Janessa Gans Wilder is a former CIA officer turned peacebuilder, social entrepreneur, and nonprofit executive. She is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Euphrates Institute, an organization that builds peace and understanding about critical Middle East issues. She founded Euphrates after five years at the CIA focused on the Middle East, including serving 21 months in Iraq from 2003-2005. Janessa is a frequent speaker in interfaith, community, government, international, and educational settings. She has written dozens of articles and been interviewed by major news outlets, including CBS, CNN, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Democracy Now, and many more.
For over a decade, Janessa has provided the vision and leadership to grow Euphrates Institute into a global network of peacebuilders and changemakers, now comprising 22 Chapters worldwide. She created and leads transformative Travel Study programs to Israel, Palestinian Territories, and Jordan, focused on listening to the ‘Other’. She conceived of the Visionary of the Year program to honor, support, and increase the visibility of groundbreaking changemakers. In the fall of 2015, she organized a coast to coast speaking tour for the year’s visionary, which included speaking at the United Nations on the International Day of Peace, an NPR interview, and a speech to officers of the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
Previously, Janessa taught political science at her undergraduate alma mater, Principia College, and was a consultant to the State Department. She has a Master’s degree in International Policy Studies from Stanford University and a bachelor’s in International Relations from Principia College.
When not traveling to the Middle East, she enjoys spending time in nature with her family.
“I’ve experienced the impact of healing the divide between Middle East and West through the power of personal relationships. I’m so grateful to be part of a community that understands how timely, imperative, and, indeed–possible, is change in our relations with the Middle East. And that the best way to accomplish this is to begin with ourselves and our perceptions.”