Eliza Pesuit, Founding Executive Director, Global Glimpse

Eliza Pesuit is the founding executive director of Global Glimpse, a nonprofit that makes transformative travel, leadership, and global learning opportunities accessible to students from low income and underrepresented backgrounds. Under her leadership, the organization has grown tenfold and served over 8,000 students. Eliza is a visionary leader who navigates challenges with grace and places relationships at the center of her work. She has developed partnerships with leading brands including United Airlines, Expedia, Marriott, Away, and Snap Inc. This year she was named one of the Top Women in Travel and Hospitality and a Nonprofit Leader Who Will Impact the World.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Eliza shared her professional trajectory, what sets Global Glimpse apart from other market competitors, the secret sauce behind her success, significant career milestones, her favorite quote, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Eliza. Please brief us about your background and areas of expertise.

My name is Eliza Pesuit and I am the founding Executive Director of Global Glimpse, an innovative nonprofit working at the intersection of travel and education. We partner with diverse high schools and youth serving organizations across the United States to make transformative travel experiences accessible to young people from all backgrounds.

Our programs build empathy, agency and global perspective, equipping young people with skills to succeed in college and careers and drive change in their communities.

I was born and raised in rural Western Massachusetts. The daughter of a Serbian Orthodox father from steel country Ohio and a Russian Jewish mother from Boston, I became comfortable with cultural differences early on. My childhood was fraught with conflict, but it never lacked love and it is that duality that guides my life’s work to bridge divides.

What was the inspiration behind establishing Global Glimpse? What sets it apart from other market competitors?

Traveling on my own in my late teens and twenties completely shifted the way that I saw the world and ignited a passion for equity. I believe that life changing experiences change lives, and every young person should have access to the transformative power of travel.

We launched Global Glimpse programs in 2009 and under my leadership the organization has grown to become an industry leader and the only youth travel organization focused on equity and access. I am a doer and a creator, and I’ve been told that my superpowers are authentic connections and seeing gaps as opportunities.

I am consistently humbled by those surrounding me, and I do the hard work to be better. I welcome discomfort as I grow the most when I am in community with people whose lives, experiences, and perspectives are different from my own. I am especially aware of this at this stage of my life as I think about the world, I am building for my 17-year-old stepson and 2-year-old daughter.

You were recently featured on the Causeartist list of 30 Nonprofit Leaders Who Will Impact the World in 2024 among other recognitions. Our readers would love to know the secret sauce behind your success.

My secret sauce is integrity, resilience, and humility. I am a doer, a creator, and a grower. I believe in human centered leadership, and I invest in potential. My team says my superpowers are connecting authentically with people from all walks of life and seeing things that others might miss. I love my work and I lead and learn with passion, perspective, and joy.

What are the three major trends you foresee in your industry in the next 12 months?

  1. Greater interest in and commitment to supporting diversity and inclusion across the travel industry.
  2. A desire to create more tech free spaces and travel experiences that help young people to be present, connect, and reflect.
  3. Greater interest in cultural experiences that are unique and support local communities.

What has been your career highlight so far? Why do you love what you do?

I have had a number of career highlights so far, but a few stand out! In 2018 Global Glimpse became a global partner with United Airlines. Last year I was the first nonprofit leader to ever attend Expedia’s EXPLORE partner conference and Global Glimpse was awarded a $250,000 grant from the newly launched Made to Travel Fund and then this year when I was named one of the 2024 Top Woman Leading Travel & Hospitality, and I am the first nonprofit leader to ever win this award!

I love challenges and I love working with brilliant people to overcome seemingly impossible challenges. I love every part of the way that I do from supporting young people to realize their potential to guiding families and educators through the experience, inspiring and leading a team, and collaborating with external funders and partners. I love finding common ground and aligning diverse stakeholders to create shared impact.

And conversely, what has been your biggest learning curve or difficulty to overcome?

Navigating Global Glimpse through the pandemic was incredibly challenging for me as a leader and a human. Our work exists at the intersection of travel and education, and both were decimated through the pandemic. In order for the organization to survive I had to make very difficult decisions while simultaneously navigating my father’s cancer diagnosis and ultimately his passing. I am a very resilient, joyful person, but through that time I often felt hopeless. I think going through tremendous struggle and loss in my own life has made me a stronger person and a stronger leader.

If you could have a one-hour meeting with someone famous who is alive, who would it be and why?

Brian Chesky, CEO and founder of Airbnb. Brian and his cofounders launched Airbnb right around the same time that we launched Global Glimpse. We were both living in San Francisco at the time, and I’ve followed his journey and the evolution of his leadership over the past 15 years.

I love the Airbnb model because it makes sense from both a human perspective and a business perspective and yet there are still so many challenges to navigate. I’ve always dreamed of building a partnership with Airbnb, but at this stage I think actually the more powerful alliance would be between Brian and I given the journeys we both have walked and our shared belief in the power of travel to transform. I’d love to sit down with him for an hour and break bread!

How do you keep your mind healthy and stay resilient? And how do you motivate your team?

This last chapter in my leadership journey has brought a different kind of struggle that I could not muscle through. A struggle beyond the scope of daily routines and coping tools. Through this time, I’ve had to not only face my failures and my weaknesses but share them with everyone in my world.

And in that vulnerability, I’ve found strength, gratitude, a sense of heart-centered wellbeing that feels so much deeper and more profound. When I think about wellbeing now, I think about riding the waves instead of standing tall in the storm. I think about trust, authenticity, vulnerability, sharing what it means to be human.

I don’t really resonate with the way work-life balance or self-care is marketed; rather, I like to think about joyful synergy between my work and my life. Authenticity has made me successful. Each part of my life brings me great pride and great joy, and it is the sum of those parts and their ability to coexist joyfully that makes me the best version of myself. Sometimes I have to lean in more in one area or another, and I try to build up the bank of goodwill in each so that there is space for me to move and breathe.

What is your favorite quote?

“To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Tell us about your future plans. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I will continue to be a leader in travel equity championing access and diversity across the travel industry and advocating for experiential education. I am excited to work in partnership with global brands to create learning opportunities for young people that build empathy, agency and perspective. I look forward to leading our program expansion in the US and outside of Latin America.

I am also looking forward to using my experience and the lessons I’ve learned to mentor and support other leaders across the non-profit and social impact sectors.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out on their career in your industry?

This advice is not specific to travel or education, it is universal. Seek mentors that you admire and proactively work to build long term relationships. I have been blessed to find a few game changing mentors over the course of my career and I believe that there is truly nothing more valuable.

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