Table of Contents:

Selected Resources

Encyclopedia of Associations: International Organizations

Thomson Gale, 2012 (

This classic reference, now in its 51st edition, covers multinational and national membership associations from Afghanistan to Zimba bwe. It is published in three parts. Parts I and II, Descriptive Listings, provide annotated contact information, including US-based organizations with binational or multinational memberships. Part III, Indexes, contains geographic, executive, and name and keyword indexes to all of the associations listed in the first two parts. Prices vary by account type. Print.

Encyclopedia of Associations: National Organizations of the US

Thomson Gale, 2013 (

This publication, in its 52nd edition, is a comprehensive source for detailed information on nonprofit American membership organizations of national scope. Each entry includes the organization's complete name, address, phone number, websites, founding date, purpose, activities, dues, and national and international conferences, together with the name and title of the organization's primary official. The publication also features an alphabetical name and keyword index so you can quickly locate the name and address of the organization you need to contact without consulting the main entry. Prices vary by account type. Print.

Marketing Source


The Concept Marketing Group offers a Directory of Associations that includes the full contact information for more than 50,000 professional, business, and trade associations, nonprofit organizations, and other charity and community institutions. Online access to the directory can be purchased in full for one month ($395) or one year ($995), or state-by-state for $50-$300 (depending on the size of the state), both of which include daily updates. Web.

National Trade and Professional Associations Directory

Columbia Books, Inc., 2013 (

This publication lists more than 8,000 national trade associations, professional societies, and labor unions in the United States. Nine indexes will enable you to look up associations by subject, budget, geographic area, acronym, and executive director. Other features include contact information, serial publications, upcoming convention schedules, membership and staff size, budget figures, and background information. This directory costs $299. Print.


Fanta Aw

Assistant Vice President of Campus Life and Director of International Student and Scholar Services, American University, Washington, DC, 1998-present President and Chair, Board of Directors, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, 2013-14

Career Trajectory

American University, Washington, DC

Associate Director, Intercultural Services, 1996-98 Manager, Foreign Student Services, 1995 Program Coordinator/Manager, International/Intercultural Student Services, 1992-94

Price Waterhouse and Ernst Young, Junior Auditor, Senegal, 1991-92

Academic Background

American University

PhD (Sociology with concentrations in Social Stratification, Transnational Migration, and International Education), College of Arts and Sciences, 2011

MA (Public Administration with a concentration in Organizational Development), School of Public Affairs, 1994 BS (Business Administration and Accounting), Kogod School of Business, 1990

How do you define your cause?

I consider my cause to be promoting global citizenship. Part of that endeavor is increasing the intercultural competency of institutions that are engaged in international educational exchange. Intercultural competence is the ability to view the world from multiple perspectives. Those perspectives should be informed by interactions and social engagement. It's the ability to empathize with perspectives that may be, in some cases, radically different from your own. You may conclude that you do not agree, but you've taken the opportunity to hear and understand the other perspective.

What drew you to this cause and your field?

A confluence of circumstances. I'm originally from Mali in West Africa. When I was seven, we left home to go to Liberia. That was my first journey out of my home country. I was educated in French international schools, which had very diverse student bodies. This provided me with an educational background that was quite holistic. It opened up a world that was unknown to me. It allowed me to have an intellectual journey grounded in understanding multiple perspectives. I was able to interact with people on a daily basis who were from different cultures, but we could find common ground.

When I came to college in Washington, my undergraduate major was business accounting and finance. I picked this major because I wanted a mobile career. I knew that a career in business would give me the opportunity to live, work, and engage in other parts of the world. And accounting, in many ways, is a universal field, where I could be a practitioner and find my space and place, irrespective of where in the world I found myself.

How would you describe your field?

It's a quest for multiple truths. We are in the business of knowledge creation—searching for multiple ways to see, acquire, and understand knowledge.

How would you describe your career path?

Many people within our fields would say that their career paths are somewhat nontraditional. That's common among our colleagues. Landing where I've landed has been about finding my own voice and place. It is important to have the courage to, first, know and acknowledge your passion but, second, take that leap of faith that you will land in the right place as long as you follow that passion. When I reflect on my career, I was probably, all along, following my passion. It may not have been a direct road, but all the different components coming together explain where I am today.

My business background was incredibly important to me. I'm able to speak multiple languages; not just foreign languages, but also the language of finance. This has served me well in my work. Understanding budgets is essential to success in any field.

Where did you "start" and how did it help you get to where you are today?

