About the Author: Wes Carrington serves as Public Affairs Officer at U.S. Embassy Quito, Ecuador.
Earlier this week, nearly 300 university students from across Ecuador were linked together in person and virtually to participate in a discussion with Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Assistant Secretary Valenzuela began a three-country trip to the Andean region on Sunday, April 4. His first stop was in Quito, where his activities started with a visit to the Universidad Tecnica Particular de Loja (UTPL) on Monday, April 5. I had the pleasure of personally joining more than 70 students at the University's Quito branch, while other campuses, including Cuenca and Guayaquil, tuned in digitally via video conference.
Dr. Valenzuela opened his discussion by sharing the four pillars of President Obama's foreign policy in the Americas: social inclusion, public security, the environment, and democratic governance. He said the United States is looking for partners to help solve the challenges we face in the 21st century. The United States wants to work with partner nations in the Americas, as well as with international organizations including the Organization of American States, to more effectively and sustainably find solutions to these issues of common interest.
The fundamental message that Dr. Valenzuela communicated to the audience of Ecuadoran students and faculty was that the United States is interested in achieving a prosperous, democratic Western Hemisphere. Reaching that goal means interacting not just with government officials, but also with students and future leaders such as those who participated in this discussion at UTPL.
It was clear to me that Dr. Valenzuela, who previously served at Georgetown University, enjoyed this brief return to academia. Students from all the UTPL campuses had a chance to ask questions, touching on U.S. immigration policy, the financial crisis, and collaboration among universities throughout the hemisphere. Dr. Valenzuela also highlighted the Fulbright program as an excellent way of encouraging academic exchanges.
I would like to encourage any of you readers in the United States who may be thinking of studying or teaching abroad to take a look at opportunities including the Fulbright program, or other possibilities through your college or university. Maybe I'll see you in Ecuador!