WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
3 Nov 2016 | Press Release

WOLA Announces New Executive Director

Matthew Clausen to Lead WOLA Starting January 1, 2017

Washington, DC—The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is proud to announce that Matthew Clausen has been selected to succeed WOLA’s current Executive Director, Joy Olson. Mr. Clausen will assume leadership of the organization on January 1, 2017.

Mr. Clausen’s professional life has been committed to eliminating extreme poverty, combating inequality, addressing social exclusion, and empowering youth-at-risk to tackle challenges in their communities for positive change. For the past fifteen years he has been in senior leadership at Partners of the Americas, a non-profit organization that brings together people, governments, and local organizations to address challenges in the hemisphere, including strengthening democratic governance by building resilient civil societies and accountable institutions, and by promoting citizen engagement and transparency. Most recently, he has led the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative, which promotes global educational opportunities for students from diverse and often marginalized communities in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean, in recognition that our youth should learn from each other and about our shared hemisphere. Mr. Clausen brings to WOLA vision, commitment, compassion, and a track record of successful leadership.

I am honored to have been selected for this great opportunity,” said Mr. Clausen. “I have incredible respect for the staff, board, and all the members of the WOLA family. I’m deeply committed to the issues WOLA champions and share the organization’s mission of advancing public policies that protect human dignity and overcome violence. I also look forward to working together with WOLA’s partners throughout the hemisphere, who inspire me with their courage and commitment to justice and human rights.


Welcoming Mr. Clausen, the Chair of WOLA’s Board of Directors, Cynthia McClintock, said: “The past thirteen years under Joy Olson’s leadership have been transformative for WOLA and we were looking for someone who could build on this record of success and impact. Matt Clausen is this person. With a great deal of experience in Latin America, he knows the challenges that the hemisphere faces today and is very committed to working with our staff and our Latin American partners for positive change. He has outstanding skills in collaborative leadership and non-profit management. We are pleased that he is prepared to carry on WOLA’s historic mission and lead us into the future.”

Since its founding over 40 years ago, WOLA has grown into the leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the Americas. In the past five years, WOLA has increased its budget by almost 80 percent, allowing its programs to expand their impact and address the most daunting challenges facing the Americas: tackling organized crime and corruption, preventing violence, reforming drug policy, and ensuring that border security policies respect human rights. WOLA has been recognized twice by Washingtonian Magazine as one of DC’s “Best Places to Work” and by The Washington Post as one of DC’s best-managed non-profits.

“Matt Clausen embodies what we’ve defined as a ‘two-heart’ individual, meaning someone who thinks and cares both about the United States and Latin America,” said Joy Olson, WOLA’s Executive Director. “He is taking command of a strong organization with a talented staff. I know that he will take on today’s challenges to human rights and social justice and create new forms of collaboration and problem solving for a better future.”

Mr. Clausen is married to Margarita Diaz, an elementary Montessori school teacher and teacher trainer in Washington DC, and has two children, Gisela and Maribel. They met in Ecuador twenty years ago following a year of service in which Mr. Clausen taught English in primary and secondary schools and to English teachers. Mr. Clausen and Mrs. Diaz raise a bilingual, bicultural, and binational family with a deep commitment to the region personally and professionally, traveling frequently to Latin America and remaining strongly connected to the Latino community in the United States.

WOLA looks forward to introducing Mr. Clausen to our community in a series of welcome events in 2017.