Equality Task Force, which made recommendations for institutional goals and monitoring, for the purposes of combatting racism and achieving equity and diversity at Tate.
Prior to Tate, Nakamori headed the department of photography and new media at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, developing exhibitions of photography and time-based media within the context of a global encyclopedic art museum. He was responsible for numerous key acquisitions which transformed and diversified the museum’s photography collection.
He previously served as curator of photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston from 2008 to 2016. He also taught graduate seminars focusing on the history of modern Japanese art and architecture at Rice University.
Nakamori has authored numerous essays and four books, including Katsura: Picturing Modernism in Japanese Architecture, Photographs by Yasuhiro Ishimoto (2010).
From 1995 to 2002, Nakamori practiced corporate law in New York City and Tokyo.
Nakamori received a BA from Waseda University in Tokyo, a Juris Doctor from the University of Wisconsin Law School, an MA in the History of Art from Hunter College, the City University of New York, and a PhD in the History of Art and Visual Studies from Cornell University.
Vice President, International Security and Diplomacy, Asia Society Policy Institute
Daniel Russel is Vice President, International Security and Diplomacy, at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI). He joined ASPI in April 2018 after a one-year term at the Institute as Diplomat-in-Residence and Senior Fellow.
Formerly, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service at the U.S. Department of State, his most recent U.S. government position was serving as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. During his 33-year diplomatic career, Mr. Russel received numerous awards, most recently the 2017 Presidential Rank Award. He served in East Asia, Western Europe, at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and in Washington DC as Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
Prior to his appointment as Assistant Secretary on July 12, 2013, Mr. Russel served at the White House as Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council (NSC) Senior Director for Asian Affairs. During his tenure there, he helped formulate President Obama’s strategic rebalance to the Asia Pacific region, including efforts to strengthen alliances, deepen U.S. engagement with multilateral organizations, and expand cooperation with emerging powers in the region.
Before joining the NSC in January of 2009, he was Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs and had assignments as U.S. Consul General in Osaka-Kobe, Japan (2005-2008); Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands (2002-2005); Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus (1999-2002); Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering (1997-99); Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (1995-96); Political Section Unit Chief at U.S. Embassy Seoul, Republic of Korea (1992-95); Political Advisor to the Permanent Representative to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Ambassador Pickering (1989-92); Vice Consul in Osaka and Branch Office Manager in Nagoya, Japan (1987-89); and Assistant to the Ambassador to Japan, former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (1985-87).
In 1996, Russel was awarded the State Department's Una Chapman Cox Fellowship sabbatical and authored America’s Place in the World, a book published by Georgetown University. Before joining the Foreign Service, he was manager for an international firm in New York City.
Russel was educated at Sarah Lawrence College and University College London.
Vice President, Asia Society, and Arthur Ross Director, Center on US-China Relations
Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York. He is a former professor and Dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
Schell is the author of fifteen books, ten of them about China, and a contributor to numerous edited volumes. His most recent books are: Wealth and Power, China’s Long March to the 21st Century; Virtual Tibet; The China Reader: The Reform Years; and Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of China’s Leaders. He has written widely for many magazine and newspapers, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, Time, The New Republic, Harpers, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, Wired, Foreign Affairs, the China Quarterly, and The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.
Schell was born in New York City, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University in Far Eastern History, was an exchange student at National Taiwan University in the 1960s, and earned a Ph.D. (Abd) at University of California, Berkeley in Chinese History. He worked for the Ford Foundation in Indonesia, covered the war in Indochina as a journalist, and has traveled widely in China since the mid-70s.
He is a Fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University, a Senior Fellow at the Annenberg School of Communications at USC and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Schell is also the recipient of many prizes and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Overseas Press Club Award, and the Harvard-Stanford Shorenstein Prize in Asian Journalism.
Chief Development Officer
Shane Williams-Ness is Chief Development Officer at Asia Society, and is responsible for designing and executing the fundraising strategy for the organization’s global operation, as well providing strategic advice and collaborative support for its network of global centers.
Prior to joining the organization in 2015, she was Vice President of External Affairs at The Japan Society. Before that, she worked at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) for seven years as Chief Marketing and Development Officer. She served as Vice President of Sawchuk, Brown Associates, a public relations and marketing communications firm, and as Senior Engagement Manager at Jaakko Pöyry Management Consulting-Asia Pacific based in Singapore, where she opened the Tokyo office for the firm. She also served as Marketing Manager for the Pioneer Group in Boston, Massachusetts, a position which brought her to the Russian Far East several times working on a U.S.-Russian Joint-Venture forestry project.
Williams-Ness has served as an adjunct professor at Skidmore College and participated in the Skidmore College Business Mentoring Program for 11 years. She is an officer on the Board of The Hyde Museum in Glens Falls, New York and was a Board Member of Saratoga PLAN (Preserving Land and Nature) for seven years. At age 16, she served as a Rotary ambassador to Japan for a year. Williams-Ness earned a Bachelors in Government & Asian Studies with a minor in Art History at Saint Lawrence University. She studied advanced Japanese speaking at Cornell University and the Harvard Extension School, and studied Landscape History at Radcliff College as part of a certificate program.