What if everyone grew up with an international experience?

What if every student had access to a formative global experience — no matter where they lived, what school they went to, no matter their financial means or physical abilities? This is the vision of the Stevens Initiative, an organization that promotes virtual exchange — online educational opportunities that connect young Americans with peers in the Middle East and North Africa. From elementary schools through college, in disciplines ranging from engineering and computer science to political science and the arts, students who might not have the opportunity to travel discover what they share with peers overseas, building self-confidence and friendships across cultures. In the process, they address issues from climate change and poverty to racial discrimination and the role of women, building global competencies in cross-cultural communication, empathy, negotiation, and other sought-after and necessary skills.

The Stevens Initiative will have reached 75,000 young people in 17 Middle Eastern and North African countries and 49 U.S. states by summer 2023, with piloting in Mexico and further expansion to Latin America to come. This would have pleased U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed 10 years ago (September 11, 2012) in Libya. His commitment to international understanding inspired his family to create the Initiative, with support from the U.S. Department of State, the Bezos Family Foundation, and the governments of Morocco and the UAE. It is administered by the Aspen Institute.

We’re extremely proud to spread awareness of The Stevens Initiative and virtual exchange. Recent coverage includes an opinion piece by Director Christine Shiau in The Hill; a feature in Inside Higher Ed; and an interview with Shiau, Anne Stevens, and students on NPR’s 1A. To learn more about the Stevens Initiative, visit https://www.stevensinitiative.org/ or @StevensInit on Twitter.

NPR 1a article: Benghazi, foreign policy, and the Stevens Initiative

Inside Higher Ed article: Virtual exchanges enhance access in global learning

The Hill article: A decade after his death, Ambassador Stevens' legacy is as urgent as ever