Maria Laura Acebal serves as the Aspen Institute’s Vice President for Strategic Development and Corporate Secretary. She is responsible for guiding Institute-wide strategic planning; helping to lead development of specific initiatives and partnerships; and stewarding the Institute in building sustainable structures and practices to ensure excellence far into the future. As Corporate Secretary, she coordinates the work of the Institute’s Board of Trustees and engages trustees strategically in delivering on the mission of the Institute.
Maria has more than twenty-five years of professional experience as a nonprofit executive, strategic business consultant, and litigation attorney. Former employers include the law firm Williams & Connolly and the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Maria led the youth division for North America at the global nonprofit Ashoka— a pioneer in the field of social entrepreneurship. She also founded an organization to promote food allergy safety in schools, camps, and daycares. Like many founders, Maria set out to solve a social problem that deeply touched her personal life. A few years later, she became CEO of the largest food allergy nonprofit in the country, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (now known as FARE). While there, she initiated the drafting and advocacy that led to the passage of the federal School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2013. Maria serves on a number of nonprofit boards and was appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to serve on two advisory councils to the National Institutes of Health.
Maria earned her J.D. from Yale Law School and her B.A. in Mathematics, summa cum laude, from Duke University where she was an A.B. Duke Scholar. She was born in La Plata, Argentina and currently lives in Washington D.C. with her husband, the Honorable Carl Nichols, and their three children.