JeffSnell_PhotoFebruary 4, 2015—Santa Fe, New Mexico—After an extensive six-month international search for a Chief Executive Officer, the International Folk Art Alliance (IFAA), home of the International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe, has hired Jeff Snell to lead the organization. Snell comes to Santa Fe from Milwaukee, with more than 20 years of experience in the charitable sector. Snell founded Midwest Social Innovation LLC and co-founded the Midwestern Consortium for Social Innovation, a regional platform to promote cross-sector, enterprise-based solutions to social problems.

In the course of its search, the IFAA board of directors considered close to 200 candidates from New Mexico and around the world. “We were looking for an extraordinary leader, someone with all the skills to lead our growing organization, whose ambitious mission is the fostering of economic and cultural sustainability for folk artists worldwide,” said Leigh Ann Brown, board chair of the IFAA. “And we found that person in Jeff. He possesses the entrepreneurial talent as well as the management, development, and business experience we desire to achieve our mission and meet the goals of our strategic plan. Most importantly, Jeff shares our vision. We couldn’t be more pleased to have him leading this organization into the future.”

Snell served as Special Advisor to the President at Marquette University from 2007 to 2013. Under his leadership, the school became one of the first ten Changemaker Campuses in the United States—a consortium of schools aimed at teaching students to create solutions to social problems through innovation. One of Snell’s social innovation projects while at Marquette was, which seeks to embed social innovation in curricula around the world. grew out of a partnership with the New York Times and was one of ten projects in a field of 1,000, from 85 countries, to receive support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He also co-created Wisconsin’s largest social innovation startup competition, the Smart Money Challenge, and an executive education program, the Social Innovation Leadership Experience, now serving its third cohort and serving 40 nonprofit executives.

Snell defines social innovation as “a focus on solving social problems at their root cause, a pivot away from traditional charity’s model of managing problems.” It’s a model he hopes to use to create even more positive social impact for IFAA artists and their communities around the world.

Market artists show how entrepreneurial skills and gifts of innovation create value—economic and social—not just for themselves, but for the well-being of entire communities,” said Snell. “They demonstrate why IFAA is truly special, honoring human dignity and increasing human capacity by leveraging the work of art. I’m excited to learn from partners, collaborators, volunteers, and, of course, the artists as ‘catalytic agents’ to increase IFAA’s positive, sustainable social impact around the world. I feel extremely fortunate to build on the impressive work of the IFAA’s founders and stakeholders.”

Prior to his time at Marquette, Snell served as COO of the Argosy Foundation, a private family foundation with assets projected at $1 billion at the time of its founding. He also led the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee to be counted among the largest of 2,500 chapters nationally, in the course of which he raised over $100 million and increased membership to more than 25,000. He is currently serving as the entrepreneurial mentor for a team developing a robotics-based curriculum selected by the National Science Foundation for its I-Corps venture startup program.

Snell has lectured widely on social innovation and social entrepreneurship, with talks that include Fordham University’s inaugural lecture for the Loschert Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, and another at TEDxUWMilwaukee ( He received his Ph.D. from Marquette and a master’s in social ethics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, in Massachusetts. He has received a Marquette College Distinguished Alumni Award, an Appleton East High School Alumni Patriot Award for “outstanding civic achievement,” and the Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty Award as an “emerging difference-maker.”

Snell, his wife of 28 years, Jennifer, and their 10-year-old son, Jonathan, will be moving to Santa Fe. Jeff and Jennifer also have a daughter, Abigail, an undergraduate student at Marquette. Snell’s first day with IFAA will be March 30, 2015.

IFAA’s search committee worked with the firm of Heidrick & Struggles. Connie Burke has served as interim Executive Director since August 2014, when Shawn McQueen-Ruggeiro, the previous Executive Director, stepped down to be with her family in San Diego.

The International Folk Art Alliance (IFAA) is a results-oriented entrepreneurial 501(c)(3). Its flagship program, the International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe, provides a venue for master traditional artists to display, demonstrate, and sell their work. Now in its 12th year, the Market is the largest of its kind in the world, attracting more than 20,000 attendees, and has generated over $20 million in sales, 90 percent of which has gone home with the artists. Through other programs and markets, IFAA provides training and opportunities for folk artists to succeed in the global marketplace, create economic empowerment, and improve the quality of life in communities where folk artists live.

IFAA is an active member of the Clinton Global Initiative and a founding member of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, founded by the U.S. Department of State and the Aspen Institute. Other IFAA partners include the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, and the City of Santa Fe.

For more information or photos, or to request an interview with Jeff Snell, please contact Clare Hertel at 505-474-6783 or