20,000 Young People Will Gain International Experiences Through Unique Learning Opportunities and Engagement With Global Peers

April 25, 2023

Through grants from the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative, 16 programs will prepare young people for the future with real-world experiential learning that teaches key skills and fosters international relationships.

Contact: Jon Purves
The Aspen Institute

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
U.S. Department of State

Washington, DC, April 25, 2023 – Today, the Stevens Initiative announced its partnership with 15 schools, higher education institutions, and nonprofit organizations in its ongoing effort to give young people virtual exchange opportunities during their formative years. These new grantees collectively represent a diverse set of programming that will explore topics such as STEM, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and pressing global and societal issues, all with inclusivity at the forefront.

Young people across the United States and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will gain exposure to cross-cultural settings, take on new perspectives, work collaboratively on projects and in dialogue, and build upon digital literacy skills – which will equip them with the tools they need to excel in a changing and interconnected world. Two of these programs reach young people preparing to be educators, which can one day lead them to implementing virtual exchange in their own classrooms, thereby reaching even more young people around the world.

“These grants are a part of the Aspen Institute’s enduring partnership with the U.S. Department of State, and their ongoing support makes possible life-changing experiences for young people in the U.S., Middle East, and North Africa. The Aspen Institute is grateful to the U.S. Department of State for helping us realize a shared vision of global cooperation and inclusive dialogue among our future leaders. These programs will impact thousands of young people for years to come,” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute.

The 2023 Stevens Initiative Grantees, which will reach around 20,000 young people across the U.S. and the MENA region, include the below:

  • Amideast’s Qisasna facilitates cross-cultural exchange between young people in the United States and Yemen by providing them with the skills they need to produce podcasts on shared challenges and opportunities between youth.
  • An-Najah National University’s Climate Futures Exchange is a classroom-based exchange that engages students from An-Najah National University and Arizona State University to discuss a range of climate change issues and strategies to address them when designing and implementing new buildings.
  • Arizona State University’s Future Educators for Inclusion engages college students from Morocco and the United States through mutual discovery, shared learning, and local action to address the global challenge of disability inclusion as they prepare to become classroom teachers.
  • Culturingua’s Alliance of Young World Actionists engages young American and Libyan leaders focused on local and global public health challenges and their causes.
  • Global Ties KC’s FIRST Robotics Virtual Exchange connects participants from Libya, Morocco, and the U.S. through cultural exchange and technical sessions related to STEM and robotics.
  • iEARN-USA’s Storytelling for Social Change builds global leaders by engaging Algerian, Tunisian, and American youth in global collaboration to tell stories about real world issues in their local communities.
  • Institute of International Education’s Harnessing Innovation through Virtual Exchange for Enhanced Results develops intercultural communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills among a diverse group of students at participating universities in the United States and Middle East and North Africa.
  • IREX’s Global Solutions places college students from the United States with peers in Iraq or Jordan in binational teams to collaborate on innovative solutions related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals through virtual exchange.
  • Missouri State University’s Global Teacher Education Exchange brings new and future K-12 educators from Libya, Morocco, and the United States into a vibrant professional learning community where they engage in cross-cultural collaboration and prepare to teach for global understanding.
  • PATHWAYS Institute for Negotiation Education’s Game Changers: Creative Negotiation Skills builds confidence and skills for creative negotiation, problem-solving, and leadership among university students coming together from Israel and the United States.
  • Plugged In Band Program’s Peace Tracks is a cross-cultural, music-focused online youth exchange that provides high school students with an unforgettable opportunity to connect with peers in other countries to get to know them, learn about their cultures, and collaborate over the course of a semester on an original song.
  • Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Smithsonian Youth STEM Exchange brings together young people in Iraq and Michigan, United States, to discover, understand, and find solutions to sustainability issues in their local and global communities.
  • Soliya’s Connect Program, in partnership with colleges and universities in the United States and in the Middle East and North Africa, brings together students for four-to-eight weeks to discuss potentially divisive current global events and issues in the presence of facilitators trained in dialogue and conflict resolution.
  • Soliya’s Global Circles bring together young adults and professionals for two-week discussions by facilitators trained in dialogue and conflict resolution, with a particular focus on the impact of globalized technologies on society, and is open to direct enrollment.
  • Texas International Education Consortium’s Business & Entrepreneurship Virtual Exchange connects faculty from universities in Iraq and Texas, U.S., through virtual exchange, preparing them to implement project-based virtual exchanges on a variety of business and entrepreneurship topics in their courses that will develop key academic skills and cultural competencies.
  • World Learning’s The Experiment Digital Leadership in STEM equips high school-aged youth to leverage their interests and skills in STEM to achieve personal and professional goals while giving back to their community.

“My brother would be in awe of young people in the U.S. and Middle East and North Africa not only getting to learn about one another but also to work together on music, podcasting, disability inclusion, public health challenges in Libya and the U.S., and more. Youth of all ages joining a space where diverse viewpoints, unique personalities, and different visions for the future are celebrated represents a huge value of virtual exchange. These grants join a long and established effort to ensure as many young people as possible can experience the joy and power of virtual exchange,” said Dr. Anne Stevens, sister of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The Stevens Initiative is an international leader in virtual exchange, which brings young people from diverse places together to collaborate and connect through everyday technology. Created in 2015 as a lasting tribute to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the Initiative invests in virtual exchange programs; shares research, resources, and promising practices to improve impact; and advocates for broader adoption.

“Ten years after Ambassador Stevens’ passing and eight years into the work of our program, I am confident that virtual exchange programs like those that we are funding today continue the Ambassador’s yearslong dedication to building bridges across distance. These programs teach young people to celebrate difference and similarity equally while also giving them critical skills required in our modern and international workforce. We hope that these young people become part of a community of global leaders both past and present who have impacted their communities in diverse ways,” said Christine Shiau, Executive Director, the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute.

The 2023 Stevens Initiative Grantees are supported by the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative (JCSVEI). JCSVEI is a U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs program administered by the Aspen Institute.

More Information

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) builds relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, professional and private exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships and mentoring programs. These exchange programs improve foreign relations and strengthen the national security of the United States, support U.S. international leadership, and provide a broad range of domestic benefits by helping break down barriers that often divide us. Visit eca.state.gov.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world.  Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.


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