Mary McDonnell Named Senior Vice President for Strategic Learning and Special Initiatives

Mary Byrne McDonnell has been named senior vice president for strategic learning and special initiatives at the Social Science Research Council. In this important new role, she will oversee the Council’s Strategic Learning and Evaluation portfolio, leading partnerships with the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Mastercard Foundation, and other collaborators in Asia, Australia, Africa, and North America, while developing new ones. In addition, she retains her portfolio of capacity-strengthening work in Japan and Vietnam. McDonnell will also continue to bring her broad expertise and insight to the Council’s work, serving as a vital member of the leadership team and advising the president on a range of issues.

The SSRC’s Strategic Learning and Evaluation portfolio was developed by McDonnell beginning in 2006. Beginning with widely praised work in Vietnam, McDonnell and her team established an innovative set of tools that bring a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods to bear on leadership training, professional development, and organizational learning. This approach generates insights that improve programmatic and organizational effectiveness, including processes, outcomes, and impact.

McDonnell began full-time work at the Council in 1986 and has made major contributions in a wide range of areas, including directing the East Asia Program, founding and leading the Abe Fellowship and Vietnam Programs, and developing the Human Capital Initiative. She was appointed executive program director in 1997 and executive director in 2000, playing a central role in the Council’s management and administration.

McDonnell received a PhD in history from Columbia University, with a focus on transnational connections between Southeast Asia and the Middle East. She has master’s degrees in both international affairs and journalism, also from Columbia, and worked as a journalist covering Asian and Middle Eastern affairs before joining the Council. She is coeditor (with Robert Dingwall) of The SAGE Handbook of Research Management.