Oswego alumna helping to change world 'one smile at a time' to speak Nov. 14


November 3, 2017

Globally, 1 in every 700 children is born with a cleft lip and/or palate. Clefts are the leading birth defect in many developing countries and over the past 18 years, Smile Train, the world's largest cleft organization, has been able to provide free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care to more than one million children worldwide – currently under SUNY Oswego alumna Susannah Melchior Schaefer's leadership.

The 1990 SUNY Oswego communication graduate will return to her alma mater and present "Changing the World One Smile at a Time" at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, in the Marano Campus Center auditorium, room 132.

As chief executive officer of Smile Train, Schaefer leads Smile Train's vision of expanding access to healthcare and increasing local capacity in countries in which the organization helps children with clefts.

In her Oswego talk, she will share her experience as the head of a global nonprofit organization that works in more than 85 developing countries and brought in more than $82 million in contributions, grants and gifts in 2016, according to GuideStar.

Her lecture is part of a speaker series sponsored by the Feinberg Fund, established by 1978 alumnus Robert Feinberg, and his wife, Robbi, to support gender equity in the workplace.

Doors open for a pre-reception at 5:30 p.m., where attendees are invited to enjoy light refreshments and meet the speaker.

Successful leadership

Schaefer joined Smile Train as CEO in February 2013, after serving as a member of the organization's board for over 10 years. During her time as CEO, Schaefer led an organizational rebrand, seeded funding for hundreds of thousands of new smiles, expanded cleft surgical training and education programs throughout the world and helped to establish organizational partnerships in Haiti and Rwanda.

In addition, she led the team in developing Smile Train's groundbreaking Virtual Surgery Simulator, further accelerating cleft surgical training and enhancing the organization's "teach a man to fish" model. Smile Train focuses on training local doctors to perform cleft repair surgery in their communities. Those doctors then go on to train other doctors, creating a long-term, sustainable system.

Under her leadership, the organization has received GuideStar’s 2017 Platinum "Seal of Transparency" and is a 2017 Top-Rated Nonprofit, according to greatnonprofits.org.

Schaefer came to Smile Train after nearly 20 years in operational roles, bringing a vast network and past experiences to the team. Previously, she served as vice president, director of international marketing at CA Technologies, where she led implementation of the company’s international marketing strategies. Earlier in her career, Schaefer was the director of marketing, Asia for CA Technologies, where she built the organization's presence throughout the region and hosted the first regional CA World conference in China.

She is a trustee of The Smile Train UK and serves on the board of directors of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. She is married to William Schaefer, a 1991 SUNY Oswego alumnus.

Persons with disabilities needing accommodations should contact the Alumni Office at 315-312-2258. For more information, contact Lakeisha Armstrong, coordinator of the Feinberg Fund, at lakeisha.armstrong@oswego.edu.

About Smile Train

Smile Train provides free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children in developing countries. Through training local doctors and empowering partner hospitals around the world, the organization advances a sustainable solution and scalable model to treat clefts, drastically improving children's lives, including their ability to eat, breathe and speak over time. To learn more about how Smile Train's sustainable approach means donations have both an immediate and long-term impact, visit smiletrain.org.