I started by volunteering my time. As a student from abroad, the international student office felt like a home. The programs that were being offered and the level of engagement with students and counterparts on campus made me feel comfortable in that space. Volunteering turned into a part-time student job. This allowed me to dabble in various areas; everything from putting together intercultural programs, to counseling students on basic resource needs, to assuming leadership roles. I advise people to, whenever you can, volunteer—give of your time. It is worth it. The learning is invaluable.

What are the major day-to-day activities of your current position?

I would break it into three segments. There's a lot of strategic planning about which direction to take, about opportunities and determining a potential course of action. There's a lot of high-level thinking that happens on a day-to-day basis, which I find extremely gratifying.

Second, trend analysis is big for me because it's about constantly taking the pulse of the field—finding multiple avenues for gathering information and data. These include talking to students and colleagues to understand their perspectives, as well as engaging with external audiences about challenges in higher education in general.

And third is staff development—working with staff to assess how we continue to be cutting edge in the work that we're doing. How do we ensure that our work remains relevant to the particular audiences we serve?

Are you involved in community service?

The nature of our field is one where giving of your time, and giving back, is a core value. We don't get into this work because we make lots of money (laughs). Why do we do this work? We believe in its transformative nature and that we each have something to bring and to learn. From that perspective, it has always been plain to me that to be involved with my profession at its core is to volunteer time.

Serving as president and chair of the board of NAFSA (see chapter 5) is a volunteer position. It is a service to my community and my profession in many ways. It opens the door to shaping the future direction for new leaders who are passionate about this work and are trying to find their paths within the field.

What awards and honors have meant the most to you?

In the twenty-eight years that I've been at American University, I have received several awards for service in the university community, as well as recognition for my work as it relates to diversity and inclusion. That has meant the most to me. There's no better reward than to "just do your work." To give it your best, knowing that tomorrow there will be other lessons that you will learn.

What is your best advice to develop networking skills?

Networking is first and foremost about harnessing relationships in ways that are authentic and reciprocal. It is as much about giving as taking. When I think of networking, I think of it as every encounter we have with another person, whether a student, colleague, or stranger.

We learn about who they are, their travels, and potential common ground. That exchange alone affords us the opportunity to learn and grow, and then to create a "web of relationships." It's the web of relationships one develops that is a true test of networking skills and abilities.

Do you have a mentor? How has he or she affected your life and career?

Much of what I've learned about this field, and particularly my work with students, I learned from Gary Wright. He hired me, gave me the opportunity to find my passion, and was an extraordinary mentor. I learned by watching him. The most effective mentors are role models. Mentors teach you what matters and how to do the work well.

Other mentors have been people whose actions showed me what not to do. I am grateful to them as well, because working and interacting with them, I learned a great deal about what works and what doesn't.

Do you consider yourself a mentor to others?

"Mentor" is not a designation that we give ourselves; rather, it is an attribution that others perhaps make. I would hope that I've been a mentor to my students over the years. The chief indication that I may have been a mentor to them is that they keep coming back. They continue to value the relationship and to seek my advice on career decisions as well as personal matters.

I've worked with various staff members to help them find their next career moves. They continue to seek me out. I hope I've been a mentor to them.

How have you maintained a healthy balance between your work and personal life?

I'm not sure I'm a good model for that. The work life dominates. I'm learning from the younger generation about balance. This is a generation that deeply cares about work-life balance in ways that perhaps my generation and the generation before did not necessarily consider.

I'm getting better at it because I'm much more mindful. My motivation is to model good behaviors for my staff. It means taking vacations, it means listening more to my body. When I know it's time to slow down, I take that seriously. It means finding quality time to spend with friends and those I deeply care about. And being much more intentional about it.

What lessons have you learned as your career has evolved?

The importance of listening to your voice. You have to stop and reflect. In listening to your own voice you become less afraid. In becoming less afraid, I am willing to take risks that can take me down certain paths that otherwise I would have never taken.

I intentionally picked business and accounting as an undergraduate major because I wanted something that was universal that could take me around the world. I could have excelled in that profession. But I was able to listen to my voice that said, "Yeah, you could do this, but is this really where you see yourself five to ten years down the road?" I was willing to leave it behind and go into uncharted territory. I'm glad I did because going into international education was probably the best decision I've ever made.

Any final advice?

Remain consistent in your level of engagement and the quality of your work. Stay flexible. Like many of us, I stumbled into this field. The road is never direct. It's important to be flexible and comfortable with change. The more you understand and value that, the more likely you are to land where you need to land.

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