My study abroad in Argentina in 1985 was a formative experience in my life. Studying among the bustling cafes and lively museums where trials of military officers proceeded in a Buenos Aires emerging from a dark period of military rule ignited a lifelong passion for history and politics, and led me to dedicate myself to diplomacy in the Western Hemisphere.
As we celebrate International Education Week, I want to highlight our important initiatives to expand international educational partnerships and increase international student mobility in the Americas. Educational Diplomacy supports our foreign policy goals by strengthening the ties among the people of our region. It prepares a wider and more diverse array of youth to learn and prosper in an increasingly globalized world. International study broadens students’ horizons.
President Obama recognizes the positive impact of international education. In March 2011, he launched 100,000 Strong in the Americas with the goal of encouraging 100,000 U.S. university students to go abroad for an academic experience in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada, and the same number from the region opting to study in the United States. Through this initiative, young people are broadening their education and developing lifelong connections across this dynamic hemisphere. The Americas are full of opportunity -- with a population of 100 million young people between 18 and 24 years old, a majority of democratically elected governments, and a growing middle class. Expanded educational pathways are the way to tap this opportunity and help ensure that economic growth is fully inclusive, that our economies stay innovative and competitive, and that democratic development continues.
We believe the initiative is working. Since its launch in 2011, the number of U.S. students studying abroad in the Americas has increased by 14 percent, and the number of students from Latin America and the Caribbean studying in the United States has grown by 12 percent. Take Analia, a gifted math and engineering high school student from a modest family in Paraguay. The U.S. Embassy in Asuncion selected Analia for a Science Camp at the Institute of the Americas at the University of California in San Diego. Her time on a U.S. campus inspired her to apply to college in the United States, and this fall she began studying engineering at a prestigious university in Massachusetts.
Scholarship opportunities remain critically important, but we also know that we cannot get to 100,000 and beyond one student at a time. We need an institutional approach that connects universities in the United States and the rest of the Americas directly. We must spur the creation of new exchange programs and expand existing opportunities. With seed funding of $1 million from the U.S. government and $2.8 million in generous private sector donations, we launched the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund to do just that. Higher education institutions can apply for Innovation Fund grants to create innovative exchange opportunities and accredit educational exchanges for students and faculty. To date, the Innovation Fund has awarded 31 grants to teams of 60 institutions from 12 countries to provide unique exchange opportunities for students and faculty in the Western Hemisphere. One such grant linked four Midwestern U.S. public universities in the United States with three Brazilian and two Bolivian public universities to develop a summer semester-abroad program focused on language study, international development, and cross-cultural skills -- reaching students who may otherwise not have chosen to study abroad.
When President Obama launched 100,000 Strong in the Americas, he challenged us to connect people, create new partnerships, and expand opportunities. We have accepted that challenge, and we are succeeding. I urge you to join President Obama and me in support of this initiative.
For more information:
- Did you know? Our network of 138 EducationUSA advisers in the Western Hemisphere provided information to 734,825 students last year.
- On Wednesday, November 19 at 2:00 p.m. EST, an EducationUSA adviser will hold a one-hour session during International Education Week's International Student Virtual College Fair on “Resources for Students from the Americas.”
- Learn how you can contribute to the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund at www.100kStongAmericas.org.