Stevens Initiative Announces 10 Awards to Fund International Virtual Exchange and Foster a New Generation of Global Citizens

April 4, 2016

Contact: Andie Shafer
Program Coordinator
The Aspen Institute
(202) 736-2282 |

The Initiative will connect youth in the United States, Middle East, and North Africa to build 21st century skills and cross-cultural understanding.

Washington, DC, April 4, 2016 – The Aspen Institute Stevens Initiative today announced the 10 recipients of its first award competition aimed at using virtual exchange to improve understanding, respect, and dialogue across cultures and equip young people with the skills they need to succeed in a global economy.

Virtual exchange uses technology to create a new kind of virtual classroom, where students from different parts of the world learn and work together on subjects like science, communications, and social studies, while also learning to understand and respect each other.

The Stevens Initiative is an international public-private partnership aimed at bringing young people together to learn about the world and about each other, as a lasting tribute to the legacy of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“The Stevens Initiative will develop young people’s understanding of other cultures and perspectives and equip them to communicate and cooperate with each other,” said Elliot Gerson, Executive Vice President of the Aspen Institute. “Our goal is to spark conversations between students in countries around the world – conversations to exchange ideas and information and to work together on addressing important issues. We are excited at the prospect of helping to prepare a new generation of global citizens.”

The new programs will reach 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa and 25 American states. Most programs will launch in spring 2016 and continue for a period of two years. Examples of the work to be undertaken include:

  • Online English and Arabic language exchange between students in California and their peers in Morocco and Saudi Arabia
  • Using media tools, including virtual reality, as a springboard for conversation and social learning among middle and high school students in Kentucky, New York, and Jordan, including Syrian refugees
  • Environmental studies projects for students in the United Arab Emirates and the United States
  • A virtual “study abroad” program for students in Iraq, Illinois, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Washington, and Wisconsin

“Cultivating a new generation of globally minded and culturally sensitive youth has never been more important,” said Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. “We live at a time when establishing mutually respectful relationships across borders and cultures is necessary for success. By creating opportunities for engagement among students, teachers, and professionals, the Stevens Initiative honors Ambassador Stevens’ legacy.”

The first Stevens Initiative award competition was open to U.S. non-profit organizations. The next round of the competition, which will be opened sometime in 2016, will accept applications from the Middle East and North Africa in addition to the United States. Through its second competition, the Initiative will seek to share and incorporate best practices, as well as support further investment in research to identify methods which have a measurable impact and have the potential to reach all young people as the field grows.

The awardees of the first Stevens Initiative grant competition are:

  • Chicago Sister Cities International
  • Eurasia Foundation
  • Global Nomads Group
  • National Democratic Institute
  • Soliya
  • State University of New York – Center for Collaborative Online International Learning
  • University of California – Berkeley
  • Wofford College
  • World Learning

Housed at the Aspen Institute, the Stevens Initiative is a collaboration between the family of Ambassador J. Christoper Stevens, the US Department of State, the Bezos Family Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Algeria, and Morocco, Microsoft, Mozilla, GoPro, and Twitter. Visit us at

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