The Aspen Institute Names Kara Gustafson New Executive Director of the Finance Leaders Fellowship

January 26, 2021

Gustafson joins the Institute from Palais Impact Advisors and Goldman Sachs.

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, January 26, 2021— The Aspen Institute announced today that Kara Gustafson has joined the Institute as the new Executive Director of the Aspen Finance Leaders Fellowship. In this leadership role, Gustafson will build on the strong foundation laid since the Fellowship’s launch in 2016 and expand its focus on industry and societal impact through Fellow-led initiatives and cross-industry action.

“We are delighted to welcome Kara Gustafson with her proven leadership in advancing social impact, corporate philanthropy, and environmental responsibility in finance,” said David Langstaff, the Executive Vice President of the Leadership Division at the Aspen Institute. “Building on our proven model for cultivating values-based, purpose-driven leadership, Kara will undoubtedly build on the foundation set for the Fellowship over the last five years to advance the network’s impact on the world.”

“Kara’s deep expertise in social impact through global finance, coupled with her experience working across a range of industry, policy, and community stakeholders, gives her unique insights into how our Fellowship network can reach greater levels of individual and collective influence,” said Ranji Nagaswami, Founder of the Finance Leaders Fellowship and Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Gustafson has worked across a $2 billion portfolio of social impact programs that have delivered transformative results. She joins the Institute from Palais Impact Advisors, a social impact advisory firm she founded to support Fortune 500 and Pre-IPO companies. Before Palais Impact, Gustafson served as the first Head of Community Impact at SoulCycle, leading the design and launch of a new impact platform and diversity and inclusion initiatives. She also worked for 15 years at Goldman Sachs as a senior vice president in the Executive Office, where she helped launch and scale initiatives to drive economic growth, inclusion, and opportunity through the firm’s impact investing business and corporate engagement programs.

“I am thrilled to join the Aspen Institute and lead the Finance Leaders Fellowship to its next great horizon,” said Kara Gustafson. “We are at a transformational moment where business leaders understand and are moved to make authentic commitments on behalf of their employees and other stakeholders to better their communities. This is an industry with deep wellsprings of talent, innovation and ability to positively shape the world.”

Gustafson is also the host and producer of “Impact Studies with Kara Gustafson,” a leading interview series committed to sharing best practices and original research in the social impact space and is the Director on the board of Paid Leave for the United States. She earned her BA from Fairfield University, where she is an Advisory Council Member for the Management Program at the Dolan School of Business. 



The Aspen Finance Leaders Fellowship is building a global community of effective and enlightened leaders to chart the course of the global finance industry. Grounded in the Aspen Institute method of text-based dialogue and leveraging the Institute’s commitment to values-based, purpose-driven leadership, the program inspires selected Finance Fellows to consider values and perspectives necessary for effective, enlightened leadership in finance—and in society at-large. Fellows also undertake a leadership venture of their own, designed to challenge themselves and advance the role of finance in society. The program has fostered a network of 82 Finance Leaders committed to creating a more just, free, and equitable society in 20 countries. For more information, visit

The Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN) is a growing, worldwide community of more than 3,000 high-integrity, entrepreneurial leaders from over 60 countries who share a commitment to enlightened leadership and to using their creativity, energy and resources to tackle the foremost societal challenges of our times. Fellows convene annually at the AGLN’s flagship event, the Resnick Aspen Action Forum. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit 

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