Dr. Vishakha Desai is the special advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University and an Adjunct Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs. Desai served as President and CEO of the Asia Society, a global organization dedicated to strengthening partnerships among peoples of Asia and the U.S. from 2004 through 2012. 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, various leadership initiatives, and inauguration of two new architecturally distinguished facilities in Hong Kong and Houston. Prior to becoming President, Desai held various senior positions at the Asia Society from 1990 to 2004.
Before joining the Asia Society in 1990, Desai was at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston as a Curator and the Head of Public Programs and Academic Affairs. She has taught at Columbia University, Boston University, and the University of Massachusetts where she was given a tenured appointment.
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. The recipient of numerous international and national grants and fellowships, Desai has received four honorary degrees from American Universities. For her work on Asian American issues, she has received awards from the University of Massachusetts, City University of New York, Asian Americans for Equality, and Leadership Education for Asian Pacific Americans (LEAP).