Who We Are

Buff Kavelman Smithsonian's National Design Awards

Buff Kavelman is a nonprofit leader with a strong focus on launching new initiatives, turning around underperforming operations, building effective high-level teams, and raising institutional profiles.

Most recently, she served as Executive Director of University Programs and Events in the President’s office at Columbia, where she created and produced the University’s highest profile programs in partnership with the President, Executives and Deans.  She developed a strategic plan to expand the World Leaders Forum, recognized by The New Yorker as a leading center for international exchange on global challenges and cultural perspectives.  She also launched the Kraft Series for Interfaith and Intercultural Awareness that fosters open debate on controversial issues of race, religion, politics and culture.

Before joining Columbia, Ms. Kavelman launched the Smithsonian's National Design Awards at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, called "one of the most prestigious awards in the United States" by The Wall Street Journal.  She secured the sponsorship of First Ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, both of whom hosted White House ceremonies honoring the awardees.   Ms. Kavelman previously directed the Rome Prize competition and public programs at the American Academy in Rome during the height of its centennial.  She funded and fostered hundreds of grantees nationwide at the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, consulted on a diverse array of civic, cultural and philanthropic projects, and served on many nonprofit boards and executive committees.

She holds an M.S. from Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Historic Preservation, where she was appointed Humanities Fellow at International House, and a B.A. in Art History with high distinction and honors from the University of Michigan's Honors College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.