Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Building bridges - U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

I've continued to comment about interesting encounters I have in Qatar. The most recent was meeting Goli Ameri, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. I received an inquiry from the U.S. Embassy in Qatar asking for an appointment and then found out in preparing for the meeting that it would be with Ms. Ameri, a naturalized citizen from the U.S.A. who immigrated from Iran when she was a teen, served as a U.S. Senator, and recently took the appointment with the State Department. The agenda with Ms. Ameri was quite straight-forward and simple - what partnership opportunities might there be between the State Department and QF.

This is one of those times when it felt great to be a citizen of the U.S.A., working with my own government to do something positive to improve relations around the world. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has a variety of programs that it supports, including the familiar Fulbright Scholarships. The ones of most direct interest to me at this point are the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) and the Gilman Program (student abroad scholarships). Both of these are focused on improving communication and understanding among youth from Arab and Islamic countries and the U.S.A. The YES program funds Arab/Muslim high school students for a year of study in the U.S.A. The Gilman Program funds U.S.A. students to study abroad, particularly in targeted areas - the Arab world is at the top of the list.

The possibility that unfolded in the meeting with Ms. Ameri and her staff is that Qatar Foundation could host a reunion of YES participants from recent years. This is potentially 1,000 students for each of the last several years. The opportunity would be to bring them back together, renew their bonds and learning, and support them as agents of reason and reconciliation - Wow! I'm already trying to figure out how to incorporate this into QF's programs as a peer-to-peer leadership learning initiative.

In addition to YES, I hope that any of my readers who are students in U.S.A. universities will seriously considered applying for assistance to study in Qatar through the Gilman Program. When I left Miami, there were numerous students who asked where to find help in funding study abroad in the middle east. I had no answer then but now I do! Give it a look and then make your reservations.

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