IRI Names New Vice President and Experts on Asia and Governance

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Washington, DC – IRI today announced that Kimber Shearer has been named counsel and vice president for strategic initiatives, Gretchen Kunze is the Institute’s new regional director for Asia programs and Michelle Bekkering has been named director for governance initiatives.


Since joining IRI earlier this year, I have been impressed with the talent we have inside the Institute.” said Ambassador Mark Green, president of IRI.  “Kimber, Gretchen and Michelle each bring strong leadership and commitment to the field of democracy promotion.  They will continue to build and strengthen the innovative work IRI is known for throughout the world.”


Shearer currently serves as director for governance, where she oversees the development and coordination of the Institute’s democratic governance programs and select global programs.  She joined the Institute in 2005 as deputy director for Asia programs and also served as deputy director for Latin America and the Caribbean programs.  Shearer has held numerous positions at the U.S. Department of State and was a presidential management fellow from 2001-2003.  She worked in the office of European Union and regional affairs; served as regional asylum advisor and senior editor for Europe and Eurasia in the bureau of democracy, human rights and labor; served as acting deputy political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Georgia; worked in the office of the legal counsel in The Hague; and served as the acting deputy public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan.


Shearer received her law degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law, a bachelor’s degree in political science from LaSalle University and is a member of the Maryland Bar.    


Kunze was named regional director of Asia programs in July 2014.  She has more than 17 years of experience in Asian development, particularly in democracy building, democratic governance, and access to justice and civil society.  Prior to being named Asia director, Kunze served as resident country director of IRI’s program in Mongolia.  In her 12 years at the Asia Foundation, she was the country representative for Laos, deputy country representative for Thailand and Laos and assistant director for programs in the U.S. headquarters.  She has also worked at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm, Sweden, the Center on Rights Development in Denver, Colorado and the Department of Education in Kochi, Japan.  Kunze holds a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Denver and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Villanova University.


Bekkering currently serves as director of IRI’s Indonesia program where she oversees the Institute’s work to support the development of the country’s political sphere through workshops to encourage political parties to focus on constituent concerns and through the Institute’s “Winning with Women” program.  She joined the Institute in 2005 as a program officer in IRI’s Eurasia division and was named deputy director of Eurasia programs in 2009.  In 2010, Bekkering was named director of IRI’s Women’s Democracy Network where she oversaw the Institute’s global initiative to empower women for greater participation in their country’s public life.  Before joining IRI, Bekkering served in numerous positions within the U.S. government, including the European and Eurasian affairs directorate of the National Security Council.  Bekkering graduated from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa and studied at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 

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