Mary McDonnell

Executive Director; Years at Council '81-Phone: (718) 517-3620


Mary McDonnell is executive director and chief operating officer of the SSRC, and she leads the Council's capacity strengthening, fellowships, and Asia-focused work. McDonnell received her PhD in history from Columbia University with a focus on transregional connections between the Arab Middle East and Southeast Asia, particularly through Islam. 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 full time in 1986, where she became founding director of the Abe Fellowship and Vietnam Programs. She is currently leading a decade-long, qualitative and quantitative assessment of population health in rural Vietnam. Her publication, a case study of injury prevention in Vietnam in Structural Approaches in Public Health, edited by Marni Sommer and Richard Parker (Routledge, May 2013), provides a lens on creating achievable policy and behavioral change and offers lessons for other public health interventions while demonstrating the power of evaluation as a tool for strategic learning. She is co-editor of The Sage Handbook on Research Management (Sage, 2015). McDonnell chairs the Board of Trustees of the School for Social Development and Public Policy at Beijing Normal University and is a founding member of the board of the NGO Resources for Health Equity.