Office of Global Centers and Global Development

Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development; Director, Columbia Global Centers | Amman

Professor Safwan M. Masri is Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development at Columbia University. In this role, he directs a number of Columbia’s global initiatives and is responsible for the development of an expanding network of Global Centers, located in Amman, Beijing, Istanbul, Mumbai, Nairobi, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, and Tunis. These centers work to advance Columbia’s global mission and extend the University’s reach to address the pressing demands of our global society.

Masri holds a senior research scholar appointment at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). He joined the faculty of Columbia Business School in 1988 and was appointed Vice Dean in 1993, a position he held for thirteen years. He previously taught engineering at Stanford University, and was a visiting professor at INSEAD (Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires) in France.

A scholar on education and contemporary geopolitics and society in the Arab world, Masri’s work focuses on understanding the historic, postcolonial dynamics among religion, education, society, and politics. He is the author of Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly (Columbia University Press, 2017), which examines why Tunisia was the only country to emerge from the Arab Spring as a democracy. Masri’s writings on education and current affairs have been featured in the Financial Times, Huffington Post, and Times Higher Education.

Masri is an honorary fellow of the Foreign Policy Association. He was founding chairman of both King’s Academy and Queen Rania Teacher Academy in Jordan, and served as an advisor to Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah. He is a trustee of International College in Beirut and of the Welfare Association (Taawon) in Ramallah, and a member of the advisory board of the School of Business at the American University in Cairo. Masri has served on the governing boards of Endeavor Jordan, the Children’s Museum Jordan, Arab Bankers Association of North America (ABANA), and Aramex.

Masri earned his Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University in 1982; his Master of Science in industrial engineering, also from Purdue, in 1984; and his Ph.D. in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University in 1988. He was honored with Columbia’s Singhvi Professor of the Year for Scholarship in the Classroom Award in 1990, the Robert W. Lear Service Award in 1998, and the Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence in a Core Course in 2000. Masri has also been honored with the 2003 American Service Award from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Executive Manager

Rachelle Vertenten is Executive Manager of Columbia Global Centers. Prior to joining Columbia University Rachelle specialized in marketing at Simon & Schuster. She has done international fieldwork in conflict resolution and peacebuilding in Kampala, Uganda and fieldwork in Kolkata, India focusing on health education in the West Bengal region. Rachelle received her MSc in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Columbia University. Her main interest areas are culture and conflict management.

Administrative Coordinator

Before joining Columbia Global Centers, Christine a licensed art appraiser certified by the Appraiser’s Association of America, worked in all areas of art management.  Christine studied the humanities and art history at the University of the Philippines, worked as associate curator at the Museo ng Maynila and guest curator at the Ayala Museum. She interned at the International Council of Museums in Paris (ICOM) and has a certificat in French Language at the Sorbonne. Christine has also attended the Sotheby’s Works of Art Course in London. 

Executive Director of Finance & Administration, CFO

Xin Peng joined Global Centers in 2009 as the Executive Director for Finance and Administration.  Before that, she worked as a Portfolio Manager and Senior Research Analyst at various investment firms

Office Manager

Prior to joining the Global Centers, Suesan Law-Faison worked in the field of retirement plan designs, compliance and administration for twelve years. She studied Community and Health Services at SUNY Empire State College, and served as an active volunteer within the Family Readiness Group at U.S. Army Fort Campbell - 86th Combat Support Hospital for over four years.

Associate Director - Strategic Planning and Communications

As Associate Director for Strategic Planning and Communications, Paul works with Center Directors, Center staff, and on-campus partners to strategically drive Columbia’s global network forward. He oversees all Center-related campus communications, as well as works with each Center to enhance their individual communications. Before joining the Columbia Global Centers, Paul developed global communications for the President of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and the National University of Singapore, oversaw marketing for an orchestra in New Zealand, and supported sales and marketing for a marine wildlife center in Alaska.  Paul’s B.A. is from Harvard, where he studied anthropology and sociology, and his M.A. is from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), where he studied international affairs and public policy.

Communications Officer

In his role as communications officer, Trevor will oversee all web and digital communications and work as multimedia support to communications staff at each of the eight centers. He previously held positions of Assistant Director of Communications for Georgia State University's School of Public Health and Communications Coordinator at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Additionally, Trevor has been a human rights activist with work spanning research, program implementation, and communications through organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute/Gates Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control, the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning, and Pathfinder International. Trevor received his B.A. in mass communications with a minor in sociology from Morgan State University, a health communications certificate in media advocacy from Johns Hopkins University, and an M.A. in communications from Notre Dame of Maryland University.

Director of Programs

Padmini Biswas is the Director of Programs for Columbia Global Centers.  She collaborates with the leadership of Columbia University and each of the Global Centers to further programming initiatives, curate projects that engage multiple centers and diverse audiences, and strengthens the role of Columbia Global Centers in supporting faculty scholarship and the education of Columbia students. Prior to joining Columbia Global Centers, Padmini was the Program Director and a faculty member for IHP Human Rights, a study abroad program offered by the School for International Training that takes undergraduates to Nepal, Jordan, and Chile. From 2007-2013, she served as the the Assistant Director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics, an interdisciplinary forum of scholars and activists at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is also the founding editor of Salt, a community-based literary journal funded by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Padmini received her Ph.D. in urban planning from Columbia University, an M.Sc. in urban planning from the London School of Economics, a B.Sc. in civil engineering from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and a B.A. in English from Vassar College. 

Finance and Administration Manager
Finance Manager

Lily Fu worked at Future Tech Consultant of New York as a bookkeeper for eight years before joining the Office of Global Centers in October 2012. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English Education from Shaoxing Teachers College in China, and is fluent in both Mandarin and English.

Senior Executive Director for Global Initiatives

Verónica Martini is senior executive director for Global Initiatives, in which capacity she leads an area of fundraising with strategic importance to Columbia, while providing managerial leadership and strategies relevant to Global Initiatives programs, functions and mission. Previously, she served as associate director for Strategy and Development at Harvard University’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, leading that center's strategic planning, communications and fundraising activities, managing key relationships to outside individuals and constituencies, such as alumni, high-profile visitors, corporations, foundations and institutions throughout the United States and Latin America. Additionally, Verónica has been a consultant for the Massachusetts State Government, as senior strategic adviser for Latin America, and has served on staff and Board of Directors of the now-former New England-Latin America Business Council, a Boston-based trade organization for which she managed special development projects.

She holds a B.A. degree from the Patagonian Institute of English Teacher Training in Argentina, an Ed.M. degree in English Education from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia, and an Ed.M. degree in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A native Argentine, she is the co-founder of the Harvard Argentine Society. She has been published and has spoken professionally on topics related to education and fundraising. She has been an adviser to the Council on the Education Professions at the Fetzer Institute, sits on the Board of Directors of the Abraham Path Initiative, and volunteers with other organizations and initiatives in the United States and Argentina.

Columbia Global Centers