Stevens Initiative Announces 18 New Grants to Fund Virtual Exchange Programs in Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

July 16, 2020

Up to 4,500 young people will participate in virtual exchange through grant funding provided by the Stevens Initiative

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute

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

Washington, DC, July 16, 2020 – Today, the Stevens Initiative announced its newest grantees, who are committed to providing virtual exchange opportunities to youth in their communities. This funding is part of the Stevens Initiative Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, an effort to address disruptions in global education opportunities for youth due to the pandemic.

“This effort is yet another example of U.S. leadership to support the needs and skills of people around the world affected by COVID-19,” said Assistant Secretary Marie Royce, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. “We are stepping up to ensure Americans and students and teachers across the Middle East and North Africa can continue to engage, learn, and build lasting relationships with each other.”

Around the world, schools and institutions are using virtual exchange to help young people develop cross-cultural relationships and vital skills. While traditional in-person education and exchange programs have been cancelled for the summer, virtual exchange continues to be a sustainable and accessible global learning tool.

Through these grants, up to 4,500 new youth participants in 11 MENA countries and the Palestinian Territories and in 24 U.S. states, three tribal communities, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C. will engage with their peers around the world for summer programs that otherwise would not be possible due to the pandemic. Grants were awarded on a rolling basis, and, depending on the grant, virtual exchange programs started as early as June and end as late as August. A number of grants will support 174 educators to plan and train for fall virtual exchange programs, which remains an urgent need due to a likely continuation of closures and disruptions.

  • AMP Global Youth’s Global Scholar Program connects and empowers rising youth leaders from the United States and the MENA region as they address current global challenges, including COVID-19.
  • Citizen Diplomacy International of Philadelphia’s How to Succeed as an Innovator is a one-month, summer virtual exchange program for STEM students in Philadelphia and Egypt bridging the gap between STEM subjects learned in school and the real-life path to entrepreneurship.
  • Creativity for Peace’s Transformational Encounters connects American, Palestinian, and Israeli youth via the virtual landscape of storytelling and the rich connection of food culture.
  • Cultural Vistas’ Learning, Information, Networking, Collaboration (LINC) gives young people the opportunity to explore their future STEM careers by collaboratively addressing common global STEM challenges.
  • Engineering World Health’s Engineering World Health Virtual Exchange is an international collaboration of undergraduate STEM students from the United States and Lebanon who work together to create innovative solutions to health care problems in low-resource settings.
  • Global Education Benchmark Group’s Sustainable Development Virtual Exchange connects high-school students from across the United States and Morocco and provides them the opportunity to investigate three of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in order to learn more about themselves, their peers in other regions and countries, and the significant challenges facing our global community today.
  • Global Ties Kansas City’s MOR-USA Virtual Exchange Program brings together approximately 20 students from Morocco and the United States for a shared collective of their artistic talents.
  • International Education and Resource Network’s Digital Storytelling Workshop is a ten-day immersive experience with daily activities that foster self-exploration and teach compelling storytelling through digital technology skills.
  • Madison Area Technical College’s Economic and Social Entrepreneurship in a Post-COVID World engages underrepresented community college and high school learners in cross-cultural learning.
  • The Marshall Legacy Institute’s Peacemakers and Problem Solvers virtually unites American and Yemeni high school students for peace, leadership and project management education, and cross-cultural engagement.
  • Missouri State University’s Virtual Exchange for Teacher Candidates is a program supporting future teachers from Morocco and the United States as they learn with and from each other.
  • Southern New Hampshire University’s Global Education Movement (GEM) is an initiative that provides refugees and those affected by displacement the tools to become agents of change by earning accredited bachelors’ degrees and fostering connections to meaningful and well-compensated careers in business, humanitarian aid, and the global digital economy.
  • Texas International Education Consortium’s Virtual Exchange for Undergraduate Nursing in Texas, Egypt and Jordan is an eight-week virtual exchange capacity-building program for 44 undergraduate nursing faculty from 22 colleges of nursing in Egypt, Jordan, and Texas.
  • The African Middle East Leadership Project’s Global Allyship Curriculum matches young social activists in the United States and the MENA region to encourage collaboration on how each community can support one another during this time of global upheaval.
  • The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at University of Montana’s Connecting Montana and Egypt in a Global Leadership Initiative will spend the summer preparing to connect students from Montana and Egypt to highlight the importance of citizen diplomacy during the 2020-2021 academic year.
  • United Planet’s American-Iraqi Public Health Teams gives high school and university youth a unique opportunity to collaborate on meaningful and impactful projects designed to address public health issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • United Planet’s Global Virtual Exchange Teacher Training and Professional Development brings together middle and high school teachers from diverse populations in Iraq, Jordan, and the United States for an engaging summer program filled with theory and “hands-on” experiential learning opportunities.
  • World Chicago’s Youth Diplomats, an experiential learning program to equip and empower youth to be global citizens, partners with Hands Along the Nile to lead a four-week virtual exchange between youth in Illinois, Florida, Missouri, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.

The Stevens Initiative is an international effort to build global competence and career readiness skills for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa by growing and enhancing the field of virtual exchange. Created in 2015 as a lasting tribute to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the Initiative is committed to helping to expand the virtual exchange field through three pillars of work: investing in promising programs, sharing knowledge and resources, and advocating for virtual exchange adoption.

“In light of the immense disruption to instruction that’s taken place due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Stevens Initiative is steadfast in its commitment to supporting virtual exchange programs that engage young people in collaborative learning and dialogue experiences. In a matter of months, we’ve been reminded again and again of our interdependence, the need for connection, and the importance of preparing the leaders of tomorrow to be globally competent.” said Mohamed Abdel-Kader, Executive Director, the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute.

The Stevens Initiative is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute.  It is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

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

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

The Bezos Family Foundation supports rigorous, inspired learning environments for young people, from birth through high school, to put their education into action.  Through investments in research, public awareness, systems building and programs, the foundation works to elevate the field of education and improve life outcomes for all children.

The Kingdom of Morocco has held a longstanding commitment to the promotion of peace, mutual understanding and respect across all fora.  In line with this commitment, the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco is a strong supporter of the Stevens Initiative and is proud to be included in its programs, which foster opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges between youth.

The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Washington, D.C. is committed to promoting and increasing cross-cultural understanding and educational exchanges.  In line with the UAE Government’s values, the Embassy supports educational programming at schools and universities across the U.S.  The Embassy works with U.S. institutions to provide unique opportunities for peer-to-peer exchanges and help broaden student’s horizons.


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