American & Jordanian Students Team up to Find Global Sustainability Solutions

March 13, 2019

Pitch competition in Washington culminates groundbreaking virtual exchange partnership focused on hospitality and tourism

Contact: Alex Cole

Jon Purves
The Aspen Institute

Ashley Grimes

Washington, DC, March 13, 2019 – 40 students and faculty from community colleges and universities in the U.S. and Jordan competed in Washington, DC on March 11 to create innovative business solutions for sustainable hospitality and tourism.

A team comprised of students from Kirkwood Community College in Iowa, and Luminus Technical University in Amman, Jordan, won the business pitch competition with their concept for Sustainable Water Solutions, a pipe system that would reduce water waste in the hospitality industry.

“It’s so exciting. We set out with this goal, and at each session, we talked about the steps we would take to get to this point,” said Cassandra Pantel, a Kirkwood Community College student studying hotel management and director of the winning team. “We did it. We got everything that we wanted done, and I’m so grateful for the hard work the team put in.”

The pitch competition was the culminating event of the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge – a virtual exchange implemented by IREX, which is a grantee of the Stevens Initiative. It pairs community college and university students in the U.S. and Jordan on diverse, collaborative teams.

“When we first got to work with each other, it was really hard to communicate, especially with the different languages and different cultures. But with time, it was more than just work or the program. We really became real friends, so when we got to meet, it was a really thrilling and interesting experience,” said Burhan Salahaldeen Istetieh, director of the second-place team and student at Khawarizmi University Technical College in Jordan.

Over the course of ten weeks, more than 315 post-secondary students on 15 bi-national teams embarked on a collaborative virtual exchange. Three binational finalist teams were selected by a committee after presenting their concepts in a virtual fair.

The finalist teams traveled to Washington, DC this past weekend to present their prototypes and concepts in front of a panel of expert judges.

“The amount of information that was presented to us, the energy and the enthusiasm, it was a little overwhelming—in a good way,” said judge Sonia Zamborsky, Director of Global Field Support & Communications for marriottDIGITAL. “To see it all play out, I’m really impressed with the caliber of these students, and I hope this is the beginning of many more types of these collaborations.”

Global Solutions improves students’ career prospects by strengthening problem-solving skills and cross-cultural communication competency – an essential skill in the 21st century economy. The virtual nature of the competition makes this enriching experience accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to travel internationally.

“Exchange programs give you young people a leg up,” said Susan Crystal, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. “You’re learning different skills. You’re getting exposed to different languages, team building, problem solving, technical and vocational training, and, most of all, the deepening of understanding and ability to engage with people.”

In February, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce visited Lord Fairfax Community College to meet with Global Solutions students, discuss their experience collaborating, and learn more about their sustainability solution.


Global Solutions is supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Aspen Institute. The Stevens Initiative is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

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