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Open Society Foundations Appoint New Head for Higher Education Program

University dean and professor sees technology, international partnerships, and local expertise as key components to advancing higher education and fostering open societies

NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations today announced the appointment of Meredith Jung-En Woo as the new director of the International Higher Education Support Program. Based in Open Society’s London office, Woo will direct the program’s efforts to support higher education and promote open society in countries transitioning to democracy, particularly in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Woo, who starts her new position on June 1, comes to Open Society from the University of Virginia, where she was Buckner W. Clay Professor and dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her specialty is international and comparative politics. Prior to this, she held professorships at Columbia University, the University of Michigan, and Northwestern University. She also served as a visiting scholar at the Asian Development Bank Institute.

“Meredith Woo brings to Open Society a depth of experience in scholarship and leadership, together with a lifelong commitment to the vital role of higher education in open societies. She is perfectly skilled and experienced to take our work in higher education to a new level,” said Chris Stone, president of the Open Society Foundations. 

“I have long admired the work of the Open Society Foundations, particularly the way they broke the grip on information and opportunities denied to citizens in closed societies and played an indispensible role in political transitions in Eastern Europe. The intelligence, energy, and capaciousness of purpose of the Open Society Foundations are why I find the opportunity to direct the Higher Education Support Program so exciting,” said Woo.

Through work with dedicated international partners and higher education institutions in transitional societies, Woo sees opportunities to develop resource centers, teaching practices, and digital technology that effectively educate students and further democratic governance and open society.

“There is a deficit of quality institutions of higher education in transitional societies. A primary focus should be to nurture local talent,” said Woo. She also suggests developing new types of university instructors who “mentor and coach students in how to assemble information, understand ideas, and hopefully, think critically and causally.”

In addition to her experience in academia, Woo was appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton to serve on the Presidential Commission on U.S.–Pacific Trade and Investment Policy. She has also consulted for the Asian Development Bank Institute, the Asia Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, the United States Trade Representative, and the World Bank.

The International Higher Education Support Program works to strengthen universities and members of their communities by nurturing their capacity and leadership for well-informed, vigorous, and inclusive social deliberation.


The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.

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