Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, Ph.D., 2016-2020 AAFSW President

Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen has been serving as the elected President of the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) since August 2016 and was also appointed the AAFSW Fundraising Chair in December 2016. In its 60-year presence, AAFSW has been responsible for initiating the creation of the Family Liaison Office (FLO), the Overseas Briefing Center (OBC), the Foreign Service Youth Foundation (FSYF) as well as advocating with Congress for benefits for the Foreign Service Spouses. Thanks to the fundraising success of the annual AAFSW Art and Book Fair (every October – Exhibit Hall – Dept. of State), Joanna has led AAFSW to increase the number and grant amounts of the AAFSW academic scholarships offered annually to Foreign Service Youth (High School Seniors and College Freshmen). In addition, in 2017, Joanna created and promoted the “AAFSW Twice Exceptional Scholarship” offered to Foreign Service students with disabilities (IEP / 504 Plan) who, nevertheless, exhibit academic excellence. In 2018, as AAFSW President, Joanna spearheaded the effort for AAFSW to be recognized as an Employee Organization of the Department of State. Additionally, when needed, together with other AAFSW Volunteers, Joanna helps with Foreign Service Families facing evacuation, sudden transition, or domestic crisis.

Joanna is a consulting geophysicist and gemologist leading expeditions in countries such as Myanmar, Morocco, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Peru, Iceland, etc., and places such as The Galapagos, Easter Island, Hawaii, and Alaska, etc. She participates in the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the Washington D.C. Conference of the National Council for Science and Environment (NCSE), which brings together scientists and policy makers to discuss the integration of Science, Business, and Education of Sustainable Infrastructure. In March 2017, Joanna was invited to the “Our Task’s Earth 2100” Conference, which addressed the future of soil and food through regenerative agriculture and ecosystem restoration solutions.

Born in California and raised in Athens, Greece, Joanna speaks five languages and has a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the University of Greece. Continuing her studies in her native California as a NATO Fellow and a University of California President’s Fellow, Joanna earned a Master of Science in Geophysics and her PhD in Geological Sciences while she was awarded the “Outstanding Teaching Award”. Funded by NSF and LLNL, she also earned an additional Master’s in Environmental Science and Management studying the decommissioning of offshore oil platforms for which she also held a three-day conference involving all stakeholders. Joanna has further received her Gemology Diploma (FGA / GIA) and consults on gemstone appraising while currently working on her Virginia Teaching Licensure.

Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen has been associated with the Department of State since 2001, living in Argentina, SriLanka, and Venezuela. Her involvement with the Department of State allows her to explore how education, population size, and geo-cultural politics affect environmental international policy and strategies, development projects worldwide, and practices implemented around the world regarding energy resources, the climate, and waste management.

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