Mary Papazian, Executive Vice President, AGB


With more than 35 years of experience in higher education, Mary Papazian, PhD, serves as AGB’s primary thought leader on board governance and integrates AGB’s thought leadership throughout the association’s resources and services, including research and publications, member convenings, consulting, and executive search. She oversees the creation of strategic partnerships with philanthropic organizations to enhance AGB initiatives. Additionally, Papazian leads AGB’s strategic vision and planning efforts and serves as a media spokesperson for the association. Through these efforts, combined with her work on thought leadership, she plays a crucial role in shaping the public discourse on governance and the future of higher education.

Prior to joining AGB, Papazian was interim CEO of the Business-Higher Education Forum, a nonprofit membership organization that connects higher education institutions to business talent.

Previously, Papazian was the third woman to lead San José State University (SJSU), serving as president from 2016 to 2021. Under her leadership, SJSU was named the #1 most transformative university by Money magazine and received the Platinum award and the Best Achievement in Operational Excellence to Deliver Digital Transformation award at the Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Industry Awards. She also established SJSU’s Division of Research and Innovation and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. From 2011 to 2016, Papazian served as president of Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) and led the creation of a student success task force that drove more effective student services throughout the university, established the Office of STEM Innovation and Leadership, and secured a bioscience partnership between SCSU and the city of New Haven, Connecticut. Prior to serving as a university chief executive officer, she served as a provost, dean, and faculty member at other higher education institutions.

Papazian’s array of board service has included the following roles:

  • Board chair of the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF), Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), California Leads (formerly California Campus Compact), and the Mountain West Athletic Conference
  • Vice chair of the Armenian Society of Fellows and Higher Education Resource Services (HERS)
  • Board member of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), NCAA Board of Governors, Bay Area Council, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, National Association of Armenian Scholarship and Research (NAASR), and Haigazian University

Professional Credentials

Papazian earned her PhD, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees from UCLA, focusing on English literature. She received certifications from the Higher Education Leadership Institute, the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education at Harvard University, Corporate Directors International, and Competent Boards. Papazian has published two edited volumes and numerous articles in refereed journals, as well as op-eds and blogs on a variety of topics.