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Capitol Communicator is running a series of profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “up close and personal” profile, we feature Maya Ajmera, Chief Executive Officer, President and Publisher, Society for Science & the Public.  Photography for this series is by Cade Martin; wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.

Maya, tell us a bit about yourself. 

I am President and CEO of Society for Science & the Public (SSP) and Publisher of the award-winning Science News media group. Prior to leading SSP, I served as the inaugural Social Entrepreneur in Residence for Duke University, Visiting Professor for the Practice of Public Policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke and was a Visiting Scholar and Professorial Lecturer at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. I also founded The Global Fund for Children, and am an award-winning children’s book author.

Are you involved in any other organizations?

I am the co-chair of the board of Echoing Green, a trustee of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and a board member of New Global Citizens and Kids in Need of Defense. I serve on the board of visitors of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. I also serve on numerous advisory boards and am an adviser to Mytonomy, an online video Q&A service for college and career planning. Looking back, in 2008, I served as a member of the Innovation and Civil Society subgroup of the Obama presidential transition’s Technology, Innovation and Government Reform Policy Working Group.

What are the things you are most proud of?

I am most proud of being the mother of my daughter, Talia, who will turn 2 this month. I’m also extremely proud of leading Society for Science & the Public. These are exciting times for science education and science journalism, and SSP is poised to play an important role in fostering interest in and an understanding of science with people of all ages. SSP both owns and runs world-class science competitions and publishes the award-winning magazine Science News– these two programs allow us to inform, inspire, and educate the broader public about the importance and beauty of science.

Another high point was founding The Global Fund for Children (GFC), a nonprofit organization that invests in innovative, community-based organizations working with some of the world’s most vulnerable children and youth. I led the organization for 18 years and, to date, GFC has invested over $35 million in local groups and globally touched the lives of nearly 10 million children.

I’m also very proud of the 20+ award-winning children’s book I’ve written over the years, including Children from Australia to Zimbabwe, To Be a Kid, Faith, and To Be an Artist.

Who were your personal role models and why?

This is a hard one, because I’ve had quite a few role models throughout my life. My mother is one; she is a business entrepreneur, but she is also an incredible cook. I’ve also had lots of great mentors. I’ve really been blessed to have had so many people along the way that believed in me, encouraged me and taught me.

On a bigger scale: Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and a woman named Sakeena Yacoobi, who is the founder and executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning are great role models.

Did these role models offer advice that helped you in your career?

Yes; they told me to follow my dreams and my passions and not to settle for anything less.

What professional advice do you have for others?

I would give others the same advice that was given to me. Live your dreams; live your passion. Take risks. You’re only young once.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

One of the reasons being the leader of SSP is so exciting for me is because in high school I was a member of the Honors Group of the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, now sponsored by Intel. As an alumna of the organization, I feel a very close connection to the students participating, and the broader goals of the organization. My role leading SSP allows me to blend my love of science and dream of educating and improving the lives of young people.

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