Learning abroad — at home

University of Montana’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center Eqypt program, Montana Living

University of Montana launches program to connect students in Montana, Egypt

Higher education is adapting to how students learn, and a new program at the University of Montana will help students in Montana and Egypt learn from each other.

The University of Montana’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center will become one of 18 programs funded by the Stevens Initiative Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. With a $50,000 grant, the center will plan a virtual exchange program this fall between students at the University of Montana and in Egypt, providing youth opportunities to develop skills and relationships otherwise not possible during the coronavirus pandemic.     
            Around the world, schools and institutions are using virtual exchanges 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 programs continue to be a sustainable and accessible global learning tool.
“While we cannot predict what lies ahead with the pandemic, we are pleased to work with our grantees to provide virtual exchange opportunities when the world is deeply in need of connection,” said Christine Shiau, managing director of the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute.  “Together, we are revamping curriculum, leveraging technology and innovating to build programs that might not have existed otherwise.”
Under the Stevens Initiative, UM’s Mansfield Center will spend the summer preparing to connect students from Montana and Egypt to highlight the importance of citizen diplomacy. This virtual exchange program is designed to enhance global competencies and the internationalization of communities. Participants will learn leadership skills in a shared fall 2020 course on Public Diplomacy offered by UM’s Global Leadership Initiative.
 “Drawing on our rich experience in international exchange, this funding allows us to continue to create opportunities for Montanans and to foster globally minded leaders of integrity despite the challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Deena Mansour, executive director of the Mansfield Center.
A list of other Stevens Initiative grant recipients is online, with international collaborations focusing on topics ranging from STEM and sustainability to storytelling and nursing.
            The Stevens Initiative is an international effort to build global competence and career readiness skills for young people in the U.S., 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 expand the virtual exchange field through three pillars of work: investing in promising programs, sharing knowledge and resources and advocating for virtual exchange adoption.
            The Stevens Initative is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with U.S. government funding administered by the Aspen Institute, a global nonprofit. It is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. 
            For more information, contact Jon Purves, senioe media relations associate at the Aspen Institute, at jon.purves@aspeninstitute.org or the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. Department of State at ECA-Press@state.gov

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