Stephen Salyer is president and chief executive officer of the Salzburg Global Seminar, an independent, non-governmental organization based in Salzburg, Austria and Washington, D.C.. He has been president and chief executive officer of Public Radio International (PRI) and senior vice president at WNET/Thirteen in New York City, the flagship producer for the PBS television network.
Salyer was elected president and chief executive officer of the Salzburg Global Seminar in September 2005. Founded in 1947 by a young Austrian studying at Harvard University who wanted to create a “Marshall Plan of the Mind,” Salzburg facilitates cross-sector development of strategic solutions, conducts international leadership development programs for rising stars in government, business, NGOs and academe, and offers model curricula and content to policy and education networks worldwide. Though an American organization, Salzburg’s program is centered at the historic Schloss Leopoldskron on the southern outskirts of Salzburg.
Prior to assuming the Salzburg presidency, Salyer served as president and chief executive officer of Public Radio International (PRI). Under his leadership PRI became a leading developer and distributor of programs with a global perspective, and a leader in using digital technology to reach younger audiences. His vision defined PRI’s mission: to help Americans understand their diverse, interdependent world. Salyer played a leadership role in designing and launching such ground-breaking programs as: Marketplace, the business program with the largest audience in U.S. radio or television; PRI’s The World, the only daily international news hour produced for the American market; and Studio 360, the pre-eminent arts and culture magazine on public radio. He brought global news to American listeners by forging an expansive partnership with the BBC World Service to make its 24-hour news channel available to PRI’s 800+ stations nationwide. Salyer also co-founded Public Interactive, LLC, the leading force in public broadcasting enabling on-line community and audience interaction, and chaired its Board from 1999 to 2005. PRI recently reached agreement with NPR to extend Public Interactive’s tools and services to all public stations in the United States.
Salyer also served for nine years as a vice president and then as senior vice president at WNET/Thirteen in New York City, the flagship PBS producer, where he led departments responsible for national program development, international co-production, education, and communications. As head of the station’s Education Division, he formed in 1983 an experimental design department, the WNET Learning Lab, which pioneered early computer-based, interactive media instruction. Before joining public broadcasting, Salyer directed the Population Council's Public Issues Program, and was the youngest person ever appointed to a presidential commission (age 19), serving while still an undergraduate at Davidson College as a member of the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future.
Salyer's recent board service includes Guidestar USA, Inc., Davidson College, MacPhail Center for Music, Salzburg Global Seminar, Public Interactive, LLC and Public Radio International. He has served since 2014 as a Global Advisor to Internews, and in 2015 joined the Board of Directors of Internews Europe headquartered in London. Subsequently, he was elected the IEU representative on the Internews United States Board.
Salzburg Global Seminar
After joining the Salzburg Global Seminar in September 2005, Salyer initiated a strategic review of the institution’s mission, goals, strategy, measures of success, financial sustainability and governance. The resulting strategic plan guided Salzburg’s emergence as a reinvigorated institution – encouraging a cross-cutting focus on issues and outcomes, attracting new financial support, and creating a platform on which its 25,000 Fellows in 160 countries can engage and collaborate.
In 2016, Salzburg revised its strategic focus to concentrate and focus on three axes of transformation - human transformation, examining the challenges for education in preparing for the jobs of the future in a world disrupted by artificial intelligence; urban transformation, concentrating on innovation in cities across the world raises human welfare while reducing stress to the natural environment; and conflict transformation, pursuing means of building rule of law and global collaboration in a world where 20th Century institutions appear increasingly ill-equipped for 21st Century global challenges. Programs are designed for three audiences: 'Accelerator" programs identify those very early in career with great potential for innovation and leadership and offer them tools and networks to increase personal and institutional effectiveness; 'Challenge' programs engage top experts from across the world with young leaders and entrepreneurs in addressing a shared global problem and taking solutions to scale; 'Apex' programs are for senior leaders and specialists in a field and allow them space to consider long-term scenarios and how to turn disruption to advantage.
Programs launched and personally led by Mr. Salyer include multi-year initiatives on “Strengthening Independent Media” and “Optimizing Institutional Philanthropy,” supported respectively by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and by the Heron and Kellogg Foundations. Both initiatives brought together leading donors and thought leaders from all parts of the world to accelerate innovation in areas of particular promise.
In addition, Salyer proposed and co-founded with his wife, Susan Moeller, Professor at the Merrill School of Journalism at the University of Maryland, the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change. Since 2007, the Salzburg Academy has each summer brought together students and faculty from five continents with leading journalists and media entrepreneurs. For their three-week residency, the participants analyze media practices on a comparative basis, create case studies and curricular modules, conduct research, and test new media concepts. Recent journalists in residence at the Academy have included Pulitzer Prize Winner Dana Priest of the Washington Post, Charles Sennott of the Global Post, Will Dobson of Slate and Lucio Mesquite of BBC Monitoring.
With Salyer’s encouragement, a "Writer in Residence" program was established with the world-renowned Salzburg Festival, bringing leading novelists and essayists to Schloss Leopoldskron for readings, lectures and discussions in August of each year. Participants have included Nobel Prize Winner Orhan Pamuk and Pulitzer Prize Winners Richard Ford and Jeffrey Eugenides.
In 2012, Salyer organized an annual program on private and public international law and public service - the Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program - for faculty and students from eleven of the top U.S. law schools (Chicago, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, NYU, Penn, Stanford, UVA, Yale). Held at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, 50 Cutler Fellows produce papers on topics at the leading edge of international law. Their ideas are presented to and critiqued by a panel of leading judges, academic experts and practitioners and selected Cutler Fellows are invited to participate subsequently in Salzburg Global seminars corresponding to their fields of interest.
The Cutler Fellows and an annual Cutler Lecture at the US Supreme Court are part of an expanding Lloyd N. Cutler Center for the Rule of Law, founded in 2007 at the Salzburg Global Seminar by Salyer and B. Thomas Mansbach, who chairs the Cutler Center Advisory Board. Cutler Lecturers have included Richard Goldstone, Harold Koh, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Helena Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, and Eric Schmidt.
In November 2013, the Salzburg Global Seminar held its first full-fledged seminar beyond its famous campus in Salzburg, Austria. In partnership with The Nippon Foundation, Salzburg Global convened global young leaders in Kyoto for four days, and then held a public forum in Tokyo filmed for an international documentary distributed by NHK Worldwide. Salzburg Global is exploring a significant expansion of its programming to increase engagement across the Asia and Pacific region.
In 2014, Salzburg Global Seminar relaunched its wholly owned Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron, attracting in the first year such private clients as Melinda Gates and her family for her 50th birthday celebration, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel's top fashion event, and a global conference organized with the International Peace Institute to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. In cooperation with the Salzburg Landestheatre, ten sold-out performances of a "Shakespeare in the Park" series are offered to the public each summer on the Schloss grounds. Profits from the Hotel and other commercial clients, along with program grants and individual gifts, are used to support the work of the non-profit Salzburg Global Seminar.
Salyer has received numerous awards and fellowships, including Distinguished Service Award from Davidson College (1997); U.S.-Japan Leadership Fellow (1996); British-American Fellow (1990); Root-Tilden Scholar, New York University School of Law (1976-1979); Administrative Fellow, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (1975); Salzburg Fellow (1974); Thomas J. Watson Fellow (1974); Dana Scholar, Davidson College (1970-1972); North Carolina Leadership Fellow (1969-1972). He is a graduate of Davidson College from which he was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree in 2003, and of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.