Reza Fakhari Elected Chair of Amnesty International Usa
Amnesty International USA's (AIUSA) 15-member Board of Directors has elected Reza Fakhari, Ph.D., St. Francis College's Vice President for Internationalization and Strategic Initiatives, as its Chair. In that capacity, he will lead strategy and oversight of the nation's largest human rights group.
The appointment fulfills a commitment Dr. Fakhari made after he was arrested for possessing "banned" books and political prisoners' testimonials in his native Iran, shortly before turning 18 years old. His father's connections kept him out of prison, but he was forced to leave his country.
"At that time, I knew that political prisoners – there were many of them – were being tortured and that Amnesty International was extremely active on their behalf," said Dr. Fakhari, on the roots of his human rights activism growing up under the repressive Iranian Shah regime. "When I got to the U.S. [in 1973], I said, "whatever I can do for Amnesty, when it is time, I'll do it.'"
Dr. Fakhari's AIUSA leadership complements his work at St. Francis College, where he stewards the College's ambitious global strategy.
Since arriving in 2018, Dr. Fakhari established SFC International, a department that works on enrolling more foreign students, developing opportunities for U.S. students to study abroad, cementing relationships with foreign institutions and organizations, and enriching the academic curriculum to help students understand their roles as global citizens.
Among his accomplishments include working with faculty to create the SFC Forum on Migration, a center dedicated to advancing scholarship on immigration and educating students and others about the contributions of immigrants and challenges they face.
"I'm thrilled to see Dr. Fakhari take on this well-deserved leadership role at AIUSA," said Miguel Martinez-Saenz, Ph.D., President of St. Francis College. "His extraordinary track record of human rights activism brings invaluable perspective to our classrooms and to the College's executive team. His work here ensures we are a global institution in every sense of the word. That is cornerstone to our Franciscan commitment to welcome and dignify all people."
Colleagues in Dr. Fakhari's human rights and global citizenship work laud his election:
- "You are the best choice for the Chairmanship. Your election as Board Chairman along with your Board of Directors will ensure Amnesty International's continued efforts in defending and promoting all human rights."
Augie Gallego, Chair of the Global Citizenship Alliance Board of Directors, in a message to Dr. Fakhari who serves as secretary of that organization's Board.
- "This is an extraordinary and much-deserved recognition of your enduring commitment to the causes of international human rights and to fighting injustice and inequality. Maybe now more than ever before AIUSA needs a strong leadership and with you at the helm of its Board I'm positive that the strength of this great organization will continue to grow."
Jochen Fried, President and CEO of the Global Citizenship Alliance in Salzburg, Austria, in a message to Dr. Fakhari.
- "[Dr. Fakhari's] long-standing commitment to human rights education [HRE] and energy behind the advancement of AIUSA's HRE initiatives is exactly what our movement needs in this country and globally,"
Janet E. Lord, former Chair of AIUSA Board of Directors
In partnership with AIUSA, St. Francis College is developing an interdisciplinary Human Rights academic curriculum, which will start as a minor or certificate program and eventually offer bachelor's and potentially master's degrees.
"We want our program to be a template for other colleges," said Dr. Fakhari. Earlier this month, the AIUSA Board passed Dr. Fakhari's proposed Human Rights Education initiative to promote and support human rights education beginning in middle schools.
In addition to his administrative work, Dr. Fakhari serves as a member of the SFC faculty.
"As an Administrator at SFC, Dr. Fakhari has been the force behind wonderful innovation in and out of the classroom," said Michael Conlon '21, a student in the SFC Honors course on diplomacy that Dr. Fakhari taught in spring 2020. "As one of his students, he was able to help me and other students navigate treacherous field of international relations. His guidance and expertise helped foster my interest in politics and international relations and exposed me to new avenues of thought as well as the importance for the fight for human rights across the globe! His dedication to human rights, the fight for justice and diplomacy on the international level is an amazing gift so few get to experience and for that I am thankful."
This fall, St. Francis College will establish its first Amnesty International student chapter.
Dr. Fakhari was elected to the AIUSA Board in 2014 and served for three years as Vice Chair of the Board and Chair of Governance Committee. He chaired the AIUSA Human Rights Working Group on Strategy and Impact in 2017-18 and the Working Group on Governance Review Documents in 2020. He has also served on the Personnel, Audit, and Finance Committees.
Before joining St. Francis College, Dr. Fakhari spent 30 years employed by two colleges of the City University of New York: first as professor and dean at LaGuardia Community College and then as dean, associate provost, and vice president at Kingsborough Community College. He earned a Ph.D., with Honors, in International Relations from the New School for Social Research in New York City. He received his B.A. in Chemistry (with a minor in Sociology) from Winona State University in Minnesota.
Dr. Fakhari began his one-year AIUSA Chair position on September 13th.
AIUSA's press release regarding the election of Dr. Fakhari is available here.