Kara Nichols is the Executive Director of Connect To Learn, a global education initiative created by the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Ericsson and Millennium Promise. Nichols has more than 20 years of international experience with both private sector companies (from Fortune 500s to small family businesses) and non-profit organizations. Her expertise includes driving large-scale change, transformation, and development processes, alliance-building, and designing strategic communications campaigns.
Nichols spent four years living in Nairobi Kenya working with clients such as NCR Computers, Philips, Unga Mills, Bank of America, Serena Hotels, Thomas Cook, Lonrho, Peugot, and Dr. Richard Leakey, then head of Kenya Wildlife Services. She also lived and worked in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1993-1994, and worked with Ogilvy & Mather, Studio Archetype, Sapient Corporation and Siegel & Gale in Hong Kong, San Francisco, Washington DC, London and Tel Aviv, managing client relationships that included Hallmark, Kodak, Discovery Communications and UPS, as well as several successful start-up organizations.
As Director of Public Affairs at American Express in Hong Kong, Kara orchestrated and launched an innovative secondary school academic program in 26 Hong Kong high schools, forming a coalition of tourism industry business partners to work together with educators to prepare young people for college and career success. Based on an educational model founded by the National Academy Foundation in New York, the program included an industry-focused curriculum, work-based learning experiences such as internships, and the incorporation of business partner expertise through advisory boards and mentoring. Partners included, among others, the American Express Foundation, Cathay Pacific Airways, Northwest Airlines, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, and the Hong Kong Tourism Association.
Kara moved from San Francisco to New York in 2010 to lead the start-up of Connect To Learn at the invitation of Professor Jeffrey Sachs. Collaborating closely with the program's founding partners, she has led the establishment of the program in Millennium Village Project site in 10 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, also serving thousands of students and their teachers at schools in these countries with access to mobile broadband connectiivity